Join 3,422 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


How do you say "caramel?"
October 11, 2002 9:06 AM   Subscribe

How do you say "caramel?" Unlike most Internet quizzes and surveys, Dr. Vaux's Dialect Survey won't pigeon-hole you into one of a finite set of types ("Your speech is most similar to Generic West Coast Dot-Commer, but with a trace of Oklahoma Trailer Park.") Which is just as well since folks like George Bernard Shaw, HL Mencken, and David Foster Wallace would tell us that pronunciation varies with the individual, and doesn't quite fall neatly into a standard type with odd variances. Rather, this survey is a purely academic method for collecting information on who says what where, and the maps at the end are interesting to look at. I know that the pop/soda/cola variance has been visited before, but what's up with people using "hosey" to refer to the "shotgun" seat of a car? (requires registration if only to track your answers)
posted by bl1nk (75 comments total)

 
Cool links! I love language and language change. This is a much better thing for me to do than to go to Patents class.
posted by kate_fairfax at 9:18 AM on October 11, 2002


Although I'm a big fan of KAIR-uh-mell, but I mostly default to the Tennesean form of CAR-mull. This doesn't come up too often, unfortunately.
posted by mikrophon at 9:21 AM on October 11, 2002


I love language and language change too, but I don't like this survey, because whoever built it screwed up the SQL. After registering and getting repeated errors rather than the content of it, I left. Still, it seems like a good idea if competent programmers were put behind it.
posted by soyjoy at 9:23 AM on October 11, 2002


Oh, yeah, and I say CAR-mull, except when I remember and stop myself.
posted by soyjoy at 9:23 AM on October 11, 2002


yeah, soyjoy, you're right about the SQL, which is too bad because it was an interesting concept. Maybe I'll try again later. I used to think I said cair-a-mel, but then I started working at Starbucks, and car-mull is much faster to say when 10 people are lined up each with their own version of "I'd like a decaf-triple-grande-nonfat-extra hot-with whip-caramel macchiato"
posted by kate_fairfax at 9:27 AM on October 11, 2002


Great. I love this question:

77. What do you call the activity of driving around in circles in a car?
a) doing donuts
b) doing cookies
c) whipping shitties

Whipping shitties?!? That's way too funny. Where is this used? Why isn't there a band called the Whipping Shitties?

Um, okay, I just finished, and I don't get any results? WTF?
posted by Ufez Jones at 9:29 AM on October 11, 2002


Due to recent publicity, the Dialect Survey has been receiving many web hits. Since map generation happens on-the-fly, you may experience slight delays when viewing the maps below.

Or, you may never see any at all. I think I'll check this again in a few days.
posted by yhbc at 9:33 AM on October 11, 2002


Or, you may never see any at all. I think I'll check this again in a few days.

It's probably getting hit pretty hard; this was also written up in the New York Times Circuits section yesterday -- and with an amusing typo to boot: "Vox" for "Vaux" (the last name of the Harvard prof running the survey). Perhaps the survey needs another question -- how do you pronounce "Vaux"?
posted by mattpfeff at 9:42 AM on October 11, 2002


I don't think it's a programming issue. Probably an overloading issue.

They way I am getting around it is to fill out everything I can, then submit the form.

After that, I reload the form - it remembers my previous answers and I continue on from there...
posted by syzygy at 9:51 AM on October 11, 2002


Good lord. Seven answers for number 50 and not one of them is ya'll? I practically whipped my shitty when I saw that.
posted by toothless joe at 9:53 AM on October 11, 2002


I never see any survey questions when I go there, just a couple of notices about SQL errors.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:13 AM on October 11, 2002


Everything worked fine until I submitted the completed survey, and was greeted by multiple sql errors. Clicked 'back', and all of my answers were gone. Like some others said, I'll check back in a few days.
posted by theroid at 10:29 AM on October 11, 2002


92. What do you call it when a driver changes over one or more lanes way too quickly?
a) Chinese lane change
b) Chinese fire drill
c) other:

Um.. around here, a "Chinese fire drill" is when everybody gets out of the car at a red light and runs around and gets back in. Is that just a New England thing?

Also, yeah, I completed the survey and didn't get any "results".. but I filled in alot of the "other" blanks, so maybe it's actually reviewed by a real human being?
posted by jozxyqk at 10:31 AM on October 11, 2002


Can anyone tell me what the hell is up with pronouncing Jaguar as Jag-WIRE?
posted by owillis at 10:32 AM on October 11, 2002


Is that just a New England thing?
Nope, those drills also took place in Texas, New Mexico, and California.

pronouncing Jaguar as Jag-WIRE?
I still like Jag-You-Are better than any other way, but I'm too timid to say it out loud ;-)
posted by WolfDaddy at 10:40 AM on October 11, 2002


Actually, "jag-wire", like "jag-you-are" and "jag-war", is a drawl on "jag-gwar", just as "jag-goo-er" and "jag-you-whirr" is a variant on "jag-you-er".

Hope that cleared things up...as for the question, What do you call the activity of driving around in circles in a car?

It's easy: yuh pahrkin' yuh cah en Hahvahad Squah!
posted by Smart Dalek at 10:44 AM on October 11, 2002


Yahd.
posted by yhbc at 10:45 AM on October 11, 2002


No, yhbc.. you can't actually pahk yer cah in hahvid yahd. You'll get towed. But pahkin in Hahvid Squayah is like drivin in fawkin circles, is what Smaht Dalek was saying.
posted by jozxyqk at 10:50 AM on October 11, 2002


I can vouch for that type of Chinese Fire Drill (the running around the car thing) in Oklahoma as well.

I still like Jag-You-Are better than any other way, but I'm too timid to say it out loud ;-)

I've toured the factory in England and that's how they pronounce it there, so I've said it that way since.
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:51 AM on October 11, 2002


...which is why I always take the T. (but I just call it "the subway" when I'm not talking about the actual T).
posted by jozxyqk at 10:51 AM on October 11, 2002


i'm surprised they didn't ask about NU-CLE-AR vs. NU-CU-LAR vs. NU-CLEAR. Especially now that our Commander in Chief says "NU-CU-LAR" this is rapidly moving from a mispronunciation to a dialect thing.
posted by boltman at 11:05 AM on October 11, 2002


Ufez, WolfDaddy:

I always thought the ultraposh reading was Jag-You-Were.
posted by argybarg at 11:07 AM on October 11, 2002


Gah! Filled out half of the thing and then the answer choices for the rest of the questions were all MySQL errors.
posted by badstone at 11:10 AM on October 11, 2002


i'm surprised they didn't ask about NU-CLE-AR vs. NU-CU-LAR vs. NU-CLEAR. Especially now that our Commander in Chief says "NU-CU-LAR" this is rapidly moving from a mispronunciation to a dialect thing.

Please tell me that's not true. I don't want to have to hear Bush (or any one else) say NU-CYU-LAR and not be able to mock them for talking like Homer Simpson stationed on a nuclear submarine.
posted by Captain_Tenille at 11:19 AM on October 11, 2002


The running-around-the-car thing is a Chinese Fire Drill in the Chicago area too. In many cases, people change seats when they get back in.

Whipping shitties cracks me up. Who uses that?
posted by SisterHavana at 11:28 AM on October 11, 2002


I could have sworn mischevious was a proper variant. The OED, American Heritage, and Random House all say no.

They didn't have "puh-Cawn". I find I'm doing a lot of write ins here.
posted by mblandi at 11:31 AM on October 11, 2002


"eye-shit"?
posted by mblandi at 11:34 AM on October 11, 2002


Whipping shitties cracks me up. Who uses that?

Near as I can figure, it's a Minnesota thing. Apparently it involves a light dusting of snow as well. It doesn't seem like a particularly common expression though, since it only kicks up 7 hits in google.

And, of course, I'm going to start using it excessively (and incorrectly) in everyday conversation.
posted by toothless joe at 11:55 AM on October 11, 2002


Hope yooz find this enturtaynin
posted by skellum at 11:57 AM on October 11, 2002


And, of course, I'm going to start using it excessively (and incorrectly) in everyday conversation.

Me too, Toothless Joe. (self-link).
posted by Ufez Jones at 11:59 AM on October 11, 2002


I used to whip shitties when I was in high school in the Minneapolis burbs about 10-15 years ago. Reaching back, I don't think it counts as whipping shitties when there's no snow. Also, doing donuts was acceptable, though a little more prosaic.

on preview: I second what joe said
posted by squant at 12:03 PM on October 11, 2002


enturtaynin being this
posted by skellum at 12:07 PM on October 11, 2002


A Chinese fire drill means running around the car at a red light in Canada as well.

And speaking of Canada, I notice there was no "how do you pronounce 'about'?" question. American rumour has it that we Canucks say 'aboot,' though for the life of me I've never heard the difference.
posted by gompa at 12:12 PM on October 11, 2002


When you get the mysql errors just refresh and repost the form data until it goes through. That way you don't lose your answers.

A Chinese Fire Drill being where everyone gets out and runs around the car at a red light goes for Indiana and Florida as well. That question threw me a little bit...
posted by prosthezis at 12:14 PM on October 11, 2002


I logged in three or four times before I was actually able to get the survey page. Fortunately, it submitted without error - I wasn't about to fill all those questions in again.

As it went on I became increasingly astonished by the strange things people allow out of their mouths.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:21 PM on October 11, 2002


gompa, as a Canadian working in the US, I can say that it's more like 'abewt' than 'aboot' -- and, it's so subtle that when I was living in Canada, it didn't seem to be that severe, but after I lived in the US and went back, it was inescapably distinct.

... and yeah, what prosthezis says ... just hit that reload button until it gives in.
posted by bl1nk at 12:37 PM on October 11, 2002


Especially now that our Commander in Chief says "NU-CU-LAR"

I'd like to know why "crawfish" isn't a verb on this test, as in "For 11 long years Saddam Hussein has sidestepped, crawfished, wheedled out of any agreement that he had made." That cracked me up.
posted by moonbiter at 12:41 PM on October 11, 2002


Whipping shitties cracks me up. Who uses that?

It's not exclusively Minnesotan. Back in my Wisconsin high school days we used to whip shitties. ("Making donuts" was a cromulent term as well.) For the record, whipping shitties is best done* with a grossly overpowered rusty 2WD pickup (often referred to as a "beater"), on a parking lot with 1-2 inches of snow. Bonus points if the parking lot is on school property.

* Or should that be "shit is best whipped?" I'm not sure that we ever fully defined the grammar...
posted by Galvatron at 12:43 PM on October 11, 2002




damn it, I took the dialect test, 20 minutes later it lost the server connection upon me hitting submit. So you all know my dialect, Thomcatspike-ish sorry for the rant, as I need to go home


I notice in the test why I can't spell, like candidate, I say it w/o the first d, and spell the same way. But I saw words that I had not heard since I was child visiting a other state. Great Link, I'll be back to re-do the test and follow up.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:56 PM on October 11, 2002


thomcatspike, you are indeed a dialect unto yourself :-)
posted by WolfDaddy at 1:17 PM on October 11, 2002


grampa, I think many Canadians pronounce the "ou" in the front of the mouth, while Americans tend to pronounce it farther back in the mouth. I have heard at least one American pronounce it like a Canadian.
posted by nobodyknowsimadog at 1:31 PM on October 11, 2002


Great fun -- I love stuff like this. Disappointingly, though, there was no mention of the great "wash" vs. "warsh" linguistic divide. I've heard people from places as far-flung as Colorado, D.C., and Mississippi say "warsh," so it doesn't seem to be a narrow regionalism. Anyone know?
posted by scody at 1:45 PM on October 11, 2002


People say "warsh"?

I actually found myself saying "people say ... ?!" alot during that test.. like "insurance"? Who says that?
posted by jozxyqk at 1:49 PM on October 11, 2002


Why isn't it asking about noo kyoo lar? One reason may be that it isn't a regional variant, and the focus seems to be on geographic differences in dialect. If a term isn't particularly regional, it's not going to be very useful to this sort of study.

Captain: Second time today, I'm reposting the nu-cu-lar thread from the other day. We covered Homer.

scody: Famous one. See North Midland (and it's actually a very relevant article, for anyone else). It's really quite astonishing how consistent linguistic patterns can be, i.e. if you pronounce "fog" I can probably tell whether you say "pail" or "bucket".

My take on "aboot": I've heard that the sound varies across Canada, and the "oo" is more noticeable depending on whether you're from BC or Ontario. I always hear it as a blend of oo and oh, with a hint of ow. It isn't so much that Canadians are using the "wrong" sound here as that their o-based diphthongs cover a narrower range of variation.
posted by dhartung at 2:05 PM on October 11, 2002


Good lord. Seven answers for number 50 and not one of them is ya'll? I practically whipped my shitty when I saw that.

I wondered if they did that so people would write in "y'all" or "ya'll" and they'd get to see the spelling choices too...

I was surpised by a lot of the ways people apparently say things too... and then sometimes surprised by how i said things (like I never noticed that I sometimes say flaw-rida and sometimes say floor-ida)
posted by mdn at 2:06 PM on October 11, 2002


*cough*
posted by McBain at 2:06 PM on October 11, 2002


my grandpa says warsh and my great grandfather did too, as in go warsh your hands.

I was wondering about kitty wampus for a diagnol position. And why would anyone say super market trolley, when it can be reduced to one simple word:buggy.
posted by Recockulous at 2:09 PM on October 11, 2002


Oklahomans say in-surance. As well as um-brella, and po-lice. The stressing-the-first syllable thing is a source of endless amusement to my Connecticut-born wife, which is why I try not to do it any more.
posted by yhbc at 2:10 PM on October 11, 2002


jozxyqk: I grew up saying "worsh." I have seen the light and now wash.

owillis: I say jag-WIRE. Oh well, I guess I am a mid-western hick. I also say porsh for Porshe (not porsh-uh) and nyk for Nike (not nyk-ee).

My additions to the test:
How do you say "50 and 100"?
1) fiddy and one hunert
2) fifty and one hundred
posted by internal at 2:13 PM on October 11, 2002


Fun. They seem to have turned off the maps for now; I'm not seeing any sql errors anymore.

One I've noticed: how do you pronounce "orange"? I've always used one syllable, "ornsh" or "ornch" (I'm from CA.) My wife (NY) uses the two-syllable "ah-runge", or even the three-syllable "ah-run-ge" (though that one usually only comes up when she's trying to demonstrate to me exactly how I'm saying it wrong.)
posted by ook at 2:17 PM on October 11, 2002


yhbc: Oklahomans say in-surance. As well as um-brella, and po-lice.

Must stand up for the Okies. Where in Oklahoma did you live, commish? I was born and raised in Tulsa, and I've got an absolute lack of an accent. I've gotten more people thinking I'm from the North, and have never been accused of being from the south. (my 'rents were born and raised Tulsans too). I even had a lady in the mall in Tulsa ask me what part of Canada I was from. She was Canadian.
posted by Ufez Jones at 2:23 PM on October 11, 2002


IMy additions to the test:
How do you say "50 and 100"?
1) fiddy and one hunert
2) fifty and one hundred


3) Fi'ty and one hunnert.

The ' is a tiny pause - after studying Japanese, I now know that the proper name for this is a "glottal stop" ^__^

And the "by accident"/"on accident" question revealed something about myself I didn't even know: I tend to say "he did it on accident", but "it happened by accident". Passive voice gets "by", active gets "on". How strange.

Though not as strange as potato bugs being crustaceans. Who'd have guessed?
posted by vorfeed at 2:33 PM on October 11, 2002


ook-your wife's right! and aren't we supposed to get results or something by email? I took the whole test and feel cheated...(i remember answering "a" for a lot of the questions)

bl1nk, did you make your result up or was it real?
posted by amberglow at 2:50 PM on October 11, 2002


dhartung: thanks for the link to info on North Midland. Interestingly, I seem to have picked up many North Midland terms (saying "teeter-totter" for "seesaw", for example), but not the more telling aspects of the accent. (Most of my grandparents and older aunts and uncles, raised primarily in Wyoming, said "warsh"; my parents and their sibs or cousins usually split it, erring on the side of "wash"; my sister and I, raised in northern Colorado and Wyoming, say "wash" exclusively.) I wonder if other accents "wander" over the generations, even when the family members are raised in the same dialect region?

Though not as strange as potato bugs being crustaceans. Who'd have guessed?

What really threw me on this one is that to me, roly-poly bugs and potato bugs are entirely different bugs! (What I think of as a potato bug is a small, narrow, flat insect with a black shell and an orange diamond shape on the back -- like a tiny, less-hideous cockroach.) dhartung, do you have a good link for that? ;)
posted by scody at 2:56 PM on October 11, 2002


The phrase "whipping shitties" has been making me giggle all day. Just thought I'd share. I also want to use it all the time in the completely wrong context.

I never noticed Canadians pronouncing "about" as "aboot" until they brought it up on the South Park movie. Now I say "oot and aboot" all the time, but only in that phrase (well, maybe the odd "no doot aboot it!" but that's it.)

I also say "warsh" sometimes, but only when I'm doing oodles of laundry and feeling a little washer-woman like. (e.g., "going to do the warsh now - bye hon!")

I love this kind of thread (there was a similar one recently) cuz they are just such an interesting way to learn about how we speak.
posted by melissa at 3:07 PM on October 11, 2002


yeah, I don't know what a roly poly bug is, but a potato bug, or a potato beetle, is a kind of pretty orange and black beetle which you have to kill if you plant potatoes...
posted by mdn at 3:27 PM on October 11, 2002


I was wondering about kitty wampus for a diagnol position

Where I come from, we say catty corner.

And in Texas, but no where else I've lived, you can say "I tumped it over" to mean you accidentally overturned something.
posted by WolfDaddy at 3:49 PM on October 11, 2002


Anyone else notice that their accent and word choice has changed since high school and college? I found that 15% of my answers changed between childhood and adulthood (rejecting 'kitty-corner', 'ant' becoming 'aunt', 'carmel' becoming 'caramel', 'man-aise' becoming 'mayonnaise', etc.) Many of these are speak-as-you-spell changes; it's what put the first 'r' into 'February' for me, although I had to throw up my hands at 'Wednesday'.
posted by quarantine at 5:14 PM on October 11, 2002


Apparently I have not eliminated 'their' as a singular pronoun....
posted by quarantine at 5:15 PM on October 11, 2002


Agreed that "whipping shitties" is a MN/midwestern term. In the same area, I thought Chinese firedrills were done shirtless or with pants around ankles. Anyone?
posted by G_Ask at 5:42 PM on October 11, 2002


I thought Chinese firedrills were done shirtless or with pants around ankles

The gay mafia strikes again!

Next: drive-by makeovers, and terrorist quilting bees.
posted by WolfDaddy at 5:49 PM on October 11, 2002


Ufez: the City. Talsa (Tulsa)'s different.
posted by yhbc at 6:36 PM on October 11, 2002


Here's a wierd local one for me...all the older folks inside the 128 (the highway around Boston) say "tonic" instead of soda. That's gotta be the most obscure regional variation I've ever come across.
posted by Kevs at 6:56 PM on October 11, 2002


American rumour has it that we Canucks say 'aboot,'

To my ears (lived in Detroit for ten years) it sounds more like "a boat."
posted by kindall at 7:54 PM on October 11, 2002


amberglow: I was, indeed, making up that bit of "You sound like a West Coast Dot Commer..." Refer to the preceding phrase that the test will not pigeonhole you in to any specific type. It won't judge you at all, which is part of the beauty. You just (hopefully when the maps come up) get to see which parts of the company share your particular linguistic quirks.

mcbain: sorry for stealing your thunder, but then, a rolling discussion on 'whipping shitties' on a thread about Bush's continuing problems with the English language would be thread drift of massive proprotions, no?

... unless, of course, we start arguing whether Dubyaspeak should be a dialect all its own.
posted by bl1nk at 7:54 PM on October 11, 2002


kitty wampus

This one I found odd. My sister always says "katty wampus" as a synonym for going ape-shit.

I found it interesting the number of times I had to really think about what I said. There were a number of times where I knew several variations, and had to decide which was my default. (I filled in a lot of "other")
posted by kayjay at 9:17 PM on October 11, 2002


My high school biology teacher used to say "warsh" instead of "wash." It drove me up a wall!
posted by SisterHavana at 11:34 PM on October 11, 2002


I thought Chinese firedrills were done shirtless or with pants around ankles

The gay mafia strikes again!


How is that gay? Last time I checked, people of all genders and sexual preferences wear shirts and pants, and (I'm fairly certain) have ankles.
posted by boomchicka at 6:48 AM on October 12, 2002


Greetings from the land of tight, pert dipthongs. That "aboot/abewt/aboot" pronunciation you're debating is the result of placing the tongue in a higher position than is used for the corresponding phoneme in most of the States. There's a page on Canadian raising, including downloadable WAVs, here.

Special added bonus: you will learn how to pronounce "Toronto" correctly (just in case you haven't learned it from my profile page yet). The Comedy Network here has been running a promo for a Jon Stewart appearance here in which he takes about 5 seconds to say "TOE-RAWN-TOE". No, Jon! Use the schwa! Slur it a bit! Get the cadence right! With a little practice, you'll be able to fool a border guard.
posted by maudlin at 8:13 AM on October 12, 2002


maudlin: Good point about Toronto. Anyone who pronouces the second 't' has never spent much time here. Also, my Nova Scotia relatives insist that we T.O. residents say it "Trawna," which is a bit off. The usual local pronounciation is closer to "Tur-awn-oh" - with a very short quick first syllable that almost makes it "Trawn-oh."

And incidentally, someone could do a whole survey on Atlantic Canadian dialects. Does anyone elsewhere in the English-speaking world describe something very large as "Jesus big"? Does it make any sense at all that the Cape Breton town of Mabou is locally pronounced not "Muh-BOO" but "MAH-boo"? Just wonderin', b'y.
posted by gompa at 10:10 AM on October 12, 2002


Yeah, I've noticed that Ontiarian dialects tend to lose the "t" a lot. I worked for a company called Quality Computers in Detroit, and we had a Canadian guy there who called the company "Qually Compuers." I mean, he did not pronounce the "t"s at all. So, "Tronna" would be about right for "Toronto."

Does anyone elsewhere in the English-speaking world describe something very large as "Jesus big"?

Well, that's almost certainly from Oral Roberts' famous remark about his vision of a 900-foot-tall Jesus reassuring him that this followers would send contributions to keep him in business. Good one, I should start using that.
posted by kindall at 11:56 AM on October 12, 2002


boomchicka,
shirtless and pants around the ankles.

I won't draw you a picture.
posted by WolfDaddy at 1:38 PM on October 12, 2002


...and David Foster Wallace...

Just wanted to drop by and pre-emptively soothe languagehat. It's okay, dude. It'll be...okay.
posted by cortex at 2:10 PM on October 12, 2002


I'm from Missisauga, and I've always said 'T-glottal slop-rah-n-schwa' which comes out sort of like "T'rahnuh".

If you want to hear glottal slops in action though, just head out east. I have family members in Nova Scotia who can actually pronounce words with more space than letters, it seems. I'd swear I've heard "H'w'r y'duin, b'h?" used in an actual conversation.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 2:47 PM on October 12, 2002


The dialect survey was mentioned in the NYT the other day.
posted by rschram at 12:32 PM on October 18, 2002


« Older The Photon Belt...  |  Loaves and Fishes.... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments