Language has always fascinated me, in both written and spoken forms. I love listening to people with accents different from mine, and especially people who are native English speakers from a different part of the world than me. When Erin and I spent two weeks traveling around Great Britain in 1998, one of our favorite pastimes was comparing vocabularies with the people we were visiting (“That jumper looks really smart on you.” “Smart!? How can a sweater look smart?” “I just mean it looks good, it looks lovely. Why, how would you say it?” “We’d say it looks sharp.” “Sharp!? How can a jumper look sharp?” etc.)

My friend Jill posted a short video of herself on her blog Jill Will Run, reading a list of words and answering some questions with regional-specific answers. She saw it done first at Healthy Tipping Point. I thought it was a really fun idea, so I made a video of my own. I can do that, now that we have electricity in our house again, after a snowstorm knocked out our power Wednesday night (along with thousands of other people in the DC metro) and we were without power for 47 hours. I’m wallowing in the luxury of having electricity again, and being able to do things like make videos and upload them to the internet.

Just for background, I was born and grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. When I was 21, I married Troy and moved to San Diego. Since then, I’ve lived in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Virginia Beach, Virginia; Tempe, Arizona; Southern Maryland; San Diego again; and the Washington, DC, metro area. I tend to pick up accents and regional expressions wherever I live. By the time we left Ottawa, I was saying “eh?” at the end of a lot of sentences, and then I picked up “y’all” when we lived in Virginia Beach. Someone listening to me during that time would have been very confused about where I was from.

bethany actually sounds like this – the accent vlog from bethany actually on Vimeo.

Wow. Watching this video, I was struck with how much I really do resemble my brother, not just in looks but in facial expressions and speech patterns. Also, I can see more clearly how much Annalie looks like me when I watch videos of myself. Weird.

Anyway! Here’s the list of words:

Aunt, Route, Wash, Oil, Theater, Iron, Salmon, Caramel, Fire, Water, Sure, Data, Ruin, Crayon, Toilet, New Orleans, Pecan, Both, Again, Probably, Spitting image, Alabama, Lawyer, Coupon, Mayonnaise, Syrup, Pajamas, Caught

And here are the questions:

  • What is it called when you throw toilet paper on a house?
  • What is the bug that when you touch it, it curls into a ball?
  • What is the bubbly carbonated drink called?
  • What do you call gym shoes?
  • What do you say to address a group of people?
  • What do you call the kind of spider that has an oval-shaped body and extremely long legs?
  • What do you call your grandparents?
  • What do you call the wheeled contraption in which you carry groceries at the supermarket?
  • What do you call it when rain falls while the sun is shining?
  • What is the thing you change the TV channel with?

Do you have a special name for rain falling while the sun is shining? I don’t know a term for that, but I do have a rain term that as far as I know is specific to my family: when it’s raining so hard that the drops of rain are creating circular ripples and then bouncing back up, my family calls that raining ballerinas, because if you squint it kind of looks like a ballerina with a tutu. I think my brother or I called it that years ago, and it just stuck for some reason.

Feel free to play along. If you do, please let me know in the comments where you post your videos so I can watch them! If you don’t feel like making a video, just tell me about a weird regionalism of yours.

49 Responses to “Bethany actually sounds like this”

  1. Madge says:

    This is fun! I kind of want to do it, but I’m afraid I’ll do a lot of derrrr or nervous laughter. I was thinking about the caramel even before you said it because I thought if I was reading I would say caramel, but if I was talking about it I would say carmel.

  2. Jill says:

    Awesome! I think this is such an interesting game! I’m the same way on my pronunciations with route and caramel. And I’m glad you mentioned the “Hey Ya’ll” possibility, because honestly I was curious as to what that question could possibly be referring to.

  3. kc says:

    I’ve been seeing this around… I always find these things interesting — especially from being a Yankee living in the south! it was like entering a different world when I moved down here (especially in Kentucky… even though that’s further north than Nashville, most people in Nashville are from other places so it doesn’t always seem as “southern”). I’ve changed the way I talk a lot, I became pretty self conscious of my northern Illinois accent for awhile… but as soon as I go home I embrace it (like calling it pop! — I was just talking about this today at work… I no longer call it that. took me 8+ years). however, all my southern friends think I still have such a strong accent! I say all my words almost like you but not crayon! :) and it drives me crazy down here b/c they call TPing “rolling” — the first time I heard someone say they “rolled a house” I was *completely* confused! haha! oh, and I think some people call them sunshowers.

  4. JennyBean says:

    What a clever vlog idea! Now I want to do it, hehe! I’m on holiday from work for a week though so I either have to find someplace to upload, or wait until I’m back at the office.

    I don’t think we do the toilet-papering the house thing. Everywhere here has high walls and gates so that’s a bit dull to tee-pee. But I’ve lived in the states enough to know what its called…my regions are all confuzzled!

  5. Sarah says:

    Ooh, I like this – I shall do it today. I’ve absorbed all kinds of Americanisms from the blogging world, so some of my vocabulary can be rather international.

  6. leslie says:

    that’s cool!
    it’s actually nice to hear your voice!
    and well, since i’m not a native speaker, i won’t do it…guess you wouldn’t understand a word :)

  7. How cool! Believe it or not you sound just like I expected you to. How weird is that?!
    BTW … a special name for rain falling while the sun is shining = Sun Shower … thought I would pass that along.

  8. a chris says:

    Well, I’m not going to do this one myself. I have a very weird and inconsistent accent and I’m pretty self-conscious about my speech. Even before I’d been anywhere else, people didn’t believe I was from Southern Ontario.

    The jumper conversation is baffling to me because I understand “smart” and “sharp” as intended, but I never called a sweater a jumper until I lived in the UK.

    Madge, I find your “derrrr” interesting in this context because I always read that as the British spelling of “duhhhh” (like they always write “er” over here but say “uh;” pardon my North American bias), so it suggests you may have a UK (or Kiwi, Aussie, SA, etc) background, but then again, because we have so many written conversations across borders, I think that there is probably now a recognized North American “derrrr” and “er.”

    Are the oval spiders with really long legs actually spiders? Because that sounds like (what I call) a daddy long-legs to me, which I’m informed is a mite. But I’ve always lived fairly far into the Northern Hemisphere and my spider experience is reasonably limited.

    Being Canadian, I have strong American and British influences to my language, and after a decade in England it’s even more mixed up. I now have to decide whether to say trousers or pants, aluminum or aluminium, remote, TV changer, or flipper…diaper or nappy…on a case-by-case basis.

    Sorry for going on. You’d think I’d have time to write something on my own blog if I can fill up other people’s comment pages like this.

  9. [...] toy knitting machine, but didn’t have time to take it out of its box), I found an interesting post from Bethany in my feed reader this morning, talking about [...]

  10. Christine says:

    I’m not going to do it because I really hate being reminded of how my voice sounds when recorded, and I also switch between regionalisms depending on where I am.

    But the top commenter saying “Derrr” and subsequent comments have cleared up something I never understood about Bridget Jones’s Diary – her mother always says “Derrr” and I couldn’t understand why. Now I realise she was actually saying “Duh”, which makes so much more sense. (We Irish enunciate our r’s, unlike the Brits.) I’m familiar with “er” as an “um” sort of sound, because if you write it “eh” it looks like the Canadian sort of “eh”, but it didn’t occur to me to extrapolate that to Derrr.

    If that makes any sense to anyone other than me.

  11. kj says:

    I think if I’d do this I’d sound a lot like you. Must be the mid-western roots.

    I went to Sarah’s site and watched her too. Waiting to see which other Flickr Friends take the plunge. Sonja? :)

    (I’d like to but I need to figure out how to 1-record a video on the laptop and B-upload it)

  12. Mrs. Wilson says:


    I love this idea! I think I pronounce most of those words the same as you do – except route. It’s always “root” with me. I don’t think I’ll post a video because I am WAY too self-conscious to do such a thing. One day I will have to try to get over that.

    One weird thing that Saskatchewan people do, is they call a hoodie a “bunny hug”. I have NO IDEA WHY. I laughed the first time I heard it and thought they were kidding, but no, they do it here in Saskatoon, they do it in Regina, and they do it in Caronport where I went to Bible school. I will not conform though, it is a HOODIE.

  13. Hannah says:

    Here in the south, when the sun is shining while it’s raining, people say the devil is beating his wife. I have no idea where this came from, I mostly hear older people saying it. I’m not particularly fond of the phrase!

  14. too shy to video, but some comments. Lived all my life in Texas, but Mom was a military brat and was born and bred yankee, before traveling to the Philipines and then back to Texas.

    I too, say Aunt=ant. But I have to admit, that when I heard you say the word, I had no idea you meant the sister of one of your parents. the brain picture was automatically of a little red bug and I wondered why there was any question. (grin)

    Route = root if I am talking about a hwy as in Root 66. But is r-out if I am talking about something like a country postal route (i.e. Route 2 Box 3)

    Fire = my mom’s yankee way was kind of like FI ure (making a 1 syllable word in to two syllables). But a lot of Texans say it more like far with a semi long I sound with a very short or staccato sound.

    Caramel is always Carmul; Instead of crayon, I would say color. New Orlee unsins; pecan= short i, a like in what piCAN;

    Answers to questions.
    *wrap a house.
    *doodle bug (Like Brenda’s daughter)
    *coke (doesn’t matter if it is Coke, Dr. Pepper, Pepsie, Sprite or 7-up. It is coke.
    the female gender in Texas would probably say “tennies”
    *If it is an informal group of people, and I am trying to get their attention, then I would generally say,
    Hey ya’ll or Hey guys (whether it was male, female or mixed.
    *Maw & Paw (but they were old farmers, so that might have influenced it).
    *I’ll say, “I am going to get a cart”, but I will tell my grandson, “let’s get you in the buggy”
    *”it’s sprinkling” when the rain falls while the sun is shining.

    Has anybody ever used the word “counterpayne” for “bedspread/comforter” that was another Mama turn of phrase.

  15. Rena says:

    A neat idea and lovely to hear your voice. You sound the same as I remember from grade school. I said the words aloud to myself before watching the video, and I anticipated that we’d be the same since we’re both from Omaha…yup, exactly the same.

    I was worried your travels would lead you to a word other than “cart” – but thanks for sticking to your midwestern roots on that one! ha! Now that I’ve lived in Denver for 17 years, I slip sometimes and call it a buggie.

  16. Erin says:

    Ditto. You sound exactly like me.

  17. robin says:

    Very interesting topic! And always talked about at our house because I’m from Minnesota and married a Canadian and now live in Canada. Eh? I say eh all the time now. Once you’ve lived in 2 countries you sound weird to EVERYONE! But I’ve mostly lost my Minnesota accent, except my family says I go right back into it when I talk to my sister! Minnesotans have a distinct accent. Words that are said differently here: roof, block, route, again, pants, semi (semee here), caramel (I always said carmel before), syrup, and here you don’t call a jump rope a jump rope – it’s a skipping rope! And don’t call a candy bar a candy bar – it’s a chocolate bar here. Many others, but they don’t come to mind right now…

    Funny story – we were first married and driving around Winnipeg. I noticed that some city blocks had really short sides (now I realize that it was just in that certain area of the city) and said “Your blocks are really short here.” He thought I said the “blacks” are short here. We had a few misunderstandings!

  18. amanda says:

    Pretty cool hearing what you sound like! I think your voice is deeper than I imagined, but not by much. I may have to do this…even though I’m not a huge fan of photographing or video taping myself.
    I don’t really think you sound much different than most of the people here in my little area of Ontario. Granted we say eh?! a lot. I’ll post another comment if I decide to join in on the fun.

  19. Sherry says:

    I love this one too. I did the video last week and then totally forgot to do a post about it (duh) so thanks for reminding me!

    Here’s my video.

  20. OMSH says:

    Y’all — I say it without thinking.
    Yellow — apparently I say “Yella”

    Cool video; nice to hear your voice again. ;)

  21. ~moe~ says:

    I don’t have a way to record my voice…I’m not tech savvy like the rest of you. :) But I thought I’d answer the questions as phonetically as I can, being from SoDak and all…

    * What is it called when you throw toilet paper on a house? TPing
    * What is the bug that when you touch it, it curls into a ball? Pill Bug, Gross
    * What is the bubbly carbonated drink called? Pop, though I do sometimes switch to Soda; My boss and I also call it “Orange Whip” just for fun
    * What do you call gym shoes? Running shoes, but I think this is here because I’ve heard them called “trainers”
    * What do you say to address a group of people? After visiting friends in Texas, I’ll use “Hi y’all” but usually I’m just a “hey”
    * What do you call the kind of spider that has an oval-shaped body and extremely long legs? Daddy Long Legs
    * What do you call your grandparents? Dead. Oh, that was mean. No, generally it was just grandma and grandpa
    * What do you call the wheeled contraption in which you carry groceries at the supermarket? Cart
    * What do you call it when rain falls while the sun is shining? “A great time to run”
    * What is the thing you change the TV channel with? Remote, though sometimes I call it a “Clicker” or “give me that thing!”

    Oh and I call my “Aunt” awnt…not ant. I’m weird like that. But I do have the same issue with route and caramel as you. :) Must be a midwestern thing.

  22. Rosie says:

    Hello! I am a follower of your blog, and never usually comment on stuff… but felt like taking part in the questions!

    I am from Glasgow, in Scotland. Accents and words differ so much here, not only between Scotland & England, but just between Glasgow, and Edinburgh!

    Even just the way Glasgow is pronounced… In England it is pronounced (phonetically) “Glausgow” (fairly posh), in the slightly better off areas of Glasgow it is pronounced “Glazgoe” and it the rougher areas its “Glezgay”.

    so the questions…

    -well, we don’t Toilet paper houses over here, so i reckon we’d just call toilet papering a house??

    -i’m not actually sure what this is… sorry, rubbish – we only really get midgies in scotland!

    - Ginger or juice or fizz

    - gutties (pronounced without the “t”s! kida like gu’ies?)

    - “alright?” or “Hows it going?”

    - daddy long legs

    - Granny (i don’t have any grandads, but thats what i’d call them!)

    - trolly

    - i don’t really have a specific word for this!

    - the bleeper mostly, but occasionally just the remote, and sometimes the bleep bleep or the thingy!

    would like to do the a video cause it would be fin, but dont have a web cam! :(

    Rosie. x

  23. Julia says:

    I love this meme a lot! I’m from just north of Boston and we have a few weird things.

    We call water fountains “bubblers” – the old ones used to bubble straight up instead of having an arch!

    We call milkshakes “frappes” – pronounced frap.

    We call chocolate sprinkles “jimmies” – actually a racist term referring to the Jim Crow Laws, but I’m not sure how many people know that.

    I moved to Charleston, SC for school and am dating a South Carolinian and people say I am getting a southern drawl – which I love, ha!

  24. bonnie says:

    Dude. I am so gonna do this.

  25. Kassie says:

    Totally going to try this. When we lived in Philadelphia all the foster kids that I case managed laughed and laughed at my goofy Midwestern accent. They made me say “water” and “table” and “caramel” over and over.

  26. LaurenC says:

    I’ll try and give this a go later if I can figure out how to upload video onto the blog that I very rarely use.

    Also….rain while the sun is out. Here we call it a sunshower.

  27. [...] a comment » After I visited Bethany’s Blog and saw her Accent Vlog, I though it would be fun to make a video also.  I was a little afraid of [...]

  28. Bex says:

    I’d kind of like to try this… maybe if my webcam decides to cooperate with me later :) Also, I think your “y’all” sounds natural enough!

    Additionally, whenever it would “sprinkle” rain here in Alabama, my grandparents would say “it’s diddlin’ rain outside.” I wonder if that’s what they were looking for, too…

  29. Emerson says:

    I rock a very stereotypically Canadian accent, right down to the multipurpose “Eh?!” I’d pronounce some of it different.
    Caramel = care-ah-mel
    Data = dah-tah, not day-tah.
    Pecan = PEE-can, with emphasis on the first syllable

    It’s always pop, never soda. Gym shoes are runners to me. Rain in the sun is a sun shower. My mom likes to call the remote a clicker, but that’s slang more than a term. I can’t say y’all to save my life.

    Lets see if I can come up with some Canadian slang. We call it homo (short for homogenized) milk, I think Americans say whole milk. We say hydro, not power. We call a case of beer a two-four (24 beers in a case). OH! Someone told me the other day that saying “Jesus Murphy!” is a really Canadian thing too. Random.

    And as always, we refuse to say “out” or “about” in the presence of Americans. For some reason, my accent on those words REALLY excites people.

    Fun post!

  30. JennyBean says:

    I’ve just uploaded my own version! Tumblr video upload was being a bit funny so I hope it uploaded correctly; I can’t tell because my internet is so slow.

    I didn’t get to watch the videos from you, Sarah, and Madge until after I’d already filmed this (they wouldn’t play on my phone and I didn’t want to come to the internet cafe twice) so I kind of winged it.

  31. [...] With Accents Posted on January 30, 2011 by CosmicBlue I was reading a post on my friend Bethany’s blog today about the differences in accents and regional [...]

  32. LaurenC says:

    Be amazed!
    I not only made a video, but I managed to work out how to upload it to my poor neglected blog.
    Ta da!

  33. Jennifer says:

    I was born in Mississippi, moved to Oklahoma when I was two, moved to Pennsylvania when I was ten, moved to Maryland when I was eighteen and moved to Delaware when I was twenty-five. I don’t generally have an accent, unless I am speaking to my Southern relatives, then my accent comes back. Sometimes it’s so thick my husband makes fun of me.

  34. Brooke says:

    I went to a leadership conference when I was in high school (it was in DC) and on the first day they asked us to stand up if we called the bubbly drink
    a.) pop
    next if we called it
    b.) soda
    and finally
    c.) coke (regardless of the kind)
    We found that the easterners went with soda, the west coasters went with pop and all of California was coke. It was quite interesting.

  35. Emily says:

    I love how you say pecan, it’s one of my favourite American pronounciations, along with basil, oregano and vase.

  36. Rhi says:

    SUPER cute idea! I think I will do this.

  37. Yara says:

    I had to jump in on this too. If I can get it to post on my blog, I’ll let you know ; )

  38. Aunt B says:

    The dead comment reminded me of you CA aunt & uncle. It made me laugh.

  39. Aunt B says:

    The comment was made by Moe.

  40. Lori says:

    I love this idea! I’ll through in some Appalachian accent for you guys.

    Wash – commonly pronounced Warsh or Worsh, especially by older people.
    Oil – a two syllable word “oi-yoll”
    Iron – a one syllable word with a soft R.
    Salmon – contains a rare silent l.
    Fire – Far
    Crayon – Crayun or Crayola (as brands are commonly used)
    Toilet – lots of people actually still say commode, but otherwise I can’t imagine it sounds very odd.
    Spitting image – Kinda like Spi’in image
    Syrup – Su-rup

    A few of the questions,
    - any brown soda is a coke
    - we commonly say both hey guys and hey ya’ll or just hey with at least two syllables.
    - both my grandparents are called Granny and Pa
    - we shop with a buggy
    -sometimes daddy long legs are called “craw-dads”

    An interesting one might also be whether you pronounce the “l” in walk or talk. We definitely go “waLking and taLking” not woking and toking as many other Americans.

  41. justJENN says:

    “What do you call it when rain falls while the sun is shining?”
    My nightmare.

  42. Miss Virginia says:

    Ok, first off…how cute are you??!! I grew up in the DC area (in McLean, but then lived in Arlington once I was married and all my kids were born there) and we say those words EXACTLY the same (even down to the 2 ways to say route). As for the questions, I answered them exactly the same as you (even the “Hello, Everyone”…which made me laugh, because I answered all the questions before listening to you so as not to be tainted). Though living in Denver now, people would say “buggy” instead of cart at the grocery store. In DC, when people knock down and house and rebuild it, they say, “that’s a tear-down” and in Denver, they call those type of houses “scrapers”. Reason #873465920 to start a blog!!

  43. mo says:

    I think we have such bland “accents” here in good ol Nebraska. The only things we differ on are that I don’t say pill bug (only rollypoly) and I call them sun showers. :) The pop thing is pretty funny (and true).
    GBR :)

  44. Ashley says:

    This is really cool, your voice is actually not what I imagined it would be like :)

  45. Carole says:

    OMG…so I have to keep blogger (shhh,…dont boo) I can finally post my silly ass online. I have a ASUS….yep…love him, but his $1200 camera sucks…well, it is probably me.
    So yep, here I am, do not laugh too loudly;)