Do You Drink Soda, Pop or Soft Drinks?: 122 Heatmaps Visualize How People Talk in America


Click each map for larg­er image

Amer­i­cans use words dif­fer­ent­ly in dif­fer­ent regions of the country—a “moot” or “mute” point? There’s a gram­mat­i­cal argu­ment to be made here for sure, but for a sim­ple yes or no answer check out a series of new maps released by sta­tis­ti­cian Joshua Katz.

The maps are of the con­ti­nen­tal Unit­ed States (Alas­ka and Hawaii are not includ­ed for geo­graph­i­cal prox­im­i­ty pur­pos­es) and they reveal delight­ful­ly quirky trends. Some relate to things you might think of your­self: How do you pro­nounce aunt? (most respon­dents would say “ant” while those in New Eng­land would say “ahnt.”) Oth­er ques­tions get at more obscure (and ques­tion­able) region­al dif­fer­ences, like dri­ve-through liquor stores.


When most of the peo­ple on tele­vi­sion sound like they’re from some gener­ic Amer­i­can city with no accent or idioms, it’s easy to lose track of local dialect. How would you pro­nounce “caramel”? Dif­fer­ent­ly, accord­ing to Katz’s maps, if you’re from the East­ern Seaboard than if you’re from the West or Mid­west. And “pecan” has at least four dif­fer­ent region­al pro­nun­ci­a­tions.

It turns out that many Amer­i­cans would call a bug that flies around in the sum­mer and has a rear sec­tion that lights up a “fire­fly.” Many would also call it a “light­ning bug” and per­haps just as many would use the two words inter­change­ably.

I’m not sure I’d want to be in either Michi­gan or New Jer­sey on the night before Hal­loween.

Katz is a grad­u­ate stu­dent at North Car­oli­na State Uni­ver­si­ty. He designed the maps to reflect respons­es to 122 ques­tions about pro­nun­ci­a­tion and word usage based on research orig­i­nal­ly con­duct­ed by Pro­fes­sor Bert Vaux at Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty.

via Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The His­to­ry of the Eng­lish Lan­guage in Ten Ani­mat­ed Min­utes

Speak­ing in Whis­tles: The Whis­tled Lan­guage of Oax­a­ca, Mex­i­co

Steven Pinker Explains the Neu­ro­science of Swear­ing (NSFW)

Kate Rix writes about dig­i­tal media and edu­ca­tion. Vis­it to see more of her work or fol­low her on Twit­ter @mskaterix.

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