Do You Talk Like a New Englandah?
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?
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?
b) Tennis shoes
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?
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.)
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
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?
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.