Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Provo, Utah

Provo, Utah
Originally uploaded by BellePhotos.

I looked for photos on flickr that would somehow convey Utah or Provo and while this isn't exactly what I was looking for, I sort of love it. It's an interesting diptych. Both photos are taken on campus here at BYU - on the right is the Harmon building which is where the department who governs my particular degree here (through independent study) is located. Also, as an undergrad here in the 80s, my ward met in that building. So it's oddly appropriate, plus, I just like it.

My entry doesn't have a whole lot do with anything related to the photo though.

Everytime I get off the plane in Salt Lake a few things occur to me - well actually things start to occur to me before I ever even get on the plane.

1. I have never seen so many people "pre-board" on Southwest as the people who are traveling from Phoenix to Salt Lake - and it doesn't occur as much in reverse (though theoretically it should...could be the time of day I am flying), "Pre-board" are people who have children under the age of 5 or the Elderly, especially those in wheelchairs. There are scads of both and all of the families are usually big families. So it might be a family with 6 kids and one of them happens to be under 5. With Southwest there is "open seating" so this kind of annoys some people, although it doesn't annoy me. I just notice it as some kind of phenomenon particular to people flying to Utah.

2. Immediately after you get off the plane in Salt Lake the number of people traveling with children increases exponentially. Explodes actually.

3. Utahns and by extension, mormons, have a particular "look". Now I don't mean in that "I can just tell they are mormon" way - that's a spiritual thing and it is true, sometimes you can "tell" and that happens to me in Phoenix all the time when I am at a restaurant or something and I can just tell someone sitting near me is mormon and then this is usually confirmed by the spotting of underwear lines or some such thing - a ctr ring perhaps. I am talking about something else. It's a physical look. It's almost like there are "types" and there are these certain looks, it's quite a combination of something I would think of as typically scandinavian and brittish. Also there is an "Idaho" type that is more specific and I can spot people in the airport who are from Idaho. Actually I can hear it and see it in their dress too. It's a very subtle distinction, but one that I am aware of most of the time.

4. Utahns and Idahoans have an accent. Do people from Arizona? I don't know. When I moved to Utah from Idaho long ago I noticed that in Idaho if you are going to the store you would say "goin to the store" and in Utah you would say "goEnG to the store". The 'i' becomes a strong 'E' sound and the "G" is emphasized like the begining of the word "grapes". I think in Arizona it is just said "normally". And all "ing" words are like this. Sometimes in Utah you will find people who take it a bit further and say "goINK", the 'k' in replacement of the 'g' is subtle, but it's there. In Idaho there are little oddities, like my Grandpa used to say "Pert Near". Which meant something was "almost", it's an adulteration of "pretty near". So there are little things like that which I wouldn't hear someone in Utah say. However in Utah there are little things people say which are so uniquely Utah that they almost grate on my nerves. Take the word "favorite" for example. In native Utahn it is not pronounced "favor it" or even the more usual "favrit", no they have to take it a step further and say "favor ITE". As in that is my FAY VOR EYE T color. I'm not exagerating, it usually has FOUR syllables. People also sound like they are talking with a marble in their mouth. Odd vowells and consonants are drawn out. Like in the sentence "They were really quick". In Utah that might sound like "They whirrrrr rilllly QWwwick" . It's a drawl, but very different from a southern drawl. There's a girl on the radio who when she calls guys "hot", says "hawwwwwwT". They emphasize that last consonant a lot. It's often louder than anything else in the word.

4. There are billboards for a lot of "live free or die" types of groups. The state is largely republican but honestly, what is really is, is largely libertarian. Because if you really start to analyze the way that mormons here think politically, it's not really so easy to peg as republican or democrat but something else entirely. I think this may go back to the days when the church had an entirely seperate political party. When that was broken up Brigham Young assigned families - you be democrat, you be republican - but ulitmately, we never really trusted the federal government, we were much more of an independent bunch. I think this is why many mormons feel more comfortable with republicans who talk about "small government". It's part of our tradition. But our tradition too is very collective, it's very communal, so we have these odd juxtapositions that don't fit in neatly with either party completely. There are some estimates here in Provo that roughly 40% of the population here in Utah County are republicans, 30% are democrat and 30% are "other". The other vote republican often enough for it to swing things significantly in that direction but there have been many notable exceptions.

5. The buzz on the street here regarding Mitt Romney running is very mixed. I would say about half the students I've talked to think it's great and half have big concerns. Many people are so independent they do not want to be pressured to like him just BECAUSE he is mormon. Interestingly, a recent poll here in Utah showed that Romney has the majority but in a close second is Barrack Obama. In one news story they showed that those who had actually read the book "The Audacity of Hope" were more likely to vote for Obama than Romney, mormon or no. Now there's a problem with that statistic because probably, people who were already leaning that way are much more likely to have read the book. However, I do find it interesting that he is second to Romney, and not a different republican. I would have guessed McCain.

These are just little cultural tid-bits for you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

1) Yes, Utah Mormons have an accent! Central & Southern counties render distinctive variations much different from the Wasatch Front speakers. Correspondingly, there is a clear linguistic relationship to the N.E. AZ colonies. My brother-in-law did a research paper on this for his graduate school studies.
2) Yes, there is indeed a "look". Some years are more pronounced than others. Remember spiked 2-toned hair? SUPER-spiked W/O goth makeup = LDS. Now extra long tees worn with over-belts are a dead give away, as are spaghetti strap jumpers w/a tee underneath.


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