my coworker misuses words, unpaid working lunches, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My coworker misuses words and it’s affecting how she’s seen

I co-manage a small group of seven employees within a large organization. On a personal level, I really like my co-manager and we talk outside of work quite a bit. We have always managed as a team, and I really like that. However, her grasp on speaking well is, well, almost non-existent. Instead of using “mostly,” she will say “morely.” Instead of “best,” it’s “bestly.” I think you can get the picture – she just makes up words, and then repeats them constantly. She says these things when speaking to executives, customers, suppliers, and when interviewing people. She’s really not dumb, but I think she sounds incredibly stupid when speaking to people. I brought up the “morely” thing once, and her response was something about her family being from the south. No matter where her family is from, it’s not a word. Also, she herself is not from the south. I want to help her not sound so stupid, but I also don’t want to offend. Any suggestions?

It’s probably not your place, and it sounds like she wasn’t very receptive when you did try to bring it up. Really, this is something that her manager should be addressing.

That said, if you have a good rapport, I could see trying one more time and saying something like, “Could I give you some input on something that I’ve noticed that I think might be affecting the way you’re perceived by colleagues? I’ve noticed that you’ll sometimes use words in a non-standard way, like saying ‘bestly’ rather than ‘best’ and “morely’ rather than ‘mostly.’ I know that you do great work and that you’re smart and accomplished, but I worry that misusing words like that will impact the way people who don’t know you as well will see you.” But again, you should only do this if you have a really good rapport and you think that you’re someone she’s open to hearing feedback from.

And if that doesn’t work, then I think you need to drop it and let her manager handle it (or not handle it, which might be the case).

2. What should I keep when a hiring process is over?

I’m a new manager and will be hiring to fill a few positions soon. Should I keep any notes I take during the interview process? I know to ask open-ended questions, to make sure I ask all candidates the same questions, and to steer clear of race, religion, etc. But I don’t know what I should keep or how to document to justify who was hired and why. We don’t have a very strong HR department, so I want to make sure I do the right thing.

Federal law requires employers to keep job applications and hiring-related noted on file for one year from the date the application was received, and for two years for applicants who you’re aware are 40 or older (which means it’s easier to just keep them all for two years, rather than having separate rules for some). The purpose of these laws isn’t to require you to do anything with them after your initial review; rather, the point is because if you’re sued under one of these law, the applications may be looked at as part of the legal action. You don’t need to keep written justifications of who was hired, although you certainly could if you wanted to (and risk-averse lawyers would love you for it).

Also! You’re right that you shouldn’t be talking about race, religion, etc. in interviews, but you’re absolutely not required to only ask open-ended questions or ask all candidates the same questions. If you restrict yourself to asking everyone the same questions, you’ll really hamstring your ability to interview effectively. You might have some core questions that you ask everyone, of course, but you should also be asking follow-up questions that you won’t be able to predict ahead of time, as well as questions specific to each candidate’s experience.

3. Tech problems interfered with my performance on a hiring test

I’m in the process of interviewing for an attorney position with a technology company. I have undergone two interviews so far and recently completed a one-hour timed writing assignment that consisted of responding to a request the company received. While drafting my response, I encountered some technical issues. I had zero to very slow internet connectivity and my computer froze. My work product was therefore not as good as I am capable of — even considering the time pressure restriction. While the gist of it was decent, it had several typos I would have corrected had I had a few minutes — minutes wasted dealing with the internet connection and my frozen computer.

I considered explaining my situation to HR and asking if there was an opportunity to complete another assignment, but I’ve decided that since I didn’t royally mess up, it would work more to my disadvantage to be perceived as making excuses. However, I can’t help but be really, really disappointed. Do you agree that I shouldn’t contact HR?

Ideally you would have said something at the time you were submitted it, like “I had some technology issues while drafted this — my computer froze and cut down on the amount of time I had to edit this once writing it. I’d be glad to provide more polished writing samples too if you’d like!” But I agree that doing it after the fact won’t come off as well. I think at this point, assuming it’s no longer the day of the test, you need to let it lie.

4. Should a working lunch be unpaid?

I work for a CPA firm, and we have to fill out time sheets to see billable time and what client it is for. There have been issues with the time sheet in general before, but not quite like this. We had a Lunch & Learn added to our calendars. It was never said or understood if it was optional or what exactly it was about. The speaker was with a life insurance company, so we thought it had something to do with the company offering some life insurance opportunity for us.

The day before the talk, we received an email stating that since they would be providing lunch, this was to count as our lunch time. We are already at 45 hours minimum. So many of us are taking short lunches and coming in early to be able to leave at the same time. When we got to the Lunch & Learn, we were all surprised that it was one of our partners talking (the other guy had something come up, apparently) and they gave us a rundown of some services we offer in another branch of our company and how to spot people who might be potential clients and how to give them the information if presented with an opportunity. I am salaried, but not all of the people in the room were, so we were told to count that hour as lunch (not get paid) even though we just listened to a presentation about the company. None of us would mind learning about this, but it seemed to be sneaky and rude that it doesn’t count towards our paid company time. Should I file a complaint with the state or does this sound reasonable?

I was with you until you jumped straight to filing a complaint. The first thing you should do is to talk to your employer: “The Lunch & Learn ended up being work time — we listened to a presentation from Fergus on company services and how to generate business. I’m assuming that since it changed to this, we should mark it as work time, right?” And if you get push-back: “I think we’d run afoul of the law for non-exempt employees, since it was so clearly work-related.”

If that doesn’t change anything, then the non-exempt employees at the lunch could indeed talk with your state department of labor if they want to. (In reality, it might not make sense to do that if only a single hour is at issue. But it’s their prerogative either way.)

5. Employer keeps saying a job offer is coming, but it hasn’t shown up

I got a verbal job offer right before the holidays. It’s been three weeks now and I have yet to get an official job offer. I’ve spoken to the HR coordinator several times on the phone and he has insisted that my letter would be coming three different occasions. I feel as though it is too abrasive for me to contact them again. He has assured me I am the final candidate and that I am not being strung along.

What in the world could be taking so long? They have already gone through my references, background check (I’m assuming)… I’m at my wits end and finally stopped applying for other jobs since I got a verbal offer!

Well, it could be lots of things — decision-makers out of town, higher priorities that need to be dealt with first, possible budget issues or the question of a looming reorg, someone else leaving and throwing their staffing plans into question … all sort of things, and it’s impossible to know from the outside. The thing you can know from the outside if that you don’t have a job offer yet, regardless of what promises they’re making you. Hopefully it will come through, but it’s very possible that it won’t, and the worst thing that you can do is to count on it as a sure thing. Instead, protect yourself by proceeding as if there’s no offer yet — because there isn’t.

If you still haven’t heard anything in another week or two, it’s reasonable to check back in (this time, specifically ask what timeline you should expect), but meanwhile, keep job searching.

{ 459 comments… read them below }

  1. Gene*

    We had a huge Spoonerism-er, word misuser, and word fabricator for a few years. I work in environmental enforcement; when he departed and I got some of his companies, the general consensus among the people we deal with (range from treatment plant operators to company owners and executives) was, “Why did you guys hire that idiot?” Poor speaking reflects not only on the person, but the organization. He also couldn’t write a simple, declarative, cogent paragraph; eventually all letter writing was taken away from him. Thankfully, he’s been gone long enough now that all his notes, letters, inspection reports, and letters have been shredded and deleted from the electronic files. We keep stuff for the Federally mandated 5 years; I’m in the middle of electronic cleaning this week.

    We still use some of the words and phrases around the office, always good to relieve tension.

    1. Shell*


      Poor writing and speaking habits absolutely makes one look bad, and hinders communication. I mean, look how “strong communication/reading/writing skills” practically comes standard on every job posting nowadays.

      It might not be the OP’s place to speak up, but I can’t blame her reaction.

      1. Lizzie*

        I think “hinders communication” is the key thing here. I can imagine feeling frustrated in OP #1’s shoes, but if this person is able to communicate effectively with her coworkers and customers while using non-standard words, then I think the matter needs to be dropped. But if her word choices are hindering her ability to communicate in the workplace, then her manager really needs to be the one to address it.

    2. Csarndt*

      I took over from some people whose documentation was…well…lacking. Years of monthly reports with affect/effect errors, interchangeable use of validation vs verification, should vs shall (both kind of big deals in our line of work, and occasionally screwed up by everyone), complete sentences that completely miss the point…so, yeah, I question the work performed when the write up of it was so lacking, and I can see why these individuals no longer perform these jobs. But, I’m also not the grammar police so I work on improving my writing of reports and speaking accurately so the next person has a better opinion of me than I have of the last person.

      The last place I worked liked to use apostrophes to create plurals, couldn’t tell the difference between away and apart, and used kinda with reckless abandon. The place before that used incomplete sentences capitalized and punctuated as sentences as their mission statement. I’m moving up in the world!

      1. Anonymosity for this*

        The internal communication at my workplace, including training materials, makes me cringe. Lots of inappropriate quotation marks, and the emphasis is pretty heavy-handed. I want to edit it so badly, but of course I can’t. Someone said that’s the way it’s always been, and I decided I don’t want to move into the internal communications department, though that was something I had in mind when I took this job. If I do that, it will definitely be elsewhere because they’ve had the same person in charge for a long time, and if he doesn’t see anything wrong with it, it will never change.

        1. the gold digger*

          I am in a new job where I have realized I am the stupidest person in the group. It makes me sooooo happy. I have dealt with these issues in the past, but have not had to do it here. I keep thinking there has to be a catch.

        2. torreadorable*

          I started a new job pretty recently and I, too, am consistently taken aback by some of my colleagues’ poor writing skills, even in company-wide memos or reports to our board of directors or CEO. And not just occasional misspellings or grammatical weirdness, but honest-to-god terrible writing that miscommunicates key facts and obscures main points.

          I absolutely pride myself on my simple, clear writing style, and I do a lot of the writing projects for our team (grant proposals, correspondence, etc) so perhaps I am overly sensitive, but we aren’t talking about inconsequential emails or letters here.

          1. The Bookworm*

            I’ve been out the workforce for a while and my writing skills have deteriorated. Any suggestions on how to improve?

            1. Jillociraptor*

              Read and write a lot! After graduating, where I was writing between 50 and 100 pages a quarter in school, I saw my writing skills completely nose-dive. I just wasn’t getting the practice anymore. While even now I don’t think my writing compares to its quality in college and grad school, once I started reading much more and writing (particularly comments on thoughtful blogs) I started to get my mojo back.

              There are lots of sites where you can get a prompt a day, just to practice getting ideas on paper again. You start to rebuild that vocabulary and repository of common turns of phrase, and start thinking with more of a writing mindset.

              1. The Bookworm*

                Thanks for the info. I’ve not heard about sites that give a writing prompt – do you have a favorite?

          2. AnotherAlison*

            I, too, have been dealing with colleagues’ poor writing skills. I work in engineering consulting, and have been working with a group whose recent report was so poorly written that I could not figure out what the conclusion of our analysis was. The two people working on it were not native English speakers, but even allowing for that, there was random capitalization, random commas, commas in place of periods, and some really bad technical writing practices (tables of results in weird places, and not referred to in the text). People always say engineers can’t write. It’s true we may not write the best persuasive essays or marketing copy, but if we fail in writing technical reports, that is inexcusable. (Sorry, rant over!)

            1. Clever Name*

              Ugh. I’m in consulting, and I work with a lot of engineers, so I feel you! One of my coworkers actually seemed confused when I said that the purpose of writing was to communicate and not to convince the client how smart you are.

            2. Ife*

              I just started a new job at a company with 30,000-some employees. I’ve been reading all the policies and procedures and most of them have at least a few typos and bad punctuation. Some even have missing/repeated/wrong words. It’s incredibly distracting at best, and confusing at worst.

              I also have a boyfriend who likes to make up words and invent new definitions for existing words. For example, “being-have” instead of “behaving.” Or “flustrated” instead of “frustrated. I definitely understand why the OP is concerned about how others perceive the coworker, but I’m not sure that pointing out the words are wrong will help. When I have done this gently with boyfriend, he always insists the words are correct to him.

    3. AnonAnalyst*

      Yeah, I’m pretty surprised that this person’s manager isn’t addressing this. I’m sure this will vary to some degree depending on what type of work this person and the organization actually does, but this would be hugely problematic in my company. In my line of work, we’re usually brought in or consulted as experts on a particular issue; using these made up words would really undermine our credibility (“What did they just say? Do they really think that’s a word? Is this indicative of the quality of their research/expertise? How can we trust anything else they’re telling us?”)

      Unfortunately, I think it’s hard for OP #1 to bring this up with the coworker again. I like Alison’s suggested approach if the OP feels like she has a good enough relationship with the coworker to try again, but otherwise, she probably has to let it go.

    4. Katie the Fed*

      I have to admit that I often assume someone is…less than intelligent…if they don’t write or speak well. I think it’s because I personally value writing and language very highly, and I expect that others do too. It took me a while to get used to the fact that someone can be quite smart and really bad at verbal communication.

      It was a dealbreaker when I was onling dating though – if someone used terrible grammar or wrote in text-speak, I didn’t give their profile a second look. It goes without saying that my husband is a wonderful writer :)

      1. Kelly L.*

        It’s funny–I was always the same way about online dating ads, and then I ended up with a guy whose spelling is kind of a mess. He’s actually quite bright, but his attention span is sometimes gnatlike, and he’ll get distracted in the middle of spelling a word (“Squirrel!”) and it’ll descend into a pile of WTF. But the key is, I didn’t meet him online! If that had been my first impression of him, it would have been a poor one, but when I got to know him and then his writing, it was ok.

        1. Dot Warner*

          Something similar happened to me. I met my husband online and in the subject of his first e-mail to me he misspelled a very common word. I initially rolled my eyes and thought he was a goof, but he’s actually very smart and was just having a bad day.

        2. Ezri*

          Yeah, my husband made the mistake of asking me to proofread a college essay when we were dating. He speaks very well, but doesn’t really error-check his writing and mixes up similarly spelled words.

      2. Kai*

        I had the exact same experience–I met my now-husband online, and the first thing that struck me about him was what a good writer he was :)

        1. JMegan*

          Me too! It wasn’t so much what he said, but the way he said it. I could tell that he was a good writer, and from that I assumed that he was a reader as well. He was. :)

      3. Oryx*

        I have an online friend who CONSTANTLY misuses the word “seen” — as in she says “I seen” instead of “I saw” or “I have seen” and it always gives me pause even know I though she’s very smart and communicates well. That’s the only mis-step I’ve seen from her and I think that’s why it’s so glaringly obvious when it happens

        1. Anonsie*

          That’s a regional dialectical difference, though, not just something they just made up or misheard originally. It’s really common in a lot of places as totally standard speech.

        2. AnotherAlison*

          My husband does this and so does his mom. If it’s a regional thing, then I guess it’s a rural NY state thing.

          The bad thing is our kids now sometimes mock my husband when he says “I seen that.” After 19 years with him, I’m over it, but it is funny that we ever got together because glaringly obvious poor grammar normally grates on me. I would roll my eyes at anyone else doing it and possibly assume they were an idiot. : )

          1. JayDee*

            I think it’s a rural lots-of-places thing. My father-in-law uses it all the time. He’s from the rural Midwest.

      4. Madtown Maven*

        I, too, highly value written and verbal clarity. Imagine my frustration and surprise when I ended up having a child with dyslexia. People with dyslexia have a very different (and often disabled) way of dealing with language in all its forms. I wonder whether this coworker has dyslexia, and did not receive helpful remedial education.

        1. ProductiveDyslexic*

          I don’t think the OP’s coworkers use of *spoken* language is at all suggestive of dyslexia. Dyslexia normally manifests as difficulty with written language, often in stark contrast to the verbal language skills of the individual dyslexic.

          1. Jen*

            Actually I have issues with using wrong words (e.g. rope instead of tubing) or switching parts of letters from two different words around, so something similar to this can happen (usually falls into the aphasia category). I tried to find out in college what was going on, but they didn’t really want to bother since I was ‘managing fine’ and ‘too old to worry about it’. It’s become more pronounced as I got older, and can be frustrating (and embarrassing), even though my coworkers know about it and just occasionally razz me about it.

            However the person the OP describes doesn’t really sound like they have something like this. I’ve known a few others that do similar things and it kind of throws me too, but I tend to take it as an idiosyncrasy of theirs.

      5. Audiophile*

        My kindred spirit. I think this is part of the reason online dating isn’t working for me, because I can’t stand terrible grammar.

        I will ignore anyone who sends me incomprehensible messages. I actually had a guy get unreasonably angry, when I finally replied to his accusation that my profile was fake, because I didn’t answer his original messages since they made absolutely no sense to me.

        1. NoPantsFridays*

          Yeah, I can deal with bad or colloquial grammar so long as the writing is generally comprehensible. If the grammar is so poor that I literally cannot understand — well, that’s a problem. I can’t respond if I don’t know what you’re saying!

        2. Joline*

          I try to give some benefit of the doubt as I know my dad is very intelligent but a terrible speller. But I once had a guy who sent me a first message of “ho”. He meant “hi”. I did not go on a date with him.

          (it was obviously a typo – but it was two letters…that’s pretty bad)

          1. Audiophile*

            It was a mix of horrible spelling and bad grammar. I wish I could find it, because it was quite interesting.
            I can forgive minor spelling mistakes (hey, we all make them, right?) but that’s it.

            And yes, that is pretty bad.

        3. Cath in Canada*

          I am so glad I met my husband in person rather than online – he’s a really smart guy, and very well spoken, but his writing is atrocious and his typing is worse (he insists on putting a space before every single punctuation mark and it drives me nuts!) He’s never needed to write for work (he’s a carpenter) or to send lots of emails (he’s a phone call guy), so he’s simply never cultivated that particular skill.

          I think I would quite possibly have skipped over his online profile if it was written that way. I’m not particularly proud of that, but there it is. And having seen the contrast between his writing and his actual intelligence, I do try to be more forgiving about other examples of bad writing I see on Facebook and in other non-work-critical venues.

          1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

            Orientate is actually the correct usage in British English. So don’t hold it against them. :)

    5. Scott*

      My favorite made up word is from a woman I work with who calls the copy machine the “combinator”. Needless to say, it has really caught on and everyone now refers to the “combinator”.

      1. Pennalynn Lott*

        My dad’s girlfriend makes up a lot of words: Triliology, trudgery, cinnamontography, deceivious, insail asyme, high pretension, hypnopotamus, longtivity and many, many more.

        1. Jean*

          I like decevious, high pretension, and hypnopotamus!
          The first two are wonderful ways to deflate the self-importance of pompous windbags. The last one is just plain charming. With about a dozen other animal & verb combinations we’d have enough for an illustrated guide to bureaucrats or functionaries. Hmm….

          1. Pennalynn Lott*

            I like decevious, too! But “high pretension” is her way of saying “hypertension” (aka high blood pressure).

        2. V*

          I like “trudgery.” I’m assuming that it combines trudge and drudgery to describe drudgery that you have to trudge through.

    6. QualityControlFreak*

      Okay, haven’t read through all the comments, but I just have to say, George W. Bush made up and mangled words all the time and (many) people seemed to take him seriously. Don’t misunderestimate the power of money and connections!

      1. C Average*

        I actually have on my desk a graduation card with a picture of Dubya on it, wearing a graduation gown and delivering a commencement address someplace. It says “To those of you who received honors, awards, and distinctions, I say, ‘Well done.’ And to the ‘C’ students, I say, ‘YOU TOO CAN BE PRESIDENT!'”

        It’s right next to my Obama action figure.

  2. Stars and violets*

    #1. Not your problem. And for someone who’s keen not to offend, you sure do use the word ‘stupid’ a lot when referring to your co-manager.

    1. Artemesia*

      That is a little harsh. A person who speaks as this co-worker does appears stupid. Poor grammar especially in a native speaker and lots of misuse of vocabulary are the most reliable way of projecting stupidity. I agree that there isn’t much a co-worker can do and apparently the manager is not willing to step up. I sure wouldn’t want someone who spoke like that representing my company or department and can understand how the OP feels. Not much she can do though.

        1. OP For #1*

          No need to apologize. I wasn’t bothered by the comment. Perhaps “stupid” was not the right word. She’s not dumb by any means, but has poor communication skills. I’m not worried about offending her, but I’ve heard our employees and other employees within the company commenting on things she says.

          1. AnotherHRPro*

            The fact that you have actually heard others speaking about her misuse of words is something you may want to bring to her attention IF you are close. Maybe something like, “I know we’ve talked about how you say some words incorrectly before and it is because your family is from the South, but I thought you should know that people do notice it. I think it may becoming a distraction from them seeing you as the intelligent and professional person that you are.”

            1. Tax Nerd*

              Being from the South has no bearing on saying words incorrectly, for the record. We know and use standard American English, especially in work settings. We do have some interesting idioms, though.

              1. Mimmy*

                That wasn’t the OP’s opinion–that was her co-manager’s stated reason for her odd choice of words.

              2. Artemesia*

                Yes. The south thing is a sop to her pride; southerners who are well educated use standard grammar and vocabulary; it is their accents which are local. And of course turns of phrase. But ‘bless his heart’ (which is an insult generally) is not the same as misuse of words or bad grammar.

                1. Artemesia*

                  I had to counsel a very abrasive woman from the northeast at my southern workplace who had managed to alienate people all over the organization in her first two weeks. Plenty of northerners manage not to do this; she was just aggressive and combative and rude — but I approached it as ‘southern versus northern norms in the work place’ which I thought would work better than ‘why are you such a bitch?’ The counseling didn’t work, but I gave it my best shot.

                2. Gene*

                  Inside every “Bless your heart!” is a tiny “F you.”

                  Things my grandmother from Tennessee used to say.

                3. ella*

                  My (Arkansas) grandmother used to say “Well, bless your heart!” to me all the time. She died when I was a kid…I’m now re-thinking our entirely relationship.

            2. The IT Manager*

              HEY! Stop propagating the stereotype that southerners sound uneducated and dumb when they speak because they make up words and don’t know how to use grammar properly. I am from the south. I know “bestly” and “morely” are not words. I would wager nearly all southerners know this.

              As a southerner, I would have called the co-manager on that lame excuse, but I know that it may be hard if the LW is a yankee.

              1. Carrington Barr*

                “Stop propagating the stereotype …”
                “… it may be hard if the LW is a yankee.”

                I really hope you’re attempting to be funny or ironic.

                1. Kelly L.*

                  I think The IT Manager means it might be hard for a Yankee to know if those are real southern usages or just random idiosyncrasies, not anything insulting.

                2. Southern*

                  A yankee’s probably not going to be familiar enough with this dialect to catch the difference between made-up words and a strange-sounding but real part of this dialect.

                3. Zillah*

                  I can see why you took it that way, but I actually interpreted the “yankee” part of IT Manager’s comment to just be pointing out that it can be difficult for a member of group A to dictate what is and isn’t a part of Group B’s culture/dialect/whatever. A member of group B is going to have a lot more credibility.

                4. The IT Manager*

                  Yes. “Yankee” was used ironically to mean everyone not from “the south” ie “the other” in this case. Meaning I could say “hey, southerners don’t actually talk that way” because I’m from there and lived in various southern towns and cities whereas a “northerner” doesn’t have the knowledge to make that statement with full confidence that might be needed in this situation.

              2. Kai*

                Sure, but it was the OP’s coworker herself who made that excuse. I don’t think AnotherHRPro is necessarily agreeing with it. I’m from the south myself.

            3. AnotherHRPro*

              I agree that it isn’t actually because her family was from the South, but was trying to acknowledge that she had already attempted to explain away the issue for that supposed reason. I didn’t mean to offend. :)

    2. Paul*

      After all, they probably said Shakespeare was misusing language too, when he came up with words like “bedroom” or “elbow”…

      1. Elysian*

        Sure, but he was a creative artist. Artists get leeway for their craft. We’re not all Shakespeare – most of us need to abide by basic grammar rules, pre-existing words, and community norms regarding language if we want to be taken seriously as professionals, and it’s obviously causing a problem for this employee. When you don’t follow the “rules” of language you look like you don’t know any better, which yes – makes you look stupid (even if you aren’t).

        1. Felicia*

          My English teacher always said you need to know how to follow the rules before you can break them.

          1. Helka*

            I’ve heard the same thing, and have spent a fair bit of time thinking about it, and what I’ve decided is that it’s not just about knowing how to follow the rules, it’s about knowing why the rules are what they are. Once you know the why of the rules, you know how and when to break them to get the opposite ‘why.’

            For example, you use punctuation to break up a sentence (or multiple sentences) so that it sounds measured and echoes natural speech; the alternative is sounding rushed and breathless. If I want to sound rushed and breathless, I break those rules and add extraneous ‘ands’ to lists, mimicking the way we speak when we are rushed and breathless. Knowing why the rules are as they are lets me know when and how to break them to get the effect I want. If I just broke the rules because I didn’t care or didn’t want to pay attention to them, I wouldn’t be getting across a particular effect and would just sound uneducated.

            Same thing with inventing words. Done right, it can be fun and quirky, and sometimes express that you’re getting at something you find somewhat inexpressible. Done wrong, it just sounds like you don’t know your own language well.

            1. Graciosa*

              I think you may have hit on something. It seems like the OP’s co-worker is hoping to be perceived as charmingly idiosyncratic in her word usage, and unfortunately lacks the talent to do it successfully.

              My favorite (relatively) modern example of this was seeing the writers on Buffy the Vampire Slayer create their own slang and non-standard usage – definitely not Shakespeare, but quirky, fun and understandable. Some examples include:

              She’s reasonably dollsome for a man in your age bracket.
              What’s with the Joan Collins ‘tude?
              That’s fairly freaksome.
              Dated? It’s carbon-dated.
              Every woman wants to make me her cuddle-monkey.

              Admittedly, the television characters were teenagers in a high school and not business professionals at work, but that may be the effect the co-worker is trying (and failing) to achieve.

              1. anon-why*

                The writers of Buffy did not create the phrase “carbon dated”. That’s a scientific term that’s been in use for a few decades now. Same with “‘tude”, that was already a word.

              2. LBK*

                Whedonisms! Quirky made up slang is one of his trademarks. It doesn’t quite permeate to all his other work to the extent that it did in Buffy, but there’s always a certain manner of speech in things he writes.

              3. I'm a Little Teapot*

                I love Buffy-speak! “I don’t know, it kinda gives me a wiggins.”

                I think there’s a big difference between making up words in a clearly facetious/punny way (I’ve been known to say “I haven’t been there in 5ever, which is like 4ever but longer”) and saying “morely” or “doctorial degree” with a straight face.

            2. Elizabeth West*

              Exactly. I yell at Word in my mind all the time when I run a manuscript or scene through spell check. “Shut up, Word, I know that’s not right, but that’s how I wrote it!”

              In business communication, however, you still need to use standard English. You’re not writing for entertainment or artistic purposes; you’re trying to communicate information. Speech would differ in situations the same way. You speak more formally in an interview than you do when chillin’ with your homies.

          1. bridget*

            Or more accurately, he coined a lot of original phrases that became cliches in the lexicon over time.
            (I suspect you meant this and your comment was said ironically, so sorry for ruining your joke by too much explanation :) )

      2. Lily in NYC*

        I like to make up new words (they are usually dirty). There’s a big difference between creative usage and bad grammar. Somehow I doubt Shakespeare confused their and there.

        1. bridget*

          It depends on whether you ask a grammar maven or a descriptivist! Lots of lexicographers use Shakespearian citations to show why many of our grammar “rules” are silly, pointless, and illogical. Shakespeare routinely split infinitives, ended sentences with prepositions, and used “they” as a singular pronoun, all of which would make your high school English teacher whip out a red pen.

          1. I'm a Little Teapot*

            The “rule” against splitting infinitives arose in the 18th century because of a bunch of pedantic grammarians who thought Latin was a more elegant and intelligent language than English and that therefore English grammar should follow Latin rules – even though English and Latin have radically different syntax and Latin rules don’t make any sense in English. It’s not actually *possible* to split an infinitive in Latin, because a Latin infinitive is a single word (such as “amare”, to love, or “judicare”, to judge).

            So – continue, in good conscience, to boldly go where a bunch of illogical 18th-century snobs have never gone before. ;-)

            1. Three Thousand*

              Same with ending sentences with prepositions; in Latin a preposition always comes before the prepositional object, so ending a sentence with a preposition means your sentence is incomplete or wrong. None of that applies to English.

            2. bridget*

              Right. So are the other two rules mentioned above–no real logical (i.e. grammatical) reason to have them, and good writers (like Shakespeare, Austen, and others) had been using the language like that for some time. Grammar mavens might care about those rules, but descriptivists say phooey.

            3. Tau*

              I actually get a little weirded out by the extent to which people think that these sorts of rules are what grammar is. I’m a not-quite-native speaker of English but ended up in EFL classes for seven years in high school, so for me “correct grammar” always is and shall be the actual underpinnings that describe how the language does things, so for instance when you use simple past versus past progressive or what the three different types of if clause are and what distinguishes them. The weird pseudo-Latin prescriptivist “rules” like not ending a sentence with a preposition never got mentioned (most likely since our teachers didn’t want the class having difficulty understanding normal spoken speech and talking as though we’d walked out of a textbook) so it always amazes me to see how prevalent they are online.

    3. Labratnomore*

      I do agree that it is not OP#1’s problem, but since this could really be seen as a performance issue in that it is having an adverse impact on the group it may be useful to let your manager handle it. I think you should pass along to her manager some of the things she say’s and how that impacts the work of your group, and especially the comments you have heard from others. If people are talking about her, your group, or your company in a negative manner I think her manager should be aware of it.

  3. M-C*

    #5 I’m afraid it sounds like you’re being strung along for some reason. Maybe they’re just totally disorganized, but you should take that into account too. I’d second the advice to keep looking. And then if they send you an offer 2 months after you’ve started somewhere else, do tell them bluntly why you’re no longer available, and sincerely how sorry you are about it…

    1. Graciosa*

      I agree that the OP should keep looking, but not that he or she is being strung along. I once accepted a job offer after it took the employer three months (yes, months) to get the offer out to me after the decision was made. It was a very large company and, yes, that was longer than usual due to a variety of circumstances, but none of those circumstances had anything to do with me, and the hiring manager was desperate to have the position filled and trying to go as fast as possible.

      Do not underestimate the impact of bureaucratic process when trying to assess this type of a situation –

      – but do keep looking.

    2. brightstar*

      I don’t agree, I think it’s likely there’s something going on at the organization that is holding things up, and that the OP would not be privy to. I would keep looking until they have a written offer, though, as disappointing as it is to think your job search is over only to go back to it.

      1. Lily*

        Things I have seen hold a hiring process up unexpectedly include:
        –Hiring manager having unforeseen major health crisis
        –HR rep going on a month long vacation and not providing any details or completed documentation to the person covering for them
        –Internal mail losing the first set of documentation sent to HR, leading to HR and the hiring department each waiting on the other for two weeks.
        –Sudden last minute change of heart from the big boss about the necessity of the position.

        In two of those cases, an offer was eventually made. In two hiring for the position was suspended indefinitely. Which is to say — don’t lose hope entirely, but don’t count your chickens, etc.,etc.

    3. Artemesia*

      It may not be so. They may just be disorganized and slow BUT I agree the OP should assume this ship has sailed and keep hustling. Let it be a delightful surprise if they come through.

  4. Anx*

    #1) Well I personally don’t recognize those words as part of a common Southern dialect, I cannot be sure that they are not. And she may fully believe that her language is being shaped by her family and/or heritage. Language is subjective; how can you be sure those aren’t words? Instead of invalidating her linguistic patterns or choices altogether, why not focus on aligning her speech with the standard of English that’s used in your business culture?

    1. sunny-dee*

      Well, it sounds to me that that is what the OP s trying to do. (Although, as someone from the South, I do invalidate her word choices — I’ve never heard anyone say “morely.”) Whether you couch it as “realigning” or “invalidating,” the OP is trying to find a way to help her coworker change her word choices to sound more professional.

      1. Liane*

        I’ve lived in a Southern state for the last 7+ years, and even before that, knew many people born & raised in the Deep South, but have never heard the examples given by OP1.

        Could still be from some uncommon dialect.

        1. Chinook*

          “I’ve lived in a Southern state for the last 7+ years, and even before that, knew many people born & raised in the Deep South, but have never heard the examples given by OP1.

          Could still be from some uncommon dialect.”

          I have run into this in dealign with Newfoundland in-laws who speak a specific dialect that, in its pure form, can be hard to understand because it uses Gaelic word order (I think). It is most defintiely not standard English but, at the same time, there is a distinct pattern that shows the speaker has a logical way of expressing themselves. But, more importantly, it doesn’t show up in their writtenw ords (because the educational system is based on standard, mainland English textbooks). Some of them still sound uneducated but that is because it seems like they don’t even understand or care about the rules to their own dialect. The gifted speakers, though sometimes unintelligble to a mainlander, still sound “intelligent.”

        2. Anonsie*

          I’m guessing this is something that either her family does specifically or that is from some really small, specific area that they used to live in.

          I have one aunt who has a really outrageous accent and no one knows where she got it from. No one else in the family has it. All her kids have it as well now, too. They have a super heavy twang but pronounce a lot of things really strangely compared to other people with the regional twang, I have no idea where it could have come from. They sound like no one else I’ve ever met. When I was on the east coast with them recently I kept thinking “oh god everyone they talk to here is going to think this is what southerners sound like oh maaaan”

      2. Ellie A.*

        Right? I’ve lived in Georgia my entire life, and I’ve never heard anyone say “morely.” That’s not a word. “Surely” is; “morely” isn’t.

        I do take Anx’s point, though; this could be a regionalism from whatever area the co-worker’s family is from — or it could even just be a family quirk. Great-grandpa used to say “morely,” so the coworker’s grandparents and parents all grew up saying it, too, so it seems normal to her.

        Still, though. Once someone pointed out to her that it’s not really a word and is affecting the way clients perceive her, you’d think she would try to stop saying it.

        I guess it doesn’t really matter why she says it. There really isn’t anything OP #1 can do about it. If the OP isn’t Ms. Morely’s manager, then commenting on her speech patterns after having already brought it up once is just going to come across as rude, I think. The manager needs to be the one to deal with this, not the OP. I’d stay out of it.

      3. Poohbear McGriddles*

        I’m from so far south in Alabama I’m practically swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, and I’ve never heard “morely”, either.
        Irregardless (j/k), the problem is that the OP’s coworker is using her family’s southern background – or rather, common perception of it – to excuse her use of words that aren’t in the dictionary.
        It seems like the OP’s fair lady doesn’t want to be so fair, so it may be a lost cause.

    2. Ezri*

      Here’s the thing – if, hypothetically, the words are really part of some uncommon Southern dialect, it’s still important to be aware of how you present yourself in a professional setting. I grew up in a midwest town where “ain’t” was heavily used. That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for me to toss it around at my job now (if I could even bring myself to, I was raised by an english teacher).

      1. Connie-Lynne*

        This. A lot of Southern dialect has crept into my language, thanks to that large swathe of the family that lives across Mobile, Pensacola, and Stone Mountain, but I know how to present myself in business.

        I have a harder time training myself out of the word-habits I gained growing up in Southern California: like, dude, and of course, massive overuse of the word “awesome.”

      2. Pam*

        Yes! As a Southerner I can assure you that many of us occasionally use words incorrectly, but we know when it’s appropriate to do so. You won’t catch anyone at my workplace saying “Ain’t” or “Fixin’ to” while we’re talking to customers.

      3. Rita*

        That’s a good point. As a New Englander, I use “wicked” all the time to mean “very” outside of work. I never use it in contact with clients, and rarely with coworkers.

      4. Anonsie*

        Oh yeah. People will actually comment to me at work how I start off with formal, really typical English dialect/accent but once I actually know someone if we’re chatting I’ll sometimes use my… I don’t know, real voice and they go “whoa what the heck?” In fact once I took someone I met here back to my hometown and after a few days they admitted they could no longer understand the way I was talking a lot of the time.

        I don’t normally use it because I no longer live in the south and I know people will assume I’m stupid if I don’t change my voice. CODE SWITCHING!

    3. De Minimis*

      I live in a state bordering the South that has a lot of bleedover as far as culture and dialect and have never heard either of those usages either.

    4. HR Manager*

      I’m not sure if it’s dialect thing rather than just local vernacular. As a life-long northeasterner, I sometimes scratch my head at either words I’ve never heard, or words that have entirely different meanings locally. One of the most memorable ones was the word “drugged’. To me that’s not a good word – either having taken excessive narcotics or medicine, forcefully or otherwise. Apparently in some regions, this is the way to say the past tense of drag. As in, look at what the horse drugged in… it caused a LOT of confusion.

      1. Happy Lurker*

        I have heard “drugged” and was at a loss the the first time, internally thinking “that’s wicked strange”

    5. Artemesia*

      My mother’s extended family sound uneducated and not too bright because of their atrocious grammar and word usage. I have no idea how my mother and her two oldest brothers ended up sounding intelligent when their parents and all the younger siblings have cringeworthy speech. The oldest brother finished his career as a school principal having gotten an education on the GI bill and even as a professional educator, he had his wife proof all of his speeches to make sure the grammar of his youth didn’t show through. This is not a southern family. So this co-worker is probably right that this is how her people speak. It is not because they are southern but because their family has traditionally been poorly educated and this is the language they learned in the home.

  5. Sophia*

    #3 My old company used to do stuff like this all the time forgetting that some of us were non-exempt. It drove me crazy not getting my lunch time and essentially working unpaid, but I found the repercussions and office culture made it really not worth putting up a fuss over.

    I realllllly despise this type of thing though and wish companies would cut this the heck out!!

    1. Purr purr purr*

      I agree, I despise lunch and learns! When I’m working 8+ hours a day, I just want to be able to enjoy my lunch break without having it taken over with a mandatory session.

      1. OP for #3*

        I think for us it was mostly how they went about it. I have had a discussion with the manager since this and essentially, they think since they provided lunch we should be willing to give our time since its not much time and they ‘do so much for us’. They do have some good points, but they also do random annoying things like this. And yes Purr, I would like my lunch to be a mindless time.

        1. Graciosa*

          It’s one thing for an individual to volunteer to make this type of a trade (I’ll be happy to work for an hour if you provide me with a nice lunch) but it’s quite another for the employer to make this decision on behalf of the employees. It’s no longer voluntary unless people can opt out with no repercussions.

          And the value of the lunch better be at least equivalent to the rate of pay – and the employer will probably need to make sure that payment in kind instead of in cash is allowed under applicable law and tax regulations (and properly record it on the books if it is) – and overall this seems like a lot of effort to avoid a fairly small expense that the company should properly pay.

        2. Broke Law Student*

          Oh, that’s so frustrating! Your employer can’t just decide to pay its employees in peanuts instead of in money. It’s too bad there doesn’t seem to be any options other than “talk sense into employer” and “file an official complaint.” The complaint process doesn’t seem worth it for one lunch hour, but I really wish that employers couldn’t get away with this stuff at all.

    2. AnotherHRPro*

      When I read #3, that was my thought as well. I would guess that the guidance to count the time as “lunch” was for the exempt staff. Often senior leaders simply do not think about the details of reporting hours for non-exempt staff. This might be the case especially if it was the Partner who made the comment. I would remind folks that there were non-exempt staff members in attendance and that they need to record that time to be incompliance as it was a working session.

    3. Liane*

      I used to work for a company that had Lunch & Learns once every 1 or 2 weeks and I almost always went, because Free *Good* Food! I was also interested in most of the topics. I was the only one of the lab people who was non-exempt, and I was expected to have it marked as my hour lunch, but this was clarified beforehand, and if the presentation lasted longer, I still only had to take my official hour unpaid.

      1. AB*

        Really every company I’ve worked at that have lunch and learns either require you to brown bag it (because what I really want to do is go listen a brown bag lunch lecture… ) or it’s a tray of sandwiches, some chips and cookies from some chain sandwich place.

  6. Musereader*

    Op#1 Should ask her collegue why a town in West Yorkshire, England is relevant to the conversation as that is what Morely is. Real word just a noun and not an adjective.

      1. hildi*

        This has been something that has been eye opening for me in the last several years. I often don’t literally mean what I say {“I just got off the phone with someone and she was yelling at me for an hour!”} and there are a lot of people like me. We may not actually mean for our words to have the effect they do; we’re just not very literal about our communication (but to be sure, there are also a lot of people that are purposely nasty and sharp with their words exactly for the effect they’re trying to have. But that’s kind of a different topic in my mind vs. just how our brains process). I think and speak so abstractly and vaguely that I know it frustrates a lot of people like you that can so clearly see that what you say was carefully chosen and considered to convey precisely what you mean. I sometimes wish I was better at saying what I mean and meaning what I say. It would make things easier sometimes :)

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          I’m very good at reading context, but if I don’t know the person well sometimes I can’t tell, and if it’s not unusual for our client calls to last an hour I might think you (assuming you are my co-worker) were being literal. At work I feel that we should try to be more literal and direct, because while our family and friends have a lot of context and often come from the same background as we do, our co-workers and clients could be from all over the country or the world, and some of them may not communicate with us enough to develop that sense of context.

          1. hildi*

            “At work I feel that we should try to be more literal and direct, because while our family and friends have a lot of context and often come from the same background as we do, our co-workers and clients could be from all over the country or the world, and some of them may not communicate with us enough to develop that sense of context.”

            I think that’s really great insight! Makes a lot of sense and I agree. People can communicate in different ways and get away with a lot more casual communication with those that have deeper background knowledge of us. But in the workplace, that’s often lacking so it does make sense to think things through and be more specific when communicating. I like that.

      2. Anonsie*

        I say this all the time when people give unclear/confusing information and then go “oh you know what I mean.” No I don’t! You can’t just say half the story or use totally contradictory explanations and then just leave it at that. WORDS HAVE MEANINGS

  7. matcha123*

    I am sure I’ll be the minority opinion regarding OP#1, but I have to say that just because someone uses a non-standard dialect of English, it doesn’t make them “stupid” or wrong.

    A lot of people assume there is one correct way to speak (American) English and they want others to conform to that standard. In this case, I think that if the OP approached her coworker saying that her non-standard usage was having a negative effect on how she was viewed by others in her industry, she may have gotten a warmer response.

    Without realizing it, language usage is one way of showing our identity. And I believe that most of us would bristle at someone calling out our speech style. The coworker in question clearly identifies with Southern American English and if she is fine with the fact that some people may judge her dialect, then there’s not much OP can do.

    Really, she would only be “wrong” if she called a telephone a “hat” or made ungrammatical sentences such as, “Went I going store.” I know that people who consider themselves prescriptive or grammar sticklers will disagree!

    1. Ruth (UK)*

      Matcha123 I’m largely in agreement, buy rightly or wrongly, people do very often judge others on hoe they speak and often consider less standard forms to be ‘wrong’ which affects how you’re perceived if you use them.

      It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use non standard word forms etc but its good to be aware of how people are perceiving you when you’re using dialectal forms that are considered to be less prestigious.

      I try very hard not to correct language except when actually asked (eg if I am asked to proofread). I have even managed to bite my tongue and not correct someone I know who always says pendantic instead of pedantic. And she’s a very pedantic person herself.. And uses this word a lot. With the stress on the first syllable.

      However I recently couldn’t resist when someone kept saying illiterate instead of reiterate because it changed their meaning SO much in the context (and I’m pretty chuffed I even worked what the hell they were on about amongst their other errors. Ps. This one is actually an error, not a variation in dialect or word choice)

      1. Carrie in Scotland*

        Interestingly (or not) but relating to your ‘pendantic/pedantic’ example, I have *the* hardest time remembering how to say ‘obelisk’ unless I think about it first. I always want to say ‘oblisk’. Obviously, this doesn’t come up in conversation very much but I wonder if the ‘pendantic’ person has a similar thing?

          1. Cath in Canada*

            I once suggested to my PhD supervisor that we should mark an item on a PowerPoint slide with an “asterix”, and he emailed me back to ask what small Gaulish warriors had to do with gene expression patterns. Oopsie.

      2. matcha123*

        You are right that people judge. In a way, when I write about language and dialect usage, I feel a bit fake since I grew up speaking standard American English. I have the privilege of not having people ask me to repeat myself when I speak and overseas I’m constantly told that I sound like the voice on the How to Speak English CDs.

        After majoring in linguistics, I started reevaluating how I take in language spoken by others and try to focus on the message rather than how that message is delivered. But, again, as you said most people do not care about dialects and the like.

        I always find these kinds of discussions extremely interesting!

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          If you really want to geek out, consider that “professional american english” has its own damn dialect, “business speak”, full of made up words.

          People who overuse business speak terms are made fun of, but I posit that Business Speak is as legitimate a dialect as any other. At work, we laugh at Business Speak speakers as posers but, the truth is, we slip into it ourselves at times.

          Summary: we’re all just a bunch of Judgey McJudgersons, aren’t we?

          1. Katie the Fed*

            I have a lot of military terminology and slang that sometimes seeps into my speech. Not necessarily cursing (but I can definitely hold my own), but things like describing something as a “goat rope.”

            1. hildi*

              I learned so many things from my days working with F-16 pilots. Most unsuitable to print here, but let’s just say they made an impression. One of my favorites from my military days is FUBAR.

          2. Kelly L.*

            The other day, I eyerolled at “loop in”…and then used it myself, unironically, five minutes later. Help!

          3. Meg Murry*

            Yup! “Business speak” is a pretty funny dialect too – and makes for a fun game of “buzzword bingo” or “how many buzzwords can you count in one speech” when you are stuck going to a presentation on the state of the business.

            Let’s synergize our competencies, then leverage them to collaborate on deploying enterprise supply-chains while vertically intergrating … Not sure that’s much worse than “morely”, even if it is considered more acceptable in a business setting.

            1. Heather*

              Heh – it would be a hell of a lot easier to understand the meaning of “morely” than the business-speak. Reading buzzwords for me is like reading Spanish – I have to translate each word individually and then go back and string them all together ;)

            2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

              Weird Al parodied business speak on his latest album– “Mission Statement.” Ironically, he also parodied people who use English incorrectly with “Word Crimes” on the same album. (I’d link to the videos, but don’t want to be moderated.)

              1. AnotherAlison*

                I loved “Word Crimes” so much. I hadn’t paid a lot of attention to Weird Al, oh, since I was 12, but I’ve watched that video a few times.

            3. Cath in Canada*

              My friend held a party when she passed her MBA, and invented a cocktail called the Leveraged Synergy for the occasion. If you wanted an extra shot of vodka it was a Value-Added Leveraged Synergy. Great party :D

          4. AnotherAlison*

            I used the word synergy twice in one conversation yesterday. : (

            It actually fit the conversation (I was explaining why would be able to do something cheaper than someone else thought we could), and I still can’t think of a better word, but but I did apologize for using it.

              1. Cath in Canada*

                Yes, I’ve used it in its scientific context a few times.

                One of the most annoying things about studying for my PMP certification was the number of terms that had different definitions from the standard scientific ones – e.g. standard deviation, order of magnitude, etc. I had to grit my teeth and just learn the “wrong” definitions for the duration, knowing that I could instantly forget them as soon as I passed the exam.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        There was a manager at Exjob who used to say “irregardless” for “regardless” a lot. (I’m not going to argue this point; it is NOT the proper word for the context.)

        I hated him because he was a bully, so whenever he was on the phone and I heard him say it, in my mind, I would make fun of him and laugh really hard imagining the people on the other end rolling their eyes at him.

      4. ThursdaysGeek*

        Yes, and people judge in both directions. As a teenager I found out some other teens didn’t like me much because they thought I was deliberately trying to make them look stupid by using big words. I was unaware that my language was different from theirs until someone else explained it to me.

        1. Nashira*

          I still run into this as an adult. I used to read the dictionary for fun, and read voraciously, so I have a wide vocabulary. I have to remind myself to edit down my vocab at work, else it gives the mean girls yet another thing to complain about. I slip up when I’m tired or stressed, and it’s always frustrating. They parse it as me deliberately insulting them with big words that I should somehow know they don’t know. I forget that I can’t expect people to understand the term ‘erroneous’ or whatever.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      I’m non-standard English’s #1 fan. I grew up in a blue collar neighborhood inhabited by South Philly immigrants and live in South Jersey. I know and love hard talking, harsh sounding (to your ears!) dialect and enjoy code speak. My husband rolls his eyes a little when I say “I godda go *up* the mall today”, but yo, it’s whatta do, you godda problem wit that?

      I don’t talk like that at work. And I don’t write like that on the internet.

      I can’t think of anyone I know who has white collar advanced who hasn’t either dropped the majority of their dialect or learned to code speak.

      That said, I don’t think it is the OP’s business unless she’s asked for help by her co-manager.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Yo, I need some wooder! We’re going down the shore!

        (“Wooder” is probably the only bit of my Philly upbringing still evident in my speech)

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          Funny, I consciously purged “wooder” from my speech when I was around 8. Geeky little girl, I said to myself, “that’s just not right”, and practice “wah-ter”. Mind, with us Philly folk making “t” into “d”, I’m sure what I really say is wadder, just one vowel difference.

          Pronouncing “t” in the Philly region just makes you pretentious, not correct. :p

          1. matcha123*

            Nothing wrong with changing the /t/ to a /d/ sound! That’s part of what makes American English different from British English. We tend to change /t/s to /d/s when they are sandwiched between vowels.

            Water becomes “wader;” better becomes “bedder;” sweater becomes “sweder” and so on

            1. Kat*

              Yes, there IS a problem with changing the t sound to a d. I see it first hand at school with ESL students and their crappy teacher. She spells and says water as wader. There are a lot of other words she does this to as well. The students are being taught the wrong things and it is going to affect them all their lives.

              I understand different areas have different dialects, but there IS a proper way to say certain sounds. It is lazy speaking and reflects poorly on you. I correct my kids whenever I hear them use bad grammar or say a word incorrectly.

              1. Chinook*

                “I see it first hand at school with ESL students and their crappy teacher. She spells and says water as wader. ”

                She isn’t just a crappy teacher – she is plain old doing it wrong. When you teach ESL, you need to teach standard American, British or Australian English (Canadian English is American with a mix of British) because that is what is tested on TOEFL and TESL exams that are often used as proof of skills.

                The other reason you teach standard English is that, if you understand that, all the other dialects that have evloved from it are still understandable. But, if you start with a dialect, other dialects can be undecipherable. Ex: canadians otuside of quebec are usualy taught Parisian French because we can then be understood by every other French speaking group. But, if we were taught Quebecois (a very specific dialect), we would be as undecipherable to some other French speakers (as I have heard from those of other dialects who say they can’t understand some of it because it sounds very uneducated and rough).

                In short, when learning a new language, you need to start with the core version for best, overall results.

                1. Jen RO*

                  I once watched a Canadian sitcom on TV5 (a French TV station). I found it hilarious that it had subtitles (translating Canadian French to France French)… then I realized I couldn’t understand a thing! My French is nothing amazing, but Quebecois sounded like an entirely different language.

              2. Cath in Canada*

                I know someone who was born in the UK but grew up mostly in Canada who always applies that North American softened t/d sound to a lot of British words – i.e. he’ll write things like “bacon buddy” instead of “bacon butty”, because that’s how he says it and he’s unlikely to ever see the word written down in Canada. I’ve seen other examples from other people too, so I think it can cause confusion sometimes.

            2. Elizabeth West*

              Writing a British character has made me extremely self-conscious of how I pronounce words when speaking American English. It’s worse when I’m on the phone at work. But when I try to pronounce them properly, I end up sounding like a bad version of Roy on The IT Crowd– “Moss, it’s full of WAHT-errrr!”

              Off-topic, but my favorite thing ever on that show:

              [Roy talking about Fredo from The Godfather] “Wasn’t he, Moss? Fredo, from the film. He was essentially a pimp.”

              Moss: “No. He took the ring to Mordor!


            3. Sunrays*

              Matcha23 – the same way we have standard British English, but regional accents and local dialects as well.

          2. AvonLady Barksdale*

            Wooder! My whole family is from the Philly area, and it’s so bad that when my mom and I traveled abroad and she was told by a friend to look up another friend, we thought the guy’s name was “Dr. Water” because we kept hearing, “Dr. Wooder.” And yes, the latter was his name, and we were shocked. I am, literally, the only person in my massive extended family who says “wah-ter”.

            I’m from Baltimore, though, so I don’t have a dog in this fight. I did a lot of theater as a child and have been singing for 30 years, so I learned to cultivate a pretty neutral accent, but “Sarady” and “ambalance” still sound normal to me, and sometimes I like to tell people I’m going “downy oh-shin, hon, to the beach”.

            1. Jennifer M.*

              Do you get your wooder from the zink or the sink? I’m from the County and both my parents are transplants, but I still occasionally say ambalance because my parents both worked at a hospital in the city so a lot of our family friends were from different parts of the city and my pronunciation of the letter “o” varies greatly depending on who I am with at the time.

              1. AvonLady Barksdale*

                Mine comes from the sink, but my stepfather’s? Hoo boy. Not only does he have a very, very thick Baltimore accent, he’s completely tone-deaf and cannot distinguish tones, so he speaks in a flat, Bawlmorean monotone.

                My “o” flattened significantly when I moved to NYC, then I moved to the south and re-sharpened it. I still sound like a Yankee transplant down here.

            2. C Average*

              I had to get down to your comment to figure out what “wooder” meant! This is fascinating. What does “Sarady” mean?

            3. DJ*

              My family hails from the DC area, and my Mom’s side all say “wooder”. I also hear “ambalance” – and all this time I thought it was some weird family quirk!

              The only thing I do is pronounce my home state as “Muralind”. :)

          3. jhhj*

            Most dialects in North America change t/d into a flap between vowels — though there are often phonetic cues that will tell you which one the vowel used to be (eg, in Canada, because we do weird stuff to some vowels, rider/writer are pronounced differently, and I never understood the song about “paperback riders” until university as I never saw the title written down). But I’d bet it isn’t an actual d in there, because that isn’t what SAE does.

            And English used to do it to all sorts of sounds — an f sound turned to a v, like wolf/wolves, in specific settings (between two vowels, more or less), so they were one basic sound (also s/z and the two th sounds). But over time they split, and f can be found intervocalically and v can be found elsewhere — compare, for instance, than and thin. (I thought of those words faster than f/v words.)

            1. Artemesia*

              well the English can hardly talk about how we assault the language — look at how they pronounce Beauchamp or Berkeley.

              1. jhhj*

                In general, any given dialect will simplify some things and exaggerate others (wrt another dialect) because there is a tension between lazy speakers and lazy listeners. AAVE, for instance, gets rid of some word-final voicing (like German), and does weird stuff to the th sounds, which are both simpler than SAE, but they fully pronounce vowels that SAE just turns into a schwa (eg police).

                I don’t know enough about how other dialects compare. None of this is assaulting a language, it’s just entirely normal variations when you cover as much area and social class as English currently does.

        2. HRC in NJ*

          Wooder!! I ordered “Wooder” in the south and the waitress said “I’m sorry?” I had to say WAHter. Then I got my wooder.

        3. Another Lauren*

          As a Philly native who has made her way across the country and back (now in the NYC area), this whole thread made me smile. I still say “wooder” and have lots of other Philly tendencies in my speech – this was most evident when I lived in California for a few years…

      2. bkanon*

        High-five for code-switching. I’m from an area of the US that’s highly southern despite being north. Very typical hillbilly/backwoods accent. I’ve cleaned most of my accent through conscious effort, but it’s still there. Several years ago, my roommate nearly had a conniption laughing as she listened to me on the phone with my grandfather. “By the time you were done, I couldn’t understand a word you said! It was English, right?” Ayah, Ah do the codetalky thayng, speshly when Ah’m tahred. ;)

    3. Meg Murry*

      I would also add that the co-manager OP #1 may not even totally realize how much or how often she is using these non-standard words. For instance, when I went to college, I had friends point out that I said “suppossably” instead of “supposedly” – and i just can’t seem to make myself fix it, so I just try to avoid saying that word altogether because I just dont “hear” it as wrong when I am saying it. I also didn’t notice until I went home for my first Christmas break in college how often my own mother said “It/he/she don’t” instead of “doesn’t” – and that’s a personal pet peeve of mine normally in people I don’t know, but somehow I had never noticed that my own mother did it. When your coworker writes emails, does she use these non-standard words, or is it just in speaking?
      My workplace offers a class in public speaking where we are videotaped and then asked to critique our own tape, in addition to classmates critiquing it. Would this be a possibility for you and your co-manager to take a class like this as part of your professional development?

      Last, I’d suggest you consider rephrasing it as “makes her sound uneducated” rather than “stupid”. To me, stupid implies someone that can’t learn due to basic unintelligence, whereas uneducated implies that they haven’t learned yet, but doesn’t say anything about their capability to learn

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        If you or anyone else wants to rid themselves of a mispronunciation, treat it like a tongue twister. Just repeat the preferred pronunciation to yourself as often as you can (probably best done when you’re alone) until it starts to feel more natural and doesn’t require forethought. It takes a while, but I can still rattle off “She sells seashells by the seashore” and “Unique New York” until I’m out of breath.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Sorry, preferred meaning mainstream or target pronounciation. And I should have said that this is like any practice, something you do intensively for a relatively short time until it requires less thought, then repeat occasionally for weeks or months to ingrain the habit.

    4. Perpetua*

      Yes, but there is still a difference between a non-standard dialect and made up words, isn’t there? (Putting aside the perspective that language is an ever evolving “living” thing and that people who use it create it and shape it, because in that case, she might as well call a telephone a hat and she wouldn’t be wrong, but she WOULD be poorly understood.)

      1. matcha123*

        Well, the naming of things is pretty arbitrary.

        Why do we call “blue” blue? Why not haga? Or some other word?
        We humans make up words all the time: Micky Ds for McDonalds, YOLO, swag, millinneal, etc.

        If the people around that person understand those words and use them in the same way, we can’t really say they aren’t “real.” And no, of course we can’t willy-nilly go around renaming things as we please, because then we wouldn’t be able to communicate with the people around us.

        1. Bend & Snap*

          It doesn’t sound like anyone around the OP’s coworker is using those words. Sometimes words are, in fact, wrong and/or made up.

      2. Not Myself Today*

        I think the fear of being judgmental is obscuring the fact that the fundamental point of communication is to communicate. I have a co-worker who regularly says “pacifically” when he means “specifically” and it drives me absolutely crazy every time.

        I don’t say anything or react in any way (I’m not rude) and yes, he has other good qualities – but this is the WRONG WORD. Hearing it not only forces me to stop and translate, it has a nails-on-the-chalkboard effect every time.

        The object of communication is to deliver a message (often persuasively) and forcing the listener to fight to understand it detracts from that message. This is not an effective strategy at work.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          “I have a co-worker who regularly says “pacifically” when he means “specifically” and it drives me absolutely crazy every time.”

          Yeah….that would honestly make me shudder as I held in my inner scream.

          1. Career Counselorette*

            I had a former co-worker who did that. To her credit, English wasn’t her first language, but she was born in the US and in the US school system for long enough that she could have fixed it if she really wanted to. She also said “dextop” instead of “desktop,” and referred to the freight elevator as the “fright” elevator. (The elevator thing was kind of awesome, actually.)

            1. Artemesia*

              I have a friend who went to a grocery in our Southern city and asked for ‘shike and bike’ and had no trouble getting directions to the fry coating in question.

              I once was directed to the table by the far side at a Cracker Barrel and was totally confused until my husband said ‘I think she means ‘fire side’.

              1. College Career Counselor*

                Upon moving to the south many years ago and house-hunting, my northern parents stopped to ask directions for a particular listing and were directed to “turn left at the tar company.” After several trips back and forth looking for the tar company, my parents (LANGUAGE TEACHERS, mind you) eventually figured out that they should turn left at the TIRE company.

          2. De Minimis*

            Think I’ve complained about this before, but my boss is always talking about the “physical year.” Aigh!

        2. Azalea*

          I had a co-worker who did the “pacifically” thing as well. Drove me up the wall!

          We were all in an open office, with our boss in his own office. Although he generally kept the door open, he never responded to our conversations – unless we actually called out to him. One day, said co-worker was talking about how she had “bubonic” hearing – like the Six Million Dollar Man. All of us look at each other, confused, until we hear this voice booming from boss’s office – “That’s BIONIC hearing!”

          It took us quite some time to compose ourselves and get back to work.

        3. matcha123*

          A while back, I applied for a job through a recruiting company here in Japan. Despite knowing about dialects and how diverse written and spoken English is, I was still taken aback by the email I received asking me my preferred time for a “telephonic” interview.
          I had to google the word to find that it’s common in Eastern Europe and South Asia. During my “telephonic” interview, I had a bunch of business-like abbreviations tossed my way, along with other words that are just unknown (?) in American English. It was frustrating.

          I therefore pass “telephonic” on to you all so that you, too may use it for something.

          1. Kelly L.*

            A telephonic invasion! /No Doubt songs from the 90s

            I say telephonic sometimes when I’m trying to be stuffy for comedic effect. “Pardon me, I must answer the telephonic device.”

            1. matcha123*

              I never noticed that! And I listened to No Doubt back in the day…

              If I’d ever heard it before, I think I filed it under “silly word play” in my head. Like “happy-bappy” or “smelly-welly.”

            2. Loose Seal*

              It sounds like something Mr. Burns (from The Simpsons) would say before he picks up the telephonic device and says, “Ahoy, ahoy.”

            3. Artemesia*

              When I was doing some consulting in Singapore they wanted to know what kind of ‘handy’ I had. They thought this was what Americans called cell phones.

              1. UK Nerd*

                Handy is what Germans call cell phones.

                Us Brits call them mobile phones, mobiles or just mobes.

          2. Jen RO*

            Definitely could be an Eastern European thing – after all, if it’s ‘interviu telefonic’ in my language, ‘telephonic interview’ makes perfect sense. I can see someone being proud for remembering to switch the noun and adjective too! (That one is very difficult to get used to, if your mother tongue does it the other way around.)

        4. Hillary*

          Some of my team says providence instead of province. Religion has nothing to do with where we’re shipping…

        5. UK Nerd*

          I know someone who says ‘pacific’ instead of ‘specific’ but he swears blind he isn’t doing it. He insists he’s saying the S and refuses to believe that he’s the only one who can hear it.

    5. honoria*

      If it’s Southern American dialect, I’m not familiar with it. I am a Tennessean who grew up in Texas, my mother was educated in Virginia, and my best friend is a Georgian who grew up with both modern urban Atlantan and older rural speech styles. None of her word usage is familiar to us. While she could have retained the speech of some more isolated Southern subcultulture, since she herself is not from the South, it’s more likely a word usage style she learned from her family (particularly if the family is close-knit and socially and/or geographically isolated–then it’s essentially a family dialect, you could say).
      But her nonstandard use of English is a problem in a professional business environment and, rightly or wrongly, does reflect poorly on her and on the company.
      But also, since you are not her boss, I don’t think you can say anything about it. You’ve brought it up, and she’s aware that it’s nonstandard English. Anything further is up to the boss(es).
      (Wow, I am wordy for early morning!)

      1. TL -*

        actually, I’ve heard these words when the Bates are guest staring on the duggar show, I’m fairly sure, so think south, but not Texas or deep south, more like Arkansas or the Appalachian areas.

        1. Alex*

          Arkansas is neither part of the South nor adjacent to Appalachia.

          Every region has country folk, not just us.

            1. Liane*

              Me too! And it’s where I’ve been living those 7+ years I mentioned earlier. And the locals, including my husband, his family & everyone else tell me it is part of the South.

              The mountain ranges in Arkansas, for the record, are the Ozarks and Ouachita mountains. (The latter is pronounced roughly WASH-uh-tah) I just did some quick googling & while Arkansas is not considered part of the *Region* Appalachia, the Ouachita Mountains were once part of the Appalachian Mountains.

              1. De Minimis*

                It’s South, but not Deep South. Went to college there, it is definitely Southern as far as history and culture.

                1. De Minimis*

                  BTW, I think this is the first time I’ve ever heard someone say Arkansas wasn’t part of the South!

                  I live in a neighboring state, and that’s where you can have a lot of argument about what region the state is in..

                2. Nashira*

                  Oh god, Southern MO. I have a coworker who is, quote, “reel cun tree”, who would make our good Ms. West shudder.

                  Mostly because this person types the way they speak. “I axededed them the question, yes I dideded.” *shudder*

            2. Artemesia*

              One of my BILs lives in Little Rock and a more southern place would be hard to find. It was more southern than Nashville where I lived for decades. I mean this is where the Governor barred the school house door to black kids. And it is the city chosen by Rogers and Hammerstein (well Hammerstein I guess) to designate a bigoted US background in South Pacific.

          1. KerryOwl*

            Wait — Arkansas is in the southern half of the country, and was a Confederate State during the Civil War. Doesn’t that make it part of the “south”? Do you maintain that it’s in the midwest?

            1. Liane*

              Hmm, since I live in the state capital, maybe I should do some informal polling the rest of the week and report the results in the Free-for-all chat?
              Now, my husband has some ancestors who fought on both sides at different times. They were captured Confederate soldiers who were given the option of joining the Union forces & took it.

          2. Southern*


            It’s part of that geographic region. It was part of the confederacy, if that makes a difference to whether you see it as part of the south today.

            And from Wikipedia: “Arkansas is divided into three broad ecoregions, the Ozark, Ouachita-Appalachian Forests, Mississippi Alluvial and Southeast USA Coastal Plains, and the Southeastern USA Plains.”

            I’m guessing that region doesn’t have Appalachia in its name for nothing?

          3. RG*

            That’s interesting. I have a good friend from Arkansas, who says that people consider Arkansas to be the deep South, parts of Texas to be the south, and other parts of Texas to be the southwest. Granted, I’m from Beaumont (which is basically in Louisiana) so I feel like I am from the deep South, but I wouldn’t say the same for El Paso.

    6. UKAnon*

      “Without realizing it, language usage is one way of showing our identity. And I believe that most of us would bristle at someone calling out our speech style.”

      This! There are some American patterns of speech that come across very oddly to British English speakers and I’m sure vice versa (one that I notice a lot – “I could care less”. So you care a little bit then?) but that doesn’t make them ‘wrong’.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        “I could care less” IS wrong, though. Drives me crazy. It doesn’t make sense. I know that language is fluid and all that, but I have very strong feelings about certain developments in American English that are just flat-out wrong to me, like “supposably” and “I could care less” and “agreeance”.

        1. UKAnon*

          I hadn’t heard those other two. Eep! I don’t know if it’s the same in American English, but British English seems to rapidly be adopting writing “could of” “should of” etc instead of ‘have’ (I think because the way have is spoken in this context sounds like of – could’ve, should’ve – and so the two have become confused) I intensely dislike the trait though! And I’m afraid it does just make it look as if you weren’t taught the correct grammar.

          1. Non Profit Anon*

            I had a pastor friend I worked with who could not stop using the word “tooken” instead of taken. Being from the same part of the same town, I don’t think it was a regional dialects, just a family tradition. It made listening to a sermon very difficult. Since we were friends, I brought it up to him.

            We talked about it extensively, and he ended up just deciding to re-word sentences to not use either taken/tooken.

            1. Al Lo*

              I hate seeing “Awe!” instead of “Aww!” on cute Facebook photos. A new one I’ve started seeing recently that drives me up a wall is “Wah-lah!” instead of “voila!” I hadn’t seen that until a few months ago, but it’s becoming more prevalent.

          2. Myrin*

            I’m not a native English speaker but I read a lot of English stuff online and the “could of” thing drives me up the wall. I can see how it came about (the similarity in sound you’re talking about also) but why would anyone ever think that’s how you write it? It doesn’t make sense!

            1. matcha123*

              I think that a lot of spelling in English doesn’t really make sense.
              Ghoti pronounced as “fish” and poems like the ones in my link help to illustrate:

              As someone who has studied other languages as a second language speaker, I understand your frustration with errors that are simple to native speakers but not to others.

              1. Myrin*

                I have to say, though, that I think the “ghoti” thing (which I have to admit I’ve found pretty stupid since I first heard of it, since obviously “ghoti”, if you take it as it is written, isn’t pronounced “fish” but more like “goatee”; I mean, I get what i’s trying to say but I don’t think it’s the ideal way of going about the different pronounciations in English; also, as a matter of fact, I find English pronounciation to be pretty regular, actually, once you get the hang of it – a far likelier mistake is putting the stress on the wrong syllable, something I regularly do) is pretty different from the “could of” one. I mean, do these people not think about what they write? “I could of done this”, I mean, what? That sentence is completely meaningless! Why would you write something if you’re a native speaker? I don’t think there’s any situation where “could” can be followed by an “of”, much less a sentence like the former.

          3. ThursdaysGeek*

            I like contracting the phrase “should not have” to “shouldn’t’ve”. Are double contractions even allowed?

        2. Jessa*

          I’ve always taken “I could care less,” to mean “I could care less about this if I wanted to, but I don’t give a darn (or am too lazy to bother,) so I’m not going to.”

        3. AB*

          I’ve always taken the could in “I could care less” to be spoken in Italics, as if caring less would take an effort, and you simply don’t care enough to make an effort to do so.

        4. Anonsie*

          Orange is the New Black explained this one for me, finally: People who say they could care less are interpreting it as “however much you care, I could care less than you do.” Couldn’t is comparing to your own level of caring, could is comparing to the other person’s.

          Suddenly that made it a lot less grating.

      2. Purr purr purr*

        Another word that Americans seem to like is ‘addicting.’ Technically it’s correct (although I don’t know if it made it into dictionaries because of American usage) but it’s like a knife in my ear. When I hear it, I want to yell that I hate that word and addictive is so much better. It’s my irrational pet hate thing. :)

        1. UKAnon*

          Sounds like the reaction I get to ‘obligated’. Obliged is a perfectly good word!

          …And if somebody just bristled at that, I am sorry if I caused offence, but hopefully that proves the point!

          1. JMegan*

            Oh, that’s interesting – I never thought of obligated/obliged, although I have heard (and probably used) both.

            Must be the same sort of evolution as “orientated” for “oriented,” which actually does get my grammatical knickers in a twist!

          2. Artemesia*

            They have different nuances in my vocabulary. Obligated has a legal tinge; obliged a social one. One is required, one is the nice thing to do.

        2. Ellie A.*

          For me, it’s “literally” being used to mean “figuratively,” for emphasis. THAT IS NOT WHAT THAT WORD MEANS. That is the OPPOSITE of what that word means.

          I mean, I get that language is a living thing and using “literally” in that way does convey meaning — but I can’t help it. I hate it. I especially hate that some dictionaries have started including the non-standard definition. I am a grumpy pedant sometimes.

          1. VintageLydia USA*

            “[L]iterally began to be used to intensify statements that were themselves figurative or metaphorical. The earliest examples I know of are from the late 18th century, and though there are examples throughout the 19th century—often in prominent works; to my earlier examples could be added choice quotations from James Fenimore Cooper, Thackeray, Dickens, and Thoreau, among many others”

            The figurative use of “literal” has a long history, a usage almost as old as the word itself.

            1. Ellie A.*

              Interesting! I thought that usage was more recent than that.

              …It still grates on my nerves like fingernails on a chalkboard, though.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            I see that usage as exaggeration–such as “I saw Hugh Jackman at the deli and I literally just died!” No you didn’t die.

            I feel your pain, however. The irregardless thing just makes me want to hurl objects.

      3. Dan*

        When I was younger, I just assumed that the usage was sarcasm. That’s the only way it made sense to me.

    7. Helka*

      I disagree, not because I’m a grammar stickler (although I am!) but because code-switching is a basic and very important skill in communicating professionally.

      My native accent is a mishmash of New England and Michigan, with a couple Tidewaterisms slipped in. When relaxed, speaking with friends, things are wicked good, y’all, oh my gahd. When I worked a customer-facing job in Virginia, I quickly developed an “on the job” light Tidewater accent, because customers responded well to someone who sounded ‘like them’ and it quickly became not at all an affectation, just another code I was fluent in. When I moved out of Virginia and took a job in a call center that served all of North America, my “customer service” code switched from ‘lightly Tidewater’ to ‘standard Mid-Atlantic American’ because that was clear and understandable for all the English-speaking customers I served. Y’all didn’t come into it, neither did wicked; I sounded as generically American as I could.

      Someone who refuses (or is unable) to code-switch out of a very regional (or familial) dialect is going to be hampered in professional communication; that’s just how the world works. Is that a good thing? Probably not, but it’s the truth. The better you can match your communication to the people you speak with, the better you’ll do at communicating with them.

        1. Persephone Mulberry*

          “Code switching” is one of those terms that I have only ever encountered when we get into dialect discussions here on AAM, and even Google didn’t really clear up for me what it meant. Thanks to Helka’s post, I totally get it now!

          1. Helka*

            I’m glad I was able to express it usefully! It’s a really fascinating discussion to have, and I actually have a lot of fun listening for the code-switches in my own speech. I think for a lot of people it’s so natural that they don’t necessarily think of it as essentially being fluent in multiple dialects, but once you start paying attention it gets really interesting to notice how your own communication or even the way you think changes!

            1. Kelly L.*

              Yes! I have kind of a “countrier” way I can talk at times, and in some work settings I’ve been perceived as friendlier if I did it and aloof if I didn’t, and in other settings it didn’t go over well and I had to do the more newscastery accent.

            2. ThursdaysGeek*

              I have some friends where the dad is from China and only spoke to his kids in Mandarin, the mother is American and only spoke to them in English. It was interesting when the kids were small: they would look at a person and determine which language to use, without even being aware.

      1. JMegan*

        >>The better you can match your communication to the people you speak with, the better you’ll do at communicating with them.

        That is a perfect way of putting it! And thank you for the term “code-switching,” which I’ve actually never heard before, but makes a lot of sense. I have a friend from Newfoundland (which has a strong regional dialect that most Newfies are very proud of), who I met when we were both living in Toronto. She’s fluent in both Newfie-speak and business-speak, and it’s fascinating to watch her switch back and forth between them as required.

      2. Jillociraptor*

        \I agree with you practically that code switching is a critical professional and social behavior. However, I also want to consider the direction of code switching, because rarely are people asked to switch from a dominant dialect to a marginalized one, which I think indicates that language policing has a lot more to do with deciding who gets to define language than about adhering to some standard set of rules. While the OP’s coworker seems to be using a much more idiosyncratic dialect, I find it really interesting how agitated it makes people that she refuses to adapt it. I think there’s a lot to the idea that the “wrongness” here is her unwillingness to acknowledge “talking like the people in power” as the right way to talk.

        1. Helka*

          rarely are people asked to switch from a dominant dialect to a marginalized one

          I guess that depends on how you define ‘asking,’ since code-switching tends not to be something that is openly raised. If you limit it only to when an explicit verbal request is made – “please stop talking like that and start talking like this” – then I would say you’re correct. But if you include less explicit pressure to match whatever the code is for the situation, I don’t think you’d find it so clear-cut.

          Regardless, I think “business professional” is a fairly understandable code that isn’t language policing so much as setting boundaries on appropriate behavior. Extensive cursing is also not part of “business professional” code in a lot of environments. If we were discussing something like asking a coworker to stop using AAVE in the office, there’d be more room for a discussion of marginalized vs dominant forms of expression, but as far as this goes, it seems like one person who’s making up her own words, rather than expressing some kind of marginalized social dialect.

          1. Anonsie*

            For me, people never explicitly ask me to stop talking the way I normally would. It’s just that if I slip into it, people bust out laughing and keep repeating what I’ve said and giggle and say “oh Anonsie you’re so funny” because rednecks are soooo funny you guys, so funny. They use some different words and it’s soooooooo funny. “Anonsie you’re so crazy.”

            That’ll get you to switch to conventional English real fast, let me tell you.

            1. Jillociraptor*

              Yeah, I think that’s what I meant. Maybe the better word is “incentivizing.”

              Though in the case of the OP’s colleague, they actually do want to specifically ask her to change her mode of expression, so sometimes it’s quite literal. I’ve definitely been in schools where teachers taught and encouraged kids of color to code switch to dominant White English, and there are for sure mixed feelings about that.

              1. Helka*

                As well there should be! My point is more that code-switching applies to a lot more than just conventional white American English vs marginalized dialects — “business professional” is a code, as is “internet memes and cursing.”

                (And for that matter, there are occasions where conventional white American English will be disincentivized in favor of other dialects. The power structures are obviously way different, so it doesn’t really have any of the same implications, but the disincentive still exists.)

                1. Jillociraptor*

                  AH, yes, I see what you’re saying. Absolutely right, just a lot less attached to asking someone not to conduct a whole meeting in Doge versus asking them to avoid the vernacular of their community’s dialect.

            2. Helka*

              That was similar to my experience when I first left New England. I asked where the bubbler was and got looked at like I had three heads — let me tell you how fast that word left my daily vocabulary! (Although I often still have a little pause on ‘what do I call that thing?’ when it comes to bubblers/water fountains/drinking fountains/those things, since the replacement word never got quite as firmly coded in my head.)

        2. Anonsie*

          While I do agree with you overall, this is one of those things where I have absolutely no idea whatsoever how to address it. There is a need for one dialect to be universally understood, and regardless of which one that is it’s going to undermine speakers of others. To some extent you can have people all speaking differently and still understand each other, but there are going to be times where you have to be unambiguous and we have to be unified on what that means. The common language for clarity is, I think, necessarily going to be the one people with more power are using because they are the ones most often in situations where that unification is necessary. So I don’t know what a better system would look like.

          But there are two sides here: refusing to put in work to make yourself better understood, and refusing to change your dialect in ways that are not significant just because you will be judged for them. I bristle when I think of how much I have to change my voice when I’m at work. When I was a kid my dad specifically coached me on how to speak “typical” American English and was very insistent that this was necessary for my survival. But I feel detached from my roots because people with my background don’t sound like me, and it is insane that our prejudices are such that talking in a way that indicates you grew up poor and southern is something that will quite literally disrupt my career.

          1. Jillociraptor*

            I don’t reject the idea that we need to be mutually intelligible and that code switching can be a really value neutral phenomenon where we change our registers to be better understood. We all do this all the time. But I also don’t think we’re significantly at risk of missing mutual intelligibility if we permit a diversity of dialects and speech patterns. There’s a bunch of comments upthread about nails-on-the-chalkboard feeling when someone substitutes “pacifically” for “specifically.” It’s not technically correct, sure, but that’s not to say it’s not intelligible. No one’s confused that the speaker is discussing something pertaining to the ocean, or suggesting we do something peacefully.

            I think your distinction is a good one, about the difference between criticizing someone for their unwillingness to be clear versus criticizing them for refusing to give up an important dialect. As your story notes, there are majorly differentiated impacts for some types of code switches over others. I personally feel very little compunction about saying “soda” instead of “pop” most of the time just to avoid someone making assumptions about me; it’s really small potatoes. But you’re talking about a whole vocabulary that is really rich with history and connections for you, and it’s an incredible shame to lose that if you want it. I remember my college roommate getting some really harsh critical feedback on her writing because she used some very creative Southern idioms–same thing. It’s not about understanding, but about enforcing a register of acceptable speech that excludes some ways of communicating that are really valuable.

        3. JMegan*

          I think code-switching does require the ability to move in both directions. And “dominant” vs “marginalized” in this context depends a lot on the specific situation. For example, my Newfie friend in the example above would probably be laughed out of the room if she tried to use business-speak at a kitchen party.


          I think there’s a lot to the idea that the “wrongness” here is her unwillingness to acknowledge “talking like the people in power” as the right way to talk.

          is exactly right. With the same caveat that “the people in power” is variable depending on the context – and the awareness that sometimes you do need to talk like them.

    8. plain_jane*

      The one thing that jumped out at me from the OP was that they have a problem with how the co-worker speaks, but I don’t know that they have evidence of colleagues/customers having the same reaction, it may merely be an assumption that others feel the same way.

      1. Graciosa*

        I am absolutely certain that there are a lot of co-workers who feel that way but are too polite to say so.

        This is, unfortunately, one of the types of issues that severely limits an individual’s career opportunities without their knowledge because it’s not the kind of thing people will talk about. Occasionally someone finds out through a career coach or 360 degree review.

        I feel rather badly about the whole thing because it has such a devastating impact, and I would think at least some of these individuals would want to know – but I can’t bring myself to be rude enough to say something like this to a colleague.

      2. jag*

        Look at the words that co-worker is using. They are either unique to him/her, or part of an obscure regional dialect. If they are unique, that is certainly a problem, and if they are from an obscure dialect, they are probably a problem as well.

    9. illini02*

      I think the issue is knowing when and where to use what types of words. Most people don’t speak the same in the office as they do at the bar, and similarly they speak different at home with their parents. It doesn’t sound like this co-worker has a grasp on figuring out the differences. If I spoke on the phone to my customers the way I speak to my friends on weekends, I’d never get any sales. If I spoke to my parents like I spoke to my customers, they’d wonder what was wrong with me. People need to understand that they are judged by these things. You say people shouldn’t judge someone’s speech because its their identity. So is someone’s choice of clothing. However if someone showed up to an office job in an outfit best suited for the beach or a night club, you probably would judge them. Maybe not their intelligence, but at least their judgment. In the corporate world most people are expected to conform to the norms that are there. If you can’t, then you people will form negative opinions of you. Thats just how it is. Not saying its right or wrong, but thats where things are.

    10. Lily in NYC*

      I agree with your sentiment, but this “non-standard dialect” thing is a red herring. It was just an excuse the person gave for her bad grammar.

    11. Connie-Lynne*

      “Really, she would only be ‘wrong’ if she … made ungrammatical sentences such as, ‘Went I going store.'”

      If we’re discussing legitimizing alternate dialect, you can’t really say that odd words are OK but that odd grammar isn’t. There are perfectly legit dialects that swap up grammar from standard US Business Speak, for example, there’s a well-known southern dialect that, instead of using “Who is that” or “Who said that” says “Who dat is?” and “Who dat said?”

      Also, the words as reported by OP don’t fall into any Southern US Dialect I’m aware of, although obviously my knowledge isn’t comprehensive. No, there’s nothing stupid or wrong about using Southern US dialects (at least I hope not, because I can’t train “y’all” out of my vocabulary but at least I’ve been able to stop with the “all y’all,”) when speaking in business, but it’s still true that it can prejudice others’ opinion of you.

  8. Tenley*

    Of all suggestions in the thread so far, I like best the idea of positioning the issue as non-standard use of English in a professional setting. It would apply across class and cultural differences, whether a person were using hipster slang or Valley Girl speak or Ebonics or any non-standard English.

  9. Matt*

    #1 the part about the nonexisting words reminds me of Ned Flanders of The Simpsons and Annie Wilkes of Stephen King’s “Misery” :-)

  10. Cheesecake*

    I absolutely love these “can i sue employer for banning me from eating lunch at my desk” and “should I file a complaint with the state because employer stole one hour of my life”. It asks for a separate topic!

    1. BRR*

      I think those are two separate issues. Weird things people thing might not be legal and employers not paying for their employees time are different. Just because it’s an hour (assuming this doesn’t happen regularly) that doesn’t make it right and they still need to abide by the law. When people write off something because it’s a small amount I always counter with, “then why not just pay them the hour?”

      And for something like not getting paid for hours worked, there’s not really a middle ground. It’s follow up on the issue one or twice or you have to file a complaint with the state (other special circumstances like if you’re in a union).

      1. Jessa*

        Also there comes a point where disgruntled employees (usually ex ones,) decide to make a labour case out of all the times it happened. An employee cannot waive pay they’re legally entitled to if they’ve done the work. Labour boards don’t like when this happens. Just because the employee says “eh it’s just an hour,” right now, doesn’t mean down the line they will.

    2. BRR*

      Also for those of us who read AAM with any regularity, we know these things but employment law or how an office should operate are not taught anywhere. If somebody only has experience with a toxic work environment or with an employer who has illegal policies (like not discussing wages) there is no way for them to learn. So they ask questions. I think we should be welcoming of those who are trying to actually ask and learn versus those who assume they know everything and are never wrong because if we just say how amusing it is people are going to be afraid to ask questions.

      1. OP for #3*

        Thanks BRR, during the meeting it was mentioned that we would be having these more, since this is tax season and our hours will only go up, that did not sound good to me. Also, I would have gone to management but I know how they are here. Some of us did put it on our timesheet (salary) and we were sent an email that stated since the meeting did go over the hour by a bit we could put that bit of time on the timesheet. Otherwise that was not time to go on our sheet. And it was discussed with another manager that said essentially we do other things for you; you should give us your hour. They do some, but not as much as they think.

        1. Cheesecake*

          AAM said exactly what i was thinking “I was with you until you jumped straight to filing a complaint.” Answering both of you, here is how the cases are similar to me: the decision to find a “serious help” from outside in such minor cases seems harsh to me. They are different in nature, but they are both minor.

          BRR:exactly this, you follow up first with the management, then when you gather enough unpaid hours – you proceed. You can teach people about law but you can’t teach them about being reasonable. Saying “i work for my company for a year now, every once a month we have these lunches equal to 12 unpaid hours. Management says this is justified. Can i file a complaint?” is different from “My lunch hour was not paid, can i file a complaint?”

          OP:If a company culture is so bad that you can’t openly talk to the boss and raise your (valid!) concern, why do you work there?

          1. Kimmy*

            A lot if the time, people work where they work because in this economy, it is difficult to change jobs- near impossible in some fields. Terrible managers abound. This kind of comment is too flip and unreasonable for this site, IMO.

            1. Cheesecake*

              How will legal prosecution of the employer help employee in this difficult economy? i don’t mean serious cases but my main point: choose your battles wisely

              1. Zillah*

                I think that it is important to choose your battles, but I also think that something like an unpaid lunch is often a symptom of something bigger, especially when your supervisor tells you that you can’t record it and shouldn’t complain because they “do so much for you.”

                1. De Minimis*

                  CPA firms have been known to get into trouble for these type of issues…there was a huge overtime lawsuit for one of the Big Four a while back where associates said they should get overtime due to the nature of the work they were doing [basic office tasks, data entry, etc., that would put them in the non-exempt category.]

                  I think they ultimately lost on appeal.

              2. AB*

                I think for most people it’s that they are ignorant about employment law, and what filing a complaint actually entails so I am loathe to judge someone too harshly for immediately wondering if they should file a complaint.

                I think in these cases, it’s really more about trying to find out if their issue is something in a legal gray area or not. I mean, the OP feels like what the employer is doing is wrong, she brought it up to a manager and was rebuffed, she sees that it may become a more frequent occurrence and is wondering if she has any recourse to stop it. I can’t imagine that the employee actually wants to file a complaint. I don’t think she’s looking to sue her employer or get them into legal trouble, I think she honestly just wants to know whether she can bring it up with her employer that it isn’t legal and thereby change the practice. If she’s spoken to her manager about the fact that the time should be paid, and the manager disagreed, there’s not much point with her going a second time unless she knows what her rights are in that respect.

        2. BRR*

          Also I believe you’re the OP for #4, #3 is about technological difficulties. Thanks for following up! It’s great to have “live” interaction with the posters. If you have the choice, it might be easiest to not attend these in the future.

        3. NewishAnon*

          Trading an hour of work for lunch isn’t really an equal trade. Imagine getting paid for a week of work with 40 ham sandwiches. I think your management lacks some serious perspective here.

      2. Kelly L.*

        Yes, this. I think we need to stop mocking LWs who ask if things are legal. Alison has generally been pretty kind on the topic (“it’s legal but your boss is an ass,” or like today’s letter, “it’s not legal, but that isn’t the wisest response”). Lately there seems to be a bit of knee-jerk and not-so-kind backlash against anyone with a legal question.

        1. Zillah*

          I agree – thanks for saying this. Most people don’t know much about labor law; they can be advised or even corrected in a respectful way. Who’s going to want to write in about legal issues if they feel like they’re going to be made fun of over not knowing the answer?

        2. Cheesecake*

          it is not about legal questions as such at all. OP has valid concern, but jumping on legal charges wagon is surprising and a little harsh towards employer.we criticize employers a lot here for all good reasons. i feel like this time it is unfair to drop a legal bomb and recently there are more of such cases

          1. Tinker*

            The question of lawsuits has been something of a hot-button social/political issue for at least as long as I’ve been aware of political rhetoric. Which has been a bit. One of the results of this is that there’s a set of folks who jump on any mention of a lawsuit or indirect reference to one (I once set my dad off by saying something to the effect of “It’s interesting how all these parts ultimately break in the same way; there must be some little quirk in the design that caused that to happen” and thereby causing him to leap to the conclusion that I was planning on suing the company that made it) to bemoan how terrible it is that people do this alllllll the time for no reason, etc. Which makes sense.

            I think another result of that, though, is that it gives people the impression that most people will sue or consider suing when faced with a frustrating situation, and consequently that they should perhaps entertain it as a solution — even though it’s not spoken of approvingly, it’s spoken of as common.

            There’s a thing I read of awhile back where a national park had problems with folks taking rocks and such as souvenirs. They put up signs to the effect of “many people take rocks from this site, and it causes a lot of damage when taken as a whole so please don’t do it”. Result: many people took rocks from the site. ‘Cause, well, it said on the sign… When they changed the signs to read something to the effect of “most visitors who come here don’t take rocks, so you should also help us to preserve the park for future visitors” the rock-stealing dropped off dramatically.

            Particularly in cases where people may be used to being viewed with contempt, and where they feel like they don’t get a lot of consideration from the entity they’re dealing with — circumstances that are regrettably common in the workplace, particularly when one is working or has worked in a dysfunctional environment, and/or has been around people who promote dysfunctional expectations of the work environment — the notion of “this is the go-to solution to the problem, like it or not” is apt to win out.

            For that reason, I think it’s a bit churlish and counterproductive to go after OPs for such things. Sending a question to an advice column is a really reasonable behavior if you suspect that you do not know the correct answer to something, so miseducated OPs should be expected — and in this case particularly, it could well be that the OP is being miseducated by the very dynamic in which they are being condemned for asking the question.

  11. AdAgencyChick*

    #2 is blowing my mind. Not the question, but the fact that there’s actually a law saying how long I have to keep interview notes. I guess I’m not surprised, but I guess I’ve also been doing it wrong all these years. I save hiring-related emails, but it would never have occurred to me to save the notes I jot on people’s resumes as I’m interviewing them.

    1. tt*

      My former boss told us about keeping materials for one year. But she missed the part about 2 years for candidates over 40, and I find myself thinking “oops” for one search process we did where almost all the candidates were over 40 (it was an experienced director level).

    2. BRR*

      One of the few US employment laws, keep interview notes. I can’t think of anything that should be a higher priority.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I am with you on how nitpicky the law is on matters. I can see how some of these things have evolved out of need, over time. There is usually a story behind how the law came into existence.

      That said, if lawmakers are not generating new laws, then they are perceived as not doing their jobs. That’s the system we have. I have sat down and read law books, I am not too sure how any thing is able to function, really.

      Okay, seemingly off tangent comment. But it is helpful to understand the thinking behind the laws, that understanding can help a person to follow along as changes/additions come up. And there will always be changes/additions.

      1. jag*

        Seems to me there is a very good reason those notes should be kept – to help in identifying illegal discrimination in hiring if it occurs.

    4. Helka*

      Why? It makes total sense to me — that’s a major way to track hiring trends, which is pretty important if a question of hiring discrimination comes up.

    5. NewishAnon*

      Is the law to save interview notes or applications? I thought Alison said you don’t have to take notes. Or is it just that you have to keep all documentation that comes out of the hiring process? Genuinely asking.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        You’re not required to take notes, but if you do, you have to keep them. All hiring documentation must be kept in case you’re later sued for discrimination (since those records may then contain evidence).

  12. Rebecca*

    #1 Pennsylvania Dutch lady here. I red up the living room, throw down the stairs the laundry, outen lights, and the lawn needs mowed, but after that, there’s cake back. But, when I’m at work, I use “work speak”, correct grammar, and properly use their/there/they’re, your/you’re, where/were, and than/then in sentences. I use proper punctuation and spelling, and I don’t use made up words.

    I work with several people who graduated from the same high school as me. 2 of them use phrases and words like “this here”, “that there”, “hisself”, “I seen”, made up words, and/or incorrect or missing punctuation, in both written and verbal communication. And yes, they communicate with customers. Some of their phone conversations are cringe worthy. Their poor language skills reflect badly on them, and I often wonder what our customers think.

    I keep quiet. If my manager perceives this as a problem, she can take care of it. She hired them.

    1. matcha123*

      While their way of speaking may not be ideal for your work environment, “this here” and the other examples you gave are not actually wrong. They are just reflective of a non-standard American English dialect.

      I would also add that “correct” use of your/you’re in speaking and writing are different things. As much as I hate seeing those mistakes in writing (and I hate it when I make the same careless mistakes), in English, the pronunciation of those words are all the same. They can use the “correct” form when speaking but the incorrect form when writing because they are thinking of the pronunciation of the word, rather than the prescribed “correct” form.

      I’m not trying to jump on you! I’d just like to point out that there are various scientific reasons for why someone may write or speak in that manner. :)

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Of course the lawn needs mowed!

      Is there another way to say that? (I probably don’t use that structure at work. I’m going to have to listen to myself and find out.)

      1. BRR*

        The lawn needs to be mowed is how I would say it. Rebecca’s post makes me think of when I lived in New Orleans. I’m going to make some groceries (going grocery shopping) being just one example.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          Heh, I know, just “is there any other way to say that?”. :) I love that structure and use it intentionally at home. I am pretty sure that I don’t use it at work.

          God. Now I want to say “I am going to make some groceries”. That’s fabulous. I think I will pick this up.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            A friend of mine from Washington State once looked at me like I had two heads because I said I was going food shopping. Which is what one does at the Shop-Rite, no?

            1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

              I noticed this the other day. Everybody around me says they are going food shopping. I say, “I’m going to the grocery store”.

              My mother was North Carolinian and I picked up a boatload of stuff from her that I’m still recognizing 50 years later. I think that was hers.

              Except now, I’m going to make some groceries!

              Really really back to work to stay now. Close tab.

              1. Kelly L.*

                I say grocery shopping or going to the grocery store.

                (And I pronounce “grocery” kind of like “groshry.” One ex, possibly because he was annoyed with all my groshry talk, enunciated the living hades out of the word. It was gro-cer-y with an audible pause between syllables!)

                1. Anonsie*

                  Confession: I have never heard anyone say the word “Meijer” in person but I see it online all the time and I have NO IDEA HOW YOU SAY IT. I keep imagining “major” but in my head every time I say “meheeeer”

                2. fposte*

                  Like “admire” without the “ad.” Dutch via the Midwest; looks like it’s the equivalent of the French/German “Mayer.”

                  (I would also say “go to the Jewel” but we don’t have Jewel down here any more.)

                3. Anonsie*

                  Holy crap I think I HAVE heard someone say this before, only I thought they were saying Fred Meyer. The Meijer. Fred Meyer. Eh?

                4. Pennalynn Lott*

                  I also say “groshry” and I’m a native Dallasite. Our local grocery store is Albertson’s, which we affectionately call “A-Bears”, so it’s, “I’m goin’ t’ A-Bears, you want anything?”

              2. Ellie H.*

                My dad invariably calls it “going to the market” regardless of which grocery store it might be. Anywhere that sells food is “the market.” I say “going to the grocery store.”

            2. jhhj*

              I would never say that ever. It’s totally clear, but the word groceries would be there. Going to the grocery store, getting groceries, maybe even grocery shopping.

              But apparently I use phone as a verb where people in other areas would use call — which is again a totally clear way of saying it, but not something other people would say. Of course they are wrong and my dialect is in all ways superior.

              1. Chinook*

                “But apparently I use phone as a verb where people in other areas would use call — which is again a totally clear way of saying it”

                To me that, makes perfect sense. As does using “book” as a verb as in “I need to book an appointment with the doctor.” When I taught ESL, this one didn’t show up in our textbooks and I had to work hard not to use it when booking the next class with my private students.

            3. Allison*

              In Boston, I don’t know if there’s a preference for one over the other, both seem commonly used. I often say “food shopping,” although I think a lot of people just say “going to Shaws” or “go to Stop n Shop” or “make a Whole Foods run.” Same goes for pharmacies, “I gotta hit up CVS.”

          2. FRChick*

            As a French girl that looks like a litteral translation from the French (“je vais faire des provisions/des courses”)!

                1. jhhj*

                  It’s actually common for native English speakers here. I am not sure if I would manage to eradicate it from my vocabulary if I moved somewhere else.

            1. AB*

              I was going to say exactly that! It reminded me of what my French friends would say if they were trying to say it English. Given that we’re talking about NOLA, that’s probably precisely where it came from.

          3. fposte*

            Time to throw in the Scots confounder: “doing the messages” to mean “doing the grocery shopping.”

        2. brightstar*

          I was going to mention make some groceries! I don’t say that at work, but I don’t think anyone here would judge me if I did, it’s common enough.

        3. CH*

          I am guessing, but “make some groceries” in New Orleans probably comes from the area’s francophone past. The verb “faire” is usually translated “to make” but it is used in many ways that we don’t in English, including (and I just looked this up as my French is rusty) “Je vais faire l’épicerie” for “I am going grocery shopping.”

          1. Kelly L.*

            Does make groceries mean you’re going to buy the food, or cook the food that you’ve already bought?

            1. AB*

              Buy the food. If you were to have a literal translation from French to English of cooking “faire la cuisine” it would be make the cooking or make the kitchen, depending on how you translate it.

      2. UKAnon*

        I would go with “mowing the lawn” or “mowed the lawn” or “the lawn needs to be mown”.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          Dammit. Now I want to say “mown”. Dammit!

          Okay, I have to get back to work. This is way too interesting and I’m way too busy.

            1. CH*

              My husband would agree with you. He’s from southern Ohio. He also says the word “color” like “collar.”

        1. The IT Manager*

          I don’t think “mown” is a word.

          The lawn needs mowing, the lawn needs to be mowed, or you/I/he needs to mow the lawn.

          * Also all questions that could evolve into a dialect/word discussion on AAM needs their own thread. We get too excited about it, and that question takes over the other comments.

          1. UKAnon*

            I’ve posted a link upthread to the Collins Dictionary definition. It is definitely a word! And I hadn’t come acrossed “mowed” in this context before, only mown.

            1. Andrea*

              Where I live in Canada (a place with a lot of American influences) we say both mown and mowed – which makes me wonder if it’s an American vs British construction?

      3. Elizabeth West*

        I just say “I need to text the yard guy.” I don’t mow my own lawn. But if I did, I’d say, “I need to mow the lawn,” or “The lawn needs mowing.” I don’t know if the last one is correct.

      4. Al Lo*

        When I was about 4, I thought that it was “lawning the grass,” because mowing grass turned it into a lawn. (No one in my family ever used that phrasing; it’s just what made sense in my head.)

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Exactly, Rebecca. There’s nothing wrong with speaking a particular dialect per se, but you also need to be able to make yourself understood with co-workers, and more importantly, with your clients. If those clients are from other parts of the country or other parts of the world, in which case English may not be their first language, you’re doing yourself and your clients a disservice by not learning to code-switch and use a more homogeneous “middle-American” accent without idioms or slang while working with those clients because they’re less likely to fully understand the message you’re trying to (verbally) transmit. Heck, I can be fairly informal with co-workers and even certain clients whom I’ve known for years, but if I need to talk about the ramifications of noncompliance, I start lapsing into my own dialect of tech-business-speak. :)

      1. Knitting Cat Lady*

        I’m ESL. I’m very fluent and have a great understanding if spoken English.

        Some variants I still can’t understand.

        So, being able to speak a ‘standardized’ variant of English is important in business.

        As a side note: My first language is German. The dialect I speak with my parents is very far from standard German. There’s different grammar, vocabulary stolen from Italian and Slovenian and a totally different pronunciation. Add to that that by now I have picked up colourings, vocabulary and grammar from two different German dialects people from other parts of Germany have trouble understanding me when I speak dialect.

        1. JMegan*

          I once spent a summer in Switzerland. Apparently there’s quite a difference between Swiss French and standard French, and then a difference again between Vaudois French (I was in the canton of Vaud) and Swiss French. So Vaudois French is almost a category all its own.

          Add to that, I am Canadian, and am well used to the difference between Quebecois French and standard French. And I was working with a number of people from Quebec – so imagine the version of French that we ended up with in our office, by mixing those two non-standard dialects together!

          (All these language discussions are fascinating to me. And like Wakeen’s Teapots, I really do need to get back to work!)

          1. Chinook*

            “Add to that, I am Canadian, and am well used to the difference between Quebecois French and standard French. And I was working with a number of people from Quebec – so imagine the version of French that we ended up with in our office, by mixing those two non-standard dialects together!”

            I worked in an office with 2 Ontario francophones, one Quebecois and 1 Acadian (plus my FSL Parisian/Alberta Francophone French). I felt better when the Acadian would have to ask them what the other just said because their French dialect was so specific. And, for the record, the only dictionaries I could ever find (on-line or in the Ottawa area) were based on Parisian French, making learning the different words really, really hard.

    4. Purr purr purr*

      Just curious but do those people have French ancestry so that ‘this here’ and ‘that there’ have been passed down to them from parents and grandparents?

      1. Rebecca*

        Not that I know of. I grew up in the same small area, and their ancestry is similar to mine, heavily German with some other European influences.

    5. AnotherHRPro*

      I’m a PA lady who is now living in the south. Yikes! Every once in awhile I let a little PA slip into my vocabulary (typically after I’ve been visiting my home town) and the reactions I get are hysterical. Especially since I’m surrounded by thick southern accents compounded by their own colloquialisms. But since that is the “norm” here, you adapt.

      1. Liane*

        I was born in Florida and lived here until my early 40s, when we moved to Arkansas. My dad was born in the South & grew up in several Southern states (Texas, Louisiana, Alabama & Georgia I know for sure) before Florida. My mother was a native of Pennsylvania. Now I have been in Arkansas for the better part of a decade, so I can only imagine what my accent sounds like, since many people comment on it. I love hearing what area people think I am from–it usually turns out to be someplace I have never been, like Wisconsin! Although some do pick up the Pennsylvania.
        Myself, all I can tell of my voice is that it isn’t Southern, isn’t any part of New York, and sounds slow. (A good friend describes it as “deliberate.”)

        1. Elizabeth West*

          People tell me that I talk fast (for southern Missouri). I think that’s because I’m thinking of five things at once, LOL. And when I moved to California, no one could tell where I was from–they had to ask. They said I did not speak with a twang, which made me happy, actually, because I don’t like the way it sounds even though I grew up hearing it.

          It might be because my mother doesn’t speak with a twang, but my father has a definite Texas accent (“You warshed your clothes and now you need to rinch ’em,” “Time to change the light bub,” and of course, “Ah reckon it’s gonna rain!” But then I’ve heard British people say “I reckon,” which sounds weird because I associate it with Southern speech.

    6. AB*

      the phrasing: “The lawn needs mowed,” reminds me of Alice in Wonderland’s “Your hair wants cutting”

  13. BRR*

    #5 Just throwing this out there but what about checking with the hiring manager instead? I used to work at a place where hiring people was high on the priority list for the department but low on HR’s to do list.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      Yes, I’ve worked at places where the hiring department had to push HR through the whole entire process. What was high-priority for the department was only low-priority paper-pushing to them. And sometimes the hiring manager wasn’t aware of the holdup until the candidate would reach out to inquire.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        Really?! But they’re HR! Hiring people is one of the main functions of their job!


  14. Spooky*

    #2 – If he’s hiring for a government position, there’s a very good chance that he absolutely should be asking all the candidates the same questions. At my previous position at a university, it was a very firm requirement that all candidates be asked exactly the same question, and supposedly (though I never actually experienced this) there were very strong repercussions for interviewers who deviated with different candidates. Asinine? Yes. Required anyway? Also yes. OP, if someone at your job has told to keep the questions the same, there’s a very real chance that they’re right.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      You know, I’ve never been able to find a regulation that says this. I’ve heard the same thing but I’ve never been able to figure out where it came from. I hate asking the same questions.

      1. AnotherHRPro*

        I know this is the norm with government agencies. I think this is a just a risk-adverse practice, not an actual regulation.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Agreed. I think a lot of things people think are rules are really just bad management and risk aversion!

          1. De Minimis*

            It seems to vary by agency, and probably among officials. My current job had a standard job interview format.

            I’ve seen it be way more standard with county/municipal type jobs.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It might be that her particular government agency requires it, but if so, it’s important for her to know that that’s their terrible practice, not a good interviewing thing in general.

  15. Jules*

    #1She’s really not dumb, but I think she sounds incredibly stupid when speaking to people.

    Ouch… incredibly stupid huh? I’ve had all of one person in my career who I think is incredibly stupid and he and I are not friends. How does this impact her job? Concentrate on how it impacts her job vs how she sounds might have gotten a better response from her. When addressing people about issues, getting personal rarely gives you a good outcome. It’s embarrassing. I might sound holier then thou, but seriosly, at work you don’t get overly familiar unless you guys are besties out of work too. We talk about kids, family, weekend plans but those are safe topic. Anything perceived as criticism, probably not, unless they ask and you know for sure they honestly wants the feedback. Especially when you are peers and not her supervisor.

    1. Judy*

      I’ve certainly worked with people who are quite smart, that sound incredibly stupid during some (many) conversations. A particular person especially had many, many mispronunciations. He would say “light bub” for light bulb and “ideal” for idea. Lots of other words had missing or added sounds or syllables. There was a joke that when he got an ideal, the light bub lit up over his head. One of the smartest electronics engineers I have known, but just had significant pronunciation issues.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Ugh, ideal! I’ve heard this one so often that I always, always hesitate to use ideal as a noun, just in case someone thinks I mean idea and am mispronouncing it.

      2. Jules*

        Maybe because I am not a native English speaker but when someone says ‘Sound incredibly stupid’, I wonder why the judgment come in play. Sounds odd, sound unlike American, sound foreign, don’t sound local, sounds stupid. Sounds incredibly stupid seems really judgey. Incredibly anything seems strange.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      There’s a difference here. You think the person in your career is incredibly stupid. OP thinks the person SOUNDS incredibly stupid but is not dumb at all. But I think OP should just stay out of it at this point.

      1. Jules*

        Maybe because I am not a native English speaker but when someone says ‘Sound incredibly stupid’, I wonder why the judgment come in play. Sounds odd, sound unlike American, sound foreign, don’t sound local, sounds stupid. Sounds incredibly stupid seems really judgey. Incredibly anything seems strange.

        1. Helka*

          Using “sounds” in the context you’re describing is actually a way to emphasize that the speaker doesn’t know or necessarily think that the object is in fact that thing; they’re just saying that what is presented gives that impression. “He sounds American (but is actually Canadian)” for example.

          So between “I think he is stupid” and “I think he sounds stupid” the first is actually rather more judgmental.

        2. jag*

          I have a rather “global life” – work with people from around the world and am married to someone from a different culture/country.

          I’d say almost everyone in my professional and personal lives uses a standard to judging a native versus non-native speaker in terms of both intellect and general education. Learning a new language is hard and making errors in it does not reflect nearly as badly as making the same amount of errors in one’s native language.

  16. Not So NewReader*

    OP #1. It appears that there is not a lot you can do here. I tend to agree. However, never underestimate the power of role-modeling. Go about your day, using words correctly and let her see how that works. Let her figure it out for herself.

    I have never thought of myself as a grammar expert. But there are certain phrases and words I do not use, consistently. I have noticed that over time, coworkers will drop some phrases or words simply because they see me and others not using those phrases/words. People that who want to fit in and want to excel at their jobs do actually make changes in themselves over time. It’s subtle and it’s slow.

    I had a family member with a noticeable regional accent. That was fine, until she moved away from that region. Her story: She realized that her accent/phrases stood out like a sore thumb in her new area. With having a small paycheck, she did not have a lot of options. She decided to watch the news every night and repeat chosen words in the same manner the newscaster said the words. UH, this actually worked! She dropped the phrases she did not hear other people saying around her. With these combined efforts she actually changed the way she spoke. It can be done.

    The key part is the desire to change started with her. Maybe your coworker will decide to change what she is doing at some point in the future.

  17. Apersonymous*

    #1 My former manager had a problem with the way he spoke. First, he would say, ” I should have did that.” Second, he seemed to not the difference when the same word was both a noun and a verb, that they are stressed differently. Usually he said the verb’s pronunciation.

    I never said anything to him. I knew what he meant when he spoke but it was annoying to hear. I don’t know if it was how he was brought up or what; he was educated and married a teacher.

    1. Rebecca*

      I know people who write “I should of did that”. I think it’s because the contraction “should’ve” for should have sounds exactly like “should of” when you say it out loud.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I still say “I shoulda went,” when thinking aloud that I should have pulled out into traffic. It’s something I picked up from an old bf. It sounds so backwoods, and I need to stop saying it!

    2. C Average*

      An old boyfriend of mine used to say “I meant what you understood” when someone said something that had to be mentally rearranged to be comprehensible. People around us rarely caught the joke; they’d hear his statement as “I understood what you meant.” Among really good friends, I’ll still occasionally bust out that line.

  18. TotesMaGoats*

    #1-My whole family is from the deep south. And while my parents are certainly white collar, first gen college, professionals, my grandparents weren’t. Well, two of them worked on the white collar side but the rest were veterans/millworkers/farmers. So, I know a thing or two about casual southern slang. “morely” isn’t a southern slang word. Right or wrong, there are accepted ways to speak in the business setting. And yes, people tend to look down on or assume the worst about people who don’t speak at the generally accepted level. I agree with AAM, if you can gently broach it, then do it. Otherwise it’s up to her manager.

    I will say that my mom had to handle this very situation with one of her employees. She was able to do it because she developed a very good rapport and friendship with this person. The employee had a very deep southern accent and used words incorrectly. Improving the word usage was a part of her development plan. It helped that the employee was able to see how she was being perceived and the impact on her career. She is a very smart person, great with coding and research but saw that how she spoke was holding her back. So, I think it’s twofold in order to correct the situation.

  19. Former Diet Coke Addict*

    Speaking and language is such a tricky, personal thing, though, it can be extremely difficult to note something without insulting the other person. It’s Tact Level 400, Advanced Studies, because the way we speak is so very closely tied in to our identity. If you aren’t absolutely certain it will be taken the right way or that you can say it tactfully, it can raise more problems than it solves.

    My boss is a terrible writer and communicator. He asks us to review and edit emails and documents and then gets irritated when we correct spelling, grammar, and word choice. Some people are just very sensitive and even asking for feedback is no guarantee they’ll take it the right way.

    1. LisaS*

      + 1 to the “tact” part of this discussion.

      I got my Writing Skills class (a broadly diverse group, both in terms of first languages & overall English skills) to suggest that standard English usage was preferable not because it was inherently better but because it was easier for most people to understand. We talked about dialects & code-switching & text-speak and how those forms of language can be harder for non-native speakers to negotiate, and that when you use a non-standard form it has the effect of leaving some people out of the conversation. And that, they suggested, could be rude, or make it easier for them to misunderstand you.

      And since I teach in a school where everyone is specifically learning career skills, it was an easy leap from there to determining that standard English was an “effective” choice to make, and that’s something they all recognize as useful… that was a good teaching day!

  20. Cruella Da Boss*

    I am from the South. I can assure you that the only non-standard word we used here is “Y’all”…and down here, that is the standard.

    1. The IT Manager*

      “Y’all” is indeed a word and a contraction for “you all.”

      I went to school in Missouri. The local version of y’all seems to be “y’uns” (you ones?), but that is definately local and not standard.

      1. Kelly L.*

        My grandma always said y’uns (Southern Illinois). Most of my and my parents’ generation is more like to use “you guys”–and it’s meant to be gender-neutral!–in my experience.

      2. De Minimis*

        That is an Appalachia-type variant, I’ve heard it in Oklahoma as well, with people who had “hillbilly” type backgrounds. It is also related to “yinz” which some people say in Pennsylvania.

    2. Ellie A.*

      “Fixing to” is the phrase I find most non-Southerners react to. It means getting ready to do something, being about to do it. (“Bobby, have you taken out the trash yet?” “I’m fixing to!”)

        1. De Minimis*

          My wife lived in Georgia for a while, and also heard “fittin’ ta” used the same way.

          My grandmother said “Fixin’ to.”

      1. Natalie*

        Here in MN, most of our originally-Southern people moved during the Great Migration, and since then “fixing to” has morphed into something most likely spelled “finning to” (short i) in AAVE.

    3. Liane*

      And my Dad insisted that it was only correct to use “Y’all” or “You all” when speaking to at least 2 people; if you were addressing just one person, the word was “You.”
      Because of this, when I took Latin in high school & college I always translated the (Latin) second person singular as “You” & the second person plural as “You all.” No, I never got marked down for it.

          1. Southern*

            “Y’all” is plural. “All y’all” emphasizes that you really mean everybody who’s there.

            1. jag*

              I used to be active in a much more “rough” forum than this, and it was quite common for people to write “F#ck all, y’all”

  21. Elfie*

    I had to pitch in on the grammar conversation! I live in Birmingham, in the UK (fellow Brummies, hiya!!), but I’m not from Birmingham (moved here for job and marriage). It’s well known for having an incomprehensible, inpeneterable accent, and there’s a lot of prejudice against the Brummie accent as sounding “thick”. My dear husband is a Brummie born and bred, so I’m used to it now, but one of the things that seems to be common with the Brummie accent is the transposing of “I/he/she were”, “You was”. I just don’t get why this even happens. I mean, they’re using both terms, just both terms wrong. It’s baffling. I could understand if it was all one or all the other, but why the random transposition? However, I also accept that my irritation is totally my problem, so I don’t make a big deal of it. Everyone understands what is meant, so no harm done I suppose…
    Rant over!

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      Well, lots of English language is…”borrowed” from Vikings, the French, Icelandic and so on, it is perhaps possible that at some point there was one standard usage and then was changed to the other but enough people still grew up with the first hence both.

      From a module I studied a few years ago, I remember the example of ‘lake’, ‘loch’ and ‘beck’. The first 2 I know but the last I’d never heard of and it’s specific to a certain part(s) of England but the all mean the same thing. I think. Interestingly, ‘Birmingham’ – the ‘ham’ means something. I will go and dig out my books when I finish work and come back to this.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        “Ham” means homestead or settlement. It’s the same root that evolved into “home” but the vowel became short when tacked onto place names.

        1. Elfie*

          Yep, that’s exactly it – Birmingham is apparently ‘Beorma’s homestead’, Nottingham is ‘Snot’s homestead’ (really!), similar for Billingham, Wokingham, etc. It’s interesting that the further north you go, the more apparent the Viking influence is over place names, and the further south you go, I think it’s more Roman. Since I didn’t grow up in the UK, I wasn’t au fait with a lot of the pronunciation, so I got the piss taken out of me A LOT at first! I mean, I am a native English speaker, but Canadian English isn’t exactly the same as British English (and don’t even get me started on the sheer number of regional dialects!) For such a small island, the variation is just incredible!

          1. Cath in Canada*

            If it helps, that goes both ways! When I first moved to Vancouver from the UK* I would say “Winny-peg” and “Chilly-wack” instead of “Winn-uh-peg” and “Chill-uh-wack”, and Canadians would laugh at me. I have some other expat Brit friends here and they all did the same thing when they first arrived.

            *North Yorkshire, home of the -by place name suffix. I think it means farm in Norse.

      2. UK Nerd*

        Do you happen to remember where beck means the same as lake and loch? Because everywhere I’ve been a beck is a stream.

    2. Catherine in Canada*

      Hello Birmingum!
      I remember a very funny – to we Canadian transplants that is – television ad for butter from the 1970s. Sixty seconds of a talking head saying “Butter” in all the different Scottish accents. “Bu’er” “Bu’rr” “But’er” and so on.

  22. soitgoes*

    1) I wonder if the coworker isn’t putting on a bit of an act and talking like that to sound precious and adorable. There’s no way she hasn’t heard feedback on her speech before. She’s maintaining it deliberately, for whatever reason. Either that or that’s just how certain people in her family have always talked, and the quirks were passed down as norms (a father who mislabels something is going to raise kids who mislabel something). Still, I have a hard time believing that “morely” did not get a big red X next to it in every essay during her entire school career. She knows she’s talking oddly, and she likes it.

    1. LizB*

      I agree that someone must have noticed her speech patterns before. I work in a school and help in a bunch of English classes, and I tell students fairly often that what I really want them to learn is how to be bilingual in English. Even if they normally use text speak in their writing, cuss up a storm, use “like” every fourth word, or speak some other non-standard dialect, they need to learn to use a professional/academic dialect of English for school and work. I would never tell them to stop speaking or writing a certain way outside of school assignments, because there’s nothing wrong with informal speech or non-standard dialects and obviously they can communicate just fine with their friends and family, but when you’re writing a paper or giving a presentation you need to use a different kind of language. OP #1’s coworker must have been told that at some point.

    2. AnotherHRPro*

      This is very possible. She might think it is cute, unique, reminds her of home/family, whatever. If that is the case, it is up to her to realize how it is perceived. I like talking “Pennsylvanian” but I generally don’t unless I am visiting PA because it does not come across as professional.

  23. Joey*

    1. I had a co worker do this once. She claimed she spoke broken English because her dad was from Bolivia.

    Thing was, she spoke perfectly normal with no accent at one point and all of a sudden started speaking with a really fake sounding spanish accent and sounded as if she was trying to sound like she was learning English.

    I wonder if this co worker is doing something similar- doing a bad job of trying to sound like she’s from the south.

  24. Southern*

    #1: The words she’s using are not from the southern U.S., if that’s what she’s trying to use as an excuse. And no matter where she’s from, she needs to follow the same standards of professionalism – like not making up words like a kid! – as everyone else.

    (If I’ve misunderstood and she speaks English as a second language, never mind.)

  25. C Average*

    Regarding #1.

    I think that, whenever someone receives constructive feedback in a defensive way (“that’s the way I’ve always spoken,” “I’m from the South and we all talk that way,” “‘morely’ is definitely a word, and I’ve heard others use it,” “I’ve had this habit too long to break it,” etc.), that’s your signal to drop the subject and not pick it up again. That person isn’t receptive to what you’re saying, and is going to continue doing what she’s doing. You bringing it up won’t cause her to change; she’s already decided, for whatever reason, that she’s not going to change her speech patterns. Having this conversation again can only have the effect of creating awkwardness between the two of you.

    Unless you’re her manager and you’re offering up your feedback in a this-is-something-you-need-to-do-for-your-career-development vein (in which case you’d offer concrete suggestions for HOW to change these habits, like the suggestion upthread about watching the news and imitating the newscaster’s speech patterns), stay in your lane and try to view this as a harmless idiosyncrasy.

    1. C Average*

      By the way, I also agree with everyone who’s said this probably IS holding her back and that knowing how to code-switch is a really key skill at work. I just don’t think you’re going to get anywhere attempting to impart these truths to her.

      1. Laurel Gray*

        Strongly agree with both your comments. If she talks like this while interviewing, it means she would if she was being interviewed and I could definitely see this holding her back.

  26. AndersonDarling*

    #4. I used to work for a company that would have lunch meetings and I was told that I had to clock out because their was pizza, therefore it was a lunch break. These were meetings where high priority topics would be discussed, decisions made, and sometimes I would have to take notes for the group.
    I guess if they provided snacks the whole work day then I shouldn’t have clocked in at all.

  27. HR Manager*

    #1 – I agree that this is something for her manager to handle, not the employee. Feedback as a friend is fine, but if she’s not receptive, there is no point in beating her over the head about this. She clearly doesn’t see it as a problem — and maybe it isn’t? If this bothers her manager so much, maybe the manager would have said something. Just because a few members in the office may poke fun of this, it may not mean it’s a real issue. Her work could be outstanding enough that no one cares about it. We put up with far more butchering of English than just those with regional dialects — crazy texting teens, elite speak, ugh…I don’t have enough will to get my underroos twisted about this anymore, unless I can’t understand what someone is saying/writing to me.

    #5 – Do they give you any time frames other than “soon’? That sounds a little fishy to me but I agree that you don’t want to cut this off prematurely. I would keep waiting and keep job hunting all the same.

    1. Laurel Gray*

      Re: #1…I agree! I am so used to foolishness spoken and via text in 2015 that I barely flinch. Although I do admit to using these butcherings of the English language jokingly in convo with some family and friends). I really only think this woman will come across issues with her misuse of words depending on how frequent it is in basic conversation and if she is looking at opportunities for advancement internally and externally.

  28. AW*

    Regarding letter #1:

    As far as dialects go, race, class, and ethnicity all impact whether a dialect is considered proper or correct. If LW1’s co-worker grew up someplace where those words were considered OK, then that would explain why they don’t ‘switch’ at work; they’ve never had to before.

    Still, there could be other things impacting their speech patterns and the dialect excuse may be seen as less embarrassing to the co-worker than the real reason.

    At the end of the day if LW1 can tell what their co-worker means and their boss doesn’t see a problem then it’s best to just drop it.

  29. AW*

    #4 – I’ve worked someplace where some co-workers think you’re just supposed to work extra to make up the time lost in meetings but if I ever asked a manager for a job number to log that time against they always gave me one and would say that we’re supposed to log that time because it was work time.

    I don’t know if there was actually an unspoken rule about not logging meeting time (we were salaried but had to log our billable/non-billable hours and the company paid for non-billable hours) and the managers knew they couldn’t legally tell me not to when I asked them directly about it or if those co-workers were incorrectly interpreting the fact that we weren’t given a job number to use for those meetings as a sign they shouldn’t even ask for one.

    In any case, I think LW#4 and their co-workers should push back on this. We all know darn well if they don’t it won’t just be this one time. All of their meetings will become working lunches that they don’t get paid for once they know they can get away with it. There’ll be a better chance of them dropping this foolishness if more than one person complains and hopefully avoid having to wait until their are multiple, documented instances of this and making a legal issue of it.

    Generally speaking, I don’t know why so many employers have to make this so hard. There are laws requiring you to give your employees breaks. If a lunch break will break your business then you shouldn’t be in business. If you can’t afford to have 30-60 minute meetings then you need to have shorter and fewer meetings. If you’re rambling at your employees so much it’s costing you too much money then STOP TALKING. The answer is not to *break the law* so that you can keep rambling.

  30. A Minion*

    I read #1 and actually stopped right there to come here and comment! I’m absolutely fuming! My anger is probably misplaced and maybe I’m a little overly sensitive, but this person justifies making up words like “morely” and “bestly” by saying her family is from the south? South of what? Aw shucks, I’m just dumber’n a box a hammers, I reckon. I jus cain’t do no better’n my bestly see’ns how I’m from the south n all.
    Sure, we southerners have our own colloquialisms, and they’re not always grammatically correct, but when you use the “I’m from the south” or “My family is from the south” it’s the same as saying, “I know I’m speaking incorrectly, but I can’t change because being from the south, (or even having ties to it!), means that I’m either incredibly stupid or willfully ignorant.”
    Sorry for the rant, but I can’t help it. I’m from the south.

  31. yogajen*

    I’ve had the same experience with a friend. She is black and my husband is black and I am white. We have both known her for 20 years. I work in pr and she is a legal secretary. She went to UCLA and took a one-year course in PR and got a certificate. She is a great writer and brilliant schmoozer and has a lot of freelance clients who are all black. She has been unable to break into a career into PR and has tried and we think it is because of her grammar (Ax vs. ask. double negatives and we was, where you be, etc..). My husband tried to gently bring it up and she took great offense. So we let it go and she is still a legal secretary. I don’t think we can do anything and have chosen to just let it go. It is complicated and sensitive.

  32. Beezus*

    I googled “morely” and “dialect”, and all of the results seemed to be pages where someone had made a typo and meant to use the word “merely”.

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