I took a quiz my coworker Sarah Brown suggested to me, titled “How Y’all, Youse and You Guys Talk,” (the URL is http://tiny.cc/dialectquiz) through the New York Times.
And, of course, I couldn’t help but laugh at some of the choices the questions offer.
For example, peenie wallie was a choice for what you call a bug that flies around in summer and lights up. Or, a choice for a small gray bug that curls up when touched was a twiddle bug. Another one was traffic circus for when several roads meet in one circle.
While I found some of these answers to be a little ridiculous, I couldn’t help but see how relevant the quiz really is. It shows, based on someone’s speech patterns, where they most fit in in the United States.
When I finished the 25-question quiz, my result was Kansas. Based on my answers, it placed me in Kansas City, Wichita and Overland Park.
The New York Times quiz is based on a quiz given through a Harvard dialect survey, which was a project started in 2002, and has since floated around the Internet.
I compared my results with Stephani Finley’s, whose result was Minnesota. It makes sense, given she is from northern Iowa and I’m from the southern strip. Courtney Dake got a result of near Rockford, Ill. And, Sarah received the obvious result of California (as she is formerly of San Diego).
This piqued my interest, as well as the others in the newsroom. We started spouting off words in different accents and regaled the others in the newsroom of our experiences while traveling or living in another place. Sarah looked up a southern dialect website, and she and I started reading words as if we’re from the South.
I remember my study-abroad experience, living in Lancaster, United Kingdom, for six months my senior year in college. I lived in a residence hall with other students, the majority of which were from the United Kingdom. Some were from London, others were from small towns around the island and one was even from Scotland.
Sometimes, I would sit and listen to everyone just have conversations, interjecting now and again, to soak up the accent and the slight differences. I loved doing this, and my friends also loved listening to me speak, or try to speak with an English accent (which usually was a horrible failure).
My favorite word I ever heard anyone overseas say was “squirrel,” because they enunciated each letter so it sounded like “squi-rr-ell,” instead of “skwurl.”
This is one of the reasons I enjoy being in a big city or a different country. You have the opportunity to witness another culture you may never have before. You get to see how diverse the world really is, and understand just how many places out there you can travel to. And, sometimes, that is the catalyst to the decision to explore more of the world than anywhere in the United States has to offer.