Resistance is futile: Everyone in America must take the NYT’s dialect quiz

posted at 1:00 pm on December 24, 2013 by Allahpundit

I held out for a few days as this thing supernova’d on Twitter and Facebook but capitulation was a matter of time. How viral is it? On the NYT’s page of most popular stories, the dialect quiz is the most e-mailed, the most blogged, and the most tweeted. As I write this, the list of the 10 keywords most frequently searched on the site has “dialect” at number one, “how y’all” at number two (the quiz is titled “How Y’all, Youse and You Guys Talk”), “youse” at number four, “you” at number six, “quiz” at number seven, and “language” at number eight. When I loaded the quiz this morning, it came with a little virtual post-it note that read “We are currently experiencing many requests, so the quiz may be slow to generate your personal map.” It’s no sweat to find a message like that at Healthcare.gov, but at the NYT? Good lord. Bottom line: If you’re one of the precious few who hasn’t submitted yet, you will. You will.

The magic is simple. Hundreds of thousands of people were polled on a few dozen well-chosen questions — e.g., do you say “soda,” “pop,” or something else, do you pronounce “aunt” as “ant” or “awnt,” etc. The result is a granular map of American dialects capable of detecting with surprising accuracy where a person grew up based on the colloquialisms they use. Even better, every answer you give generates a dialect map for that question so you can see where the regional boundary lines fall. Some of those are predictable, like “y’all” being a southern thing or “pa-jahm-as” versus “pa-jam-as” being an east/west thing. Others, however, are patchwork and bizarre. Here’s what turned up when I chose “sunshower” as the word to describe the phenomenon of rain falling while the sun is out:

sunsh

It’s a northeast thing, and northeastern transplants apparently brought it to Florida. But … what’s going on in Minnesota? I didn’t even know that it rained there. After reading Ed and James Lileks for years, I thought the only weather options were sunny and two feet of snow.

The viral genius of the quiz is that it lets you auto-post your personal dialect map to Twitter or Facebook once you’re done, which makes it the perfect mix of narcissism and pop-sociological conversation tinder for social media. It looks to me (after taking it three times) like there are around 35 questions total, only 25 of which are randomly chosen and asked of the user in each session. That’s part of the fascination too — how little the widget needs to know before it can peg you. My hunch, in fact, is that it could have guessed that I’m from New York in half the number of questions, if not fewer. According to the maps, calling the shoes you wear in gym class “sneakers” is an exclusively northeastern practice. From there, it’s just a matter of refining where in the northeast: If you say “hero” to describe a submarine sandwich and pronounce “Mary,” “merry,” and “marry” slightly differently, odds are good that you’re from the Big Apple. Let me know in the comments, though, if your results were less accurate; I suspect it’s easy to peg a New Yorker based on a few select figures of speech but harder to guess for someone who grew up in a small town in the midwest, say. Lefty blogger Kevin Drum took the quiz and says it initially got the right state but the wrong part. He’s from southern California, not northern, although that misfire appears to be the product of one ambivalent answer he gave. When he answered that same question differently when retaking it, it guessed correctly with pinpoint accuracy.

Anyway, here you go. Enjoy.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

Comment pages: 1 2 3

whatcat on December 24, 2013 at 4:28 PM

I grew up with “Oof-dah!” and “Ish!” from my Minnesota Swede relatives…don’t use either one.

Also, grew up with “you-uns” from the west Pennsylvania side of my family. I usually say “y’all”.

Grew up saying “pop”, but now say “soda”.

Odd that they omitted one question-is it a “water cooler”, a “bubbler” or something else?

Dr. ZhivBlago on December 24, 2013 at 7:32 PM

I grew up with “Oof-dah!” and “Ish!” from my Minnesota Swede relatives…don’t use either one.
Dr. ZhivBlago on December 24, 2013 at 7:32 PM

How about “fy fan!” (pronounced “fee fawn”)?

whatcat on December 24, 2013 at 8:01 PM

Pegged me in Springfield, MO. I live in Joplin and was born in OK. My younger brother got the exact same results as me which is logical because we use the same words. Fun quiz!

laurakbarr on December 24, 2013 at 8:02 PM

Pretty neat.

They flat out nailed where I grew up within 20 miles.

Baltimore.

Merry Christmas AP. :)

wolly4321 on December 24, 2013 at 8:08 PM

I got Des Moines, Rockford, and Aurora(IL). Makes sense since I’m an Iowa native who lived in Chicago for 37 years.

annoyinglittletwerp on December 24, 2013 at 8:09 PM

Also, grew up with “you-uns” from the west Pennsylvania side of my family. I usually say “y’all”.

Dr. ZhivBlago on December 24, 2013 at 7:32 PM

Gotta step in…

It’s not “you-uns,” it’s “yinz.”

bigmacdaddy on December 24, 2013 at 8:10 PM

Othniel on December 24, 2013 at 1:08 PM

‘Sunshower’ is also used in the Chicago-area.

annoyinglittletwerp on December 24, 2013 at 8:12 PM

Dr. ZhivBlago on December 24, 2013 at 7:32 PM

My mother was born in Pittsburgh to Pittsy natives. My grandmother did the ‘warsh’.

annoyinglittletwerp on December 24, 2013 at 8:13 PM

Woohoo, I least speak like people from Boston (damn Irish) and New Orleans (damn Frenchies).

Pegged me in Springfield, MO. I live in Joplin and was born in OK. My younger brother got the exact same results as me which is logical because we use the same words. Fun quiz!

laurakbarr on December 24, 2013 at 8:02 PM

I got Springfield, MO as well but I was raised in both Ohio and Texas. The map was interesting, and pretty accurate, as it had 2 arms reaching out to both Ohio and Texas from Missouri.

jarodea on December 24, 2013 at 8:25 PM

Now you know why prism doesn’t have to record your exact words in Utah.

Even though they are. Every effing word and keystroke.

Yet barkycare.guv don’t work?

That dog don’t hunt, folks.

wolly4321 on December 24, 2013 at 8:35 PM

It pegged me within a Texas-sized handful of miles with “access road” and “18-wheeler”. This surprised me quite a bit. I thought I could fool the thing since I have a lot of Canadian and European influence in my background. Fun! Thank you Allahpundit, and Merry Christmas to you and all the other writers here, and the Hot Heads.

RushBaby on December 24, 2013 at 8:37 PM

Resistance is futile: Everyone in America must take the NYT’s dialect quiz

Channeling your inner Bloomberg on Christmas Eve, AP?

CPT. Charles on December 24, 2013 at 8:47 PM

Thus, I responded, I’d refer to them as “you all” because “ya’ll” would mean they were casually accepted by me as some sort of closer relationship than general public, as in, strangers. Never refer to strangers as “ya’ll,” is the point, only to people about whom, to whom, there’s an expression of favor or even slight affection.

Lourdes on December 24, 2013 at 7:12 PM

True, if I was instructing in a formal environment, or in a business environment, I’d probably say “will you all please have a seat” or such.

Hmm…maybe I’ll sacrifice more hits to the hated NYT and remember my upbringing in Albuquerque, NM by parents from Virginia, Tennessee, and Air Force.

Who is John Galt on December 24, 2013 at 8:59 PM

Took the quiz.

It told me I grew up on Main St. I grew up on Washington St.

Epic fail.

/sarc

Actually it pegged me.

My results were Bawstun/Woostah/Prawvidence

(translated for the outatownahs; Boston/Worcester/Providence)

And I’m on the Cape.

turfmann on December 24, 2013 at 9:00 PM

I answered “No comprende” and it immediately knew I was in Texas. :(

gregbert on December 24, 2013 at 4:05 PM

I award this the Christmas Eve Thread Winning Comment and bid my friends goodnight.

RushBaby on December 24, 2013 at 9:02 PM

It’s not “you-uns,” it’s “yinz.”

bigmacdaddy on December 24, 2013 at 8:10 PM

I’m one of those western PA “Yinzers” as well, except I thought it was curious that my pronunciation of “caramel” with three syllables instead of two pegged me as a resident of Baltimore.

PatriotGal2257 on December 24, 2013 at 9:17 PM

(translated for the outatownahs; Boston/Worcester/Providence)

And I’m on the Cape.

turfmann on December 24, 2013 at 9:00 PM

Or as we call them in the Berkshires Crooked, crookeder, crookedest

rik on December 24, 2013 at 9:30 PM

I’ve lived so many places in 40+ years that the map I got said not so much where I was from as where I wasn’t. The only possible places I am NOT from are New England and Michigan. The hottest red parts of the map were west of my actual 15+ years of growing up.. and north … and NW….

GWB on December 24, 2013 at 9:35 PM

How about “fy fan!” (pronounced “fee fawn”)?

whatcat on December 24, 2013 at 8:01 PM

Fy faen i helvete!

TX-eye on December 24, 2013 at 9:41 PM

So at the end, why doesn’t it ask where we spent most of our lives— and update itself?

It showed me as somewhere in the N. Carolina, Tennesssee, Kentucky area and I lived 55 of my 67 years within 100 miles of St. Louis.

mjzman on December 24, 2013 at 9:56 PM

Spokane and Salt Lake City. Never lived in either place, although 3 years 100 miles from Spokane and 6 months 70 miles from Salt Lake City.

VorDaj on December 24, 2013 at 10:18 PM

I will not take it simply to thwart the gauntlet. Plus I’m a Yankee raised by two Brits who lives in the South who really isn’t interested in anything from the NY Times… freakin-A cheers y’all.

MT on December 24, 2013 at 10:31 PM

Weird. It put me in southwest-central Texas, which is exactly right.

juliesa on December 24, 2013 at 10:44 PM

I did this a few days ago and it pinpointed me exactly and added a few more cities as options.

Philly on December 24, 2013 at 11:13 PM

The “sneakers” thing is too heavily weighted. I’m from the south. But I checked “sneakers” and it insisted that I must be from New York or New Jersey. Now I’m not heavy-duty southern, but I am southern.

35tww on December 25, 2013 at 12:04 AM

I’m surprised how well it pegged my location… a city about 50 miles from me.

I don’t live anywhere near Massachucetts, but I did spend some time there years ago for the computer company I worked for, and it was the first time I ever encountered that devilish roadway contrivance known as a “rotary” (that’s the term for it in MA). I use the term “rotary” even though in my part of the midwest (Ohio) they call them “roundabouts”.

I answered “rotary” when it asked about the circular intersection and I figured it would move me towards the east coast but it didn’t.

Maybe it knows how to toss out any outliers…

Me: Sub sandwiches, crawdads, lightning bugs and “no name” for that strip of grass between the curb and the sidewalk.

E-R

electric-rascal on December 25, 2013 at 12:11 AM

Heh. I just took it a second time and received slightly different questions… it got my location spot-on.

E-R

electric-rascal on December 25, 2013 at 12:17 AM

“Kitty corner,” “pop” and cougar” pegged this Pacific Northwesterner. All three times, although the second two times it managed to peg me in Washington state instead of either Washington or Oregon.

theotherone on December 25, 2013 at 1:05 AM

My brother Facebooked this quiz. It pegged him in Toledo, OH, just outside of where we were born and raised.

I live north of Detroit. It pegged me between Grand Rapid, MI; Toledo, OH; and Rockford, IL. Not bad. Kinda uncanny, actually.

Grace_is_sufficient on December 25, 2013 at 4:07 AM

It is completely junk, as it has me as from Santa Rosa, CA, which is over 50 miles from San Jose, CA, where I was born. There’s no way I sound like someone from Sonoma County :)

foobarista on December 25, 2013 at 4:32 AM

Growing up, I remember Grandma asking us kids if we wanted “white pop or brown pop”. That meant 7-Up or RC Cola. I’m sure she wasn’t being racist.

JetBlast on December 25, 2013 at 6:07 AM

No

TX-96 on December 25, 2013 at 6:28 AM

It’s called the ‘outer road.’

Murphy9 on December 25, 2013 at 6:40 AM

Marxist propaganda has no place on this blog.

Shame on you, Allah.

Stepan on December 25, 2013 at 6:54 AM

I was born and lived in Charleston, SC………….. I refuse to take this test. I like my mild Charlestonian accent. I use the word y’all and ask for a soft drink not a soda, period. And, I don’t walk around with an attitude.

SC.Charlie on December 25, 2013 at 7:40 AM

I got very close to where I lived most my life. Tyler, Denison and Waco, all smaller cities in Texas around my home for 30 years. Might it be a good ISP locater helps? However, several of my answers were not included in the responses, like a group of 2 or more (all y’all), a drinve thru liquor store ( illegal), and people who cause traffic congestion (stupid, MFing idiots).

gonnjos on December 25, 2013 at 7:49 AM

How about “fy fan!” (pronounced “fee fawn”)?

whatcat on December 24, 2013 at 8:01 PM

Fy faen i helvete!

TX-eye on December 24, 2013 at 9:41 PM

Tusen uffdahs!

whatcat on December 25, 2013 at 8:17 AM

Hmmm….I was born in Colorado, but I grew up all over. Air Force brat, and after I got out of the Navy I drove trucks over the road for twenty years. It pegged me as being from the south east part of the country.

lfwest on December 25, 2013 at 8:29 AM

I’m probably pretty easy to peg. Always lived in NE Ohio, and it correctly placed me as a Clevelander. We’ve got no special word for sandwiches (we say subs), we say pop for carbonated beverages, and we use a few southern-ism, but we don’t say y’all or youse or yinz, just “you guys.”

Good Solid B-Plus on December 24, 2013 at 1:57 PM

East sider or west sider? East side here. Always enjoy a pop and a sub as well.

jaywemm on December 25, 2013 at 8:41 AM

Wrong! I refuse to link to anything “New York”.

Bleed_thelizard on December 25, 2013 at 9:04 AM

It nailed me at Cincinnati, Lexington and not-so-much at Irving TX. Although, I was trying for Midwestern with a hint of redneck.

I think Cincinnati is the only city to say “please?” instead of “excuse me?” when we can’t hear someone and want them to repeat it.

HellCat on December 25, 2013 at 9:56 AM

Pretty darned accurate. Nailed it right on the NYC/Tri-state area.

JetBoy on December 25, 2013 at 10:08 AM

It got me perfect! Nailed me between Baton Rouge and Mobile…. A shame Prada on the Hudson does not stick to this type of reporting all the time, I might actually buy it…lol

Tilly on December 25, 2013 at 10:19 AM

Test fail. Am I the only one that it didn’t even come close? This may have something to do with my military (25 moves or so) and 2 Cor 5:17 life.

conservative pilgrim on December 25, 2013 at 10:28 AM

Says I’m most likely from Buffalo or Rochester, NY, but possibly also Aurora, IL. I’ve never even been to either Buffalo or Rochester, nor do I have any family from there. I’ve never been to Aurora, either, but at least it’s in the right general metro area (Chicago).

JimLennon on December 25, 2013 at 10:46 AM

I took this last night. My area is Mobile, Birmingham, and Montgomery.

What people aren’t realizing IMHO is that this is test of the “dialect” that you grew up with in your family which is not necessarily connected to where you’ve LIVED. I have relatives in the areas whose dialect I’ve inherited, my parents and sibling talked in the same manner….obviously that’s the part of the U.S. from which we originated.

Ahhh’ve always been told that mai draaawlll sounds LYKE I’m “frum” the deep South, although I’m “frum” Texas and have lived in almost half of the states….many being in northern areas.

avagreen on December 25, 2013 at 11:18 AM

avagreen on December 25, 2013 at 11:18 AM

I get that, and expected to be pegged in the Midwest somewhere since both my parents were from that area in spite of being raised a military brat and married to a Marine. But Fresno, California? Not even close.

conservative pilgrim on December 25, 2013 at 11:56 AM

Whoa. Of the three places they pin-pointed me, I am currently living less than 10 miles from one and grew up in the other. It appears just two questions ratted me out. “Pop” and saying “cot” and “caught” differently.

Fallon on December 25, 2013 at 12:52 PM

It totally missed me. Of course, my father was in the military and we moved constantly until he took a job with a large company who moved us some more. So I guess the quiz gets a pass on me.

MTF on December 25, 2013 at 2:56 PM

It wasn’t all that close with me; it bracketed where I was born. They suggested Newark, Yonkers, and Baltimore; I was born in Philadelphia. I grew up in South Florida (the sixth borough of New York), which might have some impact, but other online pronunciation tests usually identify me as a Philadelphian. Most p.eople can’t figure out where I’m from, but they know that is not in the south or the Northeast (New York or New England), because I don’t have a strong accent.

Horologium on December 25, 2013 at 6:10 PM

This was pretty accurate for me because the most similar city was the city I was born in.

SoulGlo on December 25, 2013 at 9:04 PM

My in-house restorer was an old navy guy born and bred in NOLA. When he first came to my shop, he corrected my pronunciation on a chunk of wood. I still have today. It spells Gnarlens

rik on December 24, 2013 at 6:03 PM

Interesting. I’ve always heard it the other way. But then of course we could be pronouncing Gnarlens differently, so that my “nawlins” sounds the same as your restorer’s “gnarlens”.

I had a voice teacher in CT who got upset with how I pronounced the word “water” in a song we were working on, and insisted that I should pronounce it the same way I would say it. So I said it. And she realized that the “ah” sound she thought I should be singing was completely different from how I say the word in every day speaking, which is with an “awe”.

LibraryGryffon on December 25, 2013 at 9:14 PM

It nailed me at Cincinnati, Lexington and not-so-much at Irving TX. Although, I was trying for Midwestern with a hint of redneck.

I think Cincinnati is the only city to say “please?” instead of “excuse me?” when we can’t hear someone and want them to repeat it.

It correctly found me in Cincy as well (although Dayton and Lincoln, Nebraska were the other possibilities.

And yes, “please?” instead of “what?” or “huh?” is definitely our thing around here.

FuzzyLogic on December 25, 2013 at 10:45 PM

Meh. Completely missed the mark labelling my speech as Minneapolis/Madison. I was born and raised in Southern California, spent 1 year in Germany, about 25 years in New York City, and the past 20 in Southwest Montana. (My dad grew up in Minneapolis yet he didn’t have a Minnesota accent.)

I think the survey skews a bit midwest. I was surprised they didn’t include a vase question (vayce or vahz) and whether a person stands “in” line or “on” line, as well as a few more regional qualifiers.

jix on December 26, 2013 at 3:49 AM

It put me in a triangle between Rockford Illinois, Springfield Illinois, and St. Louis Missouri. My Mother grew up near Kansas City, My Father in Homewood Illinois, and I spent my younger years to age twelve in Rockford Illinois and Monticello Illinois near Springfield. While I’ve lived in Georgia the last 26 years, I’ve lived in Duluth, where it often seems like midwesterners outnumber the natives, so I suspect my native accent just didn’t get altered much.

Arssanguinus on December 26, 2013 at 10:23 AM

This thing hit the nail right on the head, down to the city where I was born.

J.H. on December 26, 2013 at 11:02 AM

It was off by a few thousand miles. It pegged me as someone from Tennessee and I come from Los Angeles. I have no relatives from Tennessee either…

zoyclem on December 26, 2013 at 4:19 PM

I’m one of those western PA “Yinzers” as well, except I thought it was curious that my pronunciation of “caramel” with three syllables instead of two pegged me as a resident of Baltimore.

PatriotGal2257 on December 24, 2013 at 9:17 PM

Wait. You mean it doesn’t have three syllables?

bigmacdaddy on December 27, 2013 at 7:57 AM

big whoop, it showed me to be from where I hail from. Like I didn’t know. And for the record it’s not soda, soda pop, pop, fizzy water, or a carbonated beverage it’s coke. As in “what kind of coke do y’all want, a Dr. Pepper or a Sprite?” The rest of the country needs to get with the good people of Texas on that one. Why? The other words a just too yankeed up and Democrat sounding.

The Tea Party needs to endorse this view.

Say coke and say no to the libs!

neyney on December 27, 2013 at 2:19 PM

Thus, I responded, I’d refer to them as “you all” because “ya’ll” would mean they were casually accepted by me as some sort of closer relationship than general public, as in, strangers. Never refer to strangers as “ya’ll,” is the point, only to people about whom, to whom, there’s an expression of favor or even slight affection.

Lourdes on December 24, 2013 at 7:12 PM

True, if I was instructing in a formal environment, or in a business environment, I’d probably say “will you all please have a seat” or such.

Hmm…maybe I’ll sacrifice more hits to the hated NYT and remember my upbringing in Albuquerque, NM by parents from Virginia, Tennessee, and Air Force.

Who is John Galt on December 24, 2013 at 8:59 PM

But despite the many others here saying the test situated them correctly as to origin/residence, it utterly misplaced me. Utterly.

Mystifying only in the sense that, unbeknowst to the test configuration, I’m what you’d call someone who was raised for years in a variety of locations by parents with likewise influences. So although I use many a Regional expression, I still use a very multi-Regional one. Only thing I can figure, anyway, as to why the test utterly misidentified my origin/s.

Lourdes on December 27, 2013 at 3:04 PM

Lourdes on December 24, 2013 at 7:12 PM

True, if I was instructing in a formal environment, or in a business environment, I’d probably say “will you all please have a seat” or such.

Hmm…maybe I’ll sacrifice more hits to the hated NYT and remember my upbringing in Albuquerque, NM by parents from Virginia, Tennessee, and Air Force.

Who is John Galt on December 24, 2013 at 8:59 PM

And the test didn’t specify level of familiarity or formality in the questions asked, per the expressions. There are many a phrase/word used that is edited for strangers vs. how we speak among people we know well or even well enough. Thus, I use “ya’ll” for people I know, even slightly or am familiar with in context, vs. people who I’d say were utter strangers (indifferent to me, impersonal situation/s) who I’d refer to as “you all”.

I told test I’d use “you all” for a group larger than one because I assumed the impersonal situational use of the phrase, given the impersonal test environment.

Obviously, the test excludes any consideration of “manners” or cultural language conditions…

Lourdes on December 27, 2013 at 3:07 PM

The military-experience seems to be the determining factor for those of us who the test mis-identified, based upon the previous comments, mine included.

Lourdes on December 27, 2013 at 3:19 PM

Mine said: Mobile, Charleston, and Raleigh. I’m insulted! I’m a Texan…..and Hispanic to boot! lol

pugsly on December 27, 2013 at 8:52 PM

I thought Gaper’s Delay was when there was slow traffic due so many cars spaced out so far apart that they take up so much space that the road will take longer for all these cars to pass, and thus make things slower.

The Nerve on December 28, 2013 at 8:14 PM

According to this, I’m just a northeastern New Jersian. Besides the fact that these quizzes are antiscientific, I wish there were more questions than merely 25.

The Nerve on December 28, 2013 at 8:25 PM

Comment pages: 1 2 3