Seven Words and Pronunciations That Americans Just Can’t Agree On
Everyone in this country can get behind a good “U-S-A! U-S-A!” chant. For everything else, we’ve got our own regional dialects. A statistician at North Carolina State University analyzed survey data on the different words and pronunciations different parts of this country use to describe the same exact thing. Here are the seven biggest ones we disagree on:
Caramel. The East and the South usually go with “car-a-mel,” while the Midwest and West go with “car-mil.”
You Guys vs. Ya’ll. The South uses “ya’ll,” except for south Florida, which goes with “you guys.” Pretty much the rest of the country goes with “you guys,” except central Kentucky, where the most popular version is “you all.”
Pecan. This might be the biggest divide of all. The Northeast pronounces it “PEE-can” . . . Louisiana and its surrounding areas go with “pick-AHN.” Northern Wisconsin and Michigan say “PEE-kahn,” and the rest say “pee-KAHN.”
Soda vs. Pop vs. Coke. The Midwest and Great Plains say “pop,” while the West Coast, Northeast, south Florida, and St. Louis area say “soda.” The South says “Coke,” even if they’re talking about Sprite.
Traffic circle. When you get to a place where roads meet in a circle, what do you call it? The East Coast and Texas go with “traffic circle,” although the New England states say “rotary.” Most of the rest of the country says “roundabout.”
Fountains. The South and most of the Midwest say “water fountain,” the West, plus Michigan say “drinking fountain,” and eastern Wisconsin and all of Rhode Island go with “bubbler.”
Rain with the sun out. When the sun is shining and it rains, New Jersey, eastern New York, northeast Minnesota and south Florida call it a “sun shower.” Mississippi and Alabama say “the devil is beating his wife.” Most of the rest of the country doesn’t have a common term for it.
You can look at all 22 maps that indicate trends in regional pronunciation here.