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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Moose (Elizabeth Bishop)

The Moose audio file (6:35).

Elizabeth Bishop's 'The Moose' is a poem set in a bus travelling west through Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. No destination is mentioned, or needed. The narrator begins "From narrow provinces / of fish and bread and tea...." Which is as succinct and apt a description of the Maritime Provinces as has ever been written. I know those three things, salt fish (and sometimes salt meat), heavy bread, and sweet tea, kept my parents and grandparents fed and warm in some thin, thin times. And, though times were better in my childhood, I remember the big jars of herring in brine and the salt cod hanging in the cold back porch every winter.

The poem's text can be found here.


Humble Servant said...

That was an excellent choice to show up the regional variations--I can't make that "yes" sound--the closest would be a "yeaaah," almost entirely swallowed--but with no sibilance at all.

My Wisconsin Aunt (now gone) ended every sentence with, "and so?" Similar to "eh." My husband uses a liberal smattering of Brooklyn-Yiddish speak (the kids were extremely cute when they very young copied the "oy vey"--and "schluffy" is the definitive sleep), but I, alas, have only the flat standard-issue Midwest accent.

The water in my life is not the ocean, but the Big Lake--a Chicago native the other day referred to going to his cottage by the lake when he was talking about his vacation in Newport Beach.

Brenda Schmidt said...

Nice job, John.

I can't make that yes sound either.

MackJohnny said...

Another peculiarity, which I've mostly heard from people from the west end of the Island (and which I'm prone to myself, as that's where my parents are from) is ending a sentence with 'wha?' (a shortened 'what?'); as in "It's a large day, wha?" or "Got quite the jag on*, wha?"

*Pissed to the gills, extremely drunk etc. 'Jag' I've heard all my life as a synonym for load (as in cargo or freight, etc), hence having [a] jag on is equivalent to being loaded.

Humble Servant said...

I don't know jag as load, but to go on a jag is to get drunk. Heh--kinda funny to explain "having a jag on" with another euphemism, "being loaded"--thank God we all speak the mother tongue here, wha?

MackJohnny said...

Good use of wha.

If we didn't all speak the mother tongue, I might be looking for the mother ship.