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North American Regional Dialects and Accents (2016) (aschmann.net)
222 points by fern12 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 203 comments

Reddit[1] made me aware of 2 specific examples:

"pin" == "pen" : http://allthingslinguistic.com/post/81929757765/cather-wren-...

"soda" vs "pop" vs "coke": http://popvssoda.com/

All the examples I've seen overlap closely with the Southern belt of states.

For a more HN-flavored survey, I wonder if there's a clear regional boundary for "tuple". I've heard it pronounced "too-pull" (sorta like "pupil") and "tuppel" (like "couple"). Don't know if that's an East vs West coast thing or a Cambridge/Oxford/England vs MIT/Stanford/USA thing. Maybe it's just random based on who you heard it from first.

(But let us stay away from discussing "gif". There are standards of civility here.)

[1] https://www.reddit.com/r/todayilearned/comments/14y6tc/til_m...

I'm from Missouri. I was 30 years old when somebody pointed out to me that I pronounce the e's and i's in pen, pin, and dentist identically (and that others don't).

It really blew my mind that I had been doing something so obvious for so long without ever realizing it. What else about my speech (or, more scary, my morals) is so deeply ingrained that I don't even notice it? (Like the fish who asks, "What the hell is water?")


While traveling recently, I was in Billings was discussing with a bartender about the local dialect and where various boundaries of production were and pulled up this map.

Both the pin / pen and the on / dawn / don differences between how I pronounced words and he she pronounced words were evident - it was rather interesting and being able to hear the difference.

Btw, its a bubbler. http://shop.wisconsinhistory.org/productcart/pc/Bubbler-Magn... and http://csumc.wisc.edu/wep/map.htm

While listening to A Way With Words ( https://www.waywordradio.org ) some time back I there was a woman calling in about a word (Pitch in) the caller didn't know and apparently everyone in the town knew. Turned out to be a local dialect word choice that the hosts were able to pin down to small pockets of townships in Indiana. The episode is https://www.waywordradio.org/regional-term-pitch-in/

I'll also toss in an older dialect survey with maps - http://dialect.redlog.net/maps.html

This dataset seems easily manipulated:


Some pretty funny responses coming in near the top.

I was born in southwest and moved to the east coast as a teen. I spent 30 years pronouncing pen as "pin". Even when my wife pointed it out to me, I literally couldn't hear the difference at first. She had to slowly sound it out for me. It was weird to discover I'd been pronouncing it differently from other people.

I am a New Zealander and apparently we also say pin when we mean pen. I thought the broad NZ accent wasn't something that I was really afflicted with, but in an airline lounge in Seoul I was disavowed of this notion when the English businessman whom I was trying to borrow a pen from couldn't understand why I would expect him to have a pin (or indeed how I proposed to fill out a form using one).

As a kiwi who moved to Australia as a kid, the pin/pen and six/sex (Australians make the number six sound rather hilarious) dichotomy was a constant source of amusement to me :)

Want some chups from the fush and chup shop bro? Or I'll just pop down to the dairy instead ;)

I once was working in a deli in Ireland and I got a customer who asked me for a rep (or was it a rap?). I was seriously puzzled until one of the people who was with her told me she wanted a Wrap and she was from New Zealand.

Kiwi english is one of the most interesting english accents to me. It seems like you guys have undergone a whole new vowel shift.

I spent my formative years in the South. I went to speech therapy to rid myself of my accent.

One of the best exercises was learning to speak with different accents in different dialects. This has actually come in very handy.

Which do you pick as your default for new encounters?

A tempered Bostonian. If it is formal, Broadcast English. If I'm out and about, I'll do a mild form of the regional accent, as appropriate.

Off topic, but the missus gets a kick out of it. It's a valuable skill. I do a mean Down East accent, which is different than the rest of Maine. (I live here now.) With practice, you get an ear for the variations.

> "soda" vs "pop" vs "coke"

On my Father's side, my grand parents, great grandparents, and great aunts and uncles called them "dopes." It's an Appalachian term. I haven't personally heard anyone use it in probably two decades, and I've never heard my father or any of his siblings say it, but it was common among those generations when they were still alive.


That's also where it changes from we'uns and you'uns to y'all.

Well, not so much anymore. As mentioned elsewhere in the thread, I made a bit of a study in accents, dialects, and colloquialisms.

Southwestern Pennsylvania, really, really close to the WV border.

> That's also where it changes from we'uns and you'uns to y'all.

In that area of Pennsylvania, as far up as Pittsburgh and maybe even beyond, it's yinz instead of you'uns or y'all.

I'd never heard it that far north. Thanks. I'd only heard it in TN area.

On the "soda vs pop vs coke" question, as a child I would have never used any of those words. Here in Western NC, we said "soft drink" for sweet carbonated beverages. People my age (late 30s) and older still do, but the younger generation has picked up "soda."

I'm from Durham, NC and for 22 years hadn't heard 'coke' refer to anything other than, well, a coke (I always said soda or soft drink). It wasn't until I moved to NY that I learned of the 'coke' for soda stereotype about southerners!

(Don't get me started on 'law'yer vs 'loy'er, though...)

In the Piedmont, we said "drink." Growing up, I knew what "soft drink" meant and understood the distinction, but nobody among my family & friends used that phrase.

Also never heard anyone call anything but a Coke a Coke, which is a really common stereotype of Southern English.

I'm from the Piedmont too, Gaston County to be specific. I know what you mean. Most of the time you'd just ask if they wanted a drink, and by context they knew what you meant. I'd say "soft drink" only if I needed to narrow it down.

"Do you want something to drink?"

"Tea or a soft drink if you have it."

I too am from the extreme eastern part of the Piedmont (Wayne/Johnston) and we always said "drink" to indicate something other than water or tea. A Coke is a Coke.

I think you're onto something. If you check the "other" responses for NC on popvssoda.com, you'll see "drink" and "soft drink" are way more popular in the NC. Maybe even popular enough to warrant a separate category. I think "soda" is more of a fallback choice for NC folks, because the term "soda fountain" is more common than the term "pop". Calling a non-coke beverage a "Coke" just seems silly though.

I'm from CLT, but when I think of what I would expect to see on a menu if I'm looking for a coke, it's "soft drinks". Likewise, if someone comes over to my place, I might ask, "Can I get you a drink? I've got Sweet Tea and Cokes in the fridge." Though more commonly I would say "something to drink". I've heard that in other parts of the country though, "drink" only implies alchoholic beverages, which was very different from my experience.

Now that I think about, maybe the reason we prefer "soft drink" is because sodas are usually grouped with sweet tea. And sweet tea really is the ultimate sweet, cold, drink of choice in NC. Though Coke or Sprite will do if a restaurant doesn't have any brewed and ready.

> Calling a non-coke beverage a "Coke" just seems silly though.

It's not. Would you force my nose to continue to run because you don't have the Kleenex brand? Or must I continue to bleed because you don't have a Band-Aid brand bandage?

What? Why would I ever want you to bleed or have a runny nose?

Just because I'm amused by a particular language difference doesn't mean I wouldn't give you whichever beverage you prefer if I knew what that was.

The reason it's silly though is because a Coke is materially different from a Pepsi or Sprite or Dr. Pepper. If someone said they were going to bring me a Coke and I got a Pepsi, I would be confused and maybe a little disappointed. I can't tell the difference between kleenex and off-brand, but I definitely can tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi. It's not a huge deal, but it would be a misunderstanding that seems avoidable with more specific language, so it's amusing to me.

It's cool if that's not how it's interpreted in your parts. I'm not knocking you for using whichever terms you want. I'm just explaining why I'm not going to adopt that terminology.

I prefer to call shopping carts "buggys", but I get why others would be confused or think that's a silly term if I said that around them. Doesn't mean I'm going to stop using it or feel bad about it, but I understand if it's not really understood outside my region and seems like a silly word.

But coke is a flavor.

Will you get me a coke? Sure, what kind? Sprite...

So is Chapstick and others. You use context clues. If someone asks for a coke, they get a Coca-Cola (or are queried for an alternative if not available). But if one drank a Sprite in the morning and was asked what they drank, they might say coke.

Chapstick is not a flavor.

Now this is approaching slapstick.

In Scotland a similar thing happened with Ginger Beer, and for a while (it's probably mostly died out now) all fizzy drinks could be referred to as "ginger" regardless of flavouring.

Tonic was also a popular term for any type of soda (coke, sprite, etc) in the northeast US, at least in the 1980's. And pronounced like tawnic.

How else is it pronounced? Tawn like lawn,ic

Tonic with the 'ton' pronounced like 'on'is the only way I've ever heard it pronounced.

My wife is from Boston too.

I love stuff like this, I've lived in Texas 13 years and have been pronouncing taco wrong until pointed out to me.

They say itmore like tocko than tacko like Brits do.

Heh, this is the issue, which makes me also love this stuff. I pronounce 'awn' and 'on' in 'lawn' and 'on' the same. Grew up in Pittsburgh so that tends to do it.

Take a look at the map in the original article. The areas covered in either blue slashes or blue hatches (i.e. left and right slashes intersecting), which is most of the US, has "Don" = "Dawn". There's also the "on" line, so for those who distinguish "Don" and "Dawn", some Americans pronounce "on" as if it was "awn".

For me "tonic" has a fairly short vowel in the first syllable. Whereas "Tawnic" would have a longer vowel. There's also a different in sound. You might hear my "aw" as if it was a long "o" sound. The Australian vowel system is really nothing like the American vowel system.

Hmm, I was trying to note the distinct New England sound of it. Maybe "tahwn-ick" says it better?

The first syllable is drawn out much more than I would hear that word somewhere other than New England.

Down Eastern tonic pronunciation, as used in a sentence, for those who are curious.


(I was going to go with Bostonian, Southie, but decided this one was better.)

When I grew up I used "soft drink" as well, but where I live now (PNW) nobody understands this, so I just use "soda".

calling soft drinks 'coke' I think is more a TX thing..

so some confusion as TX was part of the confederacy ('the south') but isn't exactly 'the south', as most 'real southerners' would agree (but not southern leaning TXans)

"Coke" as a general term is popular here in the Atlanta area; where the actual Coke HQ is located.

My intuition is always to pronounce it "too-pull", because that follows the standard rules for how to pronounce vowels in words that are of English origin (which I will explain later). However, since it is related to the Latin suffix "plus", meaning "more" (see: quintuple), I make a conscious effort to pronounce it "tuppel" as in couple.

To clarify what I mean by "of English origin", of course all of the words in English are inherited from some other language, be that Latin, Greek, Anglo-Saxon, French, etc... I am specifically referring to words of Anglo-Saxon origin, which are not recent imports into the language.

Here is my understanding on the unspoken rules (at least, they were never explicitly taught to me) for how to pronounce English words that you have never seen before. Isolated vowels are to be pronounced in their short form when followed by two sequential vowels, and their long form when followed by one consonant and one vowel. That is, "VCC" is short, and "VCV" is long. For example, "pick" is not pronounced the same as "pike", because the vowel sound in the middle differs, even though the terminal "e" in "pike" is silent. Similarly, "bite" and "bit" only differ in the vowel sound -- a terminal "VC" acts as a "VCC" (except when it doesn't, like "put" vs "putt"... I never said there weren't any exceptions). Incidentally, this is why words with terminal "VC" frequently double the consonant when adding suffixes ("beg" -> "begging", "bed" -> "bedding", "cram" -> "cramming").

An observant person would note that "tuple" in fact follows the "VCC" form. Words or word-parts that end in "le" are frequently to be pronounced as though it ends in "el". For example, take the word "apple". There is unambiguously a vowel sound that occurs between the "pp" and the "l", so it's pronounced more like "appel". In the case of "apple", there are two consonants after the "a" even if you do flip the "le" at the end, so the "a" is short regardless. But if we reverse the "le" in "tuple", we get "tupel", which does follow the "VCV" order, so it seems like it should be pronounced "too-pull". However, we typically follow different pronunciation rules for words of foreign origin, and since "tuple" is of Latin origin, we pronounce it "tuppel". Compare the pronunciation of "avi" in "behavior" (Anglo-Saxon) to "pavilion" (Latin).

I am not a linguist in any sense, and so this is all my amateur reasoning about how English words are pronounced. When looking for Latin examples, I definitely ran into more exceptions than not, so take this all with a grain of salt.

A particularly interesting part of this map is the difference in accents between parts of the south which had plantations and slaves, and the parts of the south that didn't.

I noticed greasy pronounced as "greezy" from some people with heavy southern drawls, but not all of them. I wonder if it's something like this driving the difference.

interesting! In my California college town, greasy and greezy were both words that mean different things.

'Greasy' was burgers/fries/bike-chains, and 'greezy' was reserved for people like that 'uninvited back-rub guy'.

Kiwis also say "greezy", how does that fit your theory?

I have no theory...just questions, hence..."I wonder"

"Gaz" for gas/gasoline.

My wife pointed out how I pronounce valve. I was saying it similar to the lady part, while she said it with the A like in the nickname "Al"

Which one of you is closer to this?


Her. Mine sounds more like "V" - "ALL" - "VE".

Are you from South Texas?

I think it's interesting that this is a map of almost exclusively caucasian accents (as the note on the left explains, information on the distinct African American Vernacular English dialect is not included, partly because the geographical variations of AAVE are largely independent of 'white' dialects).

Googling around, there doesn't seem to be an equivalent map out there for AAVE.

Actually I think the map shows the dominant dialect/accent, it doesn't deny the existence of others. The entire west half of the continent is one color, but off the top of my head I know at least five distinct accents you can find among white people here. My grandmothers we're both born and raised in Washington state and had distinctly different speech patterns. My father's mother's accent was almost British, but I can clearly remember my mother's mother talking about "worshing" up or going down to the "crick".


It's so easy to be racists nowadays that anyone can be racist accidentally for little to no reason at all. Cool!

It is my observation that there are, broadly speaking, 2 definitions of "racism" floating around in the USA these days.

The first is mostly used by people who have lived in a fairly homogeneous environment (ie mostly people of their race & cultural background, which in the USA happens to be white and christian), and it is a very strict one. Murdering a black person while shouting "all black people must die!" would undeniably be "racist" under that definition, and so would a law that says there must be separate facilities for white people and people of other races. However, that definition does not encompass much in the way of acts that do not blatantly qualify as racist.

The second definition, used mostly (but not only) by people who are not of the dominant racial or cultural background, defines racism as a broader system of interconnected pieces (some historical, some cultural, some legal, etc.); some of them which might not appear strictly racist at first, but when observed within the broader scope of the system they function within, contribute to a general systematic alienation of the population based on racial or cultural features, or in other words, "racism".

People who function with the second definition might find the linked article "racist" in that sense, because while it is a well documented article, it presents a picture of the US that is lacking many speakers of American-English, the vast majority of them non-white. Of course, that map is a flawed representation in the first place - dialects are not distributed neatly along smooth lines as depicted. But it is flawed in a way that totally erases the existence of many speakers of American-English (unless one wants to make the argument that these communities do not speak American-English, which I think most HN readers can see as absolutely silly). The map, like any other map, is a flawed representation; but it is one that, under this definition, could be said to be flawed in a racist way. This does not mean that the author is racist; merely that the work was produced within a dominant homogeneous socio-cultural context, that many take issue with.

The USA is currently undergoing a deep identity crisis, where the hegemony of the cultural majority is being challenged by people who identities have been ignored over the centuries (some due to genocide, some due to slavery, some because they were just poor immigrants at the bottom of the totem pole, but whose descendants are very much native to the USA and are confined to ghettos, etc), and who are now able to express themselves due to the new forms of media that have emerged. Many people living outside of the US (and many within) do not have much of an understanding of this situation, either because they have not been exposed to it sufficiently, or because they outright deny it (for one extreme of it, see Steve Bannon's reaction when an interviewer says that all Americans except for Native Americans are immigrants [0]).

A similar phenomenon is also happening with the notion of "sexism".

[0]: http://www.businessinsider.com/bannon-rose-60-minutes-interv...

Calling something "North American Regional Dialects and Accents" when they really mean white north american regional dialects and accents strikes me as a racist title choice. Black people are not an outlier, they are an integral part of the society and have been for hundreds of years. The assumption of the title is ridiculous.

My favorite is the Californian use of the definite article when identifying numbered roadways, e.g. "I took the 5.".

Here in Oregon, a general (and I must say unfair) disapproval of transplanted Californians exists, and that use of the definite article is a "tell" that the natives have learned to look for.

That's more specifically a Southern Californian thing- people moving from Northern California to SoCal find it strange.

Indeed - and the reverse is also true:) I'm a SoCal native (now in San Jose) and it drives me crazy when I'm listening to traffic reports and they refer to "the Bayshore freeway" and the "Nimitz freeway." Aargh.

Hella strange.

This is probably vestigial from before the interstate/numbering system:


> When Southern California freeways were built in the 1940s and early 1950s, local common usage was primarily the freeway name preceded by the definite article. It took several decades for Southern California locals to start to also commonly refer to the freeways with the numerical designations, but the usage of the definite article persisted.

"Take the Ventura Freeway" -> "Take the 134"

A young relative, a transplant to LA, says that it is because Angelenos have a more intimate relationship with their highways. No doubt your explanation is historically correct, but I like his.

Using single digit numbers by themselves to denote highways is awkward and confusing, but it's much less of a problem with double and triple digit numbers--"I took 95 from Boston to Washington" sounds prettier than "I took 5 from Seattle to Portland". Since the IHS numbering system starts from the southwest and increments up as you go northeast, southwestern Interstate highway numbers are disproportionately single-digit, which is probably why "the" is commonly prepended in SoCal.

Having grown up and Oregon and lived in Los Angeles for the past 7 years -- up north it would be "I took I-5 from Seattle to Portland" while in L.A. it would be "I took the 5 from Seattle to Portland." Neither dialect uses just the number on its own.

True for more than just single digit numbers too, e.g. I-205 vs. the 405.

Here in WA, it seems that for single- and double-digit numbers, people usually prepend the prefix - so it's also I-5, not just 5; and I-90, not 90.

But for multi-digit, it's virtually never there - it's 405 and 520 (without "the"!), not I-405 and WA-520.

Now that I think about it, it's probably not so much about the number of digits, as it is about the number of words. So I-90 gets the prefix because "ninety" is a single word, but I-95 somehow sounds strange.

Up in Detroit (I have family there) almost everyone talks about 75 (I-75). Down here in South Florida (where I live), it's always I-95. Just "95" sounds strange to me, as well as "I-75".

I guess it's what you grew up listening to.

In the Bay Area, between those two, what I often hear is "I took 101 to San Francisco" or "101 was mobbed so I took 280" or "did you come down 85 or 280 to 101?" no 'i' no 'highway' no definite article.

In the Midwest, it's common to refer to short interstate numbers by the letter "I", as in "Drive I-96 until you get to Detroit" (pronounced as 'eye-ninety-six'). Which kind of solves that problem.

Except in LA, you are often times referring to roads that aren't part of the Interstate system. So, to drive where I use to live close to Beverly Hills to the small town of 'Montrose' (might just be a neighborhood actually) I would take the (I)10 to the (I)5 to the (State Route) 2, or if I had a stop in say, Glendale I'd take the (I)10 to the (I)5 to the (State Route) 134, make my stop get back on the (State Route) 134 to the (State Route) 2. You also had roads like the State Route 110 which turns into Interstate 110 at some point, etc.

To the driver these are just freeways. Now LA did have many more major freeways which were state routes and not Interstates (with the occasional US Highway, such as the 101) than most places do. Where I grew up in the mid-west, we really only had Interstates and regular roads and did say I80 and never, "the 80"

As a non-native speaker, that's how I would say it because that's how it would be said in my native language.

If someone told me "I took 5" I'd expect them to be talking about some kind of quantity and wait for them to finish the sentence.

Can a non-American native speaker maybe chime in how this works in other dialects? I'm wondering whether it's Californians who are the odd ones out or whether it's just uncommon in the US.

From other parts of the country you might say things like "I took I-5" or "Interstate Five", "Route Five", "Highway Five", "US 5" etc.

"I-5" to me sounds a little harsh and hard to say to my ears vs. "I-95" or "I-80" which have a nicer ring to them, so maybe that's how this sort of thing could develop if that's just how the major highways ended up being numbered in different parts of the country.

We don't preface highways with I in Chicago. We either just use the number (I took 290 to 294 to 88), or we use their name. Sometimes we use a combination (I took the Eisenhower out to the Tri-State and then to 88).

That works because Chicago is in the north central part of the country, where highway numbers are firmly in the double digits. In the southwest the numbers are often single digit, so it's awkward and confusing to use without a preprended "I-" or "the".

I think it's triple digits that become a mouthful with the "I-" prefix. Double digits sounds best with the "I-", I think.

Triple digits come from being a spur of a two-digit highway incidentally, not to do with region. I-385 is a spur of I-85, etc.

To ultra-pedant it up, generally only odd prefix digits indicate a spur (only connects to the prefixed highway in one spot), where even numbers indicate a bypass or beltway (which intersect the main highway multiple times).

No. In Seattle and Portland it's definitely "I-5." Not hard to say at all.

it's southern california specifically, because the freeways had names before they had numbers. i.e. the hollywood freeway, the san diego freeway, the pasadena freeway.

the habit is spreading as people start leaving socal in larger numbers though.

> If someone told me "I took 5" I'd expect them to be talking about some kind of quantity and wait for them to finish the sentence.

I think you're thrown off because 5 is such a low number. Most highways have higher numbers, so it looks more natural without the "the".

Using Dallas highways as an example, "I took 635 to Preston". Or maybe chain some highways "I took 121 to 75, then to 635, and I got off at Royal".

The only highway in Dallas we use "the" for is the Dallas North Tollway, which most people just call "the Tollway" (NTTA is currently trying to push an acronym, "DNT", but nobody uses it). And I've seen a few people refer to President George Bush Turnpike as "the Bush", which is uncommon enough that I do a double take whenever I hear it (it's usually just "Bush" or "George Bush"... and maybe "190" from people who remember when it was under construction before they decided to turn it into a toll road).

Hi. We're I'm from, we mostly say the plus the name of the road. So "take the Monash". But the Monash is officially "Monash Fwy". It's also called the M1. Country roads often have long names like "Main Neerim Road" or "Warragul Korumburra Rd". When I've had to give a direction involving them, I say "just before you enter town, turn left towards Warragul" because there will be a giant sign in Korumburra pointing towards Warragul; if you're in the middle of the road, you have a sign pointing to Korumburra and another pointing to Warragul.

Such roads often have numbers. But I've never committed them to memory or used them in ordinary conversation. Based on the precedent of the "M1", I guess I'd expect "the C520" or whatever. But that recommendation is probably not worth the paper it's printed on.

Linguistically, I believe that the Californian usage (e.g., "the 5") is an elliptical construction -- i.e., it's a truncated form of "the 5 freeway".

Well, what's "Take 5"? I mean, five is being used as an ordinal not a cardinal. Normally, to give an ordinal sense to a normal number you need to follow some noun. So "Chapter 3", "Level 8", "Freeway 5". And then we're not specifying what kind of thing it is, so "Take 5".

Btw. It's nice if you omit the word "linguistically". It's good to remember that just because you speak a language, that's not the same as being an expert on language science. Any more than because you inhabit a body, you're an expert on physics.

> As a non-native speaker, that's how I would say it because that's how it would be said in my native language.

As a native English speaker I would say the same thing. "Take the I95" and "Take highway I95" both make sense to me. Maybe the Americans posting on this thread are talking about the second usage?

As a native speaker, I typically drop 'the' in favor of "Take 95 North" or "Take I95 North". Adding 'the' just sounds awkward to me, but it might just be a syllable/flow thing. If I was in an area with single-digit highways, I'd likely say "take I5" although I can see myself saying "take the 5"; just because "take 5" sounds Wrong and potentially misleading. -shrugs-

This is how I hear it said around South Florida though. It's also possible my mind just edits out 'the' when people talk about it

> just because "take 5" sounds Wrong

Take that back! Just because you're not used to quintuple time.


SCNR ;-)

Nobody says "I took 5" when referring to they way they came. They say "I took the 5".

Source: from socal.

Where I'm from we just say I took $highway, with highway being say 35w, 494, 13 etc....

Given the context the definite article seems unneeded to my ears.

> Californian use of the definite article when identifying numbered roadways, e.g. "I took the 5.".

Huh, that's pretty standard here in the greater Toronto area (e.g. the four-o-one, the four-o-seven), in context it also works for TTC route numbers (the five-o-one, the five-eleven).

Only for 400 series highways, and the QEW. "Take the four-ten to highway ten then continue north." Or "take eleven south until you reach the four-hundred."

That's unfortunate because I'm pretty sure I and all of my Canadian friends/family use an article with a highway or freeway number.

That seems to be a specifically southern California thing.

For me it really depends on the highway. To take three different highways as examples, I'd say "395", "I90", and "the 405". --"the 395" wouldn't sound right at all, but neither would "405". And that's having grown up in Washington.

This is how I can tell where a scriptwriter is from when watching TV or movies. In the Southeast, no one refers to the interstate or highways like that. But many series and movies set here insist on referring to the I-95 or the US-41.

I grew up on the east-coast, but have lived in Santa Barbara for a decade, and I quite embarrassingly said "The 95" instead of "I-95" when visiting home last summer.

Also, how far outside of SoCal does the term "Freeway" get used? The only time I remember hearing it as a youth was in the movie Clueless, but is used all the time here in Santa Barbara.

Interesting to see that "interstate" wasn't an option. In several places I've lived pretty much all limited access highways were also interstates, so the term most often used was "interstate"

Huh, I'm not a Californian by any means, but now that I think about it I say "the 217", "the 26", etc. Have I been corrupted by Californians that have moved to Oregon?

Yes - we do not say that in Oregon.

Right: "I drove out 26 to John Day to fill my elk tag".

Wrong: "I drove down the 5 to that new Sushi-Yoga place".

Here's an article that purports to explain why:


And yes, it's definitely a Southern California/LA thing.

i doesn't ask "why add _the_" far enough: "The freeway through the Cahuenga Pass thus became the Cahuenga Pass Freeway, and Angelenos knew the freeway to San Bernardino as the San Bernardino Freeway."

i would have said "the freeway through Cahuenga Pass."

"26" is pronounced "Sunset", btw. (edit: west of the Willamette, I mean.)

Yeah, it's the sunset highway, but I rarely hear anyone call it that (I've lived in Beaverton for 2 decades).

Here in SoCal, google maps is amazing at always picking exactly the opposite of name/vs number from what locals use for reading out directions (I didn't know X road even had a number, why are they calling the 192 Y road?).

It seems the rule where I am is "always show the number" which means indeed they've very good at picking the opposite.

How else would you say it?

As a Michigander, I'd say "Take US131" or "Get on I96 eastbound to M44", just in the same way I'd say "Take a right on Main Street". The United States Highway/Interstate/Michigan abbreviations are pretty common, but optional.

And come to think of it, that's exactly how Waze and Google Maps and Apple Maps turn-by-turn directions read to me. Do these programs use different dialects in Southern California?

I would use the definite article with a route on a transit system, though, for example to identify a bus line or (when in a city that has one) a subway: "I'll ride the 28 home" or "I commute on the 10".

Carolinian here. I say I85 (interstate) or 76 for state roads, but never "the 76".

I don't understand either. I'm from New York, and I wouldn't say it any other way. "I took 101 to 110," sounds extremely awkward to me.

"How do you get there?"

"Take 10."

"Take 10 what?"

I've been seeing this meme a lot more lately. For some reason, it seems to be in fashion to make fun of people from [Southern?] California in this way at the moment.

If it's a main interstate, then I'll call it "I-[x]".

So I drive on I-5 or I-90.

If it's a spur, then I just use the number. From Redmond, I would get on 405 to go to Bellevue. When I drive from Sunnyvale to Palo Alto, it is usually fastest to take 101 unless it's rush hour.

I'm from southern NY, and where I grew up, you would refer to state highway 110 as "110" or "Route 110". Interstate 495 is "495" or "the L.I.E." Named roads like the Northern State Parkway or the Thruway get the definite article, but numbered roads either get the type of road mentioned, or nothing at all: "I 87" or just "87"

This is the same where I now live in New England, as well. "495", "128", "Route 3", "Route 1", "The Mass Pike"

I'm from/in Southern California and I've never heard it said as "Take 10", but rather as "Take the 10".

Without "the".

"I'll take 85"

Shorten “Interstate 5” to “I-5” or “5”, but not “the 5”.

From where I grew up:

"If you're going to LAX from Ventura, Take Route 101 to I-405." Alternativeley "US 101" could be used.

"Interstate 5" or "I-5".

Had a professor in college from the UK. I was completely confused listening to his accent all semester, as I could never place it. I'd worked with a group of people from all over -- Southhampton, Liverpool, London, etc -- so I knew the different accents. Finally one day I broke down and asked him about it. Turned out his dad had been in the military and he'd never lived in any one place for very long, so his accent was a jumble.

I am a born and raised Cascadian. That said, years ago I heard Californians call it "the 5" and thought it was brilliant, so I started using it. Friends in both Oregon and Washington give me the stink eye for adopting this foreign style of speech, but it's all in good humor.

Just to really mess with people, I really like to say "cheers" in place of "thank you" too. Adds some international charm to their day.

I will be curious to see if people belonging to different internet subcultures develop their own accents.

Already different groups of people are quite isolated in terms of the video and audio they consume everyday (vloggers and podcasters).

The "Youtube Voice"



However, much of the internet is written and not spoken. So we gets new ways to write (doge, memes, 4chan green text, etc.) but not really new accents.

> Hey guys! What’s up? It’s Julie.

I've really grown to hate this intro, plus the whole "bouncy" style of pronunciation. To me, it sounds a lot like "I'm trying too hard to get attention", like that of a 2 year old repeating "dad. dad. DAD."

Remember to end the video with: "Leave your comments down below, and don't forget to like and subscribe!"

"AND smash that bell icon!"

Nice links, I would have never thought of it that way. I've also noticed a certain way of speaking that seems really popular in the "video essay" crowd. For example if you search for 5-15 min videos analyzing a movie, they almost all speak exactly the same way.

Parodied in the highly polished mockumentary http://www.purepwnage.com/


Because Jeremy has lived in his basement for most of his life, he has had very little conversation with any other person and has therefore taught himself how to speak.

I am surprised that the Canadian English block is so large. Having lived in both places, there is a definite difference in accent between Western Canada and Southern Ontario.

EDIT: The stereotypical "out" and "about" pronunciation is much more prominent in Southern Ontario.

Actually the 'aboot' thing that people stereotype about Canadians is more prominent in the upper midwest US than it is in most parts of Canada.

I do hear a difference between western Canada and Ontario (I'm from the former and live in the latter.) But there's also a known dialect difference between central and southern Alberta (former settled by English/Ukrainian/Germans the other by American immigrants).

Rural Ontario, well, that's another story.

When i am in the us everyone thinks im from california. Regardless of studies, BC, cali and alaska share a west coast accent. Thats one of the reasons hollywood likes to film in vancouver.

Also of interest is the "Harvard Dialect Survey" [1], which gives direct questions and highlights the regional variances. My favorite is "standing on line" vs "standing in line" -- I had never even heard the "on line" variant until I moved to NYC, where it is ubiquitous.

Apparently now there's the "THE CAMBRIDGE ONLINE SURVEY OF WORLD ENGLISHES" [2], apparently by the same individual, but I've only just started looking at it.

[1] http://dialect.redlog.net/maps.html

[2] http://www.tekstlab.uio.no/cambridge_survey/

"Do you say pop or soda?"

There is no option for "ginger".... not impressed ;-)

Where uses "ginger"? That's a new one for me.

In Scotland. Where the most popular soft drink, Irn Bru, is a bright orange colour.

We also use the word "juice", which I feel reflects badly on our diet.

I've had it. You can usually get it in the US in the "Ethnic Food" aisles at reasonably-sized grocery stores.

Aside from being orange, I don't have recollections of a very gingery flavor tho...

Normal Irn Bru is just made from sugar and rust (OK, ammonium ferric citrate if you're being picky) so it doesn't taste like ginger.

I do recall there being a "spicy" variant a few years ago that did taste a bit like ginger but, as I can't stand Irn Bru at the best of times, I don't recall the details.

Source: married to a Scot that basically lives off the stuff. Bit surprised she isn't magnetic.

For a very long time, I thought "ginger" was something used in England for the most part instead of the US. I don't know where they say it regularly in the US, though. I'm now curious too.

I don't know if it is what the other poster is talking about but Michigan is weird in that a relatively large number of people drink ginger ale as a soft drink, particularly Vernors.

Just for the record to prevent any potential confusion: we Michiganders don't call pop "ginger". We do like our ginger ale though (particularly Vernors, but Canada Dry isn't bad).

I've also heard coke or irn bru being called "juice" :D

The Ocracoke Brogue has always fascinated me. A tiny, dying dialect that sounds nothing like the rest of the American South. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7MvtQp2-UA

Tangier cannot go w/o mention - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIZgw09CG9E

As another child poster mentioned, the Ocracoke brogue is basically gone, but Tangier Island, Virginia still has a population of speakers.

I was raised in Miami, parents from New Jersey. I don't have an accent. (edit: I mean "General American with no obvious southern, northern, eastern, or western features.")

But there's still some tells like "soda" vs "pop" and you can pry "y'all" out of my cold dead hands. My wife and I had been living in Atlanta a couple years when I was speaking over the phone to a coworker in Syracuse, NY. Toward the end of the call she told me I had a lovely southern accent. Hung up the phone, called my wife, "Honey, it's time to move." :-)

Fun fact: I'm told that in Dallas, TX "y'all" is singular, the plural of which is "all y'all."

Of course you have an accent, everyone does. What you mean is you have an generic American "TV accent."

To be fair, it's very easy to forget that you have an accent.

I remember talking on a conference call many years ago with people from (I think) Intel and after I'd been speaking for a bit someone announced "Who is that on the call with the really thick Scottish accent - I can't understand a word he is saying".

My difficulties with Siri (and I tried really hard to get it to recognise 'Hey Siri' and only got slightly angry) leads me to suspect that my accent may still be there.

Very true. Honestly, unless I really listen for it, I don't notice when someone has my own area's accent vs a "generic TV" accent. And they're pretty different! I do notice if it's not mine, though. I'm from North Carolina, and the "Deep South" accent sounds as weird to me as it does to anyone else, although I'm sure someone else might think we sound similar.

It's the entire reason I can't get into House of Cards. Frank Underwood is supposed to be from my area of the country, and speaks with some kind of Charleston-ish non-rhotic accent.

My poorly made point was that I didn't have anything distinguishing me as being from the south growing up, but that I picked up an accent (at least to a Syracuse person's ears) while living in Atlanta. It surprised me given I'd only been there a couple years and that you don't hear southern accents very often in Atlanta in any case.

>point was that I didn't have anything distinguishing me as being from the south growing up, but that I picked up an accent (at least to a Syracuse person's ears) while living in Atlanta. It surprised me given I'd only been there a couple years

That tends to happen a good amount, I think. I've seen it happen to me (subconciously picking up the use of certain accents or local words), after moving from one region of India to another, say between central / northern / southern parts, and also to other people (Indian colleagues) when we went to Malaysia. Within a few weeks, some of them were adding -la (pronounced lah) to the ends of their sentences, which is a thing that local people do there.

Through personal study, I've come to the scientific conclusion that "generic American TV accent" means the person is from Iowa or Kansas more often than not.

> I don't have an accent

As I'm sure you are aware, of course you do. Everybody has an accent. To my European ears, all Americans most certainly have heavy ones.

> Fun fact: I'm told that in Dallas, TX "y'all" is singular, the plural of which is "all y'all."

False fact. Source: life long DFW resident. It is plural in basically all uses.

And I learned there's a subtle distinction between "y'all" and "all y'all". If I ask, "Do y'all have a ride?" I mean "Do you have a car and/or get a ride with someone who has a car?" Whereas if I ask "Do all y'all have a ride?" I mean "Do each of you people here own a car?"

Correct. In a sense:

group of people : bunch of people :: y'all : all y'all

The former being an associated collective.

What is with Yankees and the persistent myth of the singular "y'all".

There may be some small, isolated spots in the South where that's true, but they're not common, and, as someone born and raised there, Dallas is definitely not one of them.

Huh, I learned about singular y'all about 15 years ago by someone from Dallas who used "all y'all" to address groups. She claimed this was common usage in Dallas.

All y'all is used (rarely) for emphasis, not to pluralize. "I got presents for y'all!" is plural. "I got presents for all y'all!!" is also plural. It's just emphasizing the number of people to underscore, say, generosity.

That being said, not everyone in DFW talks that way. Many prefer a more subdued midwestern style. The metroplex is full of transplants from all over, so there isn't a lot of pressure to talk like a local or something.

Well, it is kinda working class phrase I guess.

I've heard it for the plural in Dallas and Houston but in less salubrious parts of town.

Not sure why people are downvoting you for sharing your opinion on a light subject. (Even though I'm sure you have an accent!)

It took me a lot of work/traveling around the U.S. to detect my own bastardized Michigan accent, which people on both coasts think is very cute and very Canadian+Chicagoan. When I'm feeling playing playful I take it full Fargo to make 'em laugh. My accent is very apparent to me now, and it's made me appreciate all the flavors and refrain from stereotyping.

I really enjoy trying to pinpoint geographic origins from people who have the "TV accent", since there are always subtle indicators that often surprise me after I inquire further into someone's background.

(I agree 100% on "Y'all". Y'all is an awesome contraction; should be considered a legit word and imported north. "You guys" seems clunky compared to y'all, latter of which is one syllable and sounds right.)

But there is a Miami accent that I can hear. Not everyone in Miami has it, I don't and I was also raised there. I hear it more in the first generation children of Spanish-speaking immigrants (which I am one but I never picked the accent up)

The ones I find fascinating are those of Chinese ancestry in the deep south, like so:



Super cool -- I don't think I've ever heard caught != cot or dawn != don.

This map seems to depict the west as much more homogenous than it actually is. Angelenos sound very different than Portlanders, for instance (moving south along the west coast seems to correlate with more modulation of pitch and more vocal fry).

My mom is from Rhode Island and Cot and Caught were different for her, but Cot and Cart were pronounced the same! I grew up in Northern Virginia where the vast majority of the population was from somewhere else (school bus rides occasionally broke down into arguments like Aunt/Ant or caught/cot).

As a kid I pronounced caught/cot differently but have lived all of my adult life in places where they are pronounced the same, and so I don't say them differently any more.

Where do you live?

I grew up in Eastern CT and the only people I've met for whom "caught" == "cot" or "dawn" == "don" are from working class families in Boston.

It's different in eastern VA (where I get most of my accent from), but I have heard them equate out in more rural GA.

I'm from Indiana. I think most folks there (including myself) say caught = cot and dawn = don.

What other possible way is there to pronounce it?

I think in most of the USA, "bot", "lot", "cot", "not", and "father" all share the same vowel, while "bought", "lost", "caught", "nought", and "fought" all share a different vowel.

The following wikipedia article discusses the two phonemes and how they are merged in many dialects of english, and contains audio samples of the same guy pronouncing both words.


My god. Of all places to include on there my hometown is on that map. See: south of Toronto and south of Guelph.

Number 683.


--- Great share! Thank you!

See ya on the 13th

Maybe so. But I've been transplanted to Toronto the past number of years.

Off topic: if you haven't seen Letterkenny yet, please watch. It is rural Southern Ontario. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4647692/

You left off the 'eh'.

I'm surprised they lump most of English speaking Canada together. Vancouver, Calgary/Edmonton and Toronto (Torono) have, IMO, pretty distinct accents.

Not only that but there's a pretty clear continuity of dialect _over_ the US Canada border in many places. Drive into upstate NY from Ontario and there's a pretty clear cultural and linguistic continuity in many respects.

If you listen closely to older people in San Francisco, the accent situation is a lot more complex than I've heard anyone acknowledge.

- There's what I've sometimes heard called the "Mission accent", which can easily be mistaken for New York or Boston if you're unfamiliar with it. Rs get soft or disappear and vowels get very east coasty. I heard the origin of this is from decades ago when the Mission was an Irish neighborhood.

- There's an accent which to my DC area ears sounds kind of southern, almost like the Ozarks. Maybe that has similar roots to the one described here as pin=pen in the San Joaquin Valley, but I'm not too familiar with those parts.

- Nancy Pelosi came from Baltimore and has the accent to boot (I heard a lot of people talking like her in my DC area childhood), but her speech patterns don't sound too far off compared to older San Franciscans. I presume that's a phenomenon from the "pocket of Midland accent" that I've seen on this and other maps.

I think most of this is probably dying out in younger people. (And of course most 20s-30s types you meet in SF are from somewhere else.)

Many of my in-laws are from the East Bay, so I have something of a window into these issues. The 'southern' accent of the Valley towns is from their Okie migrant ancestors. As many fled the Dust Bowl, they carried their accents into the San Joaquin Valley and the Salinas Valley too. I've spent a bit of time out there in construction (SJ and Salinas Valleys) and most of the time those guys have little discernible accent. However, if you get them very angry or very drunk, it's nearly a southern accent. I've no idea where they get it from, as I've had a fair few glasses of wine at the holidays and can't recall hearing the southern brogue, but they all seem to slip into it when they get rear-ended on 5.

I think accents themselves will become a relic of the past, given the prevalence of mass media and the internet. Millennials will probably be the last broad generation to have any hint of an accent.

Ever been to the UK? There are some accents that for many American English speakers wouldn't be intelligible. I doubt those will disappear within a generation.

There's a general tendency of accents merging or becoming more similar but new accents develop out of that as well. I think you underestimate the effect everyday speech has on people. Take the Dutch for instance. They're famous for almost universally speaking English very well. The main reason for this is that in the Netherlands foreign language films, TV series etc. come with subtitles instead of a dubbed version. Still many still have a recognisably Dutch accent.

Then there's another phenomenon that in language history so far has only happened to English: There are more non-native speakers than native speakers. So we might very well end up with something like a universal, worldwide English accent. It might just not sound like any of the native English accents at all.

> There are more non-native speakers than native speakers

That is a wonderful point that I've never thought of before.

You can really envision a lingua franca that is English but not American English or British English but Global English.

Second and third generation English speakers who live in a non-English speaking country as a majority of English speakers - will they be like how English is used in India or something completely different?


Global English ("Globish") as a simplified subset of English already exists: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Globish_(Nerriere) also in general: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_English

As an anecdote: I have a friend who grew up in Sydney, AU. Never left the country. He has a distinctly american accent. He attributes it to too much TV.

Empirically, this does not seem to be the case. Labov at UPenn has been studying American dialect formation for the past ~50 years, and has found several ongoing changes. In some ways the Midwest is getting more divergent, with the Northern Cities Vowel Shift.

Many small dialects are disappearing, but others are becoming more divergent (out west). It's a mixed bag.

I think that was the expectation a few generations ago, once TVs were in most people's homes, but it didn't happen. I recall seeing a headline for a study a couple of years ago that said that regional accents were actually getting stronger.

People have been predicting that for a long time. I can remember reading something in Encarta 95 about it. But it's also been disproved for just as long. New dialect features are constantly being created, just as surely as old ones are levelled. Even as much as certain groups move around a lot, huge numbers of people are living in the same area their grandparents were born in.

(Sometimes, I feel surprised when I meet someone else who was born in the city I live in. But if I listen to how someone speaks, no matter if they're fifteen or fifty, I can tell whether they're from here.)

Interesting map, it makes me want to make a poster out of it.

Since the map is (as far as I could see) a raster, does anyone have any recommendations on engines that can overlay information on maps (preferably open, ranging from svg + inkscape to a custom osm visualizer). I am just asking for curiosity's sake, nothing professional in mind here.

Probably QGIS if you are doing something data driven and want a big image as output (especially if the source data has geographic coordinates associated with it).

There are a few open map engines, I guess mapserver and mapnik are 2 of the more prominent ones, and now there are several implementations using OpenGL (aimed at tiled vector maps in browsers). But that is all more at the toolkit level rather than the application level.

For simple stuff, using leaflet to draw on top of OSM tiles is a nice solution.

I was an english major and took an intro to linguistics class. On the first day the prof had us introduce ourselves and based on the accent he guessed where we were from down to a part of the state. I don't remember much of anything from that class but that was pretty cool.

I call BS on the "don"/"dawn" isogloss on the SF peninsula. If it ever did exist, it certainly doesn't anymore. There are no cultural or social groupings along that isoglass that would justify how that line is shaped. Where your parents are from and your socioeconomic status to have way more influence on whether or not you have a "don"/"dawn" distinction than whether you are from San Mateo or San Carlos.

There's a good radiolab episode about American dialects http://www.radiolab.org/story/yall-youse-yinz/

Would love to see an attempt at one of these for the British Isles.

Not exactly a written map, but I think you'll enjoy.

"A tour of the British Isles in accents" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8mzWkuOxz8

It's done a bit differently, but there's an app on phones "The English Dialects app" you can install that will give you some specific features and how they distribute in Britain and Ireland. It will also try to guess where you're from, if you're from those parts.

It does heat maps of features, rather than trying to group bundles into discrete areas. This is probably more accurate, because it shows you were features are strong. Sometimes they'll correlate with others, sometimes not.

That might be quite tricky - I suspect the regional variations aren't quite as strong as they used to be but where I grew up (a small fishing village in North East Scotland) it was possible to identify people from a farming rather than a fishing background due to them having a different accent even though they lived perhaps 1km away...

Agree with you there - drive an hour in the UK and the accent and slang could be completely different (e.g. Manchester to Liverpool), whereas in the US you could easily still be in the same state.

Jeez, Liverpool itself has several distinct accents, so does Manchester or at least Greater Manchester.

You can't drive 10 miles without new accents in populated areas more like!

Next up - an AI that can pinpoint the region where you were raised.

There was a quiz in the NYT a year or two ago that did an astounding job of this without any AI -- it suggested two places for my upbringing based on what words I used "pop" vs "soda", whether I pronounced "pin" and "pen" the same or not, etc -- and the two suggested places happened to be where I grew up and where my parents grew up (which probably influenced my speaking by copying them as well as my peers).

Well, that's a decision tree! An algo that arguably falls under ML :)

Seemed to me like it was some sort of bayes classifier. Either way, clearly classic ML.

That would be fun to use. Talk to an AI for a minute and have it figure out where you're from. Kind of like an audio based 20 questions. It would also be entertaining to try and trick it.

A bit misleading for the region sizes though, the map's projection doesn't preserve area very well... Canada is much more huge than in reality on it!

There was a more general 2005 documentary with interviews by Robert MacNeil of the NewsHour called Do You Speak American?


Also, I have serious doubts about the "differences" in SF Bay Area upper and lower peninsula pronouncing "on." Source: 40 year resident.

The level of detail on this is astonishing. Great job!

If you're intonthis stuff, the Dictionary of Regional American English[0] is pretty great.


This doesn't strike me as "dialect" so much as "accent". There seems to be nothing lexical (nothing about the words you use) and only matters of pronunciation are covered.

But it's a great map, and I'd love to work on this type of thing somehow!

First audio sample is of a woman in Alabama describing a tornado. I know HN hates humor but I couldn't help but laugh at the irony.

Why is it ironic? Alabama gets many tornadoes, so it makes sense that an audio clip describing a tornado is from a place that receives tornadoes. It's like saying it's ironic that someone from Buffalo NY is describing snow... they get it quite often.

It might be ironic if someone from Alabama was describing snow, though.

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