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EDITOR'S CORNER: Coke, Soda, Pop or Sodi-Pop

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Vincent Valentine, MD
Links Editor-in-Chief

In the last month's issue of the Links on English, Communication and Confusion, we barely scratched the surface about the distinct Englishes across the globe in an effort to increase our awareness of the differences that could simultaneously improve communication and add to confusion. To further lead you into "muddy waters" on this issue and in this issue of the Links, we will look at some of the dialects (regional variations of terms) used across the United States. Yet this is another example of the importance of appreciating the variations of the English language to improve communication. Moreover, do not mistake dialect for accent, dialect for slang or dialect for jargon. For the finer distinctions of our mutually intelligible English see Dialects: Reveling in Linguistic Freedom. In this link by Lesley Lanir, take note of the US map of dialects and isoglosses and also understand the balance of linguistic freedom and how it shapes our communication.

Well back to the task. Torrential rains can put a real damper on outdoor weddings, outdoor concerts, or any outdoor festivity or activity: parades, Mardi Gras, Oktoberfests, and for the end of October in America, Halloween, just to name a few. The yard sale or the tag sale of the east coast or garage sale of the Midwest would have to be cancelled because of a deluge. The richness of the English language also gives us for a hard rain: a flash-flood, gully washer, downpour, pour-down, frog strangler, goose drowner, trash mover, stump mover, fence lifter, chunk floater, turd floater, and a fence lifter. Personally, I can remember when it used to rain cats and dogs.

Also, according to the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) there are over 170 terms for "dust balls" found under the bed. These potentially antigenic nuisances pile up over time. And if you have carpet, they may go unnoticed for years. However, many Americans have noticed these masses of fine dry particles of matter, especially hair and skin particles and have given various names for them depending on the region of America you're from. Pardon me while I scratch my itch. Anyway, terms for these dust bunnies as we called them in the south include: dust kittens, gollywogs, fooskies, curds, reebolees or ghost manure, just to mention a few. For more on this I refer you to DARE, the six-volume compendium which began, according to the New York Times as "one of America's most ambitious lexicographical projects" and was conceived by Frederic Cassidy over 50 years ago as a homegrown answer to the Oxford English Dictionary. The DARE researchers traveled in their vans (word wagons) with various recording devices using 1847- item questionnaires for decades to harvest the different words Americans use to describe the same things.

So how do you address a group of people? Originally, in the history of English, thou was a singular second person nominative pronoun and ye and you were plural. After thou and ye died off, you took over for both functions. Today, the Southern dialect gives us the word y'all for the plural you. Depending on where you're from, you might hear you guys, you all, you mob, you lot, your lot, the whole lot of you, yous, you ens and yinz. "Yinz" labels you from Pittsburgh and in some parts of Texas y'all is singular so you may hear, all y'all for the plural form.

With tremendous variation across America, the descriptor for something that's diagonally across from something else is considered Catty corner especially in the south where I'm from. This is an example where English is trying to reduce the number of words to describe things or whatever with a goal towards brevity. Catty corner is actually Kitty-corner if you are from the North, North Midland or the West. While I'm in my corner, I'll enjoy a Shrimp Po 'boy which, thanks to Subway, is just a sub in the rest of the United States unless you're from New England. There it might be a grinder. (For all ya'll Bostonians, yous guys might prefer a grindah.) It could be a hoagie or a hero if you are from New Jersey or the New York City area or just a hoagie if you're from Pennsylvania. Then, when you're done with your sandwich on a casual day, you might take a walk or stroll in your sneakers, tennis shoes, gym shoes, trainers, Converse, Keds or Nikes. In the south, we used to sneak around in tennis shoes as do others in the Midwest and along the west coast. Others from the mid-Atlantic States would play tennis in their sneakers while gym shoes and trainers are used interchangeably.

To quench your thirst you might want to go to the water fountain or a drinking fountain, but in Wisconsin they will send you to the bubbler which is also found around Rhode Island and Massachusetts. For more calories you might down a cabinet in Rhode Island. In the south, we prefer a malt and elsewhere it's a milkshake. We usually leave our dishes and cups in the cabinet. Lately, America has changed its waistline primarily because of fountain drinks. In the East, Northeast and along the West Coast you might be offered a soda. In the Midwest and Northwest you might be offered a pop. Along the Mid-Atlantic seaboard people would offer you a "soft drink." If a group of you attend an LSU football game in Baton Rouge, my family with true southern hospitality after "getting down from their car", instead of "getting out of their car" will ask you, "Would you like a coke?" Your reply might be, yes please, I'll have a Dr Pepper and my wife will take a Barq's.

Disclosure Statement: The author has no conflicts of interest to report.

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