In Norway, the letter “j” is pronounced like a “y.” For example, “Please meet me down by the fjord (pronounced “fee-yord”) and we’ll canoe around Lake Flekkefjord (pronounced fleck-e-fee-yord).”
As a child, whenever I visited my grandparents, we put “yelly” on our bread and drank “grape yoose” for breakfast. My uncle, whose name, Albert, was the same as my grandfather, not only had to endure the nickname “Junior,” but have it pronounced “Yunior” to add to the humiliation. (He solved the problem when he joined the Army and had everybody call him Al.)
It wasn’t that my grandparents were incapable of making the “j” sound. They made it all the time—whenever a word started with a “y.” We loved to ask my maternal grandmother, “What color is the sun, Grandma?” and she would answer “jellow.” And if Julie was wearing a yellow dress, it would be, “Oh, that Yulie. Doesn’t she look nice in her jellow dress?”
We had all kinds of phrases to make fun of their Norwegian brogues: Gelatin could be red Yello or green Yello or our favorite, lemon—jellow Yello. “Yumpin’ Yimminy!” was a great phrase to yell when we were shocked or amazed. Our grandma had a “yewelry box” on her dresser and if something happened the day before today, why, of course, it happened “jesterday.
By the time my parents came along, their generation had figured out how to pronounce their Js and Ys just like all the other Yankees.
And I don’t know why I happened to think of my grandparents this morning as I walked along the trail—maybe just because I was thinking that it was awfully cold out and that Yanuary will be here before we know it.