Tuesday, February 7

Write On Edge Prompt: The Problem with Hail

What most people think of when you say, "hail."
    "Umm, we're gonna tell."
     I stared with appall at my fellow 4th grade classmates, who were standing around me by the 12 foot floor-to-ceiling window just as a hail storm began peppering cars below us with ice pellets. I had only just made a simple weather observation.  
     "Look, hail," I'd said.
     "That's a cuss word," I was promptly informed.
     "We're gonna tell," someone else promised.
      I puffed up defensively. The idea of being "told on" for saying something entirely correct intimidated me, but I would not go down without a fight. "No, it's not," I insisted, then pointed out the window. "That's what you call rain when it turns into ice balls--HAIL."
     My classmates eyes bugged and hands flew over mouths. “Umm, we're gonna tell. You're using a bad word,” a chorus of them irrationally intoned again.
     I was outraged. I think I repeated “hail” quite a few more times, trying to get that bunch of Hoosier hayseeds to see reason--but they simply wouldn't. I just kept getting the same threatening intonation, the same shocked covering of mouths.
     Fortunately, nothing came of it. The event only lasted a couple minutes, then we were back at our desks and no one ever "told," to my relief.
    However, this matter of being accused of wrong-doing when I was innocent and being unable to make anyone believe me about it hurt me. The incident remained a thorn in my heart for long years afterward.
     It was only after I was grown and much older that I finally realized the issue had been one of linguistics. My parents settled in rural Southern Indiana from Minnesota and, therefore, had no accent to speak of, so neither did I. Nor did they swear. My classmates, on the other hand, were third or fourth generation born and bred Hoosiers, apparently well accustomed to cussing.  The reason they were so fixated on me saying “hail” was because, when the word “hell" is bellowed in the native Hoosier dialect, it's pronounced like so: “Haail.”

     The above true antidote is based on a writing prompt from Write on Edge to write "a memoir of a unique encounter with a local dialect" of less then 400 words.
      Below is a photo of the school where this incident happened. It's a very old school building, probably built in the 1920's or earlier and, believe me, was smack in the middle of corn, wheat and soy bean farms. My class was actually a split class, half 4th graders and half 3rd graders because the regular 3rd and 4th grade rooms in the modern wing were already maxed out. Lots of us baby boom kids back then, you know. So the old upstairs classroom with it's 15 foot ceilings, long 12 foot windows and painted wood floors was the "over-flow" classroom. We didn't have the window A/C units in 1967. I guess luxury was added later. We just opened the windows. LOL.


shelton keys dunning said...

Hail yes! Thanks for the pic as well. I forgot about "hayseeds". Lord but does this take me back. Excellent post.

Kathleen Basi said...

A "hail" of a story from "Hall" school. :)

(Sorry, couldn't resist.)

I love the fact that you have a picture of the school to share! It's terrible, the things that scar us for life... ;)

idiosyncratic eye said...

Hehe, the young outrage of injustice was so perfectly described! Oh, and what a cute little school. :)

Kevin said...

I love it. It reminds me of an incident when I was a young midwestern boy. My mother, who would have literally washed my mouth out if I was caught "swearing" sang what she claimed to be her colleges "fight song":

"Hail, hail, the gangs all here. What the hail do we care."

And I blushed, so brightly at the sound of my mother ALMOST using a cuss word.

Fun post!

Kenya G. Johnson said...

Hail of a take on the prompt. I enjoyed reading it. Dang I see I wasn't first to say "Hail". Well HAIL it was good. I'm a day late - catching up on the prompt responses.

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