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A Loss for Words

(April 2002) posted on Tue May 07, 2002

Wolff explores the idiosyncrasies of screen-printing idioms and explains why it's so important for printers to share a common vocabulary.

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By Bron Wolff

A few weeks ago I was riding in a cab in Chicago when I asked the driver, "Where's a good place to get something to eat at?" Instead of answering my question, the driver responded, "Oh! You're from the Region." The "region" he was referring to is an area of northern Indiana roughly between Michigan City and LaPorte. I asked, rather stunned, how he had correctly guessed where I was from. He said it was because I used an "at" on the end of my question, and he told me it was an expression that is exclusive to this area of Indiana. Well, I wasn't confident that his statement was 100% true, but it got the conversation started. He went on to explain how he had become interested in dialects, accents, and vocabulary after moving to the US. He said he wrote down oxymora and idiomatic words whenever he heard them, and that's how he learned English. Now, I have a college degree, three and a half rows of battle ribbons from the military, and a $1.50 for coffee, but I had no concept or clue what idiomatic meant. I told him I knew what oxymoron meant, such as military intelligence or gourmet Chinese food (he liked that one), but what did idiomatic mean? He told me an idiom was a phrase or expression used in a particular part of the country or by a singular group. People that are not from that group or area may not know or understand the term or phrase. He used the example of a "Gapers block" as being a Chicago idiom (that's what they call rubberneckers who slow down traffic to gawk at an accident or other scene). I'm not sure if that term is specific to Chicago or not, but the conversation was good and the taxi ride went fast, which made me forget the cost of my fare. It also got me thinking about this goofy industry of ours and how frequently we use "buzz" words or idioms to represent key concepts without stopping to think if we actually understand one another. Buzz words To an outsider, screen-printing terminology must look like Greek. To an insider, it's only a little less confusing. Take moir


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