Speaking Alaskan

If you want to be able to call yourself a real Alaskan, you have to be able to talk the talk. The following multiple-choice questions will test your Alaskan-ness. The answers are at the end of the test.


1. “Spenard divorce”:

a. is a term that has been around since March of 1962, when Carson T. (“Cap”) Spenard crashed his Cessna 185 float plane into a Soldotna motel where his wife and another man were staying.

b. is what can happen when a husband forgets his wedding anniversary, goes fishing all that day, comes home smelling like beer, and says, “What’s for dinner, Sweet Cheeks?”

c. any divorce in which both husband and wife are residents of Alaska.

2. “Frost heaves” are:

a. what you experience when you find a cockroach at the bottom of your bowl of ice cream.

b. what you suffer when you shovel snow too soon after eating.

c. humps in a road, caused by ice that has formed beneath the surface.

3. An “oosik” is:

a. a great word to remember when playing Scrabble.

b. the penile bone of a male walrus.

c. a thigh-length, fur-trimmed garment worn by Inupiat people in summer.

4. To be “combat fishing” means:

a. that you must attend a Combat Fishing Class and have a valid Combat Fishing Permit on your person while fishing.

b. you’re tired of putting up with fish that won’t bite, so you resort to using bullets and grenades.

c. you’re fishing the Kenai River in July.

5. The “Kenai twitch” is:

a. what you start doing after about the third time someone hooks you in the ear while you’re combat fishing.

b. what happens after you’ve stared at the tip of your salmon rod for three hours without a bite.

c. also known as the “smokehouse jerk,” which involves a fast, sweeping motion of a fishing rod, with the intent to snag a salmon with a hook or hooks.

6. “Alaskan sneakers” are:

a. XtraTuf boots.

b. people who sometimes end up in a Spenard divorce.

c. people who think no one is watching them do the Kenai twitch.

7. A “dipnetter” is:

a. someone who fishes with a dip net at the mouth of the Kenai River for sockeye salmon in July.

b. a buddy who knocks your big fish off the hook with a landing net.

c. part of the invasion of out-of-town dipnetters who make life interesting for Kenai residents in July.

d. all of the above.

8. The acronym “PFD” stands for:

a. Permanent Fishery Degradation, a term used by fisheries biologists to describe urban development impacts upon fish habitat that are permanent in nature.

b. Permanent Fund Dividend, a check that qualified Alaskan residents receive as a share of the Alaska Permanent Fund.

c. Personal Fishing Disaster, the 2012 season.

9. The “Marine Highway” is:

a. an 11-vessel Alaska ferry system that transports people, goods and vehicles between communities in Alaska, as well as to Canada and Washington state.

b. the Alaska Current, a southwestern, warm-water current that flows along the coasts of Southeast Alaska and British Columbia.

c. a highway from Whitehorse to Dick’s Crick, B.C., named for the U.S. Marines who served as “bear guards” in construction camps along the Alaska Highway, or ALCAN, during World War II, when the ALCAN was constructed.

1. (b.) Much cheaper and quicker than a “Reno divorce,” a Spenard divorce can be executed with no paperwork, whatsoever. The only requirement is that one spouse kill the other. Especially common toward the end of long, hard winters, this extreme method of parting company apparently originated 50 or 60 years ago in the community of Spenard, now part of Anchorage.

2. (c.)

3. (b.) The penile bone, or baculum, is found in most placental mammals, including dogs, cats and bears. The oosik, for whatever reason, seems to be the most popular of its type. Large oosiks have sold for hundreds of dollars, and ornately carved examples, much more.

4. (c.)

5. (c. )

6. (a.)

7. (d.)

8. (b.)

9. (a.)

Nine correct — You just might be a real Alaskan.

Eight correct — Don’t give up hope, but you’re not there yet.

Seven or fewer correct — Most likely, you’re either a cheechako or an Outsider.

Les Palmer can be reached at les.palmer@rocketmail.com.