Maybe I didn’t hear that right. I thought I did, but Ellen gestured with alarm that I had it wrong.

She has been telling me for some time that I have a hearing problem. I counter that she has a speech problem, like she is talking into her hat as my friend Bill says of his wife Marilyn, or that it’s a matter of getting my attention when I am deep in thought about whatever. 

Do I cup my hand to one ear if I'm having difficulty hearing something? Well, sometimes I do. (Source.)

Do I cup my hand to one ear if I’m having difficulty hearing something? Well, sometimes I do. (Source.)

I sat in on a recent eye exam that Ellen had because I had a question for the doctor. As a technician took readings of Ellen’s vision while her face was resting in a machine used for the exam, I asked the technician if her accent was from somewhere in the Deep South. Since I grew up in northern Tennessee and lived for a time in Georgia, I thought I detected a similarity to Georgia speech.

The technician replied that she was from southern Alabama, from a small town west of Mobile. Ahah!

I said, “I bet you know a lot about pulled pork.” Her eyes lit up as she said, “We have great pulled pork in southern Alabama. We put it on a fresh bun topped with slaw.” Her comment reminded me of Alabama hot dogs that are commonly served with slaw on them as well. 

But she surprised me when she said, “I really like bull penis.” With little thought, I said, “That’s a pretty sexy thing to like!” Ellen gave me a frantic look but could not speak easily because her chin was resting in the exam machine.

The technician then enthusiastically said, “Everybody around there loves them. They sell them from roadside stands.”

A National Geographic video confirms that bull penis is a delicacy in a number of Asian countries. Maybe southern Alabama has a large Asian community, or the locals have picked up on the Asian delicacy and popularized it. 

Ellen’s exam moved along to the next phase and the technician said the doctor would be in shortly. When she stepped out of the room and closed the door, Ellen said the technician did not say bull penis, but boiled peanuts! This made no sense to me since Ellen is from Chicago and she was claiming to understand a Southern accent better than I could.

For some time, after Ellen’s repeated claims that I often misunderstand what she says to me, I had begun to think I should get my hearing checked. That should settle the question, at least until I get older.

My audiology test confirmed that I have a small hearing loss in both ears. I have trouble distinguishing the letters, f, s, and th. The audiologist confirmed that I’m a candidate for hearing aids. I guess I was old enough the day of the test.

But in spite of all this, it is still unclear to me whether Ellen or I understood the technician from southern Alabama. She may have actually said bull penis. That could be something that Ellen and I just did not know about in that part of the South.

However, as I think about it, Ellen may have been right. We know that boiled peanuts are sold along the roadsides in several southern states. We have bought them before and, for us, learning to enjoy them took some practice.

Weeks later I saw this same technician when I went for my eye exam. I did not mention the matter of whether she had said bull penis or boiled peanuts. I remember being a bit sensitive about Yankees teasing me about my southern accent years ago, and ever since I’m reluctant to make fun of anyone’s accent, or for anyone to think I’m making fun of them for the way they speak.

Without knowing for sure which she said, I guess it’s about time for me to get those hearing aids. I usually believe hard scientific evidence. What could they hurt, besides my pride? And they might help. 

Related posts:


Soul Food: Tennessee Pulled Pork 

My No Longer Secret Brisket Recipe for Disaster