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The Science of Regionalisms. Posted on 11/01/2002.

Longtime peterme readers know I have a thing for regionalisms, local quirks of language, such as how Minneapolitans play "Duck, Duck, Gray Duck," whereas the rest of America plays "Duck, Duck, Goose".

Some linguistics folks at Harvard are conducting a Web survey on dialects. I answered the entire thing (some 120 questions), and then clicked around the answers to the various questions, which are overlayed on a map of the US. Some favorites:

  • Aunt (ahnt v ant), durn snooty Eastern Seaboard types.
  • Y'all!
  • Milkshake or Frappe?, goofy Eastern Seaboard, again.
  • Name That Sandwich, I just wish I called it a grinder
  • Sneakers or Tennis Shoes?
  • Kitty- or Catty- corner?, Meow!
  • Circles in your car, Minnesotans and Wisconsinites call it "whipping shitties"!!!
  • The Classic -- Carbonated Beverages (see also:

    7 comments so far. Add a comment.

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    COMMENT #1
    Another regionalism: In LA, you say "take the 405" and in SF Bay Area you say "take 101" (or "get on the 405" or "get on 101.")
    Posted by Howard Rheingold @ 11/01/2002 03:14 PM PST [link to this comment]

    COMMENT #2
    A favorite Philadelphianism -- going "down the shore" on summer weekends.

    Down is pronounced with an extended dipthong that sounds almost like there's an "l" hidden in "daln"
    Posted by Adina Levin @ 11/01/2002 08:27 PM PST [link to this comment]

    COMMENT #3
    I'm a bit of a mix.. born in Cleve., Ohio, lived in Chicago from 7 and 1/2 yrs. old to almost 29 years old.. Moved to sw Nebraska and have been here for 33 years this month... I still have different ways of saying things like dog, doll,etc.. I only realized a few years back, people finally stopped asking me if I was from back east, or saying "you weren't from here were you, or where you from?).. I talk much faster then people born out here for one thing, and I use my hands a lot when I talk, but I never thought I had an accent..
    I'm sure I probably still tend to put an accent on different letters when speaking, but I don't hear it too often myself.. I do think I've lost the cadence, or rhythm though.. It is easy to fall back into it though when speaking with someone from back there if not careful...
    Posted by meturn @ 11/02/2002 08:41 AM PST [link to this comment]

    COMMENT #4
    Saying aunt as "auhnt" isn't snooty, it's correct .... in Maine.

    Most people from southern New England actually say "ant."
    Posted by vespa @ 11/03/2002 08:55 PM PST [link to this comment]

    COMMENT #5
    Ok, I'm about as Wisconsin as they come: I say pop, bubbler & have that horrible midwest flat pronounciation of "plan" and "can" but I have *never* heard of whipping shitties. Ever. :)
    Posted by samantha @ 11/04/2002 01:31 PM PST [link to this comment]

    COMMENT #6
    I took the survey as well. I really had to ponder for a couple of them. There are a couple ones where I know I use pronunciations interchangeably. I passed the survey on to my Mardi Gras Krewe and a couple family members. It was fun talking to my mom about a couple Pennsylvaniaisms that she had to purge after she moved out here.
    Posted by Spidra Webster @ 11/07/2002 10:42 PM PST [link to this comment]

    COMMENT #7
    Perhaps Wisconsinites just have a great sense of humor when responding to surveys. Particularly surveys taken by the ever-so stoic and serious folks at Hahvahd. Presented with an option like "Whipping Shitties", I wonder why there weren't more, statistically skewing, incongruent positive responses.

    It's like when the telemarketers ask me if I believe in UFO's. Of course I do, doesn't everyone? Or, the 419 guys who want me to help them smuggle millions of dollars out of Nigeria -- of course I believe they have secreted cash reserves and, with the help of my name, SSN, mother's maiden name, and my checking account routing numbers, will gain access to the cash.

    Posted by rocinanth @ 11/08/2002 02:52 PM PST [link to this comment]

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