Where Y’all From? This Quiz Can Tell You Based on How You Talk!

by on July 30, 2014 · 22 comments

English is English is English, right? Well, wrong. The English language has so many different regional dialects that your use of words varies drastically based on where you’ve lived. Anyone who thinks English is a single language either:

  • doesn’t speak English or
  • hasn’t ever ventured far from home.

Regional differences in pronunciation and use of words can often pinpoint where a person has lived. The Cambridge Online Survey of World Englishes has studied the different uses of English words across the US. From the results of that survey, an online quiz was developed that analyzes your pronunciation and your use of words to figure out where you’ve lived.

Cambridge Online Survey of Englishes

The survey was begun by Bert Vaux, a Cambridge University linguistics professor who became curious about US regional dialects when he taught at Harvard University. He created a survey he gave to his Harvard students to determine the influence of geographic location on language. From that survey, he created a much more extensive study that he posted on the Cambridge website to study a broader population. Working with Josh Katz, who developed the survey algorithm, they have developed a quiz that can generate an amazingly accurate heat map of where you’ve lived.

By asking questions such as what you call the machine you drink water from or what you call a group of people, the quiz can determine where you’re from. Sample questions include:

  • What is your general, informal term for the rubber-soled shoes worn in gym class, for athletic activities, etc.?
  • What do you call the meal you eat in the evening, normally somewhere between 5 and 10 PM?
  • What do you call food purchased at a restaurant to be eaten elsewhere?
  • What do you call an unattended machine (normally outside a bank) that dispenses money when a personal coded card is used?

Taking the Quiz

The quiz asks you 25 questions based on how you pronounce words and which words you use to describe things, then generates a personal heat map with its best guesses of where you’re from. The survey questions change so if you take the quiz more than once you’ll get different questions.

You can take the quiz through The New York Times article, How Y’all, Youse and You Guys Talk. The quiz is anonymous, you don’t need to register or give any personal information, just answer the 25 different questions based on how you talk.

After you take the quiz at  you’re shown your personal heat map of locations you’ve lived, along with the responses that most heavily influenced your results.

You can see all of the questions on the Cambridge Survey website. Click on a question to see the maps of the answers based on where the respondents live.

The results of the survey are worldwide. You can move the map to see results of the survey taken by people outside the US.

My Results

I took the quiz a few weeks ago via The New York Times article and was surprised to find that the map was extremely accurate in pinpointing the places where I’ve lived in the US. My map showed a concentration in the New York/New Jersey/Pennsylvania region, which is where I’ve lived most of my life, with some heat in Virginia and Florida, where I’ve also lived.

Interestingly, I show some presence in Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska, even though I’ve never been to those states. I’m thinking my Midwestern friends have had an influence on me!

I wish the results included the UK so I could have seen what influence my years living there had on my use of English. A few questions I answered were based on some British terms.

Your Thoughts

Have you taken the dialect quiz? Did your heat map results accurately locate where you’ve lived? Were you surprised by the results? Let us know in the Comments section below!

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Doom ATM Machine

Do you have an ATM/cashpoint/cash machine that’s just sitting around your house doing nothing? Well put it to work by turning it into a video game player.

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Have you ever used an ATM machine to achieve a new high score in Doom?

Comments on this entry are closed.

Gramps July 30, 2014 at 9:02 am

Interesting. The survey placed me right where I am — Northern Virginia. But with a chance that I might be a Delmarva person (retired and living in a beach house?).
So, do I get a free Lux iPhone for participating?

Carolyn Nicander Mohr July 30, 2014 at 11:43 am

Hi Gramps, Very cool that the survey was so accurate. No, the gold iPhone is not the reward for taking the quiz nor is a cash machine transformed into a video game. But you do have the satisfaction of knowing how well you blend into your surroundings! :-bd
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Bill Dorman
Twitter:
July 30, 2014 at 9:36 am

Mine was predominately Florida (Tallahassee to be exact) and some Mississippi and Texas, which are two states I have never lived in. I assume it will detect the different dialects from Pensacola vs Miami even though both are Florida, huh? I did live in Columbus, GA for 2 1/2 years when I was in the Army so maybe that’s when I became more southern than Florida Cracker as there definitely is a difference.

Now let’s talk about those cash machines……..:).
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr July 30, 2014 at 11:48 am

Hi Bill, Yes, even though my heat map picked up on my Florida residency, it had me placed in Miami instead of my former hometown, Tampa. You’re right, there is a definite difference in Florida accents between the regions.

Maybe hanging out with Adrienne online gave you a Texas twang? < ):)

How many spare cash machines do you have? Perhaps you could turn one into a Pac-Man machine!
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Mike Maynard
Twitter:
July 30, 2014 at 12:01 pm

Hi Carolyn,

I did this questionnaire. I am most similar to New York, but different on most questions. My accent and dialect is Anglo Saxon though! I sometimes post things in the dialect for a little amusement and only local people fully understand the joke! For example a piece, is a piece of bread, often a jam sandwich! We walked around the park yesterday and so it reminded me of my childhood!

My website had a problem so I didn’t post for a week. I use Windows Live Writer and it wouldn’t connect. There is a vulnerability in the API and so it could have been a denial of service attack. It’s working now and I read that Wordpress are working on a fix.

Good pictures this week on both sites! :)
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr July 30, 2014 at 12:10 pm

Hi Mike, Yes, I read a lot about that hack attack on WordPress sites. I was very fortunate that The Wonder of Tech was safe because a lot of sites were infected. I’m sorry that yours was vulnerable, Mike.

I really wish the UK was included in the Cambridge survey, Mike. I mean your country is the birthplace of the language and the survey was conducted by a Cambridge professor. Perhaps that will be phase 2?

Interesting that you’re most like New York, Mike. I wonder if other English citizens would have the same results.
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Adrienne
Twitter:
July 30, 2014 at 3:29 pm

Hey Carolyn,

I haven’t taken the quiz and since I’ve only lived in one area my entire life I think they’ll pretty much be able to tell where I’m from. Most people immediately know it’s the south anyway. I went over there but since you have to log-in I decided against it. I’m not interested in logging into anything else that I really don’t have to. Wish you could just take it darn it.

Thanks for sharing, very fun.

~Adrienne
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr July 30, 2014 at 3:51 pm

Hi Adrienne, I just opened the quiz without logging in or registering. You can do that if you want to, but it’s not required to take the quiz.

I took the quiz again to make sure that I could complete the quiz without registering or logging in and I was able to complete the quiz and see the results without creating an account.

I hope you do get a chance to take the quiz, Adrienne. Even though you’ve lived in one area your entire life you may have some other regional influences. Who knows?
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Adrienne
Twitter:
July 30, 2014 at 8:20 pm

Now that’s odd, okay I’ll try again. I clicked on the first link and it had all these things you had to fill out that were necessary in red which is why I quit. I’ll try it again just because I’m curious.

Thanks Carolyn!
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Carolyn Nicander Mohr August 2, 2014 at 10:42 am

Hi Adrienne, I hope you have a chance to try the quiz again. It’s a lot of fun!
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Peter July 30, 2014 at 10:51 pm

This post is quite correct in my perspective, I do believe that you can tell where someone is from by their dialect. I remember I was in a chatroom before and someone just knew that I was from Australia by my dialect. I am thinking of doing the quiz myself just to see where I would get put into.

Carolyn Nicander Mohr August 2, 2014 at 10:43 am

Hi Peter, Yes, some of the terms in the quiz are British, there may even be some that are Australian. You may be surprised at your results!
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Atinder July 31, 2014 at 1:54 am

Well, I didn’t even take this quiz because I got irritated after reading half of the article. I don’t know why. but anyways a good quiz to know How you talk.

Carolyn Nicander Mohr August 2, 2014 at 10:54 am

Hi Atinder, What irritated you about the article? You may want to take the quiz anyway to see if it can predict where you’re from.
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Pankaj July 31, 2014 at 4:10 am

That’s certainly amazing and interesting quiz which can reveal from where you are. Though its only for US citizen so I can’t play this quiz, I hope they would soon launch this app for India as well.

Carolyn Nicander Mohr August 2, 2014 at 10:57 am

Hi Pankaj, No US citizenship required to take the quiz, though the results map is US only. If you go to the Cambridge Survey website (link in the article) you can see the response maps from around the world!

I hope you have a chance to take the quiz!
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Shaan Haider July 31, 2014 at 7:07 am

So according to this test, I am very much of a New Yorker… It’s time to visit that city now :D

Carolyn Nicander Mohr August 2, 2014 at 10:58 am

Hi Shaan, New York City is definitely worth a visit, whether or not you’ve taken the quiz! :-bd
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Ankit Jaiswal July 31, 2014 at 2:16 pm

Hey Carolyn,
Its a really Interesting quiz but couldn’t take it because its specifically for US citizens. But would be really amazed if they can create it on a global level. I bet that would be very interesting.
But anyways thanks for sharing. :)

Carolyn Nicander Mohr August 2, 2014 at 11:00 am

Hi Ankit, You don’t need to be a US citizen to take the quiz. Wonder of Tech readers from other countries have taken the quiz so you can too!
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Larry Carson August 6, 2014 at 10:14 am

Our maps were pretty similar. Although I have live in Florida longer, New York was brighter. Probably because of the parental units.

Carolyn Nicander Mohr August 6, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Hi Larry, Very cool. I’m glad the quiz was so accurate for you! Thanks for sharing your results with us.
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