"Eerian": Detroit Polish/Italian contact vernacular

Mark.Mandel at LHSL.COM Mark.Mandel at LHSL.COM
Fri Nov 30 18:48:57 UTC 2001

(Quoting full history because of the two-week delay.)

On Nov. 13 I wrote:


In an off-topic discussion of accents on a newsgroup I follow,
rec.music.filk, another participant (bcc'ed on this posting) posted:

    Want to hear a really weird one?  My college roommate, in Michigan,
from a part of Detroit occupied by recent immigrants from Poland and Italy.
Between them, they put together a weird Polish/Italian mix which they
"Eerian".  Why?  "Bicause dat's what we spik in dis eeria."

I asked her permission to pass it on to this list, and she replied:

         Sure thing.  This was spoken in the poor Italian/Polish
neighborhood of Detroit during the early 1960s.  I heard it spoken a couple
of times, and it sounded oddly poetic -- rather like Romansch, although the
meanings were totally different.  There may still be some Eerian speakers
in that part of Detroit, if you can find them.

N.B. that this "Eerian" isn't the accent suggested in the quote but a
contact vernacular. The obvious interpretation of the name -- < [Lake] Erie
-- is probably the real etymology, with the "explanation" a post-facto

<<< END QUOTE <<<

Doug Wilson then asked:
What part of Detroit, please? I was a Detroit boy once. Maybe I know

Lake Erie isn't really adjacent to Detroit, and I don't know that it would
be a likely source of the name. I wonder ....

The original correspondent has now answered:
         It was East Detroit, as far as I can remember -- near an old
(pre-Mall) shopping center called "Eastland".  'Twas a Polish/Italian
neighborhood at the time ('60s), which is all I know.

                  Mark A. Mandel : Senior Linguist
 Dragon Systems, a Lernout & Hauspie company : speech recognition
 320 Nevada St., Newton, MA 02460, USA : http://www.dragonsys.com

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