Eric’s Sack of Mail: OMG, Damascus

In Eric’s Sack of Mail, we answer letters that warrant polite replies (i.e., letters that aren’t angry or stupid). So here are a couple non-angry e-mails that need answered. (That sentence included foreshadowing, by the way.)

First, a long-time reader named Ian writes:

May I ask a frivolous language-related question? In your review of “Firewall” a line reads “OMG, she’s even working for another Jack!” I’m wondering where you first ran across that “OMG” usage; I have it in my mind that it is a Pacific Northwestism, but I could be wrong. I lived in Portland until just recently and the first time I ever heard it used was by my boss there last year — she kind of dragged it out as follows: “O…M…G…” (as “Friends” star Matthew Perry does with the actual words). For some reason I found it extremely funny and at the same time I wanted to know where it got started.

You may have noticed the Northwest has its own, sometimes quaint, vernacular. For example:

“My car needs washed.”
“My house needs cleaned.”
“The baby wants picked up.”

I believe the latter is a fairly common (though not universal) speech pattern up there — at least I heard it enough to make me think so.

See the foreshadowing now? DO YOU???

To answer Ian’s question, I’ve actually never heard ANYONE say “O.M.G.,” in Portland or elsewhere. I just liked the idea of incorporating chat room slang into more formal writing, and it seemed like a situation that called for an OMG.

I guess I did hear Jack on “Will & Grace” say “BTW” the other night, so maybe that sort of thing is catching on.

As for “My car needs washed,” etc., I’m familiar with that construction, though I haven’t heard it in Portland yet. I do believe it’s a regionalism found in all of the Western/cowboy/frontier states, Oregon included. I can’t imagine ever using it myself, though I do like this murder defense that I’ve seen quoted here and there: “He needed killing.” If someone ever actually used that as his defense, that’s awesome.

Next comes this correction from Marianne:

Thought I’d let you know that, although I liked your review [of “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada”], you made a factual error in your comments regarding what someone might be capable of regarding his own redemption. Saul had his conversion experience on the road to Damascus, not Tarsus. Saul is known sometimes as Saul of Tarsus because that is where he was from.

Doh! Marianne is right, of course, and I’ve corrected the error in my review. What’s funny about this is that when I first posted the review, it said Saul had his conversion on the road to “Tarses.” A helpful reader wrote to tell me it was actually spelled “Tarsus,” and she and I both overlooked the fact that I had the wrong town altogether. It reminds me of a dumb joke from my childhood:

Q: How do you pronounce the capital of Louisiana: “New OR-leans” or “New Or-LEANS?”
A: Neither. I pronounce it “Baton Rouge.”