What do you call the miniature lobster found in the nation’s lakes and streams — crawfish, crayfish or crawdad? How do you pronounce caramel — with two syllables or three? Do you turn around in a traffic circle, a roundabout, a rotary — or do none of these sound familiar? Is it a soda, a pop, a coke or a soft drink? These regional dialect maps are revealing our answers nationwide.
The answers to simple linguistic questions like these can pinpoint where in America you live. A few years ago, the folks over at Business Insider profiled a group of maps made by Joshua Katz, created with data from Professors Bert Vaux’s and Scott Golder’s2RPJL, which examined the way Americans from all over pronounce different words.
The series of maps highlights some of the deep and sometimes surprising linguistic divides in the country.
1. Crawfish, crayfish, or crawdad?
Throughout the northeastern part of the country, those little lobsters are known as “crayfish”; in the deep South, they’re known exclusively as “crawfish”; in much of the Midwest and West Coast, “crawdad” is the the preferred nomenclature.
2. Bowie knife or boo-wie knife?
Folks in Texas pronounce “bowie” knife differently than anyone in the country — just like the last night of republic hero James Bowie.
3. Soda, pop, Coke, or soft drink?
If you’ve ever worked in the service industry throughout the South, you’ve grown accustomed to asking “What kind?” when folks order a coke.
4. Car-mel, or car-a-mel?
It seems that the further west you go in the U.S., the third syllable is dropped for the ‘car-mel’ pronunciation. Texas is the state most split for this pronunciation.
5. What’s a drive-thru liquor store?
West Coasters and Northeasterners may not even know these exist, but a tight-knit group of speakers in Virginia and North Carolina even have their own special name.
6. Mary, marry, and merry?
New Jersey, Massachusetts and Long Island pronounce “Mary,” “merry” and “marry” differently; for the rest of us, they’re all the same.
7. What is it when it rains while the sun shines?
Not everyone in the country is familiar with sunshowers, but folks in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi have a particularly dark terminology for this meteorological occurance.
8. Water fountain, drinking fountain, or bubbler?
The East Coast/West Coast divide over water fountain versus drinking fountain is one thing; Wisconsinites and Rhode Islanders calling it a “bubbler” is something else entirely.
9. How do you say pecan?
We all agree it’s delicious, but no one in America can seem to agree on how to pronounce “pecan pie.”
10. Traffic circle, roundabout, or rotary?
Or what the heck those circular traffic features are called.
Did your go-to dialect choices align with your home region? If you’re a traveler and have lived across many states, which region are you most aligned with?
To check out more maps from this study, head on over to Business Insider.