Saturday, February 16, 2008

Bourgeouis Dictionary


It must be something about my zip code, but some people have taken to calling their babysitters nannies.

These people do not have nannies. The college girl you employ does not live with you. She is not the defacto custodian of your children. She alone is not potty training your kids. She shows up in your middle class neighborhood and hangs out in your middle class house with your kids and she makes them lunch, she takes them to the pool or whatever and then she leaves for the day. She is your sitter while you are at work and the kids are not in school. She doesn't help run their lives. She makes sure they aren't dead by the time you get home.

I find this kind of vocabulary inflation incredibly grating. It's a little like having a detached garage and a garden shed and suddenly proclaiming that you live on an estate.

Other offenders:

1. West coast folk calling vacation "holiday." We do not go on holiday. I rarely hear this, thankfully. In fact, I could count on one hand the time I have, so it's probably not worth mentioning. But it is eggregious. However, I did hear it once from someone who pronounced a small timber town called Aberdeen as "Aaaaah-ber-deen. It's Aaa is in apple. Nothing fancier than that.

2. Residents of the Northwest who replace "pop" with "soda." This incredible transformation usually happens in college. I am guilty - so fucking guilty - of this one. In fact, today I will get back to my down-heel roots and get back on the "pop" bandwagon. I'd like a pop, please. Hey honey, we're all out of pop. Honey, you drank that last cold pop and didn't put any back in. Practice makes perfect.

3. The pronunciation of pajamas. Say it like "jam" or "pah-jahh-mahs"? Ditto the soda thing. College will corrupt you. Where I come from, your aunt is your "ant" and just like the fruit spread you slather on your toast, you say pa-JAM-ahs. Simple as that.

Back to the nanny thing. It's worse than how the hell you pronounce your drink or the outfit you wear to bed. It strikes me as far more about striving and being something you're not. It's about trying to telegraph to the world with a jackhammer that you're more than you are. Ick.

What else do people say now that drives you insane?

33 comments:

mamacita said...

There is a great scene in a Nancy Mitford novel where curmudgeonly Uncle Matthew berates people for saying "mirror" instead of "looking glass" and "writing paper" instead of just "paper." So, you know, it's all relative.

I do know that "curtains" vs. "drapes" and "couch" vs. "sofa" (vs. "divan") are still hot topics.

Anonymous said...

Heeee, Decorno you are a breath of fresh air in this world! I adore this blog. Right on with the "nanny" rant and the "estate" comment made me yell, YES! Whenever someone would pronounce the word "aunt" like "ahhnt" it always made me think, "what am I? A neanderthal?" Here's one for you: Now is it Vahz or Vayse (obviously for "vase")?? You are too witty to be working for someone else. You need your own show....maybe on Bravo?? - Shelley

Decorno said...

Oooh... that is a good one, Shelly - the "vahz" "vayse" dilemma.... I think we need to ask Megan at beachbungalow8.blogspot.com.... Megs probably has the correct answer for that one... and do NOT get her started on "armoire." She says people mangle that one (and I am probably one of them, which is why at our house we are now suddenly just calling it the "cupboard thingy." :)

Anonymous said...

I remember Megan's bit on pronouncing "armoir" she's one of my fav blogs as well...get her online and let's see what her take is on "vase"!

p.s. I like the word "cupboard" it's comforting isn't it? :)
and for the record, I love that piece you are referring to, if it's the pic you had up where you bought it at that antique shop. Beautiful piece. I went into my fav antique place today to look at small china cabinets (to house my first ever Royal Dalton china - ok, it's only a 4 piece teacup and cake plate set but an absolutely gorgeous gift from my daughter, who knew, I used to hate matching china sets?)and I walked out with a runner made in Turkey (rug, not an Olympian from Turkey) which I desperately was looking for to keep my feet warmer in the hallway. No china cabinet. Nice rug. Oops, sorry, this is YOUR blog!! - Shelley

Jules said...

Supposedly. Notice the "D" in the fourth syllable? It's not just for show. I can't tell you the number of people who pronounce it, "Suh-pose-ah-Bly." With a frickin' B! Come on! That absolutely kills me.

Oh, and people who drive BMWs do not call them "beemers," just like people who shop at Nordstroms do not call it "Nordys."

Anonymous said...

I never grew up hearing "pop." To me, that's the word that sounds affected, like you're trying to pretend you're in a 1930s tough-guy movie and the next thing you'll say is "G'won, kid, ya botha me."

libby said...

pop! ant! yes!
i totally remember being in fifth grade talking to a friend who had moved to maine and everybody thought he was crazy for calling it pop. "but it doesn't 'pop'" they said. and he goes, "yeah but it doesn't 'soda' either." the best.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry but I don't see a problem with pronouncing words properly--there is nothing wrong with saying ahhnt and pajahhmas, and I think that the woman who works full time taking care of my kids and my house is more than a babysitter--she is our nanny! I think some of this is regional--nobody where I live would say pop when they mean "coke" ( the southern generic term for all things carbonated that come in a can) I really think this trying not to act snooty or highbrow or whatever is just like the girls in high school playing dumb to get the boys--

Decorno said...

Anon, I think you are right... it's very much a regional thing. In Seattle, though, "nanny" is super, super pretentious. No one really calls them that, unless he/she lives in, (although people seem to throw the word around more now than ever, hence this post).

Decorno said...

Also, anon, do you pay her like a sitter or like a nanny? I would think your estimation of her as judged by her salary (or wage, depending) might be the determining factor. I think if the job is professionalized with a $50k+ salary plus benefits and employment taxes paid, then yes, I would agree. But if it's wage labor for someone who comes and goes the same day, that's a sitter.

Jules said...

As Anon has defined "nanny" then, yes, these people have a nannies. Most of my friends have nannies. But I know people like Decorno is talking about: those affected individuals who want to add the illusion of status to even the most perfunctory moments in their day.

I once went round and round with a person about the home she was "building." It was a generic KB (Kaufman & Broad) tract home; nothing more, nothing less. But, to anyone who would listen, she was having a custom home built from the ground up. Yes, certain items were custom (she chose a two car garage over 3) but a custom home? Absolutely not. Just like some people tossing around the word nanny have nothing more glamorous that a sitter on a Wednesday so they can get their roots touched up.

Anonymous said...

Yes, our nanny is paid a salary (not 50k but substantial!) with health insurance and bonuses and we pay taxes, etc. She is a vital member of our family--my husband and I are both physicians and we depend on her to let us go to work every day and feel good about what's happening with our kids. I think we also owe some respect to her--we have babysitters on Friday night to go out to dinner, but caring for our kids is this woman's career. I think she deserves a better title than the 13 year old neighbor...mcs

Decorno said...

Then I think that is very much a nanny (though I think you might want to give her a little raise...). For your nanny, it's a full-time job with benefits. What drives me ape-shit bananas are people hiring their summer sitter and calling her a nanny. She's merely driving the kids to the pool, she isn't a full-time member of household staff, know what I mean?

Not that you needed my approval, but yeah, I see your point and she sounds like a nanny for sure. She sounds like a childcare professional, not just someone who is supposed to prevent accidental drowning in the summertime. :)


I think part of the reason this "nanny" conversation gets people excited is because there is this fat middle class now where making $350k in a household isn't at all considered "rich." Economists will call these families that, but these families see themselves as solidly middle class... but to maintain these two-career families, these families are having to contract out all kinds of work... and then there is all kinds of fallout from that... people who see it as a badge of honor and can't shut up about it (not you), people who are ambivalent and see it as a necessary part of maintaining the careers and lives they have, and then there are some apologists. (For the record, I wouldn't apologize... the *day* I hire someone to clean my house, I am going to post a dispatch from the beach and call my old snotty high school friends who have dead-end jobs and just laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaugh at them. I never said I was a good person...).

Anyway, it's a weird time, getting back to my point, where people making between $250 - $400k are trying to figure out if it's ok to pay for domestic help when they still have this idea that they are middle class... a term a nanny making $50k would also apply to herself.

Money is interesting. Like all Americans, I could talk about it all day long. Hearing people talk about their money is as revealing as taking a UV light to the bed at a cheap motel. SO REVEALING. :)

Anonymous said...

mcs:
Just curious-- Why the need to tell us you and your husband were both physicians?

Paola said...

'Holiday', 'ahnt', 'pajahmas','vahz', 'curtains', and 'couch' are just proper British English and thus entirely acceptable and indeed to be applauded.

Since moving here from the UK I've realised that deep down all Americans just want to be Brits...

(And if you really want to intimidate an American you just need to know that the correct French pronunciation of armoire is is 'armwahhr' and chaise longue is 'shez longgh')

Anonymous said...

I think the days when Americans were intimidated by (or envious of) the British and French are long over.

Even the French have (bad) hip-hop music now.

Jules said...

Wow. I Can't say I've ever laid in bed at night lamenting the fact I'm not a Brit.

I guess we all could spout off in proper British English, but luckily a little something called the American Revolution granted us the freedom to trash it up a bit with short vowel sounds.

Nor would the proper pronunciation of armoire or chaise longue intimidate me. I learned that from Christopher Lowell when I was 19.

Anonymous said...

When I watch "Prime Suspect," I get the impression that big chunks of London are now essentially just outposts of the Bronx. The whole US ghetto gangsta culture has been so completely embraced over there.

Paola said...

I'm sorry, I forgot to add a smiley or something to indicate that I was only teasing.

Reading back through my comment it does come off as sounding very pompous and patronising for which I apologise.

But it has amused me to discover that most things which are considered 'posh' or 'affected' in American speech or culture are basically just British.

And it does drive me slightly insane how very few Americans know or even care how to pronounce words in any language other than American - I have no clue who this Christopher Lowell is but he didn't do a terribly good job getting most people to pronounce chaise longue. I was in the market for one recently and it took me some time to work out that I had to call it a chayz lownge in order to be understood.

Anonymous said...

Decorno, I recently found you, and find myself addicted! Love it. I agree wholeheartedly with the "nanny" commentary--I too live in an area where babysitters have risen to nanny-status. So annoying. As for the vahse,vayse debate, well, my mother used to always say, "If it cost more than $20, it's a vahse--less than $20, it's a vayse." Brilliant.

Things That Inspire said...

This is an interesting post. Inside the perimeter Atlanta (which is VERY different than the suburbs), many women who have nannies call them babysitters because the stigma associated with the title 'nanny' is that you work and don't spend as much time with your children as the 'stay at home moms'. The Mommy Wars are alive and well in Atlanta!

Jules said...

Paola--Christopher Lowell was a cartoon-like designer/host of a DIY decor show from the early 90s. His was the kind of show you watched to learn how to make a couch out of MDF. His rooms were always drowning in pillows and fringe. I distinctly remember him splayed across chaise longue pronouncing it as such. ;)

Anonymous said...

I sort of like when mispronounciations harden into accepted usages. It's part of the way we develop regional accents and other quirks. I'm glad we don't all talk in some sterile, accent-less TV-speak.

In biology, "mistakes" are the way new species evolve.

Anonymous said...

...and that my friends, is that! (FYI: I'm not the "anon" of the last post) - Shelley

Brilliant Asylum said...

I was corrected once for calling a friend's cleaning service (the kind that comes once every two weeks) the "maid" instead of "housekeeper". Is "maid" a dirty word now? I have not used it since for fear of offending anyone--even though I found it pretty offensive being reprimanded for using what I thought was an innocent career description. Just curious.

Louryne said...

OH god! My friend was a sitter for a family on the Upper West Side this year. Her job was to take care of the kiddies, ride them across town twice a day on the 86th street bus to summer . . school. The children by the way were all of 4 and 5. But after a few weeks she started getting laundry lists, and grocery lists and so on and so on. So she had to quit, because she WAS NOT A NANNY! she was highered through Sensible Sitters. So as much as I agree with your distaste in the use of this word, i must say that these women really believe that those college girls are their slaves. . . I mean nannies.

Anonymous said...

We say "cleaning lady" in this region, and elder folk will say "maid," but I use "housekeeper," esp. in front of the employee. There's all sorts of class anxieties zigging and zagging through this nomenclature.

Decorina said...

When I was growing up (the 1950's - yep I'm old) my very proper great aunt (ANT) told me that a vase cost less than $5 and a vause cost more than $5. Then she laughed.

I love this blog - you crack me up.

Visual Smarts said...

OK, I've been longing to bitch about this kind of thing. Both my friend and I have taken up painting over the past couple of years. Although she is a dear friend, I'm dying to reach out and smack her if I have to hear her refer to the room in which she paints as her "studio". The woman has never sold a single painting and takes painting classes full of geriatics and bored housewives (as do I). She goes on to refer to people who might someday purchase a painting from her as "patrons" like she's Georgia O'Keefe or Emily Carr. She also refers to her hot tub as "the spa". She also frequently makes mention of her bank account and mutual funds as her "financial portfolio". Honey, I love you, but cut the crap.

what's in a name? said...

These language and mispronunciation issues are laughable for sure, but I don't find them irritating enough to provoke such umbrage.

Whether the conceivable faux pas is due to dialect, money, education, or lack thereof, the person committing it should be endured for at least providing some comic relief. :)

And not to worry, I don't think that status seeking through one's vocabulary works very well.

BTW, I definitely say "pop" now, but said "soda" when I lived in NYC, and "coke" when I lived in TX....although I never said fixin' to...!

dean said...

i absolutely cannot stand when people end their sentences with "at", as in "where'd you get your coffee table at?" ugh, it makes my skin crawl.

also, i say pajahhmas, raaahther, either (eye-ther), neither (nye-ther), and i go to the market to buy food. i also say soda and never use the word sofa.

Anonymous said...

I hate decor people who use the word "colorways" to indicate that a given pattern comes in different colors. Instead of "I like it in blue," they have to say: "I like the blue colorway."

Vomit.

Christine said...

I'm one of the pop-replacing people out there!

What I hate? Affected appropriation of British vocab. I have a friend who has lived in England for about 8 years. Okay, HE can use British language. My friend who knew a British friend when she lived in Germany cannot call the trunk a boot or the stroller a pram. Okay? I studied a year in England and while I'd refer to those things like that lest I confuse someone when I was there, it didn't stick. I didn't go from speaking American English for 20 years and all of a sudden speaking British English...while living in the US. Annoying!