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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Do Northeast Ohioans have an accent?

“I was told that Northeastern Ohio is one of the few areas that speaks American-English without an accent. Is that true?” The Newton Falls Public Library staff’s immediate thought was everyone has a regional accent; but we don’t judge questions, we only seek to answer them. It is time to seek the truth.

The American Language; an inquiry into the development of English in the United States by H.L. Mencken, published in 1936, is old but an excellent place to begin. Our questioner used the term accent, Mencken refers to our differences in speech as “regional peculiarities and intonation” [p. 90] and “localisms” [p.416]. There is an entire chapter dedicated to The Pronunciation of American. The main dialects listed in this chapter are Western American [which includes northern Ohio], the New England, and the Southern. The language of immigrants in these areas also colors the manner in which words are spoken. Mencken notes that “the standard American that seems to be gathering form today is principally Western, and Dr. J. S. Kenyon, the author of the best existing textbook of American usage, did well to base it on ‘the cultivated pronunciation of this own locality – the Western Reserve of Ohio’ [p 327].” This was Kenyon’s opinion in 1928, but is it still considered to be so?

In 2004, James L. Fitch, Ph. D presented a paper titled, Standard American English (SAE) []. He describes Standard American English as easily understood by everyone and does not mark someone as being from a particular geographic area. It is more formal than General American English and is routinely used in business.

PBS has a website, Do You Speak American? []. American Standard is actually an idealized way of speaking and is taught by accent coaches. These 'accent reduction'
classes to lose regional dialects are taken by actors, business people, and other professional communicators. While Midwestern speech is not as distinctive in its differences as that of New Yawkers or ya’ll down South, it does have things which also make it unique. It cites examples of these regionalisms, including that Midwesterners say Dawn and Don in the same fashion rather than as two different words. Apparently, while we are not without an accent, we are considered to have the most neutral sounding one.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Mahoning River

“Where does the Mahoning River begin?” “How high are the falls along the East and West branches of the Mahoning River in Newton Falls?” Two individuals, one from Michigan and one locally, had questions for the Newton Falls Public Library staff pertaining not to our covered bridge, but to the river beneath its span.

The History of Newton Falls compiled by Ella Woodward [p.1] has an interesting story about the origin of the Mahoning River. Near Sebring, Ohio, a small stream became greatly swollen overnight. When the local farmer went to investigate, he found water welling up in immense volume from a mammoth artesian well and underground river. A deep ravine formed for the waterway. A less romantic answer, according to the website The Mahoning River Watershed
[], “the Mahoning River begins near Winona in Columbiana County, a few miles southeast of Alliance.”

The second question concerned the height of each of the falls along the East and West Branches of the Mahoning River in Newton Falls. According to the information in The History of Newton Falls [p.100], “east branch . . . consisted of a dam 150 feet long with 12 foot head . . . West branch dam reconstructed to be 60 feet long and 18 foot head.” The library staff also contacted the Army Corps of Engineers. What local individuals refer to as the West Branch of the Mahoning River, the Corps considers a tributary of the river, and the East Branch is identified as the Mahoning River. In 2003, their calculation for the dam on the Mahoning River [East Branch] is 11.2 foot high.

These questions got the staff wondering about other things. Where does the name Mahoning originate? Mahoning is an Indian word meaning ‘salt licks.’ This information was found at Ohio History Central, an online encyclopedia from the Ohio Historical Society []. Where does the river end? It travels approximately 113 miles from its origin to join the Shenango River to form the Beaver River in Pennsylvania.

Interesting information and reading about the river, Newton Falls, and the Pennsylvania and Ohio Canal which ran in part along the river can also be found in Our Living History, Lyman’s Histories and Stories of Newton Falls by Lima Lyman, History of Trumbull and Mahoning Counties, and Pennsylvania and Ohio Canal: 160 years, 1840-2000 by Marilyn R. Lown.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Can Wild Birds and Pets Catch Salmonella?

“I was going to buy some seed and peanut suet for the wild birds, and thought about the peanut butter problem in the news. Can birds get salmonella?” Many Newton Falls Public Library staff members also enjoy feeding the birds and have pets of their own, so we wondered about them as well.

In Bird Owner's Home Health and Care Handbook by Gary A. Gallerstein,
there is a section about intestinal disorders. It states that salmonella is a “notorious” cause of this disorder [p. 143]. Gallerstein’s book has an interesting chapter on wild birds, how to attract them, their food preferences, and the care of injured or orphaned birds. Searching online revealed additional information about this infection and birds. AvianBioTech.Com [] listed general symptoms which include lethargy, anorexia, diarrhea, and in chronic cases, arthritis (particularly in pigeons) that may be present. They also include unique clinical symptoms for certain species of birds. In the online article, Salmonella Infection in Birds: Maintain a Bird Feeder that Won’t Spread Salmonellosis
by Rosemary Drisidelle
[], Drisdelle lists many tips for maintaining safe conditions. Some of the hints are: start with a good birdfeeder; bake birdseed for one hour at 250F; keep the feeder clean and disinfected; and minimize the growth of mold in the seed. She also notes that birdbaths can be a source of the spread of salmonella and other diseases, so it should be refreshed and disinfected.

The Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health has information on salmonella infection in cats, dogs, gerbils, guinea pigs, hamsters, horses, and pet mice and rats. The disease is more frequently seen in hamsters and gerbils, than other the domesticated animals.

Information about the peanut product recall is available from the Food and Drug Administration’s website []. There you will find links to all pet products affected by this recall. The FDA also included a warning on the site for people who may handle contaminated pet food products, to wash their hands with hot water and soap before and after handling pet-food products and utensils. According to this site, the symptoms of Salmonella infections in pets include lethargy, “diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. Well animals can be carriers and infect other animals or humans. If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, contact your veterinarian.” They also report that as of March 2, they have not received any reports of illness associated with pet products.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Get Back to Work @ the Newton Falls Public Library Computer Skills Training Courses

“I’m trying to find a job. Can you help me? I know nothing about computers; they want me to apply online. I need to . . .” “Get back to work” are wonderful words for a laid-off employee to hear. The Newton Falls Public Library is trying to help people to do that very thing with computer skills training courses. The R. J. Wean Foundation provided the grant monies allowing the library to purchase the necessary equipment for the new wireless laptop computer lab.

Computer classes and labs will cover the topics of:
· basic computer skills
· setting up email accounts
· online job searching including the Ohio Career Information System [OCIS]
· resume and cover letter writing
· navigating government assistance sites such as Ohio Unemployment Benefits Online
· accessing the online tutorials at Learning Express, as well as LearningExpress Library‘s practice tests including the GED.
· MS Office Basics
· MS Excel
· OCIS for high school students, including interest and career assessment, and post high school education
· photosharing.

Trained library staff will teach and guide class attendees, so they can increase their opportunities to find a job. A listing of the classes and labs is available at the Newton Falls Public Library.

The library also has an extensive collection of materials to borrow with information to aid in job searching, cover letter and resume writing, interviewing, and skills improvement, along with handouts about getting an email account and resume writing, including online resources. Feel free to ask our helpful staff to direct you to these items.