How Do You Say …

Nov 27 2013 @ 11:45am


Katherine Wells captions the above video:

Former Harvard professor Bert Vaux asked tens of thousands of people across the U.S. these questions and released the results as the 2003 Harvard Dialect Survey. The data are fascinating; they reveal patterns of migration, unexpected linguistic kinships between regions, and the awesome variety of words we say and how we say them.

The study has wormed its way into popular consciousness and periodically morphs into a meme (just search “accent tag” on YouTube). Last summer, North Carolina State University graduate student Joshua Katz turned Vaux’s geographical data into a set of stunning heat maps that went viral.

For the video above, we called people across the country to ask them a few of Vaux’s questions, then layered the answers with maps based on Katz’s. You’ll hear what Philadelphians call a group of people, the many ways of pronouncing “pecan,” and what Southerners mean when they say “the devil is beating his wife.”

Kottke chimes in:

It’s one thing to read the difference between the pronounciations of “route”, it’s another thing entirely to hear them. I haven’t lived in the Midwest since 2000 and I have since transitioned from “pop” to “soda”, “waiting in line” to “waiting on line”, and am working on switching to “sneakers” from “tennis shoes” (or even “tennies”). But I was surprised to learn that I still pronounce “bag” differently than everyone else!