Sunday, May 16, 2010

Culture Shock

Ever since I moved to Arkansas, I've been keeping a list I like to call, "Culture Shock." It's basically words and phrases I'd never heard before living here. I love language, and the variations in language across the United States never cease to fascinate me. I'll throw these in every now and then, because they're really most entertaining when explored individually.

The first of these phrases was "trial by fire." This one is sort of obvious in context, but regardless, it's nothing I'd heard before. The context this time was that my first week as a reporter at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette was also Arkansas Governor Beebe's first week on the job (January 2007). My very first day of work, my editor, Phyllis Brandon of High Profile fame, took me to a party at Cajun's Wharf called Painting Arkansas Blue, to celebrate his inauguration. I'm slightly embarrassed to admit it now that he's my boss, but I remember leaning over to her in the midst of the crowd that night as his car drove up, motioning in a way I hoped was inconspicuous, toward whatever man I quickly determined seemed the most gubernatorial. I really had no idea whom I was looking for, as I'd been in Arkansas about a weekend by that point. I was making a complete guess, and it was the wrong one. When I asked her if the man I had decided on was in fact the new Governor, I received an immediate, no, of course not, and a not-so-subtle hint that I better do my homework next time.

Ah, trial by fire.

Below, a photo from the 2009 Governor's staff Christmas party at the Governor's Mansion, just to prove I know who he is now.


  1. I never thought this was a regional phrase, but I suppose St. Louis and Little Rock are in the same region. Another gem I keep hearing from my new boss, who is from Chicago, is "if I had my druthers." Druthers is a shortening of 'would rathers'. Crazy. They never said that in St. Louis. Not in MY St. Louis, anyway.

  2. Don't even get me started on "might could."

  3. Sam, I was fixin' to ask you about "might could." :)

  4. I'm going to cover those phrases in a separate post.

    I should add, however, that "trial by fire" has at times here been replaced by "baptism by fire." Now that's really one you only hear in the Bible Belt.