Dear Alma,

I really enjoy your column and I’m glad to read you’re a homegirl. Which is why I’m sending you this question. I have been divorced for the past six years and I don’t have any kids. Just to tell you a little about myself, I grew up with four siblings and my mom worked very hard as a single mother. I say all that because I don’t want you to think I’m bougie or a snob in any way, LOL, because I’m not. I paid my way thru college, grateful for scholarships, grants and student loans. Here’s the thing, I recently met this guy at work (before covid) and I really liked him a lot. Around two months before they sent us home from work, we had started talking, quick conversations in the cafeteria. He is a chef. He’s really, really nice and super fine. We had what I thought were great conversations at work and now we text and talk on the phone. It’s been a few months now and I’m not sure what has changed, but he is speaking a new language that I just don’t understand.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a work voice and a home voice. One is professional and one is comfortable. He is speaking to me in some new DMV encrypted language that I just don’t get. Seriously! When we’re on the phone, I just don’t know what he’s saying. Some words I think he is just making up, I’m not sure. It’s not slang, it’s something that has developed into it’s own mispronounced words, possibly on purpose. When did DC, Virginia and Maryland come up with it’s own inner city dialect? Maryland is Murlin, area is urreeah and everything is “about to.” I am beginning to cringe when I know we have to talk. I don’t mind seeing his fine face on my phone when he calls, but knowing he has to speak drains me. Help!

Is this a deal breaker? Am I being shallow? What can I do?

Omg, you have me laughing so hard my side hurts!!!

We’re “about to” have a conversation concerning a new language that has manifested itself solely in the DMV. You don’t hear it in NY and NJ has it’s own well known annunciations, LOL. When traveling from Maryland, halfway through the state of Virginia, it disappears, and honestly, in my opinion, thank God it does. I totally understand where you’re coming from.  I’m in the business of words and my minister father wouldn’t allow me to speak slang. There should be no doubt – when it comes to correct pronunciation, I’m all in and unabashedly biased.

Don’t get me wrong, I can break it down when necessary. I’m familiar with a particular “Yat” accent in New Orleans and I can keep up with the many drawls that bleed across the state of North Carolina, but this thing right here –  the new language of the DMV  – sucks. Yea, I said it. I heard it and I too cringed when traveling in DC on the bus, train or subway. There were times when I’d call my great-niece Kennedee for a translation. When we’re all in the same room and someone starts to speak DMV, she or her sister Kimberlee, will lean over and clarify for me, LOL, Lord knows I need it.  All because this dummying down along with intentionally mispronounced vowels is misunderstood to me. I grew up in a time when your parents made sure you were bilingual. You could speak “street,” but you likewise had better be ready for that job interview or when you were representing yourself at church or in school.

Both of us are grammar girls and yes, it can be a deal-breaker. However, you asked what “can” you do, which gives me hope. The next time you talking to his fine azz (pardon me, excuse-moi) The next time the two of you are having a conversation, tell him. Don’t wait, do it today. Just say, “look, that DC dialect drives me crazy, can we not sit in it. I don’t mind here and there, but I need you to also talk to me articulately.” Remind him you aren’t looking to change or rearrange him, you just need him to upgrade his communication skills. It’s better that you do it now, while it’s just a pinch on your heart. If you wait and a relationship develops, this time acquired deal-breaker will surely break your heart, and possibly his too.

Alma Gill
Alma Gill