I'm looking for a booklet

Mike Salovesh t20mxs1 at CORN.CSO.NIU.EDU
Thu Jan 27 01:04:59 UTC 2000

Joe Pickett asked two questions; I'll comment in one message.
> I've always wondered about the range of the redundant compound "soda pop." If
> pop is midwestern and soda is eastern, who drinks soda pop?
> Any opinions on this?

Maybe, just maybe, it's the people who write ads for national
distribution . . . After all, "soda pop" does dodge the problem of
regional variation.

> And what is the range of the word "bubbler" for "water fountain"?
> My kids (in Eastern Massachusetts) use it, though I never did growing up in
> Albany, NY.
> Yet I hear that it's used in the mid-west too.  Maybe a youthful upstart all
> over?

"Bubbler" for "water fountain" was common usage in Milwaukee and other
parts of Wisconsin when I lived there -- from mid-1938 to mid-1942.  Of
course, I was a mere child.  As kids count it, those were my years in
3rd through 6th grade.

Despite my youth, I already was conscious of dialect variation.  I
thought it was a lot of fun to collect examples of contrasting
pronunciations and alternate lexemes.

=============  Suggestion  ========================

That leads me to suggest something for Jan Kammert, whose search for a
booklet of examples of dialect variation initiated this thread.  If
there are enough easily-perceived dialect variations in your immediate
vicinity, you might set your middle school classes the task of
identifying someone's nearby place of origin on the basis of speech
variation alone.  Based on my own experience when I was fourteen or so,
I know that kids around middle-school age can develop that ability.
Here's what tells me so:

After those four years in Wisconsin, my family returned to our native
Chicago. Chicago is a city of distinctive neighborhoods.  Before the
mass flight to the suburbs of the 1950s, each neighborhood had its own
dialect variations within General Chicagoan.

That's something my friends and I made into a formal game when I was in
ninth and tenth grades. While at events where those in attendance were
other high-school kids from all over the city, we'd start a general
conversation with a bunch of kids who looked like they were friends.
We'd try to guess their neighborhood of origin on the basis of
microdialect variation. We decided the game would be more fun if we
didn't explain what we were doing to those outside others, at first.
That ruled out asking questions like "what do you call a . . .". To keep
competition within the bounds of dialect variation alone, we also agreed
that identification wouldn't count if the individual or group in
question showed any visual clues (such as high school letter jackets),
or if they told us where they were from before we had tried to spot
their neighborhood.

When we started the game, one of us would be chosen to offer a guess.
He'd signal when he was ready, and we would retire as a group to hear
the guess. Then we would bet with each other on how accurate the guess
might be. After that, we'd go back and ask what high school the people
we talked to attended. (Usually, we'd do that by saying something like
"Are you guys from Austin?" -- or Lakeview, or South Shore, or
Englewood, or some other identifiable neighborhood high school.) The
game had its peaks of satisfaction when the answer was "Yeah, how did
you know that?"

After we'd been playing this game for a while, the betting had to stop
because we were all getting too sophisticated: disagreement had all but
disappeared.  We kept playing the game, for fun.

After checking our tentative identification with the subjects of our
guessing, we usually explained how we knew. Lots of the people we talked
with found the idea as fascinating as we did. Our game spread and soon
was being played by kids from schools all over the city.  We discovered
that when strangers started to come up to us, trying through
conversation to figure out where we were from.

-- mike salovesh     <salovesh at niu.edu>         PEACE !!!

More information about the Ads-l mailing list