Saturday, July 19, 2014


Mattias came down with strep throat while he was visiting my parents in Rhode Island. Before we knew it was strep – but while it was looking kind of streppy – my mother called to get treatment information. I ran her through our pre-strep protocol. (Unfortunately, we have one. Fortunately, we haven't had to use it for several months.)

After I got off the phone, Fritz commented on how my language had changed while I talked to my mother. "I had no idea what you were talking about, " Fritz said. Most notably, I had used brand names rather than generic names to talk about medication. A similar conversation between Fritz and I would have used generic names.

It's interesting the way that language can change depending on the context. Our household is an extreme example, with two different languages (English and German) being spoken. But it doesn't take entirely different languages to constitute a change in the language we use. I think we all alter our language based on the context and the people. Fritz can become almost indecipherable to me (even though I speak German) when he is around his family and slips into their own set of dialectic preferences.

Recently there was this quiz in the New York Times that maps your own personal use of American English dialects (and accents, I'd say) graphically on a map of the US. (It's super cool, you should try it.) Both Fritz and I did the quiz. I really wondered where the map would place me, since I have lived all over the US. Fritz has also lived in vastly different parts of the US; and he's not a native speaker; AND he learned British English in school. In terms of places where we've ACTUALLY lived, both our dialect maps had strong strong similarities with Colorado even though neither of us are from Colorado and we have only lived here 5 years. Then I took the quiz several more times and discovered it changes depending on how you answer the questions AND that I could manipulate the outcome predictably if I tried.

We're language chameleons, I suppose.

I added stars to show where I've actually lived.
 The city names in the Mid Atlantic States are supposedly
the places to which my dialect is most similar (but I never lived in any of them).

It makes me wonder how much I am subconsciously changing my language (or dialect) in my daily interactions.


Pregnantly Plump said...

That was neat! It was kind of surprising the things I had never heard of -- a drive through liquor store? I've lived all over the southeast, and a little bit out west and have never seen or heard of one of those. I plan on having Bob take it. Being from Pennsylvania, he'll be a lot different I think.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious - I ended up in Louisiana! Let's do it again and see..

Anonymous said...

I just discovered the WyseWorks - when did you sneek that in, without a little announcement at all?
Congratulations on your newest project!