The critics simply will not let me be. More than a dozen of them have written to explain that I misspelled “seng” in recent columns. “It’s sang,” they insist. It’s a “sang hoe,” not a “seng hoe” and I have been admonished that, by growing up in the hills, I oughta have sense enough to know that.
Actually, even here in the flatlands, the vast majority do pronounce “ginseng” as “ginsang” or they shorten it to “sang” the way we hillbillies do. But that does not change the proper spelling even though I did see a sign on the side of a little country store in Jackson County not long ago that read “ I Pay Top $ for Good, Clean Sang”.
The point is, however, that lots of things in our vocabulary are not pronounced the way they are spelled.
I once worked with a fellow who considered himself a far superior being than most mortals, especially if said mortals were of the hillbilly persuasion, but I liked him in spite of his ignorance.
I once talked him into going fishing with me and he took me up on the invitation only because he had never ridden in a bass boat and was curious as to what the fuss was all about.
On our way to Laurel Lake, I explained to him that we needed to buy some snacks because we were going to be out there all day and he might not enjoy munching on nightcrawlers. I had him convinced that I was going to buy enough bait to snack on as well as feed the fish.
We stopped at what was then Field’s Bait store, there on 192 about eight miles this side of the boat dock. While I was getting minnows and several dozen crawlers from the tanks and coolers in the back room, I heard my friend tell the late Gene Fields that he would like to have some “Vienna sausages, some saltines and a couple of cold sodas.” He pronounced Vienna, “Vee-en-ah.”
Poor Gene didn’t have a clue as to what my pal had ordered so I told him he wanted a couple cans of Vieenies, two packs of crackers and two cans of pop.
Gene said, “Well, I’ve been in business many a year and I’ve never heard Vieenies called anything but Vieenies, but I guess it does say sausages right there on the can, don’t it? Why thankye, buddy, I’ve learnt something today even though them little weenies don’t look nothing like sausage to me.”
I waited until my fishing buddy for the day was back in the car before telling him I’d forgotten something. Then I ran back into the store where Gene was still chuckling out loud. I bought myself a couple of bologna sandwiches and Gene observed, “That guy ain’t from around here, is he, Adams?”
“How’d you figure that out, Gene?”
This same fellow once talked me into going to a road rally with him. A road rally is a sports car event wherein participants drive 60 or so miles over narrow, mostly unnumbered back roads at prescribed speeds, without a map, and try to not get lost. The challenge is to show up at numerous checkpoints in the exact amount of time it should have taken based on the speed you are supposed to be driving. My friend is a master of the sport.
Anyway, he had just purchased a BMW coupe, complete with all of the requisite stopwatches, a pair of resettable odometers that measured distance traveled in feet as opposed to tenths of a mile, a rally calculator, precision compass, etc. His regular navigator had come down with something and he had decided that I needed to be introduced to one of the finer things in life since he couldn’t find enough people in Berea to take up playing cricket.
We stopped at Glades Road Gulf to gas up. At that time (1975), it was a full-service gas station and the guy who was pumping our gas asked where we were off too.
My buddy told him we were going to a road rally in “Ver-sigh.”
The attendant said, “ Just where, exactly, is that? I’ve lived here all my life and never heard nobody talk about no Ver-sigh.”
I felt obligated to tell the fellow that we were going up to Versailles (Versails) to a car race and let it go at that because I am reasonably sure he was wondering why cars were rallying anywhere since UK didn’t have a game that day.