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Different dialects comprise one voice of blue defending America

ELLSWORTH AFB, S.D. -- With a multitude of backgrounds from all over the world, it's no surprise Airmen's various dialects can lead to confusion. 

Wanting a grinder during lunch sounds like an errand to go the hardware store, unless one is from Connecticut, according to Mr. Charles Grosvenor's Web site titled, "A list of words unique to New England." 

Another New England word, according to Mr. Grosvenor, is "draw", which he says is the way he and his friends pronounce "drawer." 

As in, "It's in the top 'draw' of my bureau," he explains on his Web site of New England terms at http://www.worcestermass.com/words.shtml. "Or, 'Open the 'draws' and look for it!' which tends to confuse out of state people, who don't really understand what drawing has to do with shelving." 

New England isn't the only region in the United States to have its own unique dialect. According to author Newt Harlan, there is actually a category of English that should be called, "Southern words." One example Mr. Harlan uses is "hissy fit." 

"A hissy fit is a tantrum you have when you don't get your way," he explains on his Web site dedicated to the study of Southern English, http://usads.ms11.net/newt11.html. 

"Southerners know that you don't just have a hissy, but pitch one. 'My Aunt Emma could pitch the best hissy fit you ever saw over little or nothing, but then again she was a rich old lady and could get away with it.'" 

Another phrase that's unique to the South are the terms "like to have" and "might near." According to Mr. Harlan's definition, "These terms are used interchangeably to illustrate extremes when the word almost isn't strong enough." 

His example? 

"I like to have died of embarrassment and old Lonnie might near passed out when the preacher mentioned right there in the church house that he'd seen our trucks down at the Dew Drop Inn on the Saturday night before." 

In addition to Southern dialects, the Nation's multi-faceted force of diversity is comprised of other regional dialects as well. 

Meet Airman 1st Class Fabeanna Ward, Air Force Financial Service United States Air Forces in Europe military pay technician. Originally hailing from the borough of Queens, N.Y., she says she has a few words in her local dictionary fellow Airmen have asked her to clarify. 

"I've been told I leave out the 'Z's' in 'pizza,'" she said, with a laugh. "So, it comes out sounding like (the Leaning Tower of) 'Pisa'." 

Another is "bowl". 

"Where I grew up we pronounced it 'bow', like on a Christmas present," she said. 

Despite her colleagues and peers inquiring about her regional pronunciation of words and commenting on how she talks fast, Airman Ward says the regional melting pot comprising the Air Force always gets the job done. 

"We always accomplish the mission," she said. "It's because of the way we train in the Air Force. The Air Force itself is universal and [that's] always common ground between Airmen." 

Mr. Doug Frey, 28th Bomb Wing anti-terrorism officer, said his native Wisconsin has a unique dialect with its own phrasing. 

"We say, 'don't you know' (pronounced don'cha know) a lot," he said. "But, the thing is it's not really a question." 

Mr. Frey said another word from Wisconsin is "highball"...and no, it's not a drink. 

"If you're driving down the road with your hand resting on the steering wheel and casually wave at a passing car, that's called a 'highball'," he said. "You may not know who they are, but you wave anyway." 

Mr. Frey said despite bringing a small piece of his native Wisconsin with him when he enlisted in the Air Force in 1982, he's never forgotten how a group of diverse people comprise one all-encompassing Air Force. 

"I've been all over the world," he said. "I've never seen any other organization use diversity and different backgrounds or life-experiences to its advantage as well as the Department of Defense. 

"We're very good at bringing together a multitude of different people and molding them to one common purpose of defending our country from attack." 

Ellsworth's equal opportunity experts said it's this very multitude of diversity in the armed forces that makes the Air Force such a unique place to work for its Airmen, as well as a lethal arrow in the commander-in-chief's quiver for America's enemies. 

"Our differences are easily identified, but in their own particular way add to our overall culture," said Mr. Don Bell, 28th Bomb Wing equal employment opportunity manager. 

"Diversity stimulates change, thought, consideration and respect for others. 

"Diversity challenges outdated rules and policies and demand we look into the future to find ways to accept an ever-changing society." 

Mr. Bell said the very essence of what diversity is tests and defines Americans; he said this goes beyond citizenship or a legal document but instead encompasses those who respect and fight for the rights of all as guaranteed by the Constitution. 

Ellsworth's senior leadership said America's armed forces are the world's best at turning a group of unique individuals into a lethal weapon charged with protecting and defending American and her Constitution. 

"I originally hail from Jamaica, and we certainly have a unique dialect, words and phrases you won't find in any other region," said Chief Master Sergeant Clifton Cole, 28th Bomb Wing command chief. "But, I have been in the Air Force for almost 29 years and to this day I find it simply amazing how Senior NCOs, NCOs and supervisors come together to lead a group of skilled technicians from various backgrounds, to accomplish the huge mission of defending our Nation. 

"I think a lot of other organizations in the world would be hard-pressed to say that; it's one of the many reasons I'm very proud of my military heritage as an Airman," Chief Cole said. 

Mr. Bell echoed the chief's comments and said history shows the different people comprising our Air Force create stronger Airmen. 

"Examine the make-up of our force today compared to ten or twenty years ago. The diversity we see in today's force demands that officer and non-commissioned officers become better leaders," he said. 

"Today's leaders are challenged to recognize the abilities and accomplishments of all personnel while also challenging leadership to judge people on individual merit, fitness and capabilities," Mr. Bell concluded. 

Airmen come from all over the world to voluntarily defend our Nation. So, if one "like to have died" and "might near" shook their head in wonderment when a colleague said they wanted a "grinder" for lunch, it's easy to remember the uniform and the on-going mission is the common ground for all Airmen, "don'cha know"?