Differences In How Americans Speak English Across The United States

By: QCWriter
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(Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images for New York)

(Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images for New York)

Throughout the United States, there is a stark difference between how people speak the English language. In truth, it is nearly impossible to estimate the number of dialects that encompass the English language, because throughout major regions across the country, lies smaller pockets of varying forms of English spoken in specific towns or cities.

Moreover, due to transplants moving from one coast or region to another, regional differences in language is not as clearly defined as it once was.

Furthermore, where a person lives in the United States is not the only factor that determines how they speak the English language. Other factors include, but are not limited to a person’s gender, race and social class.

For the purpose of this article, I am only focusing on the regional differences of how Americans speak across the country.

Personally, I grew up in New Jersey, but I also lived in the Midwest for quite some time. Where language is concerned, I can attest to the vast differences within New Jersey, let alone the United States. While in the Midwest, people were surprised that I didn’t have a “New Jersey” accent.

Truth be told, Northern New Jerseyans do not have accents, but rather the Jersey accent is more commonly found in South Jersey. Currently, I reside in South Carolina, and over the years, I have adapted to the different dialects in each city I have resided in. However, this has not come without notice. I am cognizant that the way I speak the English language has changed. Some words have changed entirely, while others, I now pronounce differently than I did when I lived up North.

Slaw

In the North and out West, it is called coleslaw, however in some areas of the Midwest and the South it is called slaw.

When Referring To A Couple of People or A Group of People

In the North, when you are talking to or referring to a group of people, Northerners say “you guys.” In the Midwest and the South, the most common expression is “Y’all.”  In other parts of the country they say “you all.”

Footwear

In the North, shoes are called sneakers. In the South shoes are called tennis shoes. In the Midwest they are called gym shoes. I still call them sneakers, in case you’re wondering.

Aunt

Throughout the country, the majority of people refer to their Aunt by pronouncing her as their “Ant.” However, in some parts of the North, the word is said as Awnt. In a small segment of the deep South, it sounds like they are saying ain’t when addressing their Aunt.

Caramel

Up North and beyond, Americans say caramel as if they were saying “carr – (a) – mel,” or “care – (a) – mel” But in the South, it sounds like ‘”car-ml.”

Creek

In New England and in various parts up North, a creek is referred to as a brook. The rest of the country calls this body of water a creek.

Pajamas

Are you going to put on your pajamas tonight, or are you going to put on your “pajomas?” Southerners are known for using the ladder pronunciation.

Route

Does the word route sound like root or rout? In the North and out West, it sounds like root, in the South it sounds like rout.

Yard Sale

If you’re looking to buy a second hand item from someone’s lawn or driveway, it’s called a yard sale in the South. In parts of the Midwest it’s called a rummage sale. Finally, up North it’s called a garage sale.

Submarine Sandwich

In parts of the North, a submarine sandwich is called a hoagie, in the South and Midwest it’s called a Sub. In the deep South it can be referred to as a Po Boy, and in New Jersey specifically it’s called a Hero Sandwich.

Top Of A Cake

You put _________ on the top of a cake. In the North you put frosting on a cake, in the South and the rest of the country you put icing on the top of a cake.

The Road That Runs Parallel To The Highway

In the North it’s called a Service Road, in the South and Midwest it’s called an Access Road.

 Groceries Go In A…

Bag if you’re from the North, and a sack if you’re from the Midwest or in some parts of the South.  And … while you are shopping, you place your items in a buggy in the South, a shopping cart in the North, and a shopping basket in other parts of the country.

 Soda, Pop, or Coke

The lines are not as clear as to who says what where, however, in most areas of the North the carbonated beverage that you love so much is called soda, in the South it’s called Coke, and sometimes it is also called pop, or soda pop.

 Rubber Band

Elastic in the South is the elastic on your stretchy pants, but in the North it means a rubber band … I agree, it’s weird.

 Really Good vs Real Good

If you really like something up North, it is really good. In the South, it’s real good!

Use The Lawnmower to Shorten Your Grass

In the South you’re cutting the grass, up North and in the Midwest and beyond, you are mowing the lawn.

An Outdoor Water Line

In the North and around the country it’s called a faucet. Down South it’s called a spigot.

Want to learn more about regional differences within the United States? Click here.

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