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?

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.