The devil is beating his wife

MAPPING HOW AMERICA SPEAKS: Post-graduate student Joshua Katz’s dialect maps showcase America’s many linguistic divides. Simple words such as lawyer, mayonnaise and crayon highlight just how dialectally diverse the United States is.

New maps of American dialect and local interpretation

BBQ sign in Texas (C) Christopher Wesson 2011

BBQ sign in Texas
(C) Christopher Wesson 2011

Between 1999 and 2001,  Professor Bert Vaux – at the time an associate professor of linguistics at Harvard University, now at Cambridge – with the help of some of his students, created a survey to analyse local dialects across America for his English class. He produced maps from the results which showed each response as a single color-coded point, so you could see individual instances of each answer.

(C) Bert Vaux and Harvard University 2002.

(C) Bert Vaux and Harvard University 2002.

Over a decade later, and graduate student Joshua Katz of North Carolina State University has taken the same survey data and produced some wonderful new maps. The example below uses the same data as the Vaux example above.

Y'all, you all, or you guys?

Y’all, you all, or you guys?

Katz also used an algorithm to build an interactive map of the responses Vaux gathered with a pull-down menu to find the most similar and least similar cities to any locale you choose.

Apparently, the y’all vs. you guys schism isn’t the only linguistic divide between the North and the South. As reported by Al.com (Alabama Local News):

Perhaps the strangest conclusion is the answer to this question: “What do you call it when rain falls while the sun is shining?”

Most of the country has no term or expression for that incidence, while parts of the Northeast and Florida call it a “sunshower.”

In pockets of Mississippi and Alabama, however, that only happens when “the devil is beating his wife.”

As an Englishman who has only been to the States once, I was suprised to see how much of America pronounces mayonnaise as man-aze!

3-syllable or 2-syllable Mayo (C) Joshua Katz 2013

3-syllable or 2-syllable Mayo
(C) Joshua Katz 2013

His project, a poster, the results and all of his mapping can be navigated through from his webpage ‘Beyond “Soda, Pop, or Coke”‘. Here are some further examples (below).


Coo-pon or Cyoo-pon

Coo-pon vs Cyu-pon (C) Joshua Katz 2013

Coo-pon vs Cyu-pon
(C) Joshua Katz 2013


What or where is ‘the City’?

The City (C) Joshua Katz 2013

The City
(C) Joshua Katz 2013


Is slaw acceptable?

ColeSLAW (C) Joshua Katz 2013

ColeSLAW
(C) Joshua Katz 2013


Firefly or lightning bug?

Firefly or Lightning Bug (C) Joshua Katz 2013

Firefly or Lightning Bug
(C) Joshua Katz


Mary, merry and marry

Mary, merry, marry (C) Joshua Katz 2013

Mary, merry, marry
(C) Joshua Katz 2013


Coke, soda, pop or soft drink?

Soda or Pop? (C) Joshua Katz 2013

Soda or Pop?
(C) Joshua Katz 2013

 

 

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