Lost in Translation: Learning a Radical Dialect
By Kelvin Read
“Can I get you any water, sir?”
“No I’m fine. Hey Jimmy, listen to that! He used ‘sir’!”
This exchange occurred a couple of weeks ago at my internship. While pop culture had taught me classic Southern Californian phrases like “rad, gnarly, and bro”, I was entirely unaware that “sir” wasn’t part of the Los Angeles dialect.
Growing up in Texas, I was accustom to manners being at the forefront of people’s interactions. Part of the culture of the south is to greet-and-meet any strangers, or close friends, with a welcoming, polite introduction. One can waste a whole day in Texas just by exchanging formalities with strangers. Having worked as a waiter, it has become natural for me to offer my most sincere greeting and manners to any stranger that I may come across.
But out here in Los Angeles, I’ve realized that saying “time is money” holds true. People don’t have time to be overly polite in exchanging formalities. This has come as quite a shock to a southern man like myself. I’ve had to forgo some of my southern charm in exchange for a succinct style of dialogue that I hadn’t experienced before.
Patience is a virtue, but a city doesn’t have time to be virtuous, nor can it even have emotions for that matter. So I’ve had to evolve. I’m still the long-winded, quirky kid from Austin, Texas, but I’m also now self-aware of how I divulge information. I’ve had to translate my version of English into a simply, succinct diction.
It’s hard not to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of this city. Everyone is rushing, so much so that they seem to have rush days here, not just rush hours. But between all of the short exchanges and quick tidbits of information, I still try to take the time to say “sir”, “ma’am”, “please”, and “thank you”, even if it might sometimes sound like a foreign language.