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What’s Your Dialect?

Dialect

I found this Dialect quiz at The New York Times. My results are posted in the map above, and aren’t the least bit surprising.

My results are posted in the map above.

Having grown up in New Jersey and lived there for some 21 years or so before moving to Virginia, it’s only natural that it would show that my pronunciation of most words most closely matches this part of the country. Additionally, even though I’ve spent more time in Virginia now than I did in New Jersey, it doesn’t seem as though it’s had much impact on the way I speak, although given the fact that Northern Virginia is largely an area of transplants where you’re likely to only find anything resembling a “southern” accent among people who have lived here all their lives it isn’t entirely surprising. Indeed, one needs to go much further South or West in the Old Dominion to find any real discernible accent in my experience.

You can take the test yourself here.

H/T Dave Schuler

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. JohnMcC says:

    Sure did nail me and usually folks tell me ‘you don’t have a southern accent’.

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  2. Ben says:

    My map is bright red for all of RI, Eastern MA, NH, ME, blue for CT, NY and NJ, red again for MD and DE, and also quite red for most of eastern VA and NC and a fair amount of orange speckled through the inland south in KY, TN and into Indiana. Some smears of light orange for Utah, Nevada, northern CA. Everything else blue.

    Born and raised in central MA, spent my 20s in Boston and my 30s in RI. Pretty spot on.

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  3. beth says:

    The northeast portion of my map looks a lot like yours since I grew up in NJ too but all the rest of the country on mine is blue. My other maps show a closeness to Yonkers, which is where my mom grew up. Guess I picked up some of her phrasing and pronounciation. Amazing how accurate this can be.

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  4. Dave Schuler says:

    Dialects have several different component parts. So, for example, there are phonetic (how it sounds), grammatical (how you put words together), and usage (what words you use) aspects. At most a third of the test was phonetic and very little was grammatical. It was mostly usage.

    That means it situates you regardless of what you sound like based on what words you use.

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  5. rodney dill says:

    I knew it had me with ‘bubbler’ and ‘Devil’s night’. It said my most similar cities were Milwaukee, Detroit, and Buffalo. I grew up in Wisconsin, worked in Milwaukee, and now live and work in the Detroit area. My wife is from the east coast and I know I’ve picked up some of her terminology.

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  6. CSK says:

    Well, this is weird. I was born in New York, raised in New England, educated substantially in the United Kingdom…and my dialect is Washington/Baltimore/Newark?????

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  7. Dave D says:

    Bubbler always nails us Milwaukeeans, damn you Kohler company.

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  8. Tillman says:

    I don’t know how the hell I got Montgomery, Alabama in there. I’ve never even been to Alabama. This is my father’s fault.

    Also, do people really use those phrases they provided for “across two streets (diagonally) from you”?

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  9. Pinky says:

    I took the survey twice. The final page crashed. Both times.

    I’ve seen this kind of thing before. They pick up on a few places that I’ve lived, but what really surprises me is the way they pick up where my parents were raised as well (New England). I was curious to see if I’d come out with a New England city being one of my strongest matches, but I guess I’ll never know. Lousy site.

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  10. Ben Wolf says:

    My vocabulary is apparently a cross between Newark and Jacksonville, two places I have never lived. Strange, because on a third of the questions the entire map turned dark blue, which I assume means Americans don’t speak that way.

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  11. Ben Wolf says:

    @Tillman:

    Also, do people really use those phrases they provided for “across two streets (diagonally) from you”?

    I wondered about that too as I’ve never heard any of them.

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  12. Dave Schuler says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    Sure. The word used where (and when) I grew up was “catty-corner”.

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  13. michael reynolds says:

    I came up with Omaha. I was raised in Los Angeles, France, the Florida panhandle, tidewater Virginia, DC and environs and Des Moines, Iowa. I guess I can see where that would average out to Omaha.

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  14. OzarkHillbilly says:

    It wouldn’t show me a map, but mostly I leaned southern. I found it quite humorous when it asked me what I called a “drive thru liquor store”. I wanted to say, “A drive thru liquor store.” but that was not among the choices.

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  15. michael reynolds says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    A Brew King? McDrunky? In-N-Out-N-Down-N-Out?

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  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Tillman: Here’s a question: What do you do when you come to a “Y” intersection? I learned it from my KC/Dallas southern Baptist grandmother. Answer to follow.

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  17. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @michael reynolds: No, it’s a drive thru liquor store.

    Answer to what one does at a “Y” intersection: You anigoggle right or left. I have no idea where my grandma got that, for all I know she made it up. Don’t matter, I anigoggle left and right every other day.

    I miss my Grams.

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  18. Neil Hudelson says:

    A bit off topic, but an enjoyable story…

    I had a linguistics professor in college, whom when he first spoke to me identified that I grew up in X county in X state, most likely in the south west part of that county. That is, he identified me down to a 10 mile by 10 mile square radius. Pretty impressive. Turns out the science of dialects is pretty hardcore.

    Indiana is an amazing place for American dialects. In the north central to north west part of the state, you have the “normal” dialect that purportedly newsanchors study to have an “accent free accent.” (Kalamazoo MI and surround areas also claim this. It’s a hot button issue.) In the southern part of the state you have so many regionally defined dialects that many counties have 4 or 5 linguistically distinct dialects.

    The caveat, of course, is what you and I consider “distinct” is different than what a linquist considers distinct. In my particular case, I pronounce the word “pin” (or any other bi labial or labial dental explications proceeded by an “e” or “i” sound) as the word “pen.” Similarly “din” is pronounced “den.” This was much different than my brethren 5 miles north, who pronounced those words “correctly” but pronounced the long “o” in “roof” as something more akin to “ruff.”

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  19. Franklin says:

    Fun fact: the quiz is a little different every time you take it. Not just the order, I got some new questions. (It failed to load the first time. Regardless, it nailed me perfectly the second time.)

    @Neil Hudelson:

    I pronounce the word “pin” as the word “pen”.

    This is why a couple questions in the quiz seemed ambiguous; for example if it asks if “been” uses the vowel in “sit”, it is assuming everybody says “sit” the same way. Maybe they do, but then again I thought everyone pronounced “pin” the same way.

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  20. al-Ameda says:

    Although I am born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, the 3 cities the quiz correlated me to were Madison WI, Aurora IL and Grand Rapids MI.

    The map also showed a lot of orange and red for upstate NY, Colorado, coastal California and Iowa. On the not-so-much side, there was strong blue coloring for every state below the Mason-Dixon line and KY and WV.

    Many people I’ve come across have thought that my way of speaking, my accent, placed me from the West Coast – anywhere from San Francisco to Seattle.

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  21. Just Me says:

    I was raised I the south and it pretty much pegged me there, although I live in NH and my kids have spent almost their entire lives in NE.

    I notice my kids don’t pronounce things phonetically the way I do (except for pecan and caramel and a few others) but they often use southern terms for things. They also have tendency to use certain words/pronunciations/terms around friends but others with family.

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  22. Nikki says:

    I was born and raised mostly in the South, but I am an army brat and my map shows my three most similar cities as Denver, CO, Arlington, VA and Jacksonville, FL. My “most similar” dialect spans the entire nation with only a small amount of “least similar” located in the Great Lakes region.

    With my dialect, I am truly a child of these United States.

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  23. CSK says:

    I tend to refer to “trucks” as “trucks” unless I have a reason to be more specific in identifying them as, say, “pick-ups” or “eighteen-wheelers” or “flatbeds.” Is that standard, or am I strange?

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  24. Grewgills says:

    One of the three cities it picked was where I grew up, though I only lived there the first third of my life. I guess my speech patterns were set early.

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  25. DrDaveT says:

    It nailed me pretty accurately. I grew up in south-central IL and in Omaha, and those areas were bright orange. I’ve spent more time in the DC-Baltimore area than anywhere else, and that area was a splotch of bright orange. I went to grad school in the Finger Lakes, and that was medium orange.

    I lived in Pittsburgh for 5 years, and I can imitate the local dialect, but I don’t talk that way. Deep blue on the map. And the brightest spot of red, by far, was St. Louis MO. I guess that’s what I average out to.

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  26. DrDaveT says:

    @Franklin:

    it is assuming everybody says “sit” the same way

    Why do you say that? It doesn’t have to assume anything about how you pronounce either been or sit; it just asks whether you use the same vowel for both.

    ObDigression: I had a roommate once who flatly did not believe that there are people who pronounce ‘whale’ and ‘wail’ differently, or for that matter that any native English speaker pronounces initial ‘wh-’ as if it were /hw/.

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  27. David M says:

    If you move a couple times during childhood, almost from one coast to the other, it throws off the quiz a little. Although it did list one of the options as Salt Lake City, and I lived there for almost a decade, so not completely wrong.

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  28. Tyrell says:

    That test got me within a two hour drive. Here are a few other “dialects” around here”
    “fixin’ to go”
    “mash the button”
    “need some new turs” (tires)
    “tryin’ to get sick” (means a person is not feeling well)
    “I feel worser today”

    “Southern born, southern raised, southern pride”

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