Norfolk's Waterside and Commercial PlaceA view of Norfolk's skyline from Portsmouth, Virginia. They say that a river does make a difference – such as can be seen in this view of Norfolk, taken from the Portsmouth side. Like many places, there is no shortage of ‘localese’ when it comes to speaking, let alone understanding a given area. Hampton Roads – also known as Tidewater is no exception to that rule. First – please find “Tidewater, Virginia” in this area. Hint: Google will return “not found” within 75 miles. You have to expand your search ring to 100-125 miles to find the Tidewater subdivision located in Warsaw – which is north of Richmond on the Rappahannock (another river – go figure). Heck, you can’t even get them to agree on how to properly pronounce some of the names. Try saying “Norfolk” to a ‘local’. A smile will appear – it will probably be one of tolerance – sort of like a foreigner trying to learn a language. Now, add to your growing repertoire – “Newport News”. Seems easy enough, right? Well, you are actually 0-2. Care to go for 3? Sure – no worries – now pronounce “Portsmouth”. WAIT A MINUTE!!! Norfolk – that’s uh, “N-O-R-F-O-L-K”, “Norfolk”. Congratulations – welcome to the wonderful world of American English (another brilliant oxy-moron) where regionalism is king, and woe-behold the outsider who dares to sound local. Um, no. GPS on your iPhone or Android is not going to be your friend, so don’t even think about speed-dialing Google or Siri – they aren’t going to help you one bit. Nope, time to go manual, and learn on your own. “N-A-H-F-O-C-K” (NAWfock) to the uninitiated from Exit 327.552A of the Noo Yawk State Throughway – yeah, the one that is about 3 exits shy of the Arctic Circle. Well then say you, then I guess Newport News and Portsmouth sounds different too? Quite the observant person you are there, Captain Obvious. Let’s go with ‘cross the water’ as is a normal direction indicator to anyone traveling between South Hampton Roads (Nawfock, Vah Beach, Chesapeake (that’s Chezahpeek – NOT Chessahpeek), Suffolk – the only one other than Hampton that sounds ‘normal’ to non-locals) and the Peninsula (Hampton, Newpert Newz, Poquoson (Pohkohson) . Over yonder (not ever said in these parts – save that for parts west of Emporia - like West By God Virginia please) going over to “Newpert Newz” is the accepted pronunciation. Finally, let’s go visit “Ports-smith” – home to the Naval Medical Center, shipyards galore, and oh yeah – “High Street”. Referring to its English Heritage – High Street signifies where all of the merchants would ply their wares for shoppers to gather up as desired. Anyhoot, learning to “speak Tidewater” is a challenge to anyone not raised here. No wonder why the citizens of Williamsburg disavow ANY association with their southern neighbors. Now, in return, visitors and ‘temporary residents’ to this area tend to bring their own amount of ‘influence’ with them – witness the driving habits (as such) of some folks around here, and you will quickly understand why this place can be so confusing. Making a right on red – from the left turn lane – through a red light – at night (and yes, it is dark out) just to make it to that wonderful looking never noticed it before Starbucks® just to get your 45th silly frappachino with diet ice of the day is one of them. The ever-present iPhone/Droid hand-eye coordination with the optional .5% view of the road is an all-encompassing disease in this area – that is truly a national epidemic. That is a whole ‘nuther’ story for another Monday. Until then – please be careful – slow down – and watch out for that wingnut trailing in your blind spot. He’s just as pre-occupied as you are – poor fool.
Please remember why we “Keep Believing’ for a Reason during the Christmas Season” - Merry Christmas to one and all!!