Do You Talk Like a New Englandah?

Take this quiz!

Joshua Katz, a PhD student at the North Carolina State University Department of Statistics, put together some maps of the nation’s linguistic differences, based on people’s answers to 122 questions about word choice or pronunciation.

At this point, we don’t need a map, or really any other device, to tell us that we have an accent here in Boston. But there were other funny things that stood out—things we didn’t realize the rest of the country doesn’t say. (Or that the rest of the country does say. Listen Southerners, “coke” is just not a generic word for soda.)

Here are nine of the questions where New England or Boston stood apart from the rest of the country. Quiz yourself to see how local you sound, then play around with the rest of his data.

1. How do you say aunt?

a) Ant.

b) Ah-nt.

If you chose (b), then congrats, you talk like a New Englandah. If you chose (a), sorry but you talk like everyone else. Sheeple.


2. How do you say Mary/merry/marry? 

a) Mary and marry are the same. Merry is different.

b) All three are the same.

c) All three are different.

If you chose c, congrats, you might be from Eastern Massachusetts … or possibly New Jersey…


3. How do you say the “c” in “grocery”?

a) “s” like “sock.”

b) “sh” like “shock.”

Ew who says groshery? Get out of here. Just kidding, apparently 30 percent of you guys pronounce it that way, but Boston has a preference for (a).



4. What do you call the rubber-soled shoes used in gym class or for exercise? 

a) Sneakers

b) Tennis shoes

c) Gymshoes

d) Something else.

Apparently everyone outside the northeast says “tennis shoes.” But sneakers have so many other uses, guys! Everyone else is wrong.



5. What do you say when it’s raining but the sun is still out? 

a) “Sunshower.”

b) “It’s raining, but the sun is out!” (aka you don’t have a word for this.)

c) “The devil is beating his wife.”

Yeah, Boston isn’t really an outlier here. We’re mostly just including this one because of the big WTF that is answer (c). Boston is one of a few pockets of the nation where people call it a sunshower, though here and elsewhere, a lot of people don’t have a specific word for it. And then there are certain pockets of the gulf states … where they go with Satan the wife-beater. Fascinating.


6. What does “the City” mean? 

a) New York City. (Ugh.)

b) Chicago

c) Boston

d) Other.

So apparently 46 percent of Boston people think “New York City” and only 27 percent think “Boston.” That could be embarrassing but we’ll choose to see it as a reflection of the fact that we’re not a bunch of self-centered egomaniacs.


7. What do you call a drive-through liquor store? 

a) A … what now?

b) We have those, but we don’t have a name for them.

c) A “brew-thru.”

Boston strongly favored answer (a), for obvious reasons. We’re mostly just including this to alert you to the fact that Virginia and North Carolina call these “brew-thrus” which is an awesome name. Maybe we can just re-appropriate it for Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thrus. That’s “brew” too, right?


8. What do you call the thing in the hallway from which you drink water? 

a) Water fountain.

b) Drinking fountain

c) Bubbler.

No surprise here, bubbler is only in use around these parts and in Michigan Wisconsin. (Sorry, everyone.) Everyone else strongly prefers “water fountain.” And actually, water fountain is the more popular option in Boston. Providence, on the other hand, still prefers bubbler.


9. What’s your word for a generic carbonated beverage? 

a) Soda

b) Pop

c) coke.

This is the classic, isn’t it? The most common litmus test in these kind of regionalism conversations, and the fuel for many a college dining hall debate. We’re actually surprised to see as many people from Boston saying “pop” as there are.


  • Adam

    “No surprise here, bubbler is only in use around these parts and in Michigan.”

    Uh, I hate to be the geography pedant, but that’s Wisconsin, not Michigan.

    • Michael

      Seconded! I know the Midwest is a long way from the Bay State, but come on, Boston, you’re supposed to be educated folk! Michigan is on the eastern side of Lake Michigan, Wisconsin is on the western shore.

      Side note: the reason “bubbler” is used so widely in the eastern half of Wisconsin is that it originated here. It started as a trademarked term, invented by Kohler (based in Sheboygan, WI), and spread east.

      Wisconsin stands in solidarity with our fellow “bubbler” users in New England!

      • Eric Randall

        Oh no! That’s especially embarrassing because I worked a summer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and therefore, definitely know where Wisconsin is. Just working too quickly this morning… At any rate, it’s fixed. Thanks for alerting me.

    • carfish

      A pedant fusses over issues that don’t matter. This does matter. You are not a pedant.

  • Emily Huizenga

    I believe that’s Wisconsin, not Michigan, that also calls water fountains bubblers.

  • blondechick80

    I wish the key to the map wasn’t on the map. Whose bright idea was that? I’m originally from the Cape area, but have trasnsplated out ‘west’ (in western MA) and the dialects/word usage is VERY different even in the same state. I’m surprised the frappe/milkshake debate wasn’t a question, because there is a HUGE difference between to 2 for me!

    • Eric Randall

      In fact, frappe/milkshake WAS a question. I just didn’t point it out. You can click through to the PhD’s maps to see it. And you can also get rid of the map key OR select Bourne, MA and see how people from the Cape measured up. Hoorah.

      • blondechick80

        I actually was just reading through all the questions and did notice it. I’m surprised more in the boston/bourne areas didn’t call it a frappe!

        I’m also curious what time of year was the survey done? i.e. did they talk to locals only, transplants, and/or tourists.

        • Eric Randall

          That’s a good question for Cape results. My guess is that its a mix, because they’re using this survey which seems to solicit responses through the year.

  • kmk74

    Hope about “grinders” for sub sandwiches – thank you Fall River and tonic for soda?

  • vintagesquirrel

    Um, #9 ? What are you talking about? It’s all tonic.

  • Marie Flaherty

    Tonic…that’s the old Boston expression for soda…my daughter gets mad at me because I still use the word word “tonic”

    • carfish

      Then get mad at her for not calling it “tonic” !!!

  • Stephen Ross

    A rubber band or an elastic. sprinkles or jimmies

    • Daniel Craig

      Elastic ….jimmies

  • Gary George

    Q 63… In Northern R.I. a Frappe is a Cabinet 🙂 Many years ago when I first traveled to Hartford Conn. and stopped at an Ice Cream shop, I asked for a Coffee Cabinet, the clerk looked at me like I was a martian, so I tried Coffee Frappe, still got a very quizzical look, so I tried Coffee Shake, the clerk said “with or without Ice Cream” ! Like there’s a choice 🙂 My RI roots are still very strange to Bahstun peeps.

    Nuthin better than a Coffee Cab and a Dynamite.

    • carfish

      It’s Bawstin. Bahstun is how they say it in Chicahgo.

  • Daniel Craig

    A carbonated beverage in the Boston area is ” tonic”…