Dialect Map


The New York Times  recently published a quiz called “How Y’all, Youse and You Guys Talk” that purports to determine what part of the United States you are from based on your dialect. You’ve probably seen it on all the usual social networks.

I had some interesting results, and some questions that were a bit tricky to answer.  So, I thought instead of merely publishing my results, I would also comment on some of the questions that could go either way.

How would you address a group of two or more people?

  • Of the options presented here, I’d probably go with “you” or “you all,” although the seven years I lived in Virginia convinced me of the utility of “y’all.”

What do you call the small road parallel to the highway?

  • Something I didn’t have a term for until about a decade ago when a friend told me they were called “frontage road.”

What is the distinction between dinner and supper?

  • I find myself one of the few people who actually make the distinction (most people I know don’t seem to use supper at all) but “dinner takes place in a more formal setting than supper.”

What would you call a sale of unwanted items on your porch, in your yard, etc.?

  • I’m glad that “tag sale” is an option here.  That’s what they were called in Connecticut when I was young, but I got strange looks when I tried to advertise a tag sale in Virginia, and haven’t heard the term here in Massachusetts.

What do you call it when rain falls while the sun is shining?

  • I’m really curious where in the country are the people who refer to a sunshower as “the devil is beating his wife” or “monkey’s wedding.”  This question has the weirdest options of the entire quiz.

What do you call a big road on which you drive relatively fast?

  • “Highway” is the generic term I’m clicking off here, but also in my vocabulary are “turnpike” (refers to a toll road) and “parkway” (refers to a highway that passes through a scenic and/or historic area).

What do you call the long sandwich that contains cold cuts, lettuce and so on?

  • The correct answer – “wedge” – is not listed as that seems to be limited to a small portion of the small state of Connecticut.  Since leaving Connecticut I’ve had to concede to using “sub” instead.

What do you call a traffic situation in which several roads meet in a circle?

  • I grew up with “traffic circle” but you can’t live in Massachusetts for two minutes without encountering a “rotary.”  Technically, “roundabout” refers to something different from a “rotary” and our city would be improved if “roundabouts” replaced “rotaries” (physically, if not linguistically).

How do you pronounce aunt?

  • I pronounce it “ahnt,” but have to say “ant” when referring to the relatives in my wife’s midwestern family.

So, what dialect do I speak?  My parents are from New York (one from the Bronx and the other from Brooklyn).  I was born in New Jersey, but grew up in Connecticut where my education and dialect should’ve been formed.   The Connecticut accent always struck me as what you might call “standard American.”  Like, they send DJ’s and announcers to Connecticut to learn how to talk like they’re not from anywhere in particular.  Seven years in Virginia and fifteen years in Massachusetts muddy the waters a bit.

Here’s my map:

dialect map

I guess this should not be a surprise.  After all, the red zone of “most similar” goes through Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey – three of the four states I’ve resided in.  I’m disappointed that New York and Boston, or for that matter any city in the state of Connecticut are not identified.  But I have to admit that while I haven’t lived in Springfield, Yonkers, or Newark / Paterson, they’re all kind of close to places I have lived.  The least similar are Amarillo and Lubbock in Texas, and Little Rock, Arkansas, which should also not be as surprise.  Perhaps that’s where they say “monkey’s wedding” for a sunshower.

So there’s my voice.  What’s your dialect?  Let me know in the comments.