The New York Times Reminds Me That I Still Talk Like I’m From Wisconsin

I was born in Madison, Wisconsin. Then, for approximately 15 years of my life, I grew up within 15 miles of Green Bay, only to return to Madison for five years of school before finally moving out to San Francisco where I live today.

Here’s a visual representation of Green Bay and Madison on a US map:

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Sometimes when I meet people, they take note (read: make fun) of the way I say certain words. It’s cool. I don’t mind. They all sound funny as well.

Now, the New York Times is making it possible for everyone to display their linguistic roots with this fancy new QUIZ.

You answer 25 questions related to how you talk and the New York Times shows you exactly where you’re from.

Let me demonstrate how magical this is.

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When addressing multiple people, I would most certainly say something like “What are you guys up to tonight?” or “How are you guys doing?” or “You guys are crazy”. “You all” sounds fine as well, but I don’t think I’ve ever used any of the other options.

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The more I think about this, I probably use ‘diagonal’ the most, but since I don’t ONLY use diagonal — in some instances opting for “kitty-corner” — I was left with no choice.

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I probably just talk funny, but I spent five minutes trying to figure out any conceivable way that these words aren’t all pronounced the same, but no luck. I suppose you could pronounce “merry” like “murry”, but I’ll never be convinced of anything beyond that.

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Now things are getting a bit more interesting. This is a clear example of my geographical dialect, but I’ve always said “loy-er” when describing someone who practices law. Screen Shot 2013-12-27 at 4.59.16 PM

Seriously, I would love for the word “berm” to be part of my vocabulary, but sadly this has always been the “area of grass between the curb and the sidewalk” for me.

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YES! Now we’re pumping up the volume a bit.

Here’s the thing. Since I can remember, a “bubbler” has been the thing I drank water out of in school. I have no idea why. I realize the most accurate term for this type of thing is “drinking fountain”, but when you’re a child who grows up in the greater Green Bay area, you’re in bubbler territory, baby!

I needed to get to the bottom of this, so I turned to my main source of answers to random questions:

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Here’s what I found, courtesy of the ‘drinking fountain’ Wikipedia page:

“The Kohler “Bubbler” was an early example of modern drinking fountains, manufactured in Wisconsin before the turn of the twentieth century.”

Kohler is a company — located in Kohler, Wisconsin — that manufactures bathroom appliances like toilets, sinks, and WIRELESS SHOWER SPEAKERS, among other items.

Based on this new-found information, the heat map corresponding to my answer was hardly a surprise.

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Literally the least similar answer everywhere but the eastern part of Wisconsin (and a small fraction of the American northeast). God bless Kohler.

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Just the native Wisconsin tongue at work here.

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Not only have I never experienced one of these, but I’m quite relieved these aren’t a thing in Wisconsin. The volume of alcohol consumed, as well as number of hours per day consuming alcohol, is already off the charts. No need to add drive through windows to enable this problem any further.

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Not much to say here. I won’t contest any pronunciation as long as you don’t call your mother’s sister your ain’t.

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I guess I would call this a traffic jam?

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Hands down the best question in terms of response options. Sadly, I have no expression for this. I can’t even imagine using some of these answers in a serious sentence, but I wish I did. I so wish I did.

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Quick little baking lesson for you folks. Frosting is used to cover the entire cake and to provide a base layer, if you will. Think a jar of chocolate frosting that you spread to cover an entire cake. Icing, on the other hand, is used to add details and designs to the cake. Think end pieces, writing on the cake, anything else that you would use to draw pictures, etc.

Hence the phrase “icing on the cake”. Frosting is all you need, icing is just a bonus.

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A sub. You know, like at Subway?

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I don’t know. There are no mountains in Wisconsin, but this is what I call big cats that do live in the mountains.

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I know. I see there are two “a’s” in this word. “Carra-mel” sounds so fancy, whereas “Car-ml” has a certain rough neck swagger to it.

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When I say ‘supper’ I mean ‘dinner’ and vice versa.

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Actually, I do have a word for this. October 30th.

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Median. Standard.

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I’m not even sure anymore.

Let’s coast through these last few:

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Honestly, I think one of my childhood friends called this a potato bug once and it just stuck. I don’t have any other good reason for this.

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So rummage sales (noun) and the act of rummaging (verb) are VERY big in northeast Wisconsin. There are weekends dedicated to rummage sales, with groups of people getting together to go ‘rummaging’ together for entire days. Across several houses.

Don’t expect  to show up at a rummage sale and half-ass it. These are all-day events. Eat a good breakfast.

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I went fishing at a creek with a friend when I was eight or nine years old. He mentioned we were trying to catch some ‘crayfish’. So it goes.

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I’ll admit that I answered this question based on what I would have said if I still lived in Wisconsin. Now that I live in San Francisco, I almost exclusively refer to these as freeways. Living on Wisconsin, however, there aren’t a lot of very large freeways. Instead, there are mostly county highways and some interstates (highways that span multiple states).

I guess interstates are freeways.


Once you answer all the questions, you get to receive your results in the form of a heat map. You know it’s your specific map because it is aptly titled ‘Your Map’.

Here’s my map:

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Representing Green Bay, Wisconsin to the fullest.

What did I tell you? Magical.

I couldn’t be more proud.

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