In early June N.C. State University statistics grad student Joshua Katz released a series of maps that charted the regional dialects and colloquialisms of the United States. For anybody with an interest in language (street slang, local verbiage and whatnot), the interactive microsite is a complete rabbit hole of an afternoon adventure in time wasting. We learn that a water fountain is known as a “bubbler” only specifically in Milwaukee and Boston. That “mowing the lawn” is used primarily in the West and Northeast, while “cutting the lawn” is used in parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and a pocket in Eastern Virginia.
We also learn a great deal about food speak. A “bear claw”? If you reside in parts of New England and a pocket in Northern Wisconsin, you might not know that refers to a sweet breakfast pastry. We learn that the sugary spread atop cakes is “frosting” in the Midwest and West, while the Mid-Atlantic and South calls it “icing.” Drive-through beer stores? Much of the Northeast and West has no idea this exists, while a concentrated pocket in Virginia and North Carolina wouldn’t know it as anything but a Brew Thru.
But the biggest revelation, at least for me, is the clear demarcations for a certain carbonated beverage sold by companies called Pepsi and Coke. Raised in West Michigan, the son of a father born in Chicago and a mother in Detroit, the terms used to describe this fizzy stuff was always a point of confusion. While I would attend birthday parties serving pizza and "pop” (oftentimes the wonderful crimson-hued Faygo), my Chi-town grandparents called the cans of carbonated chocolate amazement hidden under their sink “soda”.
And then there’s the whole “Coke” thing, which anybody living a two-hour flight from Hartsfield-Jackson will call the stuff no matter the brand. Refering to it as “soda” in the West and Southern Florida may be attributed to migration from the Northeast. Indiana appears to be a bit of a Wild West. And while a decade-plus living in New York City has pushed me fully into the "soda" camp, when visiting my hometown back in Michigan I tend to drink water. It’s better that way, and my father’s no dentist.
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