April 20, 2005

Litmus test: what does the word ho(e) mean to you?

Many of my students come from rural areas: they've spent their lives working on the family farm or with their Dad's construction company, and they are the first generation to come to college. Some of my other students come from the New York City. Often they are sons and daughters of immigrants, also the first generation to go to college.

The urban students talk about Snowstorm City as if it is a small town. They complain about having to live in a place that doesn't have a subway system, a place where you can't buy a decent bagel or cup of coffee. They miss the bodega on the corner. To the rural kids, Snowstorm is a big city. They complain about the streetlights, the sirens at night, and the traffic. They miss the stars, the spring peepers, the fresh air.

My students are always teasing each other about the difference in their backgrounds. When an urban student used the word ho the other day, a rural student laughed and said, "In my world, a hoe is a gardening tool."

Yesterday, they were reminiscing about a bus trip their first year here. Someone started shooting at the bus. (Three shots - no one got hurt - and no one ever found out why or who did it.) The urban kids on the bus dropped to the floor immediately, shielding themselves as best they could. The rural kids started looking out the windows, asking stuff like "Who is that hunter? Doesn't he know he can't shoot within 100 yards of a road?"

My one suburban student said, in recounting the story: "I just stood there, looking like a fool. I had no idea what was going on. I didn't even know it was gunshot. I had never heard a gun go off before."

14 comments:

timna said...

and I'd think the bus was being shot at if we'd taken a wrong turn between Beer Sheva and Jerusalem (we used to go via Hebron)... different world.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

I love this! I'd be with your suburban student. But this is hilarious. (Not the getting shot at part per se, I should add.)

(Ho[e] = garden implement, but it's all about context...)

Phantom Scribbler said...

Hmmm. Well, if that defines the distinction between us, then I guess I'm a rural girl after all. And my suburban kids will know what gunshots sound like from hearing them at Papa and Grandma's place.

Never used a ho(e), though.

Scrivener said...

There was a similar dynamic when I was a freshman at Tech, actually. I was an urban kid from bad neighborhoods, but stil had little experience with gunfire. But Tech was right on the border of a bad part of town--to get to one friend's dorm you had to walk through a corridor of barbed wire. Whenever I walked a block or two off campus, I'd see spent shell casings all over the place. And I got kind of used to the sounds of gunfire at night. It made me very much aware of different kinds of urban settings. And many of my classmates were from rural GA, and had soem interesting reactions to downtown Atlanta.

Scrivener said...

Meant to say, now that I'm back at Tech, that seems whole worlds away. The area around campus is still not exactly fully gentrified, but it no longer feels dangerous in the way that it did.

Ianqui said...

I love the suburban student. That's awesome.

I've now lived in 2 cities with high gun crime rates, and I have to say I'm still not positive I know what a gunshot sounds like. Whenever white people in a good neighborhood in a big city hear something that *might* be a gunshot, we just assume that it must actually be a car backfiring. That's the excuse for everything.

Except the time the manhole cover burst out and hit the building. That was gunshot loud, but neither a gunshot nor a backfire.

Scrivener said...

Do cars still backfire?

Dr. H said...

oh!! You only have ONE suburban student. now I understand why you had a poem for the rural students and another for the urban ones. I see. I didn't realize what your student population was like.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I think I'd be with the urban students in ducking but I'd be able to identify it as a gunshot because of my dad's rural/hunting background (which he's shared a bit with me).

As for ho(e) (and I have to say this is really funny to read on _your_ site!), it fully depends on context for me.

I'm somewhat entertained by the idea that I'm defined by the ends of the spectrum, with little or nothing in the middle. Not that this is anything new; I'm all about the extremes. ;)

Rana


P.S., since I see Dr. H. is here -- was your use of my name in your last comment on my site intentional? If not, I'll lift the commenting ban I've placed on you.

Rob Helpy-Chalk said...

I don't think cars backfire anymore. On the other hand, urban children still like playing with fireworks. That's why I've switched to saying "That couldn't be a gunshot; it must have been a firecracker" whenever I'm in urban areas.

Also: real gunshots are higher pitched than TV gunshots.

Dr. H said...

Hi, Rana. I don't know what you mean. I sent you email via the email link on your blog.

Songbird said...

jo(e), that's a great story. Would you mind if I work it into my sermon this week?

jo(e) said...

Songbird: You are going to work the ho(e) thing into your sermon? No one ever gives sermons like that where I live ....

Songbird said...

Hmm, I was thinking more the gunshots, but let me give it some thought...
:-)