Ever been to Butte, Montana?
Butte is known for a lot of things. The spelling of the city is the butt of many jokes, including in films such as Toy Story and Beevis and Butthead Do America. Butte also boasts (or did at one time) the highest number of Irish people per capita outside of Ireland, which was cause for MTV to actually broadcast live from Butte on St. Patrick’s Day in 2002. It’s Evel Knievel‘s birthplace. It’s also the only city in the United States where possession and consumption of open containers of alcoholic beverages are always allowed on the street throughout the entire city (although not in vehicles). It’s a famous old mining town that used to have underground tunnels that connected the mines to the brothels so men didn’t have to go up to ground level and risk being caught by their wives. It was home to one of the largest and most prosperous copper mines in the history of the world. If you ask anyone from Montana, though, they will tell you that the trees grow funny near Butte, that the Berkeley Pit is so polluted geese have been killed just by landing on it, and that the people from Butte talk funny.
Butians, as they’re known, have an accent that I would describe as a mix between Jersey and rural Minnesota, but also very country. They say things like, “So I says to the guy, I says…” and they begin and end sentences with “you know.” They also don’t use the letter S at the end of words to show that they’re plural. For instance, you would be “shooting squirrel” instead of “shooting squirrels”.
One of my favorite Butian (pronounced B’yew-shin) words is “tret.” A friend of my mom’s once told her that she didn’t find out until she was in her twenties that “tret” is not actually ANY FORM of the verb “to treat.” She was so flabbergasted that she immediately told her dad, who promptly told her she was wrong. “Sure it is, Eddi. You know, like ‘My husband didn’t tret me right so I’m gonna leave!'”
The reason I’m telling you all this is because I think a woman at my office was raised by Butians. She was giving us a tutorial on how to use the new Microsoft Office 2007 yesterday and she was talking about those little squiggly lines that sometimes show up under words in Microsoft programs. She said that in the 2007 upgraded version, they not only have red squiggles for spelling errors and green squiggles for grammatical errors, they have introduced blue squiggles for contextual errors. (For example, if I typed “their” instead of “there”, I would get a blue squiggle).
But when this lady, who we’ll call Connie, explained the blue squiggle, she said this:
“It helps with words that are said the same but spelled different. You know, like “were” and “were”.”
[She actually pronounced both words the same. I couldn’t figure out what she was talking about.] …So I waited…
“You know, like W-E-R-E and W-H-E-R-E.”
I swear to GOD she’s from Butte.