Since coming to school, I have met people from every part of the nation. East and West Coast, and all the way to Alaska and Hawaii. I have also met people that were born in other countries and lived in the US all their life, and people who have recently immigrated. I have noticed that different regions of the United States have varying dialects, and use different words. It is even so localized that I can tell a person from Chicago from a person that lives in Indianapolis only a 200-mile difference.
First I will examine different words that regions of the United States use. When I was growing up in Indianapolis when I referred to any kind of carbonated beverage, it was called a “coke”. Whether it was a Mountain Dew, Dr. Pepper, or a Coca-Cola, it was called a coke. I don’t know why, but everyone that I grew up with used this terminology. When I started to meet people from other areas, I found out something interesting. People to the north of me (Chicago or Wisconsin for example) called a carbonated beverage “pop”.
My roommate introduced me to this phenomenon. The people to the south of me however, called carbonated beverages “soda”. After I have questioned people from the regions about this, I have come up with no conclusive answers, just interesting information. In Indianapolis, when the cashier at a store asks if you would like a sack for your items, she says, “sack”. When my roommate freshman year heard this the first time at a store, he was amazed. He had never heard a cashier say “sack”; he informed me that the proper word in New Jersey was “bag”.
I have heard both in Lafayette, this is probably due to the fact that with a college here, there are people from all over the United States working here. I am still not sure where the boundaries are for “sack” and “bag”. Next I will examine the different dialects or accents in the United States. The first and most obvious is the “Southern Drawl”. In the southern states, including part of Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio, people speak in a more drawn out fashion. They also tend to say “warsh” instead of “wash” and use the word y’all to contract you all, more frequently.
The weird thing is, that in Indianapolis, nobody says that I have a southern accent, but when I visit Chicago, my friends there tell me that I talk like I am from Kentucky. When I visited Texas recently, I could really tell the difference in the way that the people down there spoke and I realized that I lot of people I knew in Indianapolis talked that way also. The first time that I met a person from very far north (Canada or the Upper Peninsula of Michigan), I almost started laughing when I heard them say “eh” the first time.
I could not believe that they tacked on “eh” to the end of every sentence. This is an example of a sentence I heard “So you’re going to see Niagara Falls tomorrow, ‘eh. ” And it was not that just a few people did it, everyone did. They also had a tendency to use “ya” for yes also. It took me awhile to get used to it, but after two weeks of being in Canada, I caught myself doing it a few times. It was kind of interesting that I adopted it that quickly. An interesting thing I noticed about language is how people when they move adopt the dialect and words of the area.
An uncle of mine lived in Indianapolis for twenty-five years. He has now lived in Kentucky for twenty. Even after five years, my dad tells me that he started talking like he had lived there all his life. Also my roommate is from Chicago, when he goes home, his friends tell him that he has developed an “Indiana” accent. The amazing thing is, that even with all the different dialects and words that we use, we still understand each other without any major problems. It is a testament to the versatility of the English language.