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Prescott People - Prescottisms

Only in Prescott, you say? This is a first stab at a collection of words and phrases that you would only hear in Prescott. I have bounced it off the now-defunct listbot mail group (called "Michael Bordt's Web News" but it was actually about Prescott and the Internet) a couple of times and there were several contributions.

I started it with:

Talking to Bob a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that certain words and phrases have been heard only in Prescott: libary, lititcher (how do you spell that?), chimley, the 'Burg... 

Bob mentioned that going downstreet was a common activity during his youth. All this leads to some incredible sentences that would be totally incomprehensible to anyone but a Prescott long-timer: 

"Do you wanna go downstreet or over to the 'Burg. I hear the libary there has some good lititcher on chimleys."

Another category of Prescottisms has to do with old names for places. This is a sure way to tell a long-timer from a newcomer: the Old High School is actually the Town Hall (and has been so since 1962); the Fort Field is Fort Wellington (or the field around it); the Windmill is actually a lighthouse. Kelly's Bay never had a sign on it but everybody knows where it is. For the last 80 years or so, the building that gave the name to the Power Docks has been a pumping station.

The next contribution was:

At the top of my list of Prescottisms is the pronunciation of the name. We pronounce Prescott as Preskit.

We also use "back of" to mean the area north of, e.g.

"Where's Domville?"
"It's back of Prescott"

When we say "of" we often don't pronounce the f and run the words together, so it sounds more like "it's backuh Preskit."

Another common Prescottism is nucular instead of nuclear. In the '80s everyone was worried about nucular weapons.

Also, "ignorant," pronounced as ignernt, meaning rude/vulgar. E.g. a loud belch might be followed by someone telling the belcher not to be ignernt

Sometimes, people comment on my pronunciation of the days of the week, particularly Saturday which, if I'm not careful, comes out sounding something like Saredee.


His'n and her'n (for His and Hers).

Agin (for against).

Was Zaire Street named after the African Country? Everybody pronounces it "Zare" to rhyme with "dare". Another unique pronunciation is Sophia Street. Where else in the world would this be pronounced "Sof-eye-a"?

There has also been a distortion of the pronunciation of the venerable VanKoughnet Street  (You know, agin the Fort Field?) My latest authority (a living former mayor) was that it was pronounced something like "Van-koog-a-nut".

While we're on the subject of pronunciation, where else would liqueur (not "liquor"--the crème de menthe type) and whore both rhyme with "sewer".

Fekofta (to go, as in "Where did you fekofta?) The origin of this word may have been Cardinal. It's difficult to tell.

In the now defunct mail group we connected Prescott History and street names with the Prescottisms to generate a short story that would be hilarious to about 42 people in the entire world (I hope). 

The fact that Major Jessup named the streets after members of his family brings up a whole new area of exploration. Which streets? Once you start thinking about it, you could imagine a whole Mini-series (Like Roots but this would have to be called something a little more pedestrian like Weeds).

Scene 1: The Jessup House

Major Edward Jessup, coming home after a long day at the Fort is greeted by his dog, King, and young daughter Sophia (Sof-eye-a). He could hear his twin sons Henry and George having an argument inside about the newly-established African state of Zaire. Since they could only read about it in the Prescott Messenger, they thought it was supposed to be pronounced "Zare" (not Zay-eer).

Mother Ann runs in to break up the argument before the Major has a chance to open the door. "Pipe down, boys. Don't be so ignernt. Why don't you get backuh the libary to study some lititcher?"

Just then, the butler, Dibble, opens the door and Major Jessup greets the assembled multitude. "Family, I have a message that Uncle James will be  paying a visit to Preskit. He has completed his posting in Clarendon, England and he's bringing his Dutch fiancée Josephine VanKoughnett (pronounced Van-Coog-a-nut because he wasn't so hot on pronouncing foreign names). Maybe we can get him to fix the chimley while he's here."

Scene 2: On the streets of Preskit

Henry and George didn't much like the idea of reading the lititcher at the libary so they figured they'd spend the afternoon at Kelly's Bay. On the way, they went downstreet to pick up their friend, Russell Park. "Hey, I wuz lookin' fer youse last Saredee. Where jew fekofta?"

"Min'jer own beeswax!", Henry shot back. Russell was fond of dogs and swimming. On hot summer days, the boys would alternate between Kelly's Bay, the Power Docks and The Quarry, backuh the WIndmill. Russell's dogs, Prince and Duke would follow them wherever they went.

There weren't many girls of their age in town: Susan Hyde already had a boyfriend; the Wood sisters, Linda and Florence, didn't pay them much attention. The boys were looking forward to next year when they would be old enough to hop the ferry to the taverns at the 'Burg. If the rumours were true, the girls across the mighty St. Lawrence would be even smarter, prettier and thinner than the Preskit girls.

There's room for lot's more. Keep you're ears open and let me know. John Morris has his own story about how Preskit streets got their names. See the Prescott has unusual ways of remembering its heroes, builders in the Prescott Journal back issues for January 7, 2004.

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