(STACKER) – You may be familiar with the Oxford English Dictionary, but what about the Dictionary of American Regional English?
In 1965, researchers from the American Dialect Society set out on an ambitious undertaking, spending the next five years conducting in-person interviews in all 50 states in an attempt to create a comprehensive record of the different words, phrases, and pronunciations used in different areas across the country.
What they found was that there is significant variation regionally, thanks in large part to the historical patterns of immigration across the United States. For instance, as reported in a 2021 animated map that appeared in Business Insider, New York’s dialect has evolved in part from the influx of British and Dutch communities that settled there over centuries. Ulster-Scots speakers from Ireland settled in the Appalachian region to influence the language before moving to the Midwest and conjoining with Northern speech patterns. Unsurprisingly, language in the Southwest represents the proximity of English-speaking Americans to Mexican Spanish speakers.
This linguistic evolution continues today, due to another element in the population: the internet. The use of social media sites like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are linking previously disparate communities, allowing for the sharing of phrases and speech patterns that Americans in different areas would otherwise likely never have been exposed to on a daily basis. For instance, Americans are increasingly adopting British slang learned online, while American slang such as “Ima,” is being picked up by internet users in other nations instead of “I am going to … .”
Social media also is creating a universal dialect of its own among English speakers, with words and phrases used uniformly no matter what region, or even country, a user is from, which could impact the integration of this slang into accepted grammar.
Stacker compiled a list of 25 different things that have region-specific names from news, dictionary, and academic sources. Read on to see if the words you know and use are specific to your state, or recognizable throughout the country.
- Pop, tonic, coke, and soda
- Sneakers, tennis shoes, or gym shoes
- Water fountain, drinking fountain, or bubbler
- Firefly or lightning bug
- Carriage or buggy
- Lollipop or sucker
- Heel, end, crust, or butt
- Milkshake or frappe
- Roundabout, traffic circle, or rotary
- Sprinkles or jimmies
- Carry-in or potluck
- Frosting or icing
- Submarine or hoagie
- Freeways or highways
- Crayfish, crawfish, or crawdad
- Gravy or sauce
- Cicada, August fly, or jar fly
- Yard sale, garage sale, tag sale, or rummage sale
- Garbage can or trash can
- Semitruck, tractor-trailer, or 18-wheeler
- Pothole, chughole, or chuckhole
- Goosebumps or duck bumps
- Stone, pit, or kernel
- Liquor store, party store, packie, or state store
- Faucet or spigot