How do you say... ?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Y'all vs. you guys. Highway vs. freeway. Rotary vs. traffic circus. Sneakers vs. runners. How do you pronounce caramel? What do you call a large motor vehicle used to carry freight?

I rarely think about the fact that I call a water fountain a water fountain rather than a bubbler; or that a long sandwich made up of cold cuts and lettuce is a sub, not a poor boy or a bomber. But according to this quiz from The New York Times, most people who live where I live talk like I talk, and those from other states say it very differently. I don't have a word for the night before Halloween, for instance, but some people call it goosy night, cabbage night, or devil's eye, depending on where they live. Who knew?

I love this one: How do you pronounce the words Mary, merry, and marry? My answer is "all three are pronounced the same," yet others say "merry and marry are pronounced the same, but Mary is different." Or, "Mary and merry are pronounced the same, but marry is different." Wow.

I've always been quite certain no one would guess I'm from the Boston area from the way I speak. But it turns out that "parking the car in Harvard yard" is not the only clue.

(By Josh Katz and Wilson Andrews for The New York Times.)


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