Summary: The Giggly Sisters turn their inimitable eye on the patterns of speech found at the Ponderosa. Why does Hoss talk like that?
Rated: K+ WC 1400
In A Matter of Speaking
Ben Cartwright sat in the small cubby-hole he used as a study and tried, vainly, to concentrate on the account books. For some reason, this was a job that took up inordinate amount of his time, although he was never quite sure why. Surely cows didn’t need to be counted every day? Or trees, come to that.
But today, he was quite unable to concentrate on entering figures and calculating the totals. The window in his study was currently lurking on the side wall, and this meant that the conversation of Joe and the Giggly Sisters was quite clearly audible. He’d always thought the Scots were a softly spoken race, but these girls had disturbingly cut-glass accents that carried extraordinarily effectively. And the way they laughed – well, there was no doubt as to why they were known as the Giggly Sisters. Just then, Joe started to cackle wildly, with his unique and contagious chuckle. Actually, if Ben were totally honest, Joe’s laugh was rather manic and he did sometimes wonder about the boy.
“Joseph!” he bellowed, in time honored tradition. In the wings, the soundmen went into mourning, as all the valves on their equipment blew up simultaneously.
Joe came trotting in, his curls bobbing eagerly. The sisters had confiscated the hairdresser’s extra-strong hair lotion that morning and Joe was rejoicing in the fact.
“Hi Pa! It’s a beautiful morning, isn’t it?”
The blonde sighed slightly. How perfectly Joe spoke, sounding all his consonants and even managing to work in a diphthong! No sloppy glottal stops at all!
“What an impressive voice you have!” the redhead said admiringly. She had trained as an actress and knew how important it was to project one’s voice properly.
“People have commented that I have a built-in cello!” Ben admitted proudly. “And of course, I was known as the Voice of Canada.”
There was a certain logic in this. The sisters could easily imagine Ben broadcasting effortlessly to troops across Europe, without the need for any radio equipment at all.
The blonde sat down, clearly deep in thought. “You know, Joe, it’s strange that you are the son with an affinity for the south, whereas you were actually born in New Jersey.”
Joe looked confused and rumpled his curls in a perplexed fashion. “I thought I was born right here on the Ponderosa?” he said plaintively.
“And of course, Adam, the model of New England rectitude, was a southerner, born and bred,” the redhead added.
“I was?” Adam came in, looking confused. “I don’t remember that.”
“I think you’re confusing reality and fiction, my dears,” Ben said firmly.
“And as for Hoss,” went on the blonde ignoring Ben completely, “where did his speech come from? Surely you all went to roughly the same school? So, given that you were raised in the same house, why is it that you and Adam speak good, ordinary English, and Hoss doesn’t?”
“There ain’t nuthin’ wrong with ma accent,” Hoss aid, a trifle huffily. “I jist speaks the way I wants to. Ain’t nuthin’ wrong with it.”
“I rest your case,” the redhead commented to the blonde and they both laughed again. No one else quite saw the joke, though. “But, Hoss, you don’t sound your ‘ings’, and you say ‘ain’t’ all the time. Your brothers don’t, although Joe does sometimes use the odd ‘ain’t’.
“I does?” Hoss queried. “I mean, I doesn’t? I mean…” Hoss trailed off, not sure what he did mean.
“Did you never think to correct his grammar?” asked the redhead, who fought a constant battle against the appalling accents and sloppy speech of her home area appearing in her children’s vocabulary. “I know it’s boring, but…”
“Now, my dear, you’re making entirely too much of this,” Ben said. “Hoss is just a little more relaxed in his diction, aren’t you son?”
“Yeah, ma diction,” Hoss parroted, not too sure what his diction was, but glad to hear it was relaxed. “I knowed all along that was what it were.”
“You’d think you’d been raised by a totally different family all together,” the blonde commented. Ben immediately looked guilty. Was it some subliminal legacy from dear Inger, he wondered?
“I says what I thinks, an’ it comes from ma heart!” Hoss said stoutly. “Real feelin’s count more than fancy words, that’s what I reckons!”
“Well said!” Adam applauded. “Although there is a lot to be said for the lost art of rhetoric. Not to mention declamation.”
“Please, no more Thoreau!” the redhead pleaded.
“I blame Miss Abigail Jones,” the blonde ventured. “She was probably too busy mooning over Adam to bother teaching the children basic grammar. I must say though, it’s a pity Marie didn’t speak French to the boys. Then they all could have been brought up bilingual.”
Hoss turned red and tittered slightly. “That’s illegal in this here territory! Not that I’m small-minded!” he added quickly.
“Bi-lin-gu-al!” the blonde enunciated clearly, sounding uncannily like Her Gracious Majesty. “It means speaking two languages.” She saw Hoss opening his mouth and quickly added, “But not at the same time.”
Hop Sing shuffled in. The sole had come off one of his slippers and was flapping loosely around. “Of course, if I had spoken Mandarin to you, boys, you could have been trilingual.” He didn’t bother to add that he’d only learned the language by correspondence course, having spent all his formative years in Oxford and Cambridge. It was funny how all the viewers saw a man of obvious oriental appearance, dressed in Chinese clothes and just assumed he spoke with a sing-song accent. But then, apart from the Giggly sisters, most fans had never noticed the many little incongruities around the Ponderosa.
Hoss was still mulling over his strange speech patterns. “I reckons it helps them little kids identify with me.”
“Well, tell us Joe – does it?” Adam asked jokingly, knowing this was an easy way to get a rise out of his youngest brother.
“I wouldn’t know,” Joe responded, coolly. “The only little kid around here is you, brother.”
The Giggly Sisters tittered as Adam fumed. He had left himself wide open to that one, it had to be said.
“And then there were all those dreadful foreign accents,” the redhead said, before blood could be shed. “Couldn’t you find a real Irish actor? That Emmet Reardon in MBK, his accent wandered the globe!”
“And which land did the gypsies in Dark Star come from?” asked the blonde. “And why was old Brouha using the same accent as Jean De Marigny’s mother in Marie My Love?” There was a sigh from everyone around. “And Guido Borelli’s sister in The Deadliest Game?”
“The only authentic one was Zsa Zsa Gabor,” added the redhead. “And her accent was so thick I hardly knew what she was saying at all!”
“Me either,” chorused Joe and Hoss.
“Stradivarius,” sniggered the redhead and the sisters were off again.
“You know,” Joe mused, “I think this is just one of those things that we’ll never get an explanation for. We all know that Hoss isn’t really thick, but folks just assume that he is, so they had to make him speak like that.” He smiled at Hoss, who grinned back, showing off his appalling dentistry. He really did look incredibly gormless.
“Adam is the educated college man,” he went on and saw his older brother smirk. “Even if he couldn’t possibly have studied what he said he studied in those short years.” The smirk vanished, the sisters noted with satisfaction.
“And as for me,” he mused, “I’m…”
“Just perfect!” the sisters chorused.
Ben thought back to a phrase his dear departed Marie had often used: plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose! He looked around the living room and was almost relieved to notice that the Indian blanket had decided it was a rug and was once more lying on the floor while the funny gap at the side of the stairs seemed to have disappeared once again. Everything was just as it should be!
Other Stories by this Author
- I Beg Your Pardon (by the Giggly Sisters)
- An Indoor Bathroom (by the Giggly Sisters)
- Spring Forward (by the Giggly Sisters)
- The Sporting Life (by the Giggly Sisters)
- It’s a Serious Business Being Funny (by the Giggly Sisters)