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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

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Frosting or Icing? Firefly or "Peenie Wallie"? Brew-Thru, Beverage Barn, or "I Have Never Heard of This Concept"?

I have taken this regional dialect quiz from N.C. State University four times in the last week (the short version changes up its questions), and it has pegged me exactly every time as a person who grew up in Houston. That is crazy! Continental Americans: can it pin you down, too?

This quiz overloads if too many people are on it at once, so if you can't get to it, a perhaps even more interesting substitute is the distribution map created from the answers to each question. Did you know that, in a few coastal parts of New England, people say "Mary," "merry" and "marry" with different vowels for each word? I also had always thought all Texans said "feeder" for the access road to the highway ("freeway" for me, incidentally), but apparently it's just Southeast Texas. And it appears that in my new home of Michigan, the night before Halloween is called "devil's night"!

[Dialect Quiz]

85 Comments / Post A Comment

Lily Rowan

I definitely think Mary/merry/marry are three different vowel sounds! And I am more or less from coastal New England. I mean, not coastal enough that you can smell the ocean, but you can get there in less than an hour.

j-i-a

@Lily Rowan how do you say them?! I say them all like merry

leonstj

@j-i-a We say them like Mary, Merry, Marry!

Dunno about Lily, but I have a blend of like a subtle philly accent. I pronounce "Mary" like "old grey MARE-Y", "Merry" is like the "MEH"R-RY, and "Marry" is kind of like the AR sound at the beginning of Arizona.

j-i-a

@leonstj this is so interesting i am into this

cuminafterall

@leonstj Yup, I'm mid-Atlantic-ish (see below) and I pronounce them like you, my husband is from Long Island and he pronounces them all "mare-y."

I'm amazed that bury/berry didn't make it on the survey-- my husband thinks they sound the same, and he's wrong.

j-i-a

@cuminafterall how do you guys pronounce arizona? i say (m)are-izona

Lily Rowan

Yeah, more or less what Leon said. And I often get Philly on those dialect quizzes, even though I am from Boston! I lived there for 4 years and NYC for 10, so I think I get generically Eastern Seaboard Urban. Although if you met me you'd mostly think I have a Standard American accent.

TheLetterL

@Lily Rowan Sounds like we have the same regional background, and it's three distinct vowel sounds.

"If there's one thing I won't stand for, it's loose vowels." - Aunt Adelaide

Emby

@j-i-a The real shibboleth is asking people how they pronounce Tempe!

leonstj

@j-i-a thats so weird. like, "Up in the Air-izona"?

I pronounce Arizona & Marry like arrogant, though it dawns on me maybe you also say that weird. There's almost a really subtle "ah" sound too it if you're listen to it a bunch. Do you pronounce marriage the same way as marry? for me they're the same.

However, unlike cumin, I pronounce bury the same as I pronounce berry.

Lily Rowan

Arizona and marry basically have the aaah sound from cat.

72399918@twitter

@cuminafterall I am from long island and they are three different words!
Mary = Mare-y
Merry= Merr-y
Marry= Mahh-ry

leonstj

@Lily Rowan YES! That's it.

I can't take this quiz still, but I just took a different one, and it swears I'm 100% Philly - which, I did pronounce the liquid of life "wooder" not "water" until I finally stopped in college - after teased about it for a decade or so of not living near Philly.

j-i-a

@leonstj hahaha i say all of these things the same. flat texas "air" sound. airizona. bury and berry are both bair-y. air-ogant

Lu2
Lu2

@Lily Rowan Yup.

P.S. what about "orange"? I grew up (NJ) with ahr-ange, but after a million years living in the Midwest, I say ore-ange or awr-ange about 60 percent of the time. :(
Oh, wait, I just remembered that some people say "ornge," too. !

cuminafterall

@72399918@twitter I just texted him & you're right. I was so amped about the bury/berry thing I just assumed it was the same!

@Emby I lived in AZ for 20 months as a kid... I'm good with Tempe and even Prescott, but couldn't pronounce "Mogollon Rim" correctly if you put a gun to my head.

honey cowl

@Lily Rowan I cannot get my mind around the fact that people think mary/merry/marry are pronounced differently! How could one possibly say those in different ways??? I DO NOT UNDERSTAND

Emby

@j-i-a This is the correct way, Jia, and don't let anyone's fool mouth tell you different.

coolallison

@j-i-a Texan here... and yeah, even with the explanations of how to say them differently... they still sound the same to me.

Emby

@cuminafterall It's easy! MUG-ee-yawn!

Lu2
Lu2

@leonstj As long as you don't say "tumor-ic" for the spice tur-mer-ic, I have no quibble with you. People! Do you cook with tumors? Are you blind to the first R in that word?! ;-)

leonstj

@leonstj things that ran through my head "what is this, hoagies, subs, and heros are different things!" "the word roundabout should never be used, because YES".

Also, the result was really great - it identified both where I mostly grew up and also where I went to college (far away from nj/philly area). What I find really interesting, although it makes perfect sense, is that when these quizzes are phonetic only, I always get Philly, and when they include dialect, I get north NJ / NYC.

I had a proff who swore that the accent you had which would always be subtle and lay under everything was that of your first group of friends outside the home (not your parents/siblings, basically) - generally whoever you went to pre-k and kindergarten with, and that no matter what changed in your life, hints of that would always be the backbone to everything.

72399918@twitter

@cuminafterall I think bury and berry are the same too. Long Island, after all!

leonstj

@leonstj sidebar: i super love that we all could go to youtube and type in like "mary merry marry" and probably get a million responses but instead we're sitting here trying to explain how words sound to strangers with accents we may have never even heard using only words, it is the greatest thing ever. i could talk about word sounds till the end of time.

Lily Rowan

@leonstj ME TOO. I mean, it's better in person, but this still works! (Kind of not really.)

Lily Rowan

I finally got in! And it put my dialect in Eastern MA, which is right, with a touch of Providence, which is interesting since my mother grew up in RI.

RK Fire

@cuminafterall Ahhh I am a Maryland native and all three words sound the same to me. I'm starting to second guess myself now..

[I would try the quiz but every time I go it says the servers are overloaded!]

celeec4@twitter

@RK Fire MD accents seem to vary heavily across county lines. I have no idea, but that quiz pegged me as being from way further up the East coast than the Mid-Atlantic. *shrugs* And I'm basically from Maryland? I don't know, maybe learning English as a second language throws that sucker for a loop.

RK Fire

@celeec4@twitter The county thing is totally true. I grew up in Central MD (PG -> Bmore City -> AA) but I feel like there are hints of a southern twang in the more rural parts of the state. Or the more rural parts of a given county.

I also grew up in a family where everyone else learned English as a second language, and I know that made an impact on the way I speak. (More perceptive people w/r/t accents than I have also mentioned that there are some SE Asian undertones to my cadence/accent.) For instance, my big sister (by 10 years) was not okay with 4 year old me pronouncing "library" like "liberry," in fine Bmore City fashion.

celeec4@twitter

@RK Fire From Montgomery County, which...I guess has a lot of people from all over? Western Maryland is for sure super different. Hell, I speak kinda differently than my friend who grew up just a bit further north of me in Frederick.

Pretty sure the geographic mis-location of my accent can be partially attributed to me learning English as a second language. The first time I ran into rendezvous left me cursing the language and foibles from all the linguistic stealing English does. Still do, actually.

Chel

@j-i-a I've lived in Arizona for over 30 years and pronounce it air-a-zona.

discombobulated

@leonstj I would love to take one that was pronunciation-only and one with just word choice! I suspect they'd peg me for Philly if it had word choice, but with just pronunciation they'd be very confused.

Re: subs vs. hoagies vs. heros - I usually say "sub" unless it comes from Wawa, in which case it's a hoagie. No idea why.

katzenklavier

@Lily Rowan But why do people from the East Coast pronounce Mario Mary-o?? Can anyone explain this? Isn't New York full of Italians who say it right?

Lily Rowan

@katzenklavier I do not know those people who say Mary-o and cannot explain it. Holdover from the English?

stavros

this helped soooooo much@m

Emby

Mary/merry/marry = all the same vowel sound. Pin/pen = same vowel sound.

Egregious vowel mergers, brought to you by the great state of Arizona by way of Texas lineage.

meetapossum

@Emby "Pin/pen = same vowel sound." D:

bitzyboozer

@Emby Yup. It kind of blew my mind when I first realized some people pronounced pin and pen differently. (Texan here.)

j-i-a

@bitzyboozer omg what about "crayon" pronounced "crown" y'all heard that one, texans? that one confused me so much as a child; i thought that the Lord Jesus wore a crayon on his head

Lu2
Lu2

@j-i-a I remember being stunned as a 5-year-old child by our neighbors in NJ who originally came from god-knows-where pronouncing the word "towel" as "tal." ??! Thus was born a lifelong dialect fascination/Henry Higgins complex.

72399918@twitter

@meetapossum Nooo P-in (as in igloo) and P-ehn (as in entry).

meetapossum

@Emby Oh, I know. It's just one of my dialectical pet peeves. Along with "melk" for milk and "bayg" for bag. I also make fun of my Southern friends when they say INsurance and UMbrella.

bitzyboozer

@j-i-a What! I have never heard this. Maybe it's a Houston/southeast Texas thing?

bitzyboozer

@72399918@twitter Pretty sure I don't pronounce entry the way you do.

Lily Rowan

@Lu2 "Tal" is SO PHILLY.

Lu2
Lu2

@Lily Rowan Is it "seoww" Philly? :)

Lily Rowan

@Lu2 I mean, not as Philly as the Iggles, but yes. ;)

pajamaralls

@Emby Pen & Pin are the same. Mary & merry are the same, but not marry.

Question for people who aren't pronouncing pen & pin the same? How are y'all saying when & win?

rangiferina

@pajamaralls same vowel differentiation as pin/pen, for me; win is [ɪ] (kind of like 'ih'), when is [ɛ] ('eh')

meetapossum

@pajamaralls I listen to the History of the English Language podcast (which is great), and the guy who does it has a sort of neutral accent for the most part, but you can tell he's from the south when he does things like pronounce "wheel" like "will." Drives me crazy!

Lu2
Lu2

@rangiferina For my whole life I've had it in the back of my mind to learn the IPA because it would make things so much simpler for. So I don't have to try and type out words like "seoww" to explain the Philly "O." But it's fun to do it anyway.

rangiferina

@Lu2 IPA is so much fun (imo, haha). I only know it because I took a lot of linguistics classes in college, but it definitely comes in handy - especially in text-based discussions like this where the participants can have such wildly different accents! (But I agree, there IS something about typing out "seowwww"...)

Lu2
Lu2

@rangiferina I have to admit I panic a little when I see those symbols. I have only the vaguest idea what they mean.

cuminafterall

I got Philadelphia (both my parents are from Philly suburbs), Baltimore (I spent ages 10-17 in the Baltimore suburbs) and Wilkes-Barre, PA (my grandma says things like "milk is so expensive anymore, I've switched to nondairy creamer.")

aphrabean

Frosting and icing are two different things, correct? Icing is that thin sugary glaze and frosting is that thick, fluffy kind. Is that not right?

karenb

@aphrabean yep, that's what i'd say. anyone know of these linguistic tests for canuks? it would have to be pretty subtle, until the maritimes, of course.

Lily Rowan

@aphrabean That was one of the quiz choices!

aphrabean

@Lily Rowan Ha! Shame on me for not clicking through. :)

meetapossum

I got NJ/Philly area, as is correct. Mary and merry sound the same, but marry is different.

Jaya

Yup, NYC through and through. Though I would like to live wherever they call doing a donut "whipping shitties"

Li'l Sebastian

@Jaya My friend from Sheboygan Wisconsin says that!

lasso tabasco

Cool! Growing up I lived in every major US region except the Pacific Northwest, and my speech is, consequently, a mess. The survey thingy says I talk most like a Texan- I lived there for two years during middle school and my stepdad is Texan, so I guess that makes sense. Hm.

greentypewriters

I've taken it three times, and it tells me Montana or Worcester, MA every time. I'm from Oklahoma!

Violet Strange

@greentypewriters 3 tries all convinced I'm from Plymouth MA. I've lived my entire life in central Ohio, as has half of my family -- the other side is from rural Virginia.

Seriously, what the hell?

Lu2
Lu2

It's exciting to me that the marry/merry/Mary distinction seems exotic to some people. :)

Does anyone listen to "Welcome to Night Vale"? If so, have you noticed that Cecil always mixes up the vowels E and I in the middle of words? I mean he says pen for pin and pin for pen. I don't think he's literally used those words, but those are the sounds I mean.

rangiferina

@Lu2 hmmm, I'll have to keep an ear out for that the next time I listen! I never noticed that before.

districter

Super interesting, my top towns were all in Wisconsin or Western NY, but I have lived in MD/DC my whole life. My mom is from MD, but my dad grew up in Wisconsin. Guess I picked up a lot from him??

JanieS

Puts me in Milwaukee every time. My voice is still from Wisconsin, even if I did spend most of my childhood in Michigan.

RNL
RNL

West Coast Canadian and my number 1 city is Boston! What the!

But the rest are almost all in California which makes some sense.

Donna Danger@twitter

It pinned (ha!) me exactly to Yonkers, NY, which is where both of my parents are from, even though I was raised upstate. It was interesting that my 10+ years on the west coast hadn't diluted or influenced my speech more, or maybe it's that the west coast as a whole doesn't have such a distinct regional dialect?

meetapossum

Oh, shit! I just saw the tags. JIMMIES FOREVER.

rangiferina

I took the long quiz a week or so ago so can't remember which towns it placed me in - but my map is pretty darn accurate (born and raised on Long Island).

and my Long Islander self bristles at being lumped in with "a few coastal parts of New England." Harrrrumph! (kidding, kidding) Excuse me while I go mEHrrily mAAAAHrry mAYRy... ;)

boysplz

This was really interesting for me since I grew up all over the country. I got a generally Texan which makes sense to me since I spent a lot of time in Oklahoma and have lived in Austin for 4 years now.

What surprised was that I got a match for Bakersfield, California where I lived for 3 years around kindergarten. I would never have assumed that I'd have some sort of central Californian influence on my speech. Now I need to get my sister to try it!

Bittersweet

I grew up outside of DC but now live in Boston, so it's not surprising that I got the Boston-Plymouth-Lowell trifecta, with a slight sprinkling of NYC (where my dad is originally from).

As a Bostonian, I'm also wicked jealous of people with drive-through liquor stores (AKA packies).

celeec4@twitter

@Bittersweet I grew up outside of DC too, but the quiz pegged me as Northeast? Way further up the coast than the Mid-Atlantic. I have no idea how that happened.

Also, I really love your avatar, Bittersweet. My Neighbor Totoro is one of my favorite movies of all time.

dotcommie

As an Army brat, I enjoyed punking this quiz. I grew up all over the southeast and midwest, with some years in Puerto Rico (my dad is from PR and my mom from Virginia). My results are nonsensical: top cities are Boston, Newark, and Fort Lauderdale--never lived near any of them. My least similar cities are Flint, Akron, Toledo, and Cincinnati...and I actually lived in Cincinnati for 3 years. I guess I'm a contrarian.

dreeski

@dotcommie
I am an Air Force brat, and I thought I could punk it too. But it nailed me as coming from New York and Michigan, where my father and mother are from, respectively.

cameralucida

My top city was the small MA town where I grew up. The next four are all places in MA where my family lives. I expected to get pinpointed to New England, but the accuracy was astonishing.

pajamaralls

My top was Columbia, SC and I live a couple hours away so. All of my cities were South Carolina/North Carolina/Georgia.

Sorry Michigan, but we're not meant to be.

discombobulated

I grew up in Delaware but don't have the mid-Atlantic accent. The short quiz pegged me for a New Jerseyan, which is pretty close, but it overestimated the NYC/northern NJ factor in my accent. I don't have a New York-ish accent at all, but I had Yonkers, NY and two North Jersey cities in my top 5. (The others were Philly and Tom's River, NJ, which are pretty close.)

The long quiz was way off. It gave me results in southern and northern California and the DC area. Baltimore was #4, which isn't too far off. But the top five were at like 36% match, and the bottom five (mostly in the Deep South) were at 33%, so there really wasn't much difference between them.

I think my pronunciation is pretty generic-NPR-American (I have the Mary/merry/marry merger), but my word choice is more influenced by the mid-Atlantic, with a few Boston elements thanks to my parents and extended family.

cocokins

Dialects are becoming my favorite thing ever. We make fun of my mom a lot (I live in southern NH but she hails from Lowell, MA) because she says things like "earphones" but pronounces it "air-phones." Likewise, she pronounces "beer" as "bear." She doesn't think it sounds different! Or, she thinks we say it weird, I guess. I'm not sure if this is a sub-dialect of her own neighborhood (her best friend talks the same way!), but gosh do I love it.

And for the record, mary/merry/marry are DEFINITELY three sounds.

cocokins

@cocokins Oh, and I totally forgot to say: this reminds me of our Hairpin map. Whatever happened to that project?!

klemay

Noooo I talk like a Masshole :(

honey cowl

I finally got in and it told me I'm from Minneapolis, where my BF's family is from. In reality I am either from the heart of Illinois or the front range of Colorado sooooooooooooo?

ciphressinchief

After years of insisting that we Coloradans have no accent, I have just been proven wrong. Touche, little quiz. Touche.

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