Monday, January 31, 2011

Duck, duck...goose?

I never knew how different Minnesotans were compared to everyone else until I moved 1,500 miles away. By different I don't mean worse, weirder or inferior, but I also don't mean better. Just...different. Specifically with words. Everyone knows about the great pop-soda debate that rages coast to coast while no one out here could identify a hot dish.

Last night, another example.

Louise told a story. At one point she talked about the children's game "Duck, duck, goose." I chuckled. My poor foreign wife, all confused again over a classic American game. Duck, duck, goose?

"You mean duck, duck, gray duck, right?" I asked. She insisted it was goose. My mockery soon turned to pity. I wondered if she also chanted "Blue rover, blue rover, send Kyle right over," with her Cape Town schoolmates.

"Honey," I explained, "we played it all the time in school. Teachers taught us. It's definitely duck, duck, gray duck." But while I pitied and mocked her, she did the same to me.

"Shame," she finally said, with a tone of voice she'd use if I told her I still believed in Santa. "You really believe you're right."

To the Internet. Wikipedia, first paragraph of the, hmmm, duck, duck, goose entry:
Duck, Duck, Goose is a traditional children's game often first learned in pre-school or kindergarten. The object of this game is to walk in a circle, tapping each child's head until you finally choose one to be the new picker. It is called different things around the world. In Minnesota, it is called 'Duck, Duck, Gray Duck.'

So there. I was right. But wait. Only in Minnesota do children play gray duck? A fact that's apparently so odd it has to be called out in a Wikipedia entry? So we were both right, but I suppose, since Louise has the rest of the world behind her as supporting witnesses, she might have been more right. In fact, it gets worse for my side of the argument. Wikipedia's anonymous writers and editors report, "In parts of the US state of Minnesota the game is called Duck Duck Gray Duck, with "gray duck" replacing "goose" as the designation for the next picker." Now it's not even every town in the Land of 10,000 Lakes? How small is this part of Minnesota? Did just southern Minnesotans play gray duck? Just Janesville kids?

Duck, duck, goose. Never heard of it. Really, that's what everyone else plays? Which Minnesotan changed it, and why? Is it the same person who insisted on calling casseroles hot dishes?

Incidentally, Duck, Duck, Goose (gray duck) has a 1,600-word entry on Wikipedia, which is excessive by about 1,356 words.

The Fury household has been home to several of these types of debates. A few months ago, Louise refused to believe me when I told her you used your mouth to frown. She said it had to do with the brow. No, you furrow a brow, I said, you frown with your mouth. Turn that frown upside down, etc., a line an eternal optimist like Louise should be familiar with. Again we hit the Internet. And again...we were both right, and both wrong:
The appearance of a frown varies from culture to culture. Although most technical definitions define it as a wrinkling of the brow, in North America it is primarily thought of as an expression of the mouth.

Again, though, Louise was more right. It's humbling, being a writer and copy editor who's often stumped and topped by his wife's knowledge of the language.

We've had other disagreements over definitions and more serious difficulties over interpretations. A year before our wedding, we drove from New York to Fargo, where Louise would spend several weeks living like a Midwestern housewife. We'd be around each other all the time, except when I was working. Somewhere in Ohio, Louise started worrying about our upcoming attempt to play couple. She wondered if I'd get sick of her being around so much.

I took the next exit off the interstate and pulled my Cavalier into a rest stop. Turned the car off. Took her hands into mine. Looked into her eyes. Looked into her soul. Took a deep breath. Smiled.

"Honey, I can't spend too much time with you."

"Oh," she replied.

Turned the ignition on. Pulled back on the interstate, satisfied that my statement qualified as the most romantic event since Richard Gere hauled his gal out of the factory at the end of Officer and a Gentleman. If I didn't have my hands on the steering wheel in a classic 10-2 fashion, I might have given myself a pat on the back. After 15 minutes of silence, I couldn't understand why Louise still seemed depressed, mopey. When I asked, she said, "You can't spend too much time with me? That's supposed to make me feel better? That you can't spend too much time with me?"

Wait, wait, huh? I went over the sentence in my head. I can't spend too much time with you. Ah, I see the misinterpretation. It sounds like I'm saying spending much time with her would be a drag, that I can't picture being stuck with her for too long. But what did I mean? That no matter how much time I spent with her - even if it was 24 hours a day for six weeks - it wouldn't be enough. Not close to enough time. There, doesn't that sound better? She finally understood, and believed me. A few minutes later, Delilah came on the radio with her soothing voice and a relaxing song and all was fine.

Then a few years ago, it was Louise's turn. As I lamented something about a writing project - probably wondering when I'd write another book and why hadn't it happened yet - she said, lovingly, "How much potential do you think you have?"

Well, I thought quite a bit, until you put me in my place with that statement and convinced me that I was delusional, a fool. How much potential do I think I have? Not much, I guess. Thanks, honey. That's what I heard. But she meant that I'd already accomplished a lot, that I was already ahead in whatever imaginary career game I was playing in my head. I'd written a book, done some other things. In other words what was I upset about, what was I supposed to have done at that point? Surpassed Frank Deford?

Again, interpretations.

I'm sure more incidents like that will come up, although even with those two examples, I think her shot hurt more than mine. We'll eventually talk our way through these confusing debates, explaining what we really meant.

But some disagreements will remain forever unresolved, destined for debate. But I know I'm right. You frown with your mouth. And when a group of small kids sit around a circle tapping each other on the head before chasing each other, they're playing Duck, Duck, Gray Duck.



Olivia Grey said...

Love this story, Shawn! Bravo!

Lisa said...

I played duck duck grey duck but your niece just informed me that in phy ed class Mr. Holinka says goose. I guess the Fulda teachers are more in hip with the game than the Janesville ones were. It just doesn't sound right saying goose!

Brock said...

WHAT? Goose in Fulda?! I learned in Janesville I guess so it is grey duck to me. Also, I enjoy that you use Wikipedia as a source of information for your own arguments. I recall one time when I was discussing a topic when you and Louise were at Grandma and Grandpas and I used Wikipedia to back me up and was shot down since it was not a legit source... interesting...

Shawn Fury said...

Fulda, as we've known since the graduating class of 1965, is strange, teaches odd things. Maybe it's too close to South Dakota, so they have the goose influence from there.

Brock, I think you used Wikipedia for like a definition of the difference between a sea and a lake or something, instead of using a dictionary. Duck, duck, gray duck would not be in the dictionary (or at least I hope not). Although frown would be, I suppose...Either way, yes, Wikipedia should not be used as a primary source. Do as I say, etc., and I still say it's gray duck.

Kwana said...

Love this post Shawn. This circular arguments sound like an evening at my house. "What? Huh? What? Are we still on that?" LOL.

Seems you two are both heading in the right direction but clearly Louise is more right if there is a score keeper which I would not suggest at all. But IMO someone was having a laugh or one too many with the Gray Duck. That is too funny.

Lisa said...

There are a lot of geese in South Dakota so I guess it could have came from there! So funny!! We all agree in our little corner of the state that you frown with your mouth.

Louise Fury said...

I demand that you include a pie chart with this post! The rest of the world agrees with me -- come on world, tell him I am right!

Brock said...

I asked around at work today... all grey duck. But Wisconsin says goose, but they also call a drinking fountain a bubbler. And Wikipedia is an excellent source for finding other sources as well as using it in small debates around the diningroom table.

Dad said...

I grew up in the Fulda area and it was grey duck so it is more than Janesville.

Lisa said...

Well dad you probably learned grey duck in elementary school in Kinbrae. Maybe they weren't as "hip" as Fulda. Ha ha.

Mary said...

Hey, I need to get in on this. As the other half of the Fulda PE department, this girl teaches Duck, duck, gray duck.

Shawn Fury said...

Well then tell your cousin and fellow teacher to do Duck!

Bronwyn said...

I don't usually get in the middle of domestic debates but this one is so random it's too hard to resist...
In some states of Australia we call the drinking fountain a bubbler too but in South Australia they don't. In some states bathers are called swimmers and telegraph poles are stoby poles. Bloomers in NSW are called sports knickers in SA and so on. But as far as I know, it's always goose! Always.

How long have you guys been married? Shawn, didn't you know that your wife is always right? =P