Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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Appalachian Spring, or: Dueling Principles

 

 

In the pagan world, local custom takes priority. One could regard this as a general principle of pagan social protocol.

If in your valley, you keep Yule in one way, then when I'm visiting you over the Winter Solstice, that's damn well how I'm going to keep Yule too, regardless of how I may celebrate back at home.

Hey, you have the perfect right to be wrong if you want to.

Needless to say, there's a certain amount of tension here with the universal human belief that the Right Way to Do Something Is—of course—the Way That I Do It.

In practice, it's a balancing act. If you tell me that your name is Xfghstk, pronounced “Tom,” I will call you Tom to your face. What I call you behind your back is another matter, and you can't say you weren't asking for it.

To extend this principle of Local Priority, I generally ride with the idea that the local pronunciation is the correct one; still, that horse will take you only so far. When I hear native Midwesterners drawling out Nyaaawlunz, in verbal caricature of some son or daughter of the Crescent City, I cringe. Maybe that's how they say it Down There, boyo, but Up Here at this end of the Mississippi we say New Orleans. That's four syllables, mind you, not three. Dialect is dialect, but affectation, after all, is affectation.

Case in point: Appalachian. North of the Smith and Wesson Line, we say: AppaLAYshun. South of it, AppaLATCHun.

This raises problems for inveterate listeners to National Public Radio such as myself. Unfortunately—NPR being based in DC—this means that the NPR Received Pronunciation is AppaLATCHun.

I confess, I grind my teeth whenever I hear this. (It bothers me in particular when Aaron Copeland's Appalachian Spring gets deformed into AppaLATCHun Spring. Shudder.) From Southrons, I'll accept that pronunciation, since they have their own customs, and probably don't know any better.

When, however, I hear fellow NPR-listening Northrons parroting that pronunciation, I invariably feel the need to intervene.

“In the part of AppaLAYsha that I come from, we say AppaLAYsha,” I admonish.

(Call me a prig if you want to. See if I care.)

After all, local may be local, but, in the end, my way's the right way. Deep down, every Appalachian knows that pronouncing Appalachian “AppaLATCHun” isn't just wrong.

It's a moral failing.

 

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Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.

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