Map of American English dialects

Being born and raised in Southern California and living most of my life there (we moved to Central Ohio in 1997), I always thought that the “California accent” was so mild and flat that it hardly qualified as one at all. I still think that, though now that we’ve been living in Ohio for nearly 14 years, when I hear a fellow Californian speak, it’s distinctive enough for me to notice. Native Ohioans are a much different story. I can always tell when I’m speaking with someone who grew up here, especially when they say the words “boosh” (bush) and “poosh” (push). Another common one is that they say “Nerk a-HI-ya” for “Newark, Ohio.” There are other noticeable idosyncracies, to be sure. And I have no doubt that we Californians sound kind of odd to them, as well. Without question, the rise of popular television programs broadcast coast-to-coast, as well as Hollywood movies, not to mention the great increase in transience that followed in the wake of President Eisenhower’s Interstate construction initiative) contributed greatly to the general flattening of regional accents. We’re quite far away from anything resembling a homogeneous American dialect — I strongly doubt that such a thing could ever develop — but it seems to me that the regional quirks in dialect are slowly becoming, if I may be forgiven for putting it this way, less pronounced.


  1. Chad Myers

    Where did you get that image from? Is there a way to get a larger version of it?Some of my family is originally from Ohio. Other Ohio and Northern Indiana distinctives:- Warsh instead of wash (Warshington, D.C., Warshing machine, etc)- Pop instead of Soda (or Soda Pop/Cola/Coke)

  2. Patrick Madrid

    Just click the image to load the larger version.

  3. Paula

    We live in Arkansas, and we had a foreign exchange student from S. Korea stay the school year with us a few years back. When she returned to her old school in Korea, she was asked on one occasion to translate for some visitors from America. She was tickled when they commented on her accent and asked her "Did you spend time in Arkansas?"

  4. Mary F

    I am from Columbus and of course it is Nerk, lol. I live in the DC area now and so far no one has publically corrected me as I still say "Warshington". I still can't get them to understand that soda has ice cream with it and coke or sprite is pop.I went to college in NC and that is where I first realized how many dialects and accents there were to the various southern states. The guys from up north would sometimes tease their southern counterparts, but we women just figured they were jealous because most of the southern guys could say just about anything and it sounded good.

  5. Kyle

    My dad's family is from Missouri and he says warsh, and Warshington. But we are from California and my brother and some of my friends have a different kind of accent. He says drawl, bolth, and sawl instead of draw, both, and saw. I'm wondering if this linguistic phenomenon is a new emerging element of (Southern) Californian accent, although I don't speak like that.

  6. Tim H.

    Yo, waddaya tawkin abowt? Wats all dis abowt agsends, eh? We don'd got no agsends, yoos da ones wit da friggin' agsends. Get da marbles owtaya mowts. Fugetabowdit.

  7. Michael

    In Okla the food might be Greezy, where in the midwest it is Greesy.In OKLA it is Katy-corner, where in WI it is Kitty-corner.And of course back in OKLA it is Pop, in WI it is soda.

  8. Patrick

    People in WI use "soda" as a shibboleth to detect Bears/Cubs fans, who are incapable of calling it anything but "pop" – ugh, even the word sounds ugly. Also, "water fountains" are found in parks, "bubblers" are what you drink from.

  9. Katie

    I have lived my entire life right here in Central Ohio and have never "warshed" my hands or my clothing. I have never "pooshed" anything and things are not "spayshul" but "special". I also do not take out the "traysh", but the "trash". My mother, an Arizona product of a Bostonian and an Oklahoman demanded, that we pronounce things "correctly", But, small things crept in, like "catty-corner" and "greezy". I never knew those were Oklahoma-isms. I also notice as I am aging that my "R" is getting harder and my "A" flatter and wider.I will say, that I drink pop, not soda, but I'd take the Packers over the Bears any day.

  10. Patrick Madrid

    Not long after we first moved here from Kaleeforneeya, a neighbor kid was over in our yard and kept innocently saying "warsh" in the context of "warshing a car" or "warshing dishes" or something like that. I asked him what he meant by "warsh." He didn't hear the problem and said, "That's just how we say it here." I told him, "That's because you've been brainwarshed to say it that way."

  11. Andrew

    I grew up in Lancaster, OH, and I remember my grandmother "warshing" the dishes, putting "oral" in the car, and sitting on the "davenport." My wife points out to me that my family frequently leaves out the infinitive "to be": "The baby needs changed," "the dishes need washed." Apparently another local thing.

  12. Sh. Patty

    I'd add to my husband's comment (above) that when I first went to visit his family (Lancaster, OH, which is southeast of Columbus), they were talking about a place that from what I could tell was called "Al's Acres." I finally saw the sign and it read "Owl's Acres."

  13. Tom Ryan

    I can pick up on someone being from Columbus, regardless of the way they sound by the way they drop the "to be" infinitive. E.g: "My car is broken it needs fixed." "Dirty clothes need washed"

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: