Our American Tongue

by Jay Nordlinger

A couple of days ago, I had a little post on language — flavorful American variants such as acrosst and heighth. A Senate candidate had said acrosst in one of his ads. As for heighth, I said I’d blush to tell you how old I was when I learned to say height — keeping an “h” off the end. Under 18, I hope!

A reader writes, “I was in my early 20s before I learned that the past tense of squeeze is not squoze (as in freeze/froze). I am from Utah, and my wife is from New York. It took her years to convince me that I was incorrect, and I still find it slipping out if I’m not careful.”

Take heart — for Ronald Reagan said squoze. A Midwestern kid (like me), he always had a little Huck Finn in his speech, I think. At a news conference, he answered a question about a problem on his nose: “I picked at it and I squoze it and so forth and messed myself up a little.”

That, I think, is how an American talks (some Americans, I should say).

P.S. Remember when Reagan said he’d had it “up to my keister with these leaks”? Bill Buckley marveled at the word keister, which he’d never heard. (I grew up with it.) I can see and hear him chuckling now.

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