by Jim Farrar (1986)

About seven years ago, a good friend of mine, while completing his graduate work at the University of Oregon, told me that he noticed what he called an intrusive "r" in my speech. I pronounced the word "wash" with an "r" between the "a" and the "s." The result of my mother's midwestern upbringing, he said.

In the years since I've worked hard to get rid of my "intrusive r," since I'd been made self-conscious of it, though sometimes I do slip. Other than that, I usually speak pretty much the same in all situations. The reason for this, I think, is that my environment, and the type of people that I converse with, don't really vary all that much. Most of the people that I come into contact with are more or less the same as me, with the same level of education and more or less of the same social standing as myself.

This was not always the case. Before returning to school last year I worked on a loading dock. My coworkers were, for the most part, truck drivers. It was blue-collar all the way.

My language reflected my environment, though I didn't come to realize that until after I'd quit the job. I adopted the vocabulary – which means I swore a lot – and, more notably, I adopted the syntax of my coworkers. For example, instead of saying "we were" I'd say "we was" and, moreover, I would consciously avoid words that my coworkers wouldn't understand, though they often used words that they assumed I understood, but didn't.

But I learned. I guess you could say that I learned truck driver's jargon. Some examples:

1. Pup: A twenty-foot trailer. Standard size is forty feet, as I recall.

2. Plate: A dock plate. A fixed or portable ramp between the trailer and the dock, which is used for loading and unloading the contents of the trailer.

3. Boards: Pallets. Transportable goods are loaded on wooden platforms called pallets.

4. Jack: A pallet jack. A hydraulic fork-lift, actually, used for moving pallets.

5. Doubles: Two trailers. A driver was "pulling doubles" when he was pulling two trailers; I've also heard this referred to as pulling "twin forties."

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