Lifestyle

6 Maps That Show Distinctly Southern Pronunciations of Common Words

Joshua Katz/NC State University

If you travel around the country, you’ll find that different areas pronounce certain words very differently. Some words even have whole new meanings. Joshua Katz, a Ph.D student at North Carolina State University, created dozens of maps that help visualize how specific regions say certain common words. Here are six of the maps that depict some distinctly Southern pronunciations.

How do you pronounce pajamas?

Joshua Katz/NC State University
Joshua Katz/NC State University

There’s a pretty clear line of division on this one. When it comes to the pronunciation of the word “pajamas,” the red zone (the South and East Coast) pronounce it like “father.” The rest of the country, though, says the second vowel of the word as “jam.”

What do you call a group of people?

Joshua Katz/NC State University
Joshua Katz/NC State University

Well, this really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. As the map above shows, a stretch of states from Texas to Virginia use “y’all” when talking to a group of two or more people. The rest of the country uses the term “you guys.” The exception is a pocket of Kentucky where people apparently say, “you all.”

Do you say coleslaw or just slaw?

Joshua Katz/NC State University
Joshua Katz/NC State University

What’s wrong with you, blue states? Slaw is a convenient way to say coleslaw — traditionally cabbage, carrots and mayonnaise — in most Southern states. I suppose in some states this is not deemed acceptable.

How do you pronounce lawyer?

Joshua Katz/NC State University
Joshua Katz/NC State University

This is an interesting one because part of Texas follow suit with the rest of the Southern states. The areas in blue, which is most of the South, means that people there pronounce the word as “law-yer.” The residents in the red zone pronounce it as “loyer,” with the first syllable sounding like “boy.”

How do you pronounce bowie knife?

Joshua Katz/NC State University
Joshua Katz/NC State University

Texas is in a world all their own on this one. They are the only area of the country that pronounce the first vowel in “bowie” (the type of knife) as “boo” instead of “bo.” However, Katz posted an update on this map with a response he received from a Texan who explained, “It’s pronounced Boo-wie because it’s named after Jim Bowie (pronounced Boo-wie), who played a major role in the Texas revolution. That explains why we’re the only ones who pronounce it correctly.”

What do you call a carbonated beverage?

Joshua Katz/NC State University
Joshua Katz/NC State University

Oh, the long-standing debate on what to call a carbonated beverage. There are very clear distinctions about this term based on location. Texas, and other states in the deep South, call it “coke,” while the Midwest refers to it as “pop.” Then there’s the East Coast, Florida and the West Coast that prefer to say “soda.”

Now Watch: 15 Southern Sayings Translated

recommended for you

6 Maps That Show Distinctly Southern Pronunciations of Common Words