Opinion Matters

With Gazette Opinion Editor Greg Peck

Try this fun quiz on dialect

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Greg Peck
January 23, 2014

A tweet on Twitter caught my eye the other day. It seems an intern created the New York Times' most popular piece of online content in 2013.

It's an interactive dialect map. Dubbed “How Y'all, Youse and You Guys Talk,” it generates a personalized dialect map based upon user responses compared to data from more than 350,000 survey responses gathered last year.

For example, one question asks what you call the area of grass between the sidewalk and road. Options are: berm, parking, tree lawn, terrace, curb strip, beltway, verge, I have no word for this, other.

As the Times explains it, Josh Katz studied and considered careers in politics, law and philosophy before eventually deciding on statistics. In grad school, he dug into data that Harvard researchers Bert Vaux and Scott Golder had published 10 years ago. While the data were interesting, Katz said he wanted to show a more elegant “smoothed estimate” of the same data. He applied stats and smart algorithms, posted it online and waited for the newspaper to call.

Katz started with 140 questions before narrowing the list to 25. The quiz he designed, he says, simply shows you the region of the country where the dialect most closely matches your own.

I took the quiz Monday and, sure enough, the concluding color-coded U.S. map had me dialed in as living around the southern Wisconsin/northern Illinois area. It's sort of fun, easy and quick. Check it out.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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