Yinz wanna play the dialect game?



Y’all or yinz? Soda or pop? Hoagie or grinder? Highway or freeway?

The words we use map our origins. Linguistic researchers at Harvard and Cambridge have been conducting surveys for years and here are the results.

The questions go way beyond soda or pop, and will make you think twice about your word choice and your pronunciation.

The surveys point out strange quirks that we may not notice. Do you, for example, pronounce aunt with the same vowel as “don”?  But when you talk about your Aunt Mary pronounce it with the vowel in “man”? You’re not alone, according to the Cambridge survey. There are pockets of Western Pa. where we do just that.

Other off-beat questions from the Cambridge quiz:

  1. What do you call the kind of rain that falls while the sun is shining? (possible answers include: the devil is beating his wife, fox’s wedding, a tailor went to heaven)
  2. What do you call a narrow street or passageway between or behind buildings? (an alley? gap? cut? jennel? jitty? snicket? tenfoot?)
  3. What do you call it when a driver changes over one or more lanes way too quickly? (not what you call the driver!)

You can participate in the Cambridge Online Survey of World Englishes here. Warning: It ain’t anonymous; the survey asks for name, birth date, where you were raised, etc.

For a quick and anonymous dialect game, head on over the New York Times online quiz, which is based on the same questions and gives yinz, youse and you guys instant gratification: a map of where the term is used after each answer. At the end, you get a bonus: a personal dialect map.


To explore the results of the Cambridge and Harvard surveys, go here.