How Do Americans Really Talk?

By Grant Helle

We know that not all Amer­i­can Eng­lish is the same: South­ern­ers love to talk about sip­ping ‘coke’ while drink­ing a sprite; New York­ers talk about their pie while eat­ing at a pizze­ria; and Bosto­ni­ans love talk­ing about plen­ty, but no one has under­stood them since the 1800s.

Sure­ly these are the only three dialects in Amer­i­ca, right?
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Not quite.

Even though these dialects might not be as dis­tinct as those of the British Isles, Amer­i­can Eng­lish still has plen­ty of dif­fer­ences that are – as with almost every lan­guage – increas­ing. In fact, these vari­a­tions are not always notice­able right away. An Iowan might not real­ize that news­cast­ers are from some­where else until they keep refer­ring to ‘law-yers’ and not ‘loy-yers’.

So how do Amer­i­cans real­ly talk? In 2002, Pro­fes­sors Bert Vaux and Scott Gold­er set out to answer this ques­tion and devel­oped a sur­vey of over 120 ques­tions in order to deter­mine who pro­nounces what, how, and where.

But why just read about it? Take The New York Times’ dialect chal­lenge yourself.

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