• Understanding My Grandmothers’ English

    We travelled to Eastern Montana to see my Grandmothers. I couldn’t help imagining my students meeting them and trying to understand their English. They speak in an older way and use tons of idioms and strange colloquial phrases.

    The mountains near Lewistown, where one of my grandmothers lives.

    I’m going to review a few here and talk about some of the idioms that you might hear an older American use. This is the ultimate test of your English level. Next time we visit them I will record them talking about something and post it to see if you can understand. They are also very good story tellers and as old Montanans they have some fascinating stories.

    Here are some idioms and colloquial English phrases my grandmothers from Eastern Montana commonly use:

    See if you can’t…they use this when they are suggesting something or want you to do something. For example: See if you can’t find the news station on TV. She is asking you to find the news station. I think this is a way of being polite and is a bit of colloquial English.

    Say….This is like the old version of hey. It is to get your attention. For example: Say, Teauna did you hear about your cousin? They always use it at the beginning of a sentence, just as an attention stopper.

    Drink…My grandmother uses this for any body of water, the kitchen sink, the swimming pool, the lake, or the bath. For example: Just put your plate in the drink and I’ll wash it up later (kitchen sink). Well, I’m going to go get in the drink before bed (bathtub). This summer we made it to the drink every weekend (lake).

    Hotter than a pistol…this is used when it is hot outside. This fall it was hotter than a pistol.

    Madder than a hornet…this is used to describe when someone is very angry. He was just madder than a hornet when he found out about his paycheck.