Aw, verr: Stay-at-home ideas

Posted: August 1, 2011 by terryvandrovec in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Update: By popular demand, here is an audio file of me prouncing the phrase that’s written about in this post.

A couple weeks ago, my wife let loose with an obscenity. I don’t remember the specifics of the situation or the curse, but that’s not the important part.

My response was one of feign moral indignation.

“Aw, verr,” I said.

She then looked at me like I was crazy – and I did the same.

Turns out she had never before heard that phrase, one that has roots to my childhood in Jamestown, N.D.  – we said it all the time on the playground. Basically, it’s like “shame, shame,”  the verbal equivalent of shaking a finger at someone who has done something naughty.

But my wife, who grew up in a similar-sized city in neighboring Minnesota, genuinely had no experience with this. (Initially, I may or may not have mocked her unfamiliarity with the concept.) What’s more, she found it stupid almost to the point of being offensive. She wrinkles her nose whenever I say it.

Dumbfounded, I put the phrase to the test on Facebook, unable to accept that “aw, verr” was not universally recognized. (The lack of Google matches didn’t convince me.) The results: Pretty much everyone from my hometown remembered it fondly – even people from other generations. And everyone not from Jamestown thought I was nuts, that I was making this up.

How is this possible? Words travel with people – it’s the foundation of communication. Yes, certain phrases catch on more in some places that others, but there’s generally at least a trial period or an awareness. For example, “rad” is a West Coast word. It’s not used as often in Sioux Falls as it is in Orange County, but you certainly won’t be looked upon as a pariah for using it at the local coffee shop.

What, then, happened to “aw, verr”? Was it summarily dismissed as being an inferior catch phrase by people in other communities and immediately put to death? Or was it somehow kept captive forever in the Buffalo City like that Austrian family that was imprisoned in a basement compound?

Why does this matter? It doesn’t, really – “aw, verr” isn’t some sort of magical spell that cures cancer.  But it does matter conceptually. Ideas – even bad ones – need to travel in order to advance as a society.

So do yourself a favor and drop an “aw, verr” on somebody to day. Worst-case scenario, they’ll give you a dirty look or call you a dirty word. Then you’ll have reason to use it again.

  1. Jeremiah Zediker says:

    TV give up this weird backwards ND saying… No one understands it…

  2. shawnfury says:

    The audio makes it sound even worse than I imagined, and I imagined something pretty bad. Yeah, we’ll keep that as a North Dakota thing.

    In fact, as I listened to it, I thought of a popular South African word, “Shame.” Which they use to mean pity. “Shame, poor Terry. Shame.”

  3. But you guys are missing the point. It’s not about the quality of lack there of – it’s about the fact that it was perpetuated in one town for GENERATIONS without ever being made known to an outsider. How is that even possible?

    • shawnfury says:

      In North Dakota, I find that completely plausible. You and Erstie are perhaps the first two to ever leave the town.

      Or maybe it’s like Fight Club, you don’t talk about aww-ver and when you broke it out on Jess you broke the code.

  4. PatrickManley says:

    Must be nice people in your hometown, never wanting to embarrass you by mentioning “aw verr” outside your presence. You see, the rest of the world pronounces and spells it “oy vey.” I think you may have heard the Costanzas use it on occasion.

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  6. kari says:

    omg! i was just trying to explain to my husband what “aw, verr” meant and i came upon your post. we said it all the time in Beach, ND too! 4 1/2 hrs straight west of Jamestown!

  7. April says:

    My parents used to say that when we were kids…… mom was from Scottsbluff Nebraska but dad from Oklahoma City, not sure which one started it, but glad to see that someone else grew up with that phrase.

  8. jasonh300 says:

    My girlfriend, 39, from Dickinson, ND says this. I vaguely remember hearing something like this with a similar meaning back around 1980 in new Orleans, but it may have been something completely different.

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