Friday, June 26, 2009


How Americans Talk

Depending on where you live, you might call your submarine sandwich a “hero” (New York City area), a “hoagie” (New Jersey and Pennsylvania), a “grinder” (New England), or a “Cuban sandwich” (Florida).

This kind of information--the words and phrases used in distinct regions of the country--will be included in a new edition of The Dictionary of American Regional English next year. The compete series of five volumes will contain abut 75,000 entries, and will eventually be put online.

When my family moved from the East Coast to the West Coast, I can remember my new friends sniggering at my use of the word “sneakers” instead of “tennis shoes”. (Were we playing tennis? No. That still doesn’t make sense to me.) Some other regional word differences I can think of are soda vs. pop, sofa vs. couch, and iced tea vs. sweet tea. Apparently, there are many more!

Fiction writers may need to know about these regional variations, in order to create characters who speak the way they really would. I just think it’s fascinating to learn about the diversity of our language. What regional expressions did you grow up with?

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