From January 2010:
I mentioned a few days ago that I’m taking at class at The New School with Robert Antoni about writing in vernacular language. One of the challenges/opportunities of the course will be the chance to workshop our own vernacular stories at the end of the semester. I’ve already started brain-storming mine, which will feature Americanized San Marchese (the language of San Marco Dei Cavoti, Campania, Italy), Pennsylvania Dutch, and the hybrid of these two I heard my grandparents speak when I was growing up. It’s not the case that my grandparents spoke exclusively in these vernaculars: they both spoke standard Enlgish (more or less) with heavy regional and cultural influences and code words from their own backgrounds and each other’s. My grandfather (first generation American) could, at one time, speak fluent San Marchese and probably understood most PA Dutch (as far as I could tell) and my grandmother knows those Dutch words and many of Pop’s vernacular Italian.
Codifying the regional, non-standard pronunciations of standard English phonetically will be a little bit Alan Lomax. And then there are code words: the Italian commands and sly Dutch sneers and their interplay. You don’t usually get stories about Dagos (if Pop said it I can) in rural/urban German Pennsylvania. I’m also looking forward to breaking out heevahava. To Pop’s credit, I learned that from a bus driver. Fa nable.