Language is a fluid thing; it evolves through time. As we lose members of previous generations we lose bits and pieces of dialect and colloquialisms. We can keep those phrases and accents alive through writing and oral-history projects.
Imagine two brothers, Hans and Bjorn, who live across the road from each other – a gravel road in Wisconsin. They are spending the better part of a day preparing a shared seeder for the spring planting season, circa 1966. Hans is the younger of the two; they’re on his farm. He’s been a widower for three years. His older brother, Bjorn, dairy-farms across the road with his wife, Elvie. He drove over on his Oliver 60 Row Crop tractor to lend a hand. They each have 32-cow Guernsey herds; they ship their milk to the Kraft factory in Wausau, Wisconsin. Hans has a housekeeper, Millie, who prepares a noon dinner for the two.
“Say der hand me dat wrench once Hans,” Bjorn ordered.
“How’s come? Ain’t you got dat nut tight yet?” Hans replied.
“Pret near,” Bjorn said. “I need a box wrench.”
“Put a little oomph behind it; show it who da boss is,” Hans said. “It’s pret near noon. Da budaduhs are boilt and da pot roast is on. We best go in or da cook’ll have a fit.”
“I spose we oughta stop at da gas barrel and wash dis grease off our hands,” Bjorn suggested. “Pot roast again?”
“Don’t look a gift horse in da mout; we’ll have caviar when pigs fly,” Hans joked. “Say, Bjorn, you should roll up dem pant cuffs once when ya take off yer galoshes in da mud room. You’ll drag mud in and da maid’ll be fit ta be tied.”
“Cripes sake, I guess I’d better,” Bjorn replied. “She’s been cranky lately.”
“It’s pret near half past you’se two!” Millie the housekeeper scolded. “I’m not running a restaurant! Don’t complain about cold budaduhs!”
“Say but I’m tirsty,” Hans exclaimed. “Millie, grab two-three Jolly Goods from da fridgidaire on yer way past.”
“Fine but it’ll rot yer teet outta yer head, and did you warsh your meathooks?” Millie scolded.
“Over by da gas barrel and at da wash sink. Jiminy crickets you’re onrey today,” Hans chuckled.
“She don’t like you seein’ dat hussy from Chicago,” Bjorn teased.
“What in Sam Hill are you’se talkin’ about!” Hans shouted at Bjorn while tearing at the pot roast. “Pass da butter and sugar.”
He grabbed from a stack of white sliced bread on an orange Fire King dish.
“And it really got ’er goat when you’se left dat Polaroid of her draped over you by da Christmas tree,” Bjorn said as he squinted at Hans with his one good eye.
“She ain’t from Chicago; she’s from Fonjewlack,” Hans said. “You get dere by way of Highway A Hunnurt from Chicago.”
“Whereabouts, Arshkarsh?” Bjorn asked. “I can’t make out what yer sayin’ on accounta yer mout is so full.”
“Fonjewlak, not Arshkarsh. Finish your root beer and let’s get dat seeder fixed up,” Hans replied.
The screen door slapped as the brothers left the house to walk to the machine shed.
“Say der, trow dat cow over da fence some hay once when you walk past,” Hans told Bjorn. “Dere’s part of a timoty bale next to da milkhouse. I should have dis planter ready in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.”
“Yer gonna need a hairpin cotter to run tru dat castle nut on da axle,” Bjorn yelled as he pulled slices from the bale and tossed them over the fence. “Da Woodruff key is shot on da main drive, too. And you dassent call it done witout greasing da meterin’ spindle. She’s dry as a popcorn fart. You might need to replace da zerk.”
“Boys o land! Where’d I abeen witout yer advice all dese years,” Hans replied. “Say Bjorn, look in d’ back of my Rambler once. Dere’s a locking pliers on da floorboard ’n so? Bring it here once. Dis zerk is gonna take some elbow grease to remove.”
“Here,” Bjorn said, “and careful not to twist da wrong way; d’ treads’ll strip fer certain. Say Hans, I can’t make out dis seed chart. She’s wore plumb t’rough.”
“You dasn’t change da setting,” Hans answered. “It’s set for oats and red clover wit timoty grass.”
“Trow some oil on dat wingnut so’s I can open up da slot when I plant my oats,” Bjorn said. “I gennly seed a bit heavier den you’se.”
“Looks like we got ’er done and just in time fer milking. I best high-tail it home t’ pull ’em,” Bjorn said. “You see my dog anywheres?”
“Must be down by da crick,” Hans answered. “Take da Oliver down and call her afore she ends up wit a snoot full o’ porkypine quills. An don’t forget d’ council meetin’ at church. I’ll pick you’se up at half-past six.”