Language is an interesting thing. As someone who moved around a lot (my dad is in the Coast Guard), I was always fascinated by how accents differed from place to place. And I wondered if by moving to all these locations, I had ever picked up any of them. So when I heard about the New York Times Quiz “How Y’all, Youse and You Guys Talk” I was intrigued. The quiz takes questions from the Harvard dialect survey and displays them on a map of the United States, showing how similar you are to different regions of dialect.
I went into this fully expecting to confuse the map by not having any accent from all the different places I’ve lived. And I have to say, as I answered questions like: “What do you call the night before Halloween?” or “How do you pronounce the second syllable of pajamas?”, I got a lot of satisfaction watching the map change from reds to blues as it tried to pinpoint my location. In the end I received this map.
It’s really cool to look at. I was born in San Francisco. I have lived in Alabama, Alaska, and I am currently from Northern Virginia. The big red splotch in the Midwest makes sense, as my parents are both from there. I am curious however about the general trend of more western than eastern; it would have been helpful to know what questions put me more in that area. Same goes for the pinpoint areas of northern Virginia and Mobile, Alabama; what about the dialect in those two areas have I picked up so well? It’s an interesting experiment, even if it doesn’t have all the answers. I recommend that you try and see where you come from linguistically!