On a business trip to Baltimore, I walked to Inner Harbor and was enticed by a Blue Crab Special sign at a tourist restaurant. I like crab, and I love eating the local specialty when I travel. I took a seat at an outdoor table.
The waitress came over to explain the details on the special. She rattled it all off slightly faster than I could follow: how much they charged by the pound, where the crabs were from, what kinds of seasoning you could request.
But one detail struck me odd.
“Did you say the crabs were from Illinois?” I asked.
“Yes, she repeated, “Illinois.”
She pronounced the “S.” Hard. It came out “Il-uh-NOIZ.”
I grew up in Chicago. It sits on Lake Michigan. Which is a lake. A Great Lake, but a lake. And it’s the only major body of water anywhere near the state of Illinois. We used to go smelting when I was a kid. I didn’t remember much about the state’s aquatic industry, but I guarantee that Illinois does not produce blue crabs.
All this raced through my confused head, but for some reason what actually popped out of my mouth was, “I’m from Illinois.” I pronounced it “Il-un-NOI.”
She looked at me and repeated slowly, “I’m pretty sure it’s Illinois,” pronouncing the “S” again.
I was flabbergasted. Did she really correct my pronunciation of the state I’d just told her I was from?
Nope. I’d misinterpreted. She wasn’t referring to the pronunciation.
She continued, “Or maybe jt’s Louisiana.”
Aha! Now I could help her out, “I’m pretty sure it’s Louisiana.”
She explained, “I always get those two states mixed up. I think it’s because they both have an L in them.”
The crabs were delicious.