September 11, 2009

Wisconsin English

I took a couple of linguistics classes during my college career, and learned a bunch of fairly dorky things. For example, Jeff spelled out in IPA looks awesome. While in the first class I went to a lecture on Wisconsin Englishes that, quite frankly, was more annoying than cool. If I remember correctly, it was filled with a bunch of old coots complaining about the way young kids talked. Whatever. The WI English Project is pretty neat (if you're as cool as I am) and the DARE website is also a great resource for finding out about regional differences in American English.

I don't know exactly how to make a rule for this, but rest assured that Thomas B. Marlow has opinions on the proper way to describe objects. Let's tackle two of Wisconsin's more prominent linguistic debates - bubbler v. drinking fountain v. water fountain and soda v. pop v. cola.

Bubbler/Drinking Fountain/Water Fountain

All right. Each of these words do have meaning - bubbler refers to a specific type of drinking fountain made by the Kohler Company. All bubblers are drinking fountains, but not all drinking fountains are bubblers. Follow? Good. Water fountains are like the one on library mall. Generally, I'd not drink out of one, but throw coins in it.

Okay, moving on to...


As you can see by this map, Wisconsin is at a crossroads of blue and green dots...which means that people are going to say pop and soda at fairly equal rates (okay, not really sure about the exact numbers/frequencies of the word choice, but it doesn't matter. You hear both around here.). The larger point here: if you're really a Wisconsite trying to decide whether to order a soda or a pop, the word you're really looking for is beer.

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