American Dialect Differences: A Fascinating Time Suck

By Ben • culture, infographics, maps, science • 11 Jun 2013

My wife and I seriously spent two evenings going through all 122 dialect maps from Joshua Katz' US Dialect Survey (You should too). Since I grew up in Michigan and then moved to Connecticut later in life I found this extra-super interesting.

Here are a few highlights:

Catty Corner? Really?

Kitty Corner vs. Catty Corner
I honestly had no idea catty-corner was even a thing. That just sound silly.


Wait, where are Tag Sales?

Garage Sale vs. Yard Sale vs. Rummage Sale
In Southeastern CT, they're almost always called Tag Sales. I'm a little bummed that doesn't show up on the map.


Eminem sold records all over the country, right?

I'm shocked that most of the country doesn't have a name for night before Halloween
Though spending the first 30 years of my life in Michigan may have biased my view.


Super-specific Chicago

A traffic jam caused by drivers slowing down to look at an accident
While I've only heard the term "rubbernecking," my wife who grew up in Chicagoland calls the drivers "Gapers." It's hard to see on the map, but "gaper's block" is exclusively in a ring around Chicago.


C'mon, New England. Get outside.

Roly Poly vs. Pill Bugs
Perhaps most shocking is the fact that large sections of the upper MidWest & NorthEast have no clue about these creatures.


Crip class? WTH?

What do you call an easy course?
Evidently the term "blow-off" class (which I thought was universal) is fairly oddly regional.


How do you pronounce pecan?I knew it! It seems like I get funny looks in CT when I say "pecan." It's my dern MI dialect.

How do you pronounce pecan?
I knew it! It seems like I get funny looks in CT when I say "pecan." It's my dern MI dialect.


Joss Whedon fans don't say lightning bug.

Firefly vs. Lightning Bug
Another shocking example of the divisiveness in America.


Of course, you need the obligatory "What do you call a sugary, carbonated beverage?" question:

And the south seems confused about the whole thing.

Pop vs. Soda vs. Coke
Saying soda is always so forced for me, but I get strange looks when I say pop. Also, St. Louis & Madison are weird outliers.


Then, there's the situations (as below), that I have no name for, my current location does (as it turns out), and other locations have completely random (and hilarious) phrases:

An example of the South doin' it rite.

What do you call it when it rains while the Sun is shining?
I'm going to start referring to it as "the Devil is beating his wife" as well. I have no idea how that relates to the situation, but ZOMG!

by Joshua Katz
via @NerdyChristie & Business Insider

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One Response

  1. Pingback: Goodies // Random Awesomeness I Encounter » Blog Archive » Soda, Pop, Coke (American Dialects, part 2)

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