In this podcast episode, we explore the slang and local jargon used in Iowa. Symon and Anne share some unique Iowa expressions and what they mean. They discuss the use of “bro” and how it has made a comeback, but in the classroom, Symon prefers to be addressed by his formal name, Mr. Sanborn. They also talk about “Kaipo” which is the name of the company that provides Porta Potties in Iowa, and how people use it as a substitute for the term “Porta Potty.” The highlight of the conversations is when they explain the concept of “going gravel” which means taking a dirt road instead of the main highway. They also share some personal experiences of how friendly and helpful Iowans are to each other, regardless of where they live in the state. Additionally, the hosts touch on the pastime of driving around on gravel roads, which some Iowans enjoy. The episode offers a glimpse into the unique language and culture of Iowa. You may also want to listen to the Percy Sledge song about gravel roads since we talk about gravel roads so much.
Symon also has a podcast called the Count to 10 Podcast. You can find Symon’s podcast and Youtube channel here.
Anne: So, today I’m talking to Symon Sanborn, who has been a behavior teacher for 17 years, who currently works at the public school system in Iowa. Symon has been a close friend of our family for as long as I can remember, and he’s like a big brother to me. In fact, Symon taught me how to drive a car, more specifically, a stick shift in the the rural Iowa countryside when I was, I think, twelve or 13 years old. So that’s an amazing memory that I have, um, of childhood with Symon. And another thing is, in the previous Houston Slang episode, hannah talks about this slang that’s, like, come in clutch. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard it, but it means to help someone out when they’re in a kind of, like, in a situation. Symon has come in clutch for me and for other members of my family so many times. In a nutshell, he’s a very generous person with a great sense of humor. So I wanted to invite him to talk on the podcast today and share a little bit about Iowa lifestyle and also some language, some slang words that you might hear in the Midwest. So thank you so much, Symon, for joining me today on the podcast.
Symon : You bet, Anne. It’s always good to see your face.
Anne: Yeah, you too.
Symon : You want to know about Iowa?
Anne: Yeah. Iowa lifestyle. Because a lot of people, when they think about international people, students, for example, they think about going to New York or to L.A. But Iowa has its own sort of charm.
Symon : I love that word. That word charm is really good. Um, yeah, it’s almost like to enjoy the charm, you have to be tempered by the weather. And growing up in Iowa and having back when I was a kid, we had like, 10ft of snow sometimes and things like that. But now it’s just getting really cold and the snow is not that bad, but it’s just freezing. But before that, during the fall, um, it’s pretty fun. We have the normal kind of, like, football stuff that a lot of the Midwest I mean, a lot of schools have that now. But Iowa in the Midwest and football in the fall is like a special thing. Um, in the spring, it really is. Iowa being a farm state, we just all start growing stuff as soon as we can get it in the ground. Um, I’m not as successful as most people, but, um, the charm of Iowa really is there are so many different groups of people here. It’s kind of an awesome place. And I kind of led with weather. I probably shouldn’t leave with the bad, but, um, that’s the one thing I kind of I always question, is when I walk outside, it’s negative 20 degrees and negative 30 something with wind chill. You’re like, why am I living in this state for? Um, but it just has wonderful things to do. You have a lot of local breweries. When I mean local, I mean, like, people who live here started all these things. So it’s it’s just a really fun place to be. It’s not the most diverse place in the world, um, but there’s a healthy mix. We get a lot of people from Chicago, we get a lot of people from the West Coast, and so it’s a good mix of people. Um, but it’s a pretty white state, to be honest.
Anne: Do you feel like the Midwesterners in general? Could you say, like, they’re very genuine people and they’re generous? Or could you kind of say in general, compared to…?
Symon : I think Iowans are just really people might just say laid back, but I would just say, like, thoughtful and kind and showing up clutch is not a common phrase around here, but that’s what people do for each other all the time. The language hasn’t evolved, but the idea behind it has always been there, as far as I’m concerned. When it comes to being from Iowa, that was one of the things my dad always told me before we even moved here. I think I got here when I was eight, um, was how much he loved the fact that people waved to each other each time they drove by each other. Or if you saw your neighbor out on the side of the road, you would wave high. And so the connection was there, even though you may not even know them that well.
Anne: Yeah, uh, that surprised me, coming back home. It always surprised me to see people smiling, to see people waiving and just stopping on the street randomly and talking to neighbors and chatting and that kind of familiarity. It’s so nice.
Symon : It is really nice. Yeah, I mean, that’s one thing. So you feel part of something. When you feel part of something, then you take its flaws when they come and when there’s issues and things that kind of come up when it comes, like, political wise and things, everybody’s really concerned that we’re a red state now, but I don’t feel that way when it comes to my co-Iowans. I don’t think of, oh, my God, we’re a red state. And now they’re all think the wrong way or, um, the right way, but depending on your leaning. But I don’t think of it that way. I don’t know if we see each other that way. Um, so even though, I mean, most of my friends are conservatives, and they all know my point of view and how I kind of look at things, um, but they’re also really thoughtful and caring and don’t give me a hard time. They don’t give me a lot of grief because I think or feel that way about something. And I do the exact same for them. There’s no reason for us to be divided. So that’s one thing I do like about Iowa is it seems like no matter kind of where you’re kind of at political wise, um, socioeconomical wise, everybody kind of wants to be on the same page together.
Anne: One thing that’s very open-minded don’t you think people are open minded there in general?
Symon : I do think people are open minded. We do have a farming kind of class of people, and those tend to be a lot of older white farmers. Um, and a lot of those farms are owned by corporations now. Um, so you have kind of a political leaning. But even those people are just wonderful people. Do what? I mean, I think that kind of is something I wish everybody can kind of grasp. It’s not just Iowa, but when we start taking sides and saying one person is one thing, then it automatically makes a divide and then we can’t find any answers. So I do like that about Iowa. We all are pretty diverse, but most people are thoughtful and caring and okay, that’s your point of view, and that’s fine. I’m not going to hate you because you think that way or believe that way. So, yeah, it’s a pretty wonderful state to stay, to live in. And it’s kind of what keeps me here is the people that are around us. And I love small towns. I grew up in a really small town. Um, I lived in a little bit bigger of a town for a while. And then I went to huge cities like Washington, DC. And I grew up in Palo Alto, California, which is a pretty big area around Stanford. Um, I would rather live in a small town. Nine times out of ten, probably. When I go to California, I’m good for, like, five days. And then I’m like, there’s not enough space. There’s too many people. That’s too expensive. And I think even that makes me think, maybe think of what you were just saying about Iowa because we have more space around us. I, uh, think it matters when you’re jammed up in an apartment complex or you’re living in a city, you can’t wave, hide everybody, because there’s just too many people. So it’s like, maybe just the proximity of how we are in the world makes us a little bit more calm. And if I need to get away, I just go for a walk and I’m in the woods.
Anne: That’s a good point. It’s so spacious and yeah, you can easily go for a walk in the woods. It’s beautiful, too. I love the natural beauty of Iowa. The rolling hillsides, the streams and so forth.
Symon : ..and that corn blue sky. Those are real things that are pretty incredible. I totally agree. And I think that’s what keeps me connected to Stone City is from our childhood where we live, where we kind of grew up together. Um, it was a really beautiful place to grow up. I mean, it was just absolutely gorgeous. Even in the middle of winter, it just looked picturesque. And that’s probably why Grant Wood painted it and all those good things. But, um, yeah, the natural beauty of Iowa is pretty amazing. And I really hope it becomes something even more beautiful. I mean, I would love for us to become a farming state of more than two crops of food and only raising certain animals. I would like it to be a little bit more diverse, um, just so it stays around longer. Soil issues in Iowa is a big deal. And that’s part of the beauty. Rows of corn and things like that. I get that, but I want it to stay that way. I don’t want to keep just dumping chemicals into the ground to keep it looking in a certain way to feed something. So I just like it to be I would like it to get even more beautiful.
Anne: Hmmmm, for example, I was going to bring this up. That the corn on the cob in the summertime that you can eat, which, um, is so Iowa, you can just buy it from the farmers. However, that’s not the most of the corn grown is to feed cattle and livestock. Right?
Symon : That and ethanol. So most of our corn is now harvest for feedlot, feeding, um, and, um, then the ethanol industry and the ethanol industry is pretty new, but you have so many wealthy people so invested in it, it’ll never change. Ethanol is a big part of it, but yeah, I want to say that I thought the stats were around like 80% went to ethanol and feed lots.
Anne: Ethanol basically fueling cars, essentially. Right. Fueling cars.
Symon : You got it.
Symon : So that idea of eating fresh corn on the cob, uh, which is fantastic, and we definitely have that here, um, it’s the smallest minority, unfortunately.
Anne: Yeah. I mean, you bring up an amazing point about Iowa. There’s so many beautiful things. But behind that there’s also the ecological kind of piece, which I guess one citizen at a time, planting trees, growing their own crops.
Symon : Yeah. Um, I think it goes around like deciding what you’re going to buy. Are you going to go to the grocery store and you’re going to buy stuff from Iowans, buy produce from people who are because you can do that here. ID or grocery store. There’s an area that’s local farmers so if you choose to, you can go in there and buy their stuff. And if they have more of a demand, they’ll have to increase their farm. And it’s kind of how capitalism works. But that’s kind of like leaning in, uh, a better way, so to speak. But, um, yeah, the choices matter. So yeah, being the individual that plants a tree or does something ecologically helps a friend convert his farmland to, um I forget the term, but it’s turning it back, allowing it to go back to like, prairie. And the government pays you to do that because that’s saving topsoil and it’s saving some ecological aspects of Iowa. So there’s opportunities to do stuff like that again, like you said in the beginning, Iowans are thoughtful, um, and caring. And so when they see opportunities that they can pull off, they’ll do it. But it does have to be economically kind of available, too.
Anne: Yeah. Because if you go to the supermarket and buy local crops that are grown locally, are they more expensive than, for example, imports from Florida or from other parts, other states in the US. Like California?
Symon : I don’t think I have I don’t think I’ve seen anything that’s been out of the ordinary.
Anne: Oh, okay. So it’s reasonable.
Symon : You can afford it’s not like the organic section exception where everything’s more expensive. It’s not like that. It’s just these things sometimes it’ll just be spread out throughout the store where you’ll see local peaches or local apples.
Anne: And things like that.
Symon : Uh, and they’re not more expensive than anything else.
Anne: Yeah. And now that I’m living in Galicia and they have this thing here about the smell, when the Galician people leave the country, they really miss the smell. And it always reminds me of Iowa, because Iowa has that smell like the soil after it rains, for example. It has this very earthy, natural smell. Do you feel like that at all, like, this connection to the land?
Symon : Yeah, absolutely. I mean, people joke around or laugh at me sometimes because I’ll be like, oh, God, you smell that? And it’s manure, it’s just couch it. But that’s what I associate with the earth and with growing things, and we need to have it. So when they start plowing fields or we start getting fertilizer and things, natural fertilizer for our flower beds and stuff, I just love that smell. That’s just the smell of, like, uh, new, uh, beginnings, things starting over again.
Symon : Yeah, it is smart. Smells like that really impacts me a lot. I love stuff like that.
Anne: Yeah. Okay, so I want to talk a little bit about some language, some slang words that come from Iowa that you might hear, because I know you’ve lived all over the country, you’ve heard slang from California, from New York. So I’m just wondering if there are some words that you kind of, uh.
Symon : Can teach us or expression. It’s kind of funny. I just had this conversation with my, uh, best friend you’re a big sister and her kids and with my kids at the dinner table, and they were talking about language that they were using. And then they would all laugh at us when we said the same things. Uh, um, because they say, like, oh, my God, please stop talking. You sound that’s so cringey when you say the slang words that they’re using. It was really interesting because I didn’t.
Anne: Think I was that old, really. But even cringey is kind of slang, right? Cringey.
Symon : Oh, cringey.
Symon : What I was kind of thinking was, like, it’s not even a, um, language and words and slang like that has gone global. It’s not just an Iowa thing. So even though your nephew and your niece are from Arkansas and have grown up there and have a little bit of a southern accent and my kids are from Iowa, um, and I have some nephews in California, they all use the same language because it’s what they see on the internet. So it’s TikTok, it’s all that stuff. So they all learn it’s the latest TikTok or not TikTok. But YouTuber guy who starts using, uh, what’s the most recent one I’ve heard of my school? Bro.
Anne: Really? Bro.
Symon : Bro. And I’m like, that’s a slang word from when I was a kid. That’s come around again. But it’s some YouTuber who talks like that, really? I have to tell my students, don’t call me bro. You can call me Mr. M. Sanborn. I’m not a bro. But that’s the idea behind it is that they’re all seeing all this stuff from such a young age. And they kind of choose what’s popular to start talking. And it happens sooner. Like, the next word will be something else and bro will be gone. I give it two weeks and it’ll be gone. And another one will be popping up. Interesting. An Iowa one. Back to the original question. Sorry. The Iowa one. I would probably say “Kaipo.” Um, instead of a Porty Potty, we say “Kaipo” because that’s one of the main companies that does Porta Potties in Iowa.
Anne: At the football games or something, you would go and if you need to use the bathroom, you’d be like, I’ve got to go to the Kaipo.
Symon : I’m going to go to the Kaipo. I’ll be right back. We’re like a football game tailgate Iowa game or something.
Anne: Oh, nice. Yeah.
Symon : Uh, going gravel. That’s kind of an obvious one.
Anne: I don’t even know. First of all, the listeners probably don’t know what gravel is. Gravel roads would be roads that are not paved, that are sort of dirt roads or roads out of little petals.
Symon : Little roads in the world.
Anne: So what does going gravel mean?
Symon : So this means you’re going to go off of the highway or you’re going to go off of the main road and you’re going to take a grab. I would be like, um, hey, I’m going to take the long way home. I’m going to go gravel home. So people just know that you’re going to be I don’t even know if it’s a reason why, but I know that it’s a scary to drive on gravel. It’s loose. And you can roll your car around pretty fast. Um, and it’s not paved. So there’s no lines in the road. So you have to be aware of being on one side of the road all the time. So you have to be much more aware. So go on gravel means it’s a little chancier, but I like that one.
Anne: In many states, it may not like this idea of going gravel because I remember when my mom lived out in the countryside. I got stuck in the ditch and I was on the gravel road and these neighbors came through with a pickup truck and just like, helped me get out of the situation. Uh, yeah, they pulled me out. Basically. I just bring up that story because you talked about Iowans helping each other out, mhm, and in that case it was like truly yeah.
Symon : And it doesn’t even have to be like on a farm or gravel road. Uh, I finally bought a motorcycle when I turned 50 and I was really excited about it. And I had a friend who wanted to go for a ride. He was like, hey, I’ll go with you for your first ride to be awesome. So we kind of driving around and we’re by Indian Creek Nature Center and it’s kind of a little back-roady-ish, but we’re kind of coming back into Cedar Rapids on the east side and my bike stops working and I’m like, gosh darn it, M, I should have done something more. I should have been checked out better because now it’s not working. And so it kind of sputters and stops and gets to the top of this hill and I ran out of gas. I was out of gas. So a normal kind of sandborn thing, but I’ll take some, uh, part of that. But there’s a guy sitting in his lawn chair at his house like 100 yards away. I just kind of walked over my home and I go, hey, I’m really sorry. I said I think I ran out of gas. Do you have a can I can go get some, or do you have any spare gas? Gave me a can that was full of gas. I filled it, gave it back to him. He’s like, hey, you have a good day, what do I owe you? He’s like, oh, you’re okay, don’t worry about it. Glad you get home safe. And that was like coming in the Cedar Rapids. Uh, I think people think of Iowa being rural a lot, which it is, but that friendship or that friendliness goes across all areas of the state.
Anne: Yeah. That’s amazing. Yeah. Another thing I wanted to bring up was, um, I think Iowans like to just drive around on gravel roads. It’s a pastime, honestly. People like to live in or just drive around in the gravel.
Symon : Right, yeah, you’re right. I mean, you can definitely get around without gravel. If you don’t like it, your car dirty. Which is how I’m getting to the age where I’m like, oh God, dirty. Um oh my gosh. Yeah, just driving around.
Anne: Right. It’s just kind of fun.
Symon : The road that my school is three years old. It’s a brand new multimillion dollar, uh, intermediate school. So it’s fifth and 6th grade and it’s on a road that until five years ago was gravel. And then they paved it for the school. But then at the stop sign at the end of the kind of school boundary, it goes gravel again. So even a really fancy area in Marion, Iowa, still has gravel roads. I mean, right? We could be on gravel in five minutes. And it’s kind of fun because you get to see farms, just farms and animals. And it’s wide open spaces. I mean, you go out and gravel at, um, night and get out of your car in the summertime, and it’s like the sky is just lit up.
Anne: Yeah, you can see those.
Symon : It’s pretty amazing.
Anne: The stars, everything. It just shines so brightly, which you could never see in a big city, unfortunately.
Symon : No.
Anne: Yeah. That’s amazing. The story of going gravel, I love it. So good. So, Iowa, this is really just culturally very odd.
Symon : I think that’s why I was really happy to move to Marion from Cedar Rapids, is that cedar Rapids is not a big city. It’s got 150,000 people in it. So it’s not big, but it’s one of the bigger cities in Iowa. But it was still kind of too big for me. And so then I went to the outskirts, which is Marion. And it’s a little bit more rural. It’s a very suburb kind of thing. Um, but Stone City is 15 minutes away. Everything’s really close, and so I don’t have to be kind of confined. I mean, definitely in a neighborhood. Very nice place, but really quick. I can get out of town. And I really like that. And we do that a lot. We have a lot of really awesome parks around us. And so even in the wintertime, we’ll go and go for a walk along the Wapsy River or the Cedar River, or there’s three big parks around here that are just beautiful. And it’s just really nice to be able to at any point, any day, you could just drive an hour and you get to a place that’s just beautiful.
Anne: Yeah, that’s so nice.
Symon : Do, uh, you want more? Oh, yeah. I thought of this one that, um I didn’t know if it was slang, but, um, Ragbrai.
Anne: Oh, yeah.
Symon : Ragbrai is a bicycle race that goes from the Missouri River all the way across Iowa to the, um, Mississippi River. And you dip your back tire in the Missouri and you ride all the way across the state. Takes five to six or seven days, and there’s little stops all the way along. Um, it is kind of a drink fest. Uh, and I did it one time, and it was an incredible group of people, um, that every night they would drink. And I was like, I cannot drink and then expect to get up in the morning and ride my bike 70 miles. I was like, yeah, not going to happen.
Anne: Did you have a regular road bike or a mountain bike?
Symon : No, I had a regular road bike.
Symon : But even my I’m cheap in a sense. So my mountain bike and my road bike are the same thing. I just have two separate rims for knobby tires and for street tires. And so this street tire is about as wide as, um, a, uh, mountain bike tire. But it’s slick, so it’s made for the street. But even that tire, I would go slow because everybody else is like, racing tires on their bike went really fast. And I was like, I thought for sure it’d be great. But anyway, so it was just ragbry is a really awesome event that, um, people come from all over the world.
Anne: To go to bikers, right? 20,000.
Symon : It’s crazy. You have elite cyclists, you’ll have like, uh, the United States Air Force has a cycling team. And you’ll hear like, as you’re riding down the street, they close all the roads. As you’re driving down the street, you’ll be like, on your left, and then like, ten guys will go by you at like 45 miles an hour, and they’re all tucked together, like you would see, like, in the Tour de France or something. And the rest of us are just sitting there with hard hats that have beers in them, m, that have straws to your mouth as you ride your bike down the street. So it’s just kind of like it’s a really neat thing. But Ragbrai is a pretty unique word for it, too. But yes, it’s just a big bicycle race.
Anne: Yeah. So fun. I went, I tried to go, and I basically dropped out after the first day because, um, my boyfriend at the time was like, you just need a bike. You don’t need to train or anything. So I ended up going on a mountain bike and basically, I couldn’t even make the first day.
Symon : No way.
Anne: Yeah, I went on a mountain bike. It was ridiculous.
Symon : And I hate to burst your bubble, but when I did it, there were two guys in those old tiny handlebar mustaches, old 18th century clothes, and they were riding those big, huge single wheel things the entire way, so they might be faster than you on a mountain bike. But I could not believe I mean, one time I was going down the hill and this guy was leaning back in it with his feet on the handlebars, going down the road, down a hill. That’s how good he was at it. And I was just like, I could not and they were legit, old tiny bikes. And they dressed that way, too.
Anne: And you saw them on a daily basis during Ragbrai? Every day. Wow. Yeah.
Symon : And then there are some people that have businesses for Ragbrai that, um, just by a week of Ragbrai, they make almost all their money for the year because there’s so many people. Um, some guy bought an old fire truck and turned the back of it into a, uh, brick oven and made brick oven pizzas. Made a gazillion dollars doing it. Just so many people. And it’s so fun. But the best part about it is you get to see so much of.
Anne: Iowa, and you get to see small towns and small town life.
Symon : That’s all you see people are you don’t go through. Yeah, I got to see parts of Iowa that I’d never seen before. My Grandpa Troutner, who lived in California, would joke around that. He didn’t believe that we had 99 counties in Iowa. He was just like, 99 counties? What are you talking about? Um, and you get to see during Ragbrai, if you go consistently every year, you’ll see every single county. It’ll start from some county and start from the top of the state. And as you work across to the bottom. When I did it, it was, um Council Bluffs, I think, to, um no, there’s Sioux City. That’s Ohio, though. But all the way to Davenport. So it cut across at an angle, the state. And it was really and again, it’s just beautiful.
Anne: And it’s like there’s nothing like that. It’s so unique. It’s such a unique experience that you can have in the states.
Symon : Yeah, like you said, it kind of goes back to all the things we talked about earlier. You blow a tire, somebody will stop and fix your tire for you on rack ride. You get to drive on all these you never go on gravel, but, um, they shut down the roads in and out of these small towns. And you get to drive on these highways that are open because there’s no cars. And you’re just driving through farmland, you’re driving through forests of trees. You drive by farms, and the kids are outside playing in sprinklers and waving to you with signs. It’s like a really incredible way to experience Iowa, for sure.
Anne: Oh, yeah. Incredible. I don’t want to do it again. Some of the listeners will.
Symon : You never know. And the crazy part is, one of the years that I didn’t go, um, I let a friend borrow my tent and a tornado hit Ragbrai.
Anne: Oh, my God.
Symon : And I want to say that was in Altoona, Iowa, which is just east of, uh, Des Moines. Uh, so they all had to go into some park shelter, some cement building, and all their stuff blew away. I guess that’s probably not promoting Iowa very well, um, or Ragbrai. But it’s kind of like you get to experience thunderstorm with lightning striking all over. Ah, it’s pretty cool.
Anne: Yeah. Because Iowa has so many beautiful thunderstorms in the spring.
Symon : Oh, m my gosh, I love yeah.
Anne: There’s nothing like the thunderstorms there.
Symon : My wife and I open our doors and our windows when big thunderstorms hit. We open all the doors in our living room. We’ll just lay on the couch, all the lights off, and just listen to the thunderstorm roll in and the lightning and the thunder. It’s awesome.
Anne: Yeah. I haven’t experienced that kind of storm in other places that I’ve lived, for sure.
Symon : Interesting. Isn’t that funny? I was like, I just assumed everybody had thunderstorms.
Anne: I know. No, Indonesia, you don’t have that kind of thunder and lightning in other places where it’s tropical, it’s just like a downpour. But you don’t have that kind of lightning and thunder. Yeah, it’s not as dramatic.
Symon : Well, and a lot of that’s, I think, probably. I know that in the summertime, when the corn is getting high, um, it gets really muggy. And we can be, I think, like 10% muggier than normal just because of the corn. It’s putting a lot of moisture into the air, and it kind of holds the heat into the ground. And so, yeah, they’ll talk about it on the news, even about the humidity due to the corn being above 4ft, that kind of thing.
Symon : It’s kind of interesting how the crops can affect kind of like, the climate a little bit around us.
Anne: Yeah, that’s true. It’s kind of this heat, this oven, this big oven.
Symon : It’s interesting. I went to Orlando, Florida, and I walked off the plane, and I was like, oh, this is so nice. It was kind of humid. It was, like, 09:00 at night. It was like 85 degrees. I was like, oh, this is nice. Sometimes Iowa heat is just so oppressive. Like, it’s the opposite of those negative days in the winter. Uh, it is just so, like, you can’t go outside.
Anne: I remember just putting my sheets in the freezer and trying to freeze my sheets in order to sleep at night.
Symon : I remember with no, uh, fan. And I remember being on my bed in my underwear, stretched out so that I didn’t touch any other part of my body, just so I might catch some breeze that might bring me some coolness. As a kid, it was so hot.
Symon : And that’s not kind of mosquitoes hot mosquitoes are bad, too.
Anne: Oh, yeah, exactly.
Symon : That’s why I’m thinking about building a screened in porch. That way I can listen to thunderstorms. I can be outside in the rain. I can smoke my cigars in a nicer place in the garage.
Anne: That’s true.
Symon : Uh, but then I can also have, like, um, when it is nice in the summertime, the mosquitoes can be pretty rough, so I like to screen it in so I could be outside. I just love being outside. The more I can facilitate being outside, even, uh, it’s winter or bad heat or bad mosquitoes. I want to make that happen because yeah, I get cooped up really easy. I like to be outside. I grew up doing that. Right. We run around Stone City like crazy, riding our bikes and do stuff so free.
Symon : Yeah.
Anne: I don’t like but even you use the expression cooped up, which is like this feeling of just being home too much and you need to get out. Um, but Iowa is so spacious. It’s hard to imagine feeling cooped up in these huge houses a lot of people have really big houses.
Symon : Yeah, they do. I mean, our house is not a big house, but it’s doubled in its profit or what do you call equity or whatever you call. Um, because our school district is really highly regarded. It’s one of the top couple of the state. So the area around us is just booming economically.
Symon : And house wise, people sell houses around. Yeah. $250 to $300,000 is the average price now for a house in our area.
Symon : Because to me, you used to think of just like, that’s impossible. How could anybody pay that much? A quarter million dollars? Right. Um, but I’m lucky that our house is getting close to being paid off and things like that. But it’s nice to know that we have the money that we put into it. We’ll get back. We could be in a very different shape if the economy was worse. But we’re kind of lucky that it’s not a big house, but it’s perfect for what we need. But you’re right.
Anne: You come to Europe for a little while and stay here. Then you’re going to go back and be like, oh, my God, our house is a mansion. Because, oh, I bet the space here is totally different. The apartments are so small.
Symon : Everything there are suburbs there. Like, we have houses and things.
Anne: Yeah, there are. But still, those houses are still smaller than what I would consider, like, a normal sized house in the US. Yeah.
Symon : So really? A normal sized house in the US. $300 where I live. Like a mansion.
Anne: Yeah, exactly. Your house would be a mansion here. Yeah.
Symon : Okay. Yeah, I like that. I’m going to start thinking about that. If I was in Europe, I’d be in a mansion. This place isn’t half bad.
Anne: Uh, do you have one last word to finish up with or not really.
Symon : We can, um I think Ragbry was the one that I had.
Anne: Uh, yes. I love that idea, though, of, uh, what you were saying about the younger because you have teenagers, too, right? So you’re always hearing the teenagers coming in with new slang that it’s just circulating so quickly you can’t even keep up with it. So that’s fascinating. Um, okay. For people who are learning English as a second language, do you think slang is something that is interesting for them to learn? Like, if they want to kind of fit in culturally, or is it kind of just fun? Is there something fun about the words, or is it interesting?
Symon : That’s a great question. I would think that this might be the teacher. I mean, I would think that you get the basics down and you don’t worry about ah, because, I mean, slaying in and of itself is kind of something that gets picked up by people. So it’s not like something people learn consciously. Like, you and your ABCs, you learn it through your interactions with other people. So I think it’s more about the idea of learning the basics would be, to me, fundamental. And then you’ll start having more English conversations. And when you do those conversations, you’ll start picking up on slang pretty fast.
Symon : I said you all for a long time, I lived in Virginia. I said, “y’all” for, ah, like, two or three years afterwards till it just kind of faded because I wasn’t around anybody who was using that word anymore. So it kind of just left my lexicon.
Anne: Kind of, you went back to you guys, because this word is just you guys is rubbing me the wrong way now as I start to hear you all so much.
Symon : Yeah, you, uh, know what, you guys, um, especially when it comes to more transgendered issues. I can see why that would bother.
Anne: People, you know what I mean? Exactly.
Symon : So what’s funny is, when I graduated from college in, like, 1990 something, um, I had a professor who was really big about that. And I say it all the time, all the time. And even now, I try consciously not to do it, and it’s still hard. But she said to me, she said, try to find a way to get yourself out of this habit. And she was talking to everybody. It wasn’t just me. Um, but I remember in my very first teacher, uh, student teaching classroom, really, I caught myself partway into it, just doing it all the time. And I had one classroom, a freshman, and it was a social studies class. It was fun, and I really enjoyed it. But one day I said, hey, I want you guys to help me with this issue. I say you guys all the time. So every time I say it, I want you to let me know. And maybe I’ll do a dollar for every hash marker and we’ll have a pizza party after the end of the eight weeks or whatever, but let’s kind of make it a game, but maybe I’ll get out of this happen. So by the end of two or three days, I had like 100 and something like, yeah. And I was like, I can’t even afford this, so I got to figure out how to change this thing up. Um, so what I did to help myself out was I told them as a group, uh, that only if it’s blatant, like, if they really catch me doing it. Um, and if they are talking when I’m talking, and I have to ask them to quiet down, they’re going to lose a hash mark. So they were freshmen, so they were still kind of chatty. And I eventually got down to a manageable amount of it, but it didn’t help me at all. So it’s a terrible story because it didn’t do anything, uh, besides me had to buy more pizza than I probably wanted to after that eight weeks. But it’s like, really?
Anne: You kept just saying, you guys.
Symon : Yeah, and, um, the word is escaping me. But it’s kind of like it’s a very hetero, male kind of language. And, um, I don’t think I have lots of women friends, obviously, who don’t think anything about it. But I can see why it’s like, why is that common language that we use things like that when we’re made up? Half of us are women, so why are we not saying something different? I have people who get pissed off about it and are like, who cares? Does it matter? And I can kind of see their point of view. Are we really that concerned about some words and some attitudes? But I think it’s a thing to be aware of. You know what I mean? Just to be conscious of that. We’re not all just guys. It’s a pretty simple concept.
Anne: And also, do you think there’s a way to say you in the plural, but in a formal interview? Because I was thinking of this, because you all is so informal, but if you want to address a group of people in an interview, you would say, like, all of you here. Because you’re not going to say you guys at an interview either, because that’s really informal, too.
Symon : I would say I can go to everyone.
Anne: Okay. Yeah.
Symon : Always easy one. Everyone presents.
Anne: Everyone present.
Symon : All of us gathered here or all.
Anne: Of us gathered here, all of us.
Symon : In this process, I usually go to everyone, and then you all, instead of you all would even try to do it. But you all that are present. Or, um, thank all of you for the opportunity to have an interview today, or whatever it might be.
Symon : That’S a really good point, because maybe it is. You all and guys are kind of all encompassing words. I, ah, can kind of see that. Um, I don’t think there’s any issue with you all, but it tends to be a little bit more of a Southern thing.
Anne: That’s another thing someone pointed out. It’s considered Southern, but it’s spreading, like you said in Virginia. Well, Virginia is kind of still the south, right?
Symon : Yeah, but that’s cool, too, because you all has been around for a long time and continues. Yeah, so that’s kind of cool. Um, but yeah, I think the you guys thing is something that people can work on, just be better at, just to be thoughtful, making you do anything. We’re not the thought police or the word police, as far as I’m concerned. You shouldn’t be. But just being, like, being more thoughtful about it makes sense. Why would you not want to be? Because half of my associates in my classroom no, all of them are except for one gentleman. And I say you guys all the.
Symon : One guy there.
Anne: After this conversation, I bet you’re going to start thinking about it, though.
Symon : I bet you I will. I’ll think about it for about a week. I’ll be very conscious of it, and then it’ll go right back to what I was just being honest. Uh, I fall back into easy patterns easily.
Anne: Well, this conversation has been wonderful. I really appreciated it. Simon I’ve loved talking about Iowa. Iowa culture, language that you’ll hear there are words from Iowa and just what people could find if they visited Iowa. It’s like a hidden treasure that people don’t even realize of, um, the state. It is incredible.
Symon : Art museums here. There’s incredible artists here. There are incredible writers here. There’s a lot of really neat things that the University of Iowa and Iowa State universities just are incredible, um, places, uh, like learning and change.
Anne: University of Northern Iowa, as well, is really incredible.
Symon : Yeah. You and I is awesome. We have lots of incredible lots of really small colleges that are around, um, part of the Catholic school system that run up and down to the Midwest. Yeah. There’s some pretty awesome.
Anne: The Iowa Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa, which is very famous. World famous. Yeah.
Symon : Grant Wood. I mean, he’s way up there with all the other famous American painters.
Anne: Yes, that’s true. So you’re making me feel so proud of the state where I was born.
Symon : Uh, are you homesick at all?
Anne: It’s making m me very homesick, actually, because I love coming home to Iowa.
Symon : Yeah. The home that we get to come to. If you and I went back to your old house, it’s still there. It’s still in the same spot. I know people can do that in the city and go see the house or the apartment they grew up in. But it’s really cool to go back to very small town and see the house that you were born and raised in, that you have all these connections, family and friends that think of you and I when you were born. You know what I mean? So there’s a lot of deep connections that get formed. And that whole idea that I think it’s the opposite. Blood is thicker than water. I was thinking the opposite of that. Iowa is, like, this gathering of people that kind of come together and are such an incredible community. So yeah, it’s a special place, for sure.
Anne: Yeah, I know. And we have so many stories from our childhood that could be in another podcast, a different podcast episode.
Symon : If I should write a book about the stories, and they’re like, it’s fun just to hear your stories.
Symon : And I’m like, well, it’s fun to tell you guys. I’m not sure reading a book about it would be I think it would be in my spare time.
Anne: Annie yes. In all of your spare time, you can start writing the short stories.
Symon : There you go. You got it.
Anne: Okay, well, I hope the listeners have enjoyed this, uh, episode, and we will see you next time.
Symon : Thanks.