Friday, December 27, 2013

The Multiple Englishes of the United States

Back in my college days, too many years ago, I majored in cultural anthropology.  One of the courses I took was Linguistics - specifically, the study of culture and language.

One thing our class had us do was to go out on our campus, flag students down and ask them to take a short quiz asking what they called certain things and how they pronounced certain words.

Most people who live in the United States know that we all don't talk the same.  We have different words for different things - for example, a carbonated drink might be called either soda, pop, or soda pop.  We pronounce words differently - in New York we call the thing on top of houses a "roof" and in the midwest they call it a "ruuf".  We call the thing you put groceries in at the checkout a "bag". They call it a "sack".

The differences between New York and, say, England, are even wider. A recipe published by a British blogging friend called for "chocolate hundreds and thousands". We call them sprinkles.  Others in our country call them jimmies.

So, if you live in the United States, do you want to know which English you speak?

It's easy-take this quiz.  Just 25 questions.  Some were the same questions I asked students some 40 years ago.  Others were new to me. 

Right now, this quiz is so popular that several people have posted their results on my Facebook timeline.

My personal results were a blend of New York City (in the southeast part of New York State), Yonkers (a city that borders New York City about 2 miles from where I grew up in New York City) and Buffalo, New York (in the western part of the state). Since I've lived the past 25 or so years in the Southern Tier of upstate New York maybe a bit less than halfway across the state, this makes sense.

If you take this quiz: was it accurate for you?


  1. Good thing you did not include improper English or I would have sacked you..It's in the bag!

  2. I have seen this quiz floating around the web and some interesting results. I am Australian so that would really confuse the issue, but I am always fascinated by dialects!

  3. I am a New Yawker at heart, and laughed when in college a school mate called a wagon I used at the grocery store as a buggy. Then I met someone from Ohio and learned about things like sweepers. We may say we speak the same language, but there are so many differences, it can certainly be confusing - especially when you add other English speaking countries into the mix. And then, of course, there are things that transcend the words themselves, which keeps things being even more interesting!

  4. I took the quiz and it placed me exactly where I'm from--well, about 20 miles from there, anyway! Now I think I'll put my feet up and have a pop. Blessings, Alana!

  5. This is really interesting as accents fascinate me!
    I have a Cumbrian accent!

  6. Here in England, a carbonated drink is called by its individual name, for instance: lemonade, orangeade or coke. It's like the old song: you say potato and I say ...

  7. So cool. Posted your link on our Carolina HeartStrings page


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