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'You Say Soda, I Say Pop': Maps Show Regional Dialects Persist

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June 18, 2013

Publishing at the right time is half the battle, prospective authors say. Such is the case with Joshua Katz, a doctoral student in statistics, whose linguistics research has gone viral in a big way.

Katz, originally from New Jersey, is studying at North Carolina State University, in Raleigh. His recently published aggregated maps illustrating speech patterns by region across the United States have resulted in quick fame and 30 million pageviews in a week.

The explosion in traffic overwhelmed the department's web server initially, but a capacity boost has solved that problem. Current rate is 3,000 pageviews a minute.

When Katz was in high school, in New Jersey, he found that the shoes he wore to school were called "sneakers." His classmates in North Carolina, however, went to high school wearing "tennis shoes." Similarly, he ate "hoagies" in high school but now eats "sub" sandwiches.

The site contains maps depicting responses to 120 questions, including these:

  • Pop, soda, or Coke?
  • Which syllable do you emphasize when you say 'Pecan'?
  • Trash can or garbage can?
  • Is the last meal of the day dinner or supper?
  • Do you mow the lawn or cut the grass?
  • What do you say when you want to claim the front passenger seat in a car?
  • How do you pronounce 'aunt'?

For all of these questions and many more, Katz found regional dialects intact, even in the modern era, when people are moving around the country more than ever before.

The linguistical phenomena are not new, nor are Katz's findings. Rather, he is the beneficiary of a culture that fosters lightning-quick information sharing by an ever-curious public.

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