The first questions that the study asks is:  what’s your generic term for a sweet carbonated beverage?  As multiple callers answer with the word ‘soda,’ the West Coast (where this writer is from) and New England light up.  Some say ‘pop,’ and the Midwest (where my family is from) flashes brilliantly.  And the last callers, hailing from the South and betraying any sense of brand variety, answer ‘coke.’ 

The next question:  what do you call a long sandwich that contains cold cuts (different types of meat, like ham or turkey), lettuce, etc?  Along the Atlantic seaboard, from Washington DC to Boston, it’s known as a ‘hero.’  In Pennsylvania?  A hoagie.  In the South?  A po’ boy.  And in the rest of the country?  A sub. 

When it comes to simple vocabulary differences, there are many examples to point to (see expressway vs. highway vs. freeway), but there are pronunciation variations that also indicate linguistic differences throughout the country.  For example, when you think of the pronunciation of ‘bag,’ most people imagine it rhyming with ‘snag.’  However, where my relatives live in the Midwest, it’s practically pronounced like the verb ‘to beg’ (for further research on this accent, watch the very funny film “Fargo” by the Cohen brothers). 

We can witness a more grammar-related distinction when we consider how you address two or more people.  Throughout the West (including the Midwest), this would be ‘you guys.’  Down south, it’s ‘ya’ll,’ which is a contraction of the words ‘you all.’  And on the East Coast, especially from New Jersey out to Philadelphia?  Youse!  Although these are just a few linguistic patterns that exist now, nobody knows where the borders will be in the future, or how dialects will change.  Perhaps Dr. Vaux will have another study ready to let us know how things change!           

A. Edstrom 

Callan School
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