Dialect Quiz Maps, Or: Visual Proof That I Married A Southerner

I was going through my drafts folder and came across this post that I had started to write a few months ago, but for some reason forgot about and never published. It’s completely random — dialect quiz maps, generated by online surveys that produce heat maps of which parts of the U.S. your individual way of speaking is most and least similar to, taken by both me and Joe.

It all started one evening after Lillian’s bedtime, during our nightly routine of wasting a bunch of time on the internet instead of doing something productive and meaningful, when Joe sent me a link to this dialect survey from a researcher at NC State University. Unfortunately that one seems to have closed since we took it, but the New York Times offers this similar one which (as of this writing) is still available. We both took both of them, and it was fun to compare the results, since I’m native to the Chicago area while Joe is originally from Pensacola Florida.

So with no further ado, on to the maps! This first one is mine, from the first survey:

Dialect Map (Sarah)

And here’s Joe’s map, from that same survey:

Dialect Map (Joe)

You can tell just from looking at them which of us is originally from the south, right? Although it’s interesting how his map has the hotspot on Chicago as well as the southern states — maybe all the years of living up here have had an influence.

The maps from the second survey looked a bit different, and offered a bit more detail in terms of plotting which specific cities you were most similar to, but painted a similar picture overall. Here is my map from the second survey:

Dialect Quiz Map (Sarah)

And here is Joe’s map from the second survey:

Dialect Quiz Map (Joe)

Not surprisingly, my most similar cities were centered right around Chicago, while Joe’s were deep in the south — I’ve been told that Pensacola is in many ways more similar to Alabama than to the rest of Florida, so having Montgomery as one of his most similar cities makes a lot of sense. Although we were a little curious about that hotspot in Colorado on mine, and in New York on Joe’s.

For how dramatically different our maps are, though, differences in the way we pronounce things or use expressions is something I hardly even notice on a day-to-day basis. Some of this may be due to the familiarity of living with and talking to the same person every day for years, though I think it’s mainly that despite some notable differences (like “y’all” instead of “you guys”), just by being an English speaker in the United States there’s bound to be way more similar than different.

Have you ever tried taking one of these dialect quizzes? Did your map reveal anything unexpected, or highlight any fun mismatches between you and a spouse or significant other? Feel free to share in the comments!

7 Comments

  1. Birmingham actually makes perfect sense, as I don’t think that Grandmama is actually from there, I do know her family lived there for a while (her parents were living there when I was born).

    Dad and I actually used to comment that Joe sounded like he had picked up a bit of a “Yankee” twang to his accent after going to college up there for a few years. :3 We thought it was pretty hysterical at the time. It’s really not a huge difference though; just the ways vowels are pronounced mostly.

    • I imagine that it would be rather funny to find that he’d noticeably picked up a bit of a Yankee accent after going to college in Chicago for a few years — and based on that, the hotspot over Chicago shown in his first map may be spot-on! Thanks for sharing! :)

    • Neat, thanks for posting up your version of the map! It really is interesting to see that much difference crop up considering that we were both born and raised in Chicago — and it seems like there’s a trend here of having one’s dialect noticeably influenced by the places you live in, even for just a few years. Fun stuff! :)

  2. This was fun! Mine came out Jackson, MS; Birmingham, AL; and Montgomery, AL. No surprise, I was born and lived all my life in Birmingham until we came to Pensacola. Natives of Birmingham will tell you there’s a difference from Birmingham in dialects of Jackson and Montgomery (Mobile, too). It’s also easy for me to mimic north Alabama country or Birmingham black dialect, I guess from hearing them during my early years. I love dialects, they’re part of who we are!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it! It’s interesting to hear that there are noticeable differences between those three cities that the natives there are aware of, even to the point of being able to mimic one dialect or another, and I guess it goes to show that what someone might think of as a “southern accent” is really a lot more nuanced and varied than they may first give it credit for. Thanks for reading and commenting! :)

  3. Hmmm, I got Mobile, Montgomery and Columbus . . . not Mississippi, which would make sense, since I went to college there for one year, but Columbus, GEORGIA! I am not sure how accurate this test is, considering 2 things: 1. several of my answers were “other”, and 2. it has been remarked upon that my accent changes in differing circumstances. Sarah, I believe you were there at one such incident: the bar where you, Joe and Rachel were playing pool with me, and the “goodfellow” asked which of us was the military person, because none of us had an accent HE recognized as local! He thought perhaps Rachel was (she is), but that I was Irish, Joe was from Chicago or Detroit, and you were from Wisconsin! And then a cabbie IN Ireland pegged me square on as from Pensacola (he had a sister-in-law from there), but thought my friend Alice and I were sisters, so was dumb-founded to hear she was from Chicago, and lived in Kansas City, MO! And yes, there are a dozen “Southern” accents, at least, which surprises most Europeans – and yet, they have no problem with the idea there are an equal number of English accents, even though the country is half the size of Florida! Isn’t language fascinating?

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