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.
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.
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.
That’s what one ingenious Australian man, Ed Jones, did along with his buddy Julian, by converting an ATM machine into a video game console for the game Doom. He attached a keyboard to use as a controller and began trying to beat his high score.
This video shows how his ATM/Doom machine works, including a behind the scenes look at the wiring and circuitry involved:
Have you ever used an ATM machine to achieve a new high score in Doom?