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37

Da Accent Lives On

My daughter Gemma didn’t talk much until she turned 4. Now we can’t get her to shut up. Her stories are rambling and nonsensical and adorable, but the best thing about her newfound verbosity? She speaks with a Chicago accent: Daddy, can you get me some of dose jelly beans over dare? It’s like she’s a Bill Swerski Superfan in training.

Some say our dialect is disappearing. They say Chicago’s evolution from blue-collar town to cultural capital is softening da classic Chi-kaw-go patois. But it lives. Go to an old-man bar in Bridgeport or Jefferson Park, or just come to my house when my daughter tells me: Not dat marker, Daddy. Pass me da udder one.

I used to wonder where Gemma picked up her Chicagoese. Was it the time we let her watch The Blues Brothers? Did her Irish and Polish ethnic heritage hardwire da accent into her young brain? Then, rushing out of the house one day, I heard myself tell Gemma to hurry up and get over by da car. And in that moment, the answer became as clear as the mustache on Ditka’s face. I’ll be damned. She got it from me.

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