Where’d you go to high school?

Ah, being lost in translation. I have lived most of my life in the same city, St. Louis,and so, as a Midwesterner, don’t find myself blessed with the cute regional accents of Boston or Savannah, or even Dallas. There are a few little unique things to STL, though, in a way that toasted ravioli and gooey butter cake is unique to us.  Probably the most unique question and the one that newcomers notice first is: “Where’d you go to high school?” (For those of you familiar with this, I went to Parkway South.) This question is almost automatic to any STL native. It’s compulsive.

I have a friend, Ed, who moved here to go to school from Seattle, and he was working a job as a tour guide in the museum under the Arch (which, by the way, is free and really cool). He walking talking about Samual Clements, I think, or someone like that, and someone asked jokingly: “Where’d he go to high school?”  Ed was like, “Does it matter?”

And John Goodman is from St. Louis and went to Affton High School, which makes sense.
And John Goodman is from St. Louis and went to Affton High School, which makes sense.

Perhaps needless to say, the crowd cooled to him after that. This reflects the small town nature of this city, and it also stems from something else important to understanding the city: City v. County.

There is St. Louis city and St. Louis county. And the county is actually made up of dozens of small cities, like Affton, Sunset Hills, and Hazelwood.  So those little cities have their own high schools, and their own “flavor,” if you will. Part of the reason we ask about your high school is that we, frankly, stereotype people based on that.  If you told me you went to Ladue, Rockwood, or MICDS, I “know” something about you. (I don’t really, but we stereotype.)  Also, I can see if I knew someone who went to Ladue, Rockwood or MICDS during that time, and we forge a connection.

If someone is from south city and especially south county, they may pronounce words with an “or” like it’s “aa.”  For example, Corn:Caarn.  Four:Faar. This is not completely confined to the south side, but it tends to be like that. Also, the more “aa” your “a’s” are, the more hoosier you are.  Which brings us to the next point:

In St. Louis,  hoosier, or hoozsh for short, doesn’t mean what it does in Indiana. Here, a hoosier is sort of like a hick, but more educated.  Sort of like just white trash, but a little less mean, if you will.

Other dialects:

And John Goodman is from St. Louis and went to Affton High School, which makes sense.

Okay, your turn.

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