Category Archives: Social Commentary

Not So Homogenous?

So, I was speculating the other day that regional accents and dialects in the US were dying out, when here comes an article on the Colorado accent [there is one?–ed Apparently.] that says they’re actually getting strengthened:

One might assume that in this era of universal education and media saturation, accents throughout the country would be getting smoothed out. (On the TV show “Boston Legal,” it’s hard to find a character who speaks with even a hint of a Boston accent.)

But surprisingly, Labov and his associates have found the opposite is true. They report that “regional dialects are becoming increasingly differentiated from each other.”

In other words, people seem to be accentuating their accents.

The reason for this, Bright suggests, may be that many Americans view the way they talk as a badge of honor.

“I think what it comes down to is a matter of regional loyalty,” he says. “People are conscious of it and proud of it. New Yorkers and Bostonians don’t want to sound like they’re from Omaha.”

This clearly resonates with Allison Myers, who has retained the soft drawl of her native Georgia even though she has lived in Colorado for 14 years.

“People ask me, ‘Where are you from?’ I find it intriguing,” she says. “My accent is not something that defines me in all ways, but it’s something unique about me.”

On occasion, Myers adds, her manner of speaking has even proved to be an asset rather than a handicap, as accents often have become in the past.

“When I first came here, I worked in a restaurant, and we’d sometimes have contests to see who could sell the most bottles of wine,” she recalls. “I won every time, and I do think it was because of my accent. I’d say, ‘Oh, you should trah this wah-un,’ and they always would.”


So I was looking at this map of how people pronounce things in the US, and I noticed that very few of them showed any distinct regional differences. The most striking of the few that do are what people call sweetened carbonated beverages, that thing you drink water from, and what you call Halloween eve. Bubbler people seem to reside mostly in Wisconsin, and Devil’s Night seems to be a mostly Wolverine thing. I also notice that while they ask what people call drive-through liquor stores, they don’t ask about liquor stores in general. An appellation that’s apparently unique to Michigan (I didn’t realize this until others pointed it out to me, having grown up with it) was “party store.”

Most of them just showed that the distribution of people who called them different things was pretty evenly distributed (that is if 80% called it one and 20% another, that would be as true in the deep south as in New England).

I wonder to what degree mass media and migration has been wiping out regional dialects? How different would these maps have looked a hundred years ago?


The new Battlestar Galactica (not the old one) has won a Peabody Award, a well-deserved first for the Sci Fi Channel.

I think this is a good sign of the mainstreaming of this important genre of literature, for too long ghettoized, when it’s becoming more and more relevant to the technological future rapidly closing in.

No Surprise To Me

Other studies (one in New Jersey, I believe) have shown this as well. HOV lanes increase traffic congestion. This carpool lane thing was always more about social engineering than it was about improving traffic flow.

This is also no shocker:

A report released last year also shows that the most common form of HOV lane, where general and restricted traffic is not separated by a physical barrier, causes a fifty percent increase in accidents.

Car pool lanes with no barriers are nuts, and single-lane carpool lanes are pointless, because one slowpoke can hold up everyone behind. Get rid of them all. Now.