Linguistics maps: Where does your dialect fit in?

Coke vs pop vs soda

Have you ever gone on a vacation to another region of the country and it seems like the people are speaking a foreign language?

Say you go into a restaurant and want a Sprite. If you’re from the South, you’ll likely still say you want a coke and wait for the server to clarify. But, if you’re ordering from a place up north, you might be disappointed to receive the classic brown fizzy drink instead of what you really intended.

Those kinds of regional dialect differences interested Joshua Katz, a PhD student at North Carolina State University. Using linguistics data from Dr. Bert Vaux of Cambridge University, Katz mapped how the way we pronounce words varies throughout the country.

“Dr. Vaux’s maps showed each response as a single color-coded point, so you could see individual instances of each answer,” said Katz in an interview with The Abstract, the NC State student newspaper. “I wondered if there was a way to take the existing data and create maps that gave a more complete picture of national dialect differences.”

Using a statistical algorithm, Katz created 120 color-coded maps. The darker the color, the stronger the consensus. Here’s a sampling of his findings — just click on each picture to enlarge.

Although some of the verbal differences may lead to confusion, Katz believes they also enrich the country.

“I’ve always found variations in dialect fascinating – language says so much about who a person is,” Katz says. “To me, dialect is a badge of pride – it’s something that says, ‘This is who I am; this is where I come from.’”

web counter

Pin It
  • mimi

    You can say “I’ll have a coke” and get a response of “What kind?” around here. :)

  • Kit

    In south Caroline we say soda and you would be asked what kind. If you ask for coke that’s what you’ll get a coca cola

  • A.J.

    I’m a New Yorker all the way, with the exception of the “y’all” part, because my family is from the South.

  • Candice

    Im from SC and I also say soda. I also found myself pronouncing words in a category that wasnt even present on the map, but an option.

  • SammyG

    I’m from philly and jersey and this is sooo true!

  • Regina

    This was so interesting! Thank you starcasm for posting such a cool article.
    It’s interesting to see where you fit in on the map and if you pronounce things differently than where you live or the same.
    (I live in Canada so I can make an educated guess based on the closest state)!

  • Glitzy Texican

    I’m from Texas and we say shopping cart but when I lived in Alaska everybody called it a buggy. I thought that was weird. Lol

  • Olivia

    I’m an English learner from Europe and it was an interesting article.

    Soda means seltzer in my country. We say cola and it means coke generally, not pepsi 😀

    • Steph

      In my country we also say cola when we want a coke haha.

  • BEBE

    “Water” would have been a good addition…. I swear, for my first couple of years in NV, no one knew what I was asking for!