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Differing Dialects

The Heart of Life: Differing Dialects

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Differing Dialects

A little while ago I came across an article from Business Insider called 22 Maps That Show How Americans Speak English Totally Differently From Each Other.  It showed how people from different parts of the country said certain words differently or used certain names or phrases differently. 

I followed a few links back to the original survey results, and you can see the national data for all of the questions along with a breakdown for each state.  Being an Idahoan dwelling in Utah, I looked up the state data for Utah to see how much of a hick people think I am how I compare to the people surrounding me.  I didn’t expect to be too far off the Utah norm, seeing as I was raised by a Utahn mother, but there were some discrepancies—some of which surprised me.  I answered about 1/5 of the questions differently from the Utah norm.

As I was going through the questions, I realized that language is a culture in and of itself.  A lot of words/phrases/pronunciations are a result of the community you grew up in and others are a result of your family. 

I thought of a few words/terms I think are fairly unique to my very rural hometown community in Idaho:

Jockey Box: The rest of the world calls it a glove box or glove compartment.

Outfit: A vehicle. For example, "Is that your outfit parked out front?"

Borrow Pit: The sides of the road out in the country. In making the roads, they borrowed the dirt from the sides to build up the road higher.  This term might not be unique to my hometown, but it’s definitely not a term I’ve heard while living in Utah.

Beet Dump:  A place where all the harvested sugar beets in the area are piled for a few months until they’re shipped off to sugar beet factories.  It’s really a pretty impressive sight—a gigantic mountain of beets.  Again, this is a term used wherever there’s sugar beet farming, but the term really doesn’t exist in the city.

The School Rock:  A large boulder placed in front of each school that is there for the sole purpose of being vandalized by rival schools.  Once a rival school paints your school’s rock in their colors, you paint it back to your own school colors.  Occasionally dead animals and feminine products are found on the rocks after a particularly heated basketball or football game.

And then there’s words/phrases/pronunciations unique to your family.  My dad pronounces volleyball "volleyvoll" and his mother calls asparagus "asparagrus."  My brother called our camping trailer a “camping house” when he was little and it’s not unheard of for our family to still call it that sometimes.  For whatever reason I called the microwave a “diove” (pronounced die-off) when I was tiny, and although it’s not a term my family uses regularly, we all know what diove means. 

I used to think that weird words were kind of a rural thing, but it turns out city people do it too.  When we were first married my husband casually commented that some baby was being "faunchy" and I immediately questioned the validity of the word, so we looked it up in the dictionary. There was no faunchy to be found. For his family it means a fussy baby.  For whatever reason, faunchy just doesn't have an innocent connotation for me--I picture a hooker, not a baby.  Needless to say, I've forbidden my husband to call our children this word.

After I looked through the Utah responses, I glanced through the Idaho responses to see if some of my weird terms or phrases are an Idaho thing.  About 1/3 of my answers that didn’t coincide with the Utah majority did coincide with the Idaho majority.  The other 2/3 that didn’t coincide with the majority of Utahns or Idahoans must be something I picked up from my rural hometown or my family.

As I looked through all of this data, the geeky part of me that likes research began some critical thinking on this study.  I noted that there were only 82 Idaho participants.  Where do these 82 Idahoans live?  If most of them live up in the pan-handle or Boise, it’s no wonder that so many of my answers differ from the Idaho “majority.”  It’s an entirely different culture up there.  Maybe my answers coincide perfectly with the 4 people (that’s a guess) surveyed from rural Southern Idaho, but the data doesn’t show it.

And then Utah is a totally different story.  172 people were surveyed in Utah, but again, location plays a pretty big role in how people answered.  In fact, religion plays a pretty huge role in this as well.  With the LDS Church headquartered in Salt Lake and BYU in Provo, you get a lot of people coming from all around the country to live in the SLC/Provo area.  This creates a melting pot of language.  I’m guessing a large portion of the Utahns surveyed came from the SLC/Provo area as it’s the most populous part of Utah, but I’m wondering how many of them grew up out of state.  It’s such a complex thing!

Anyway, the following are the questions that I answered differently from the majority of the surveyed Utahns.  The Utah answers are bolded and my answers are highlighted with green.

2. been

a. [] as in "sit"

b. [i:] as in "see"

c. [] as in "set"

d. other

9. crayon

a. [] as in "man" (1 syllable, "cran")

b. [ej] (2 syllables, "cray-ahn")

c. [ej] (2 syllables, "cray-awn", where the second syllable rhymes with "dawn")

d. [aw] (I pronounce this the same as "crown")

e. other

10. creek (a small body of running water)

a. [i:] as in "see"

b. [] as in "sit" 

c. I use both interchangeably

d. I don't know how to pronounce this word

e. I use both, but they mean two different things (For me, a creek is a stream and a "crick" is a much smaller stream)

12. flourish

a. [] as in "bird" ("flurr-ish")

b. [] as in "sore" ("flore-ish")

c. [] as in "sun" ("fluh-rish")

d. other

16. mayonnaise

a. with [] as in "man" (2 syllables--"man-aze")

b. with [ej] (3 syllables--"may-uh-naze")

c. I use both interchangeably

d. other (I say "may-naze")

25. roof, room, broom, root

a. [u:] as in "food"

b. [] as in "foot"

c. these four words do not all have the same vowel (Roof, room, and broom I pronounce like "food" but with root I use both pronunciations interchangeably depending on what I'm talking about.  I think I pronounce root like "foot" most of the time.)

30. the "s" in "anniversary"

a. [s] as in "sock"

b. [] as in "shock"

32. candidate

a. I pronounce the first d

b. I don't pronounce the first d

c. I vary freely between pronouncing the first d and not doing so 

d. I only pronounce the first d when I'm speaking slowly/carefully

e. Depends whether it refers to a political or generic candidate, as in "that assignment looks like a good candidate for elimination"

f. other

38. the "s" in "nursery"

a. [s] as in "sock"

b. [] as in "shock"

c. other 

41. Do you use "spigot" or "spicket" to refer to a faucet or tap that water comes out of?

a. spicket (I usually just call it a faucet, but spicket works too) 

b. spigot

c. I use both interchangeably

d. I say "spicket" but spell it "spigot"

e. I use both with different meanings

f. I don't use either version of this word

g. other

44. cream cheese

a. CREAM cheese (stress on the first syllable)

b. cream CHEESE (stress on the second syllable)

c. it sounds right either way

d. other 

53. Modals are words like "can," "could," "might," "ought to," and so on. Can you use more than one modal at a time? (e.g., "I might could do that" to mean "I might be able to do that"; or "I used to could do that" to mean "I used to be able to do that")

a. yes (A college friend once made fun of me for saying "might could"--until then it had never occurred to me that it was a weird thing to say.)

b. no

c. other

60. What do you call the area of grass between the sidewalk and the road?

a. berm

b. parking

e. curb strip

g. verge 

h. I have no word for this

i. other (I call it the parking strip)

74. What do you call the little gray creature (that looks like an insect but is actually a crustacean) that rolls up into a ball when you touch it?

a. pill bug 

b. I know what this creature is, but have no word for it

c. I have no idea what this creature is

d. other

e. potato bug

f. roly poly

g. sow bug 

77. What do you call the activity of driving around in circles in a car?

a. doing donuts

b. doing cookies (I grew up calling it "cutting cookies") 

d. other

82. What do you call the gooey or dry matter that collects in the corners of your eyes, especially while you are sleeping?

a. eye crunchie 

b. eye crusties 

c. sand 

d. gunk 

e. matter 

f. I have no word for this 

g. other 

h. sleep

i. sleeper

j. sleepy 

k. sleepies 

l. sleepy seed

m. sleepy bugs

n. eye booger 

o. eye shit 

85. What is the thing that women use to tie their hair?

a. (hair) elastic

b. rubber band 

d. hair thing (I call it a hair thingy, but it's close enough)

e. hair tie 

f. other 

87. Do you use the term "bear claw" for a kind of pastry?

a. yes

b. no, but I know what it means 

c. I have no idea what this means 

98. Which of these terms do you prefer?

a. By accident

b. On accident 

c. both 

d. neither

e. other 

102. What do you call the insect that looks like a large thin spider and skitters along the top of water?

a. waterbug (I also call it a water skeeter) 

j. I have no word for this

k. other

c. waterstrider

e. water-spider

f. watercrawler

g. water beetle

i. skimmer

105. What is your generic term for a sweetened carbonated beverage?

a. soda

j. other 

b. pop (this one surprised me—I make fun of my husband all the time for calling it soda because I thought it was a back-east term.  It turns out most Utahns call it soda too.  In the Idaho results, pop is the norm) 

c. coke 

e. soft drink 

106. What do you call the act of covering a house or area in front of a house with toilet paper?

a. tp'ing 

c. toilet papering

e. papering

g. I have no word for this 

h. other

113. amphitheater

a. f 

b. p

c. other

114. citizen

a. [s] 

b. [z]

c. other 

116. How do you pronounce the -sp- sequence in "thespian" (the word meaning "actor")?

a. [sp] (as in "desperate")

b. [zb] (rhymes with "lesbian")

c. other 


At June 13, 2013 at 8:38 PM , Blogger Celia Turner said...

I think it's interesting that you answered several differently than I did. I would have thought we would say the same on the all of the pronunciation ones.
Oh, you didn't mention the crazy pronunciation of "corner" that Elder Hales always says - "car-ner", or "pork" the car versus "park", and "cord" instead of "card". Then there's those good folks from Wellsville that have their own little hick accent. It's interesting, indeed!!!


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