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Thursday, February 06, 2014

Dialects and Writing

I was thinking about words the other day. It kind of started because I said pop on my van pool and one of the guys asked, "You mean soda pop?" In Minnesota, we call it pop. You can check out the Pop vs Soda website where they break down which areas of the country use what term. You can even contribute your information.

This triggered some thought on other words I use, like freeway. Apparently in some parts of the country they call it a highway. In Minnesota, highway refers to a road where you might be going 55 mph, but there are traffic lights.

The New York Times had a dialect quiz up not that long ago and I scored Minneapolis, MN; Madison, WI; and Omaha, Nebraska. There are various questions you can get on the quiz, but one is do you call it a freeway, highway, expressway, or other options.

When I wrote Edge of Dawn, one of the things I asked Seattle natives was what do they call their freeway. My hero, Logan, was originally from Chicago and he called it an expressway, but I didn't know what my Seattle-native heroine would use.

The problem is, though, that there are so many words like this that can trip a writer up and it's impossible to run every single one past someone from that city. I've decided a writer just has to do the best she can.