The Regional Sayings That Reveal the Most About Where You’re From

“Soda” versus “pop” versus “cola” is but one aspect of it

Yard Sale
Is it a yard sale, a garage sale, or a tag sale? The answer can reveal a lot.
Paul Swansen/Creative Commons
By Tobias Carroll / August 10, 2019 9:00 am

Are regional accents on the way out? That probably depends on who you ask. Some people might speak with a regional accent and not even know it, while others embrace it. And certainly, for careful observers of language as it’s spoken, there are numerous delights to be had in the myriad ways that certain words can be said. See also: Kroll Show’s “Pawnsylvania.”.

Josh Katz has spent a lot of time thinking about this. He’s the author of the book Speaking American: How Y’all, Youse , and You Guys Talk: A Visual Guide, and he’s explored the ways in which different words and phrases for the same things occur around the country. 

Reader’s Digest has shared some of Katz’s findings. “Bubbler,” for instance, is preferred to “water fountain” or “drinking fountain” in corners of New England and Wisconsin. Residents of states that face the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico pronounce “caramel” with three syllables, whereas the rest of the country uses two. And the regional phrase for athletic shoes differs wildly depending on where in the nation you happen to be. 

Not all of these differences hew to familiar geographic distinctions. Sales of household items are known as “garage sales“ in the center of the country, as well as much of New York State. New England and the South tend to prefer “yard sale” — except for the corner of New England that opts for “tag sale.” 

The “garage sale”/”yard sale” line also goes directly through the state of New Jersey. While this excerpt doesn’t go quite that deep, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see that boundary lining up almost exactly with the infamous Taylor ham/pork roll divide. The potential for confusion when getting a breakfast sandwich before buying secondhand furniture in the suburbs is very, very real.

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