Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Mapping Speech

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on December 26, 2013
The science of speech. That’s my profession: also my hobby. Happy is the man who can make a living by his hobby! You can spot an Irishman or a Yorkshireman by his brogue. I can place any man within six miles. I can place him within two miles in London. Sometimes within two streets.


Henry HigginsSo said Henry Higgins in the first act of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. The New York Times Sunday Review has a short, 25-item quiz on vocabulary and pronunciation of specific words, that compares users’ speech to that of other people around the United States.

According to the survey, my own vocabulary and pronunciation is closest to other folks that live in the area shown in dark red:


The major cities my speech most closely matched were Houston (“feeder road” is apparently a term unique to the Houston metro area), Baton Rouge, and New Orleans. Users should remember that this survey doesn’t claim to predict where you’re from, but how similar your pronunciation and usage are to people in different parts of the country. Still, for me, that looks about right. How about you?


Image: Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison in the Broadway production of My Fair Lady.



9 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Damian Shiels said, on December 26, 2013 at 4:28 am

    This is interesting stuff. Although I’m Irish as opposed to American I thought I would have a go to see what the results would be as there is so much cross-culturation. Even though the quiz was a bit confused it placed me more on the western seaboard, which was a bit of a surprise to me. The southern states were an icy blue (maybe I will need a phrase book in Virginia next year!). I must get some other people here to do it to see if they get similar results.

  2. Bob Nelson said, on December 26, 2013 at 9:34 am

    I saw this on Facebook a couple of days ago and took the quiz. My cities were Grand Rapids (where I actually live), Detroit and Buffalo, NY. Got tagged for GR and Buffalo because I call a sweet carbonated beverage pop. Detroit got in there because I replied that the night before Halloween was “Devil’s Night.” That term has been used for years in Detroit as a result of a barrage of vandalism and arsons on that night during the 70s, 80s and 90s — 800 fires on October 30, 1984. In 1995, Mayor Dennis Archer and the city established “Angel’s Night,” which involves some 20,000 volunteers patrolling the neighborhoods and a huge police presence. In recent years there have been less than 100 arson fires on “Devil’s Night.”

  3. Cotton Boll Conspiracy said, on December 26, 2013 at 10:27 am

    I match up most closely with Augusta, Georgia, which is an hour from my house, so it seems about right. Next closest was Mobile, Alabama, an hour from where I lived before I moved to South Carolina 15 years ago and Jackson, Mississippi. The closest I have come to Jackson is traveling along the Mississippi Coast along I-10, visiting Vicksburg as a kid and attending a football game at Mississippi State a decade ago. I’m not sure what sets, say, Mobile and Jackson apart, but I suppose every area has its linguistic differences.

  4. Dick Stanley said, on December 27, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    I did this the other day via a blogger friend’s suggestion. Came up Selma and Montgomery, Alabama, with one hit on Atlanta, which I suppose figures having parents from Mississippi and Texas and a few cousins in Alabama. Growing up military wasn’t enough to Midwesternize my vocabulary and pronunciation, apparently. Nor living in Austin for 35 years to place me there. I’m thinking calling soda pop simply “pop” was one of the deciding factors. Feeder road sounds familiar, but access road is what I call it.

  5. Woodrowfan said, on December 27, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    Mine says Louisville/Lexington, which makes sense as I am from SW Ohio with family in Kentucky.

  6. Jefferson Moon said, on December 29, 2013 at 7:45 am

    Kentucky,West Virginia

  7. Nora Carrington said, on December 29, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    There’s an age factor I don’t think has been adequately taken into account. I got two cities in FL first (where I’ve never been) because I usually call gym shoes “sneakers.” I think that’s a generational thing more than a geographic one (I’m 58). I’d bet that Pembroke Pines and Miami/Hialeah have a disproportionate number of Boomers and WWII era folks who aren’t native Floridians.

    Taking that question out of the equation, the map puts me in Arlington, VA, which is a stone’s throw from where I actually spent most of my childhood.

    I thought the map would get confused because I went to college in MA, my parental roots and grad school experience is in the upper Midwest, and I lived for 15 years in WA. When I was growing up, most of my classmates were children of fairly transient federal workers, with a lot of military and foreign service brats, so I was surrounded by accents from all over the US. Two of my classmates in elementary school were British (and assumed to be as cool as the Beatles, of course). But I was born in DC and raised in northern VA, so I guess all those influences from everywhere else didn’t really stick.

    • Dick Stanley said, on December 30, 2013 at 1:39 pm

      I agree about the sneakers, a common term in the 1950s in both South and North (I spent two years in Massachusetts) and also “gym shoes.” The contemporary term “running shoes” didn’t apply in my youth because nobody but athletes ran. And I see someone else here claims “pop” also is Northern-speak for soda. So I’m not sure how I got placed in Alabama.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: