All-American Dialects by Richard Lederer

As I read Richard Lederer’s essay about all the dialects across the United States, it really made me realize how many various dialects there actually are in this great country of ours. I don’t think it ever occurred to me that there were so many. I always assumed your general, northern, southern, east coast, west coast, mid-west, and other general areas and that was it. I never thought that there were so many subdivisions of these dialects and so many branch offs in each state. I knew a couple people from Michigan and we would always get in arguments about if it was “soda” or “pop”. They would always say me and all my friends were wrong and that they knew what it really was because they were from Michigan they said it right up there. Of course, my friends and I always argued back and said that they were in the south and not in Michigan anymore and down here it’s “soda” The story about the girl suffering from amnesia at the truck stop in Missouri really shocked me. It is amazing to think that someone could listen to her speech and be able to tell not only what state she was from, but the exact part of that state. I would have never thought that to have been possible and never imagined she would be able to find her family again. Also, the Biblical stories about Gileadites using dialect to be able to tell who the enemy was really stood out to me as well. I went to a small Baptist school my entire life and never heard of these two stories, so to read these for the first time here came as a bit of a surprise. I never truly realized how many dialects and the importance of them until I read this essay, but I now understand how important and helpful they are in everyday life.


22 thoughts on “All-American Dialects by Richard Lederer

  1. Richard Lederer’s emphasis on having so many dialects throughout the United States relates to something that was just discussed among our friends this weekend. I have friends from Mooresville and Troutman and the one friend from Troutman has such a strong southern accent compared to the southern accent that Mooresville people have and thats all within a 15 mile radius of each other. My boyfriend’s family lives in Lincolnton which is 15 miles further than Troutman and the southern accent is ten times more strong. It’s just crazy to think that just in those three towns I can see three very different dialects. I cannot even imagine how many dialects there actually are in the United States alone. I just think to myself if I were in the truck stops persons shoes I would never be able to know where that girl was from because I’ve only been around people where I live and I would never know where she was from because of her dialect. It is amazing that someone could actually figure that out.

  2. I also find it interesting that there are several subdivisions to the different dialects across the nation. Just like you have the different terms for soda, I have different terms for “skipping in line” and “turning off the light.” I mostly say someone “cut in line” or “cut the light off” but most people don’t use these terms. It all just depends on the different areas that people came from and who they surround themselves with. These factors will completely alter a person’s dialect.

  3. I two didn’t think that we had so many different types of dialects in our country. I could relate to the “soda” and “pop” difference between the North and South, and I argued with my family from the North as well. I didn’t know the importance of our dialects either but and I liked how you really stressed that in this post because it really made me think further into what Richard Lederer wrote about.

  4. Well being from another country and having to live in many different cities I have realized how differently people spoke. Being from a country that speaks english as well, the dialect up there is completely different then down in the south. We give different sounds to vowels, not on purpose, just because thats what the people around them said. Honestly the amnesia story is a freak occurrence, it is hard to believe that would be able to happen again.

  5. Reading “All-American Dialects” by Richard Lederer had much of the same effect on me that it had on you; I didn’t realize the magnitude to which different dialects existed. There are so many, I’m sure I personally haven’t even heard a fraction of them. I like how you included the story about you and your friends’ differences with the words “soda” and “pop,” because I also experience that each time I see my grandparents who are from Colorado. You made it easy to find the differences in dialects, much like Lederer did, all the while giving light to differences within the country as a whole.

  6. I agree with you, I never thought about the different subdivisions through out the United States. I just considered people having a certain dialect or accent from the North, South, East or West. Lederer’s essay opened my eyes and made me realize there are so many places we don’t even think of that have different dialects. The story about the girl on the side of the road was truly amazing. I can’t imagine being able to tell where someone is from based on their dialect but more power to them. I was in Catholic school my whole life and have never heard the Biblical stories either so that amazed me as well.

  7. Growing up first in Pennsylvania and then North Carolina has been different in many aspects. One of the biggest differences is the dialect. Up north there are many different words, like pop. The south has more of the southern twang accent, while the north has their own accent. I learned how to talk in Pennsylvania, which is why I think I have never grown into the southern accent, like my younger sister has. I speak more like a northerner, but I have slowly begun to say words like y’all.

  8. There are so much more dialects than I thought there were in the United States. I did know most of the basic ones like the ones you had listed, but didn’t know that they branch off like that. I have always called it what it should be called, soda. Pop is definitely a Northern thing, not a southern thing. Like I said on the other post, I also find it amazing that they figured out where an amnesia victim was from based on how she was talking. That is just amazing to me. I would have never guessed how important dialects are.

  9. Coming to the United States really put dialects into perspective for me, because where I come from there were only two types. There was how the white person talked, and the black. So after five years of being here, I’ve been exposed to so many dialects in America. The quote “when you learn language, you learn it as a dialect; if you do not speak a dialect, you do not speak” really puts all of Richard Lederer’s research and writing into perspective. The story of the girl with amnesia really intrigued, I found it amazing how you could pin point where a person lived, just by the way they spoke.

  10. I also found it very interesting how when the girl at the truck stop got amnesia that someone was able to tell exactly where she was from due to her dialect. That’s extremely neat because in a sense we can never be lost because our dialect will always follow us. I always find it interesting when someone that’s not from North Carolina comes around me and I love listening to them talk and listening to the way they pronounce certain words. We all speak the same language but our dialects are what separate us and make us different from one another. How boring would it be if we all talked in the same fashion and used the same words?

  11. My family has a pretty interesting background when it comes to dialect. My dad was born and raised in the UK, my step-dad is from Germany, and my little sister is from Uganda, Africa. The rest of us are pretty boring and were raised in the south. Each of us carries our own perspective on language dialect. My dad especially has a noticeable accent and still uses terms that I don’t always understand. I also found it pretty interesting how one could tell exactly where the person was from just by her dialect. It’s an amazing thing how language can change as you enter different states or countries, and how each culture has its own way of saying certain things.

  12. This blog was very interesting because we just learned about dialects in Anthropology. At first, I didn’t know that there were so many subdivisions. People from Charlotte talk different than people from Concord and people from Concord talk different than people from Gastonia. Its really cool how we all speak differently. In Anthropology I learned that there are some people who can figure out where your from down to the state, county, city, and town. Thats really awesome.

  13. I think it’s so crazy that there are so many diverse dialects as well. With different dialects circulating across the world and yet each day we encounter different ones. With all the differences we are still able to communicate and I think the differences are what make each of us unique. For example, when you brought up the topic of ‘pop’ and ‘soda’ everyone has a different way of talking about the same things. Some are more noticeable than others but I believe each are just as important as another.

  14. I knew a couple people from Michigan and we would always get in arguments about if it was “soda” or “pop”. I agree espicailly with this statement. My grandpa, from South Carolina, always gave my sister and myself a dollar for a “sody pop” and all his family called it “sody pop” but once back in Garner, where I live, everyone calls it “soda.” There is many different types of word selection for the community you are from, and thats what makes discussions and topics of english interesting.

  15. I also found that the amnesia story was very interesting. I would never think of tracking someones dialect all the way back to where they specifically live. With my basic understanding of dialect I could maybe point out if the are from the North, South, East, or West, but could never of thought that just down the road about an hour or so they speak in a different dialect then me. After reading this article it was very easy for me to see how important dialects are in daily life also. From detective work to just daily arguments on how to say a certain word, dialect shape who we are as humans and make us all unique.

  16. According to the essay, there are different dialects all over the United States, even within individual states. It was actually very interesting to read about how people were able to figure out where the girl at the truck stop came from by identifying her dialect. I never knew it was possible. When I speak, people do point out a southern accent, but I never knew they could guess where I came from. Also, being Muslim, I never heard the Gileadites stories. I think it’s really amazing how people recognized dialects many years ago and used this knowledge to identify enemies.

  17. My favorite quote from this essay was “Each language is a great pie. Each slice of that pie is a dialect, and no single slice is the language. Do not try to change your language into the kind of English that nobody really speaks. Be proud of your slice of pie.” It personally irks me when people from two completely different areas of the country argue about the “correct” way to say a word. We even put others down for saying it different from us. We need to each be proud of our slice of the pie, but at the same time willing to appreciate the different flavors of others slices as well. Who said the pie was uniform? I was thinking more of the frozen cheesecake at the grocery store with slices of oreo, chocolate, strawberry, ect all within the same cheesecake. I appreciate a good metaphor (:

  18. “we would always get in arguments about if it was “soda” or “pop”.” Yes! Another one I’ve heard is “coke”. Like, no matter what the brand is, that’s what some people call soda. I’ve always said soda, but some of my family says “pop”. It always sounds very strange to me. I think it’s do neat that these little details of our language can place us geographicly. Dialect is such a cool thing to learn about.

  19. Having most of my family grow up in Ohio I too hear the word “pop” a lot. I would always correct my dad when he would say it around me. My dad also doesn’t really say “y’all” as much as I do. Thought you did a great job.

  20. After reading the passage and your response, I have come to realize that there are a lot more dialects than I thought there were in the US. The ones you had listed as well as the examples you have given gave me perspective and broadened my resources for our future assignment. Its amazing how a piece of wherever we are born, raised, or live can stay with us no matter where we go.

  21. One of the moreimpressive blogs I’ve seen. Thanks so much for keeping the internet classy for a change. You’ve got class. I mean it. Please keep it up because without thenet is definitely lacking in intelligence.

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