This Book Explores the Nuances of the American Vernacular

Ever debate with someone whether it’s pop or soda, sneakers or gym shoes, and scratch paper or scrap paper? Who’s right? We all are, according to Speaking American: How Y’all, Youse, and You Guys Talk: A Visual Guide. It all depends on our geographic location. Language tells the story of our local culture and nuances. Just as different states, cities, and even neighborhoods may have different accents, we may have different ways of communicating a word. At the risk of sounding cheesy, that’s what makes us unique.

Easy-to-digest visuals and data

The 224-page book from the creator of the New York Times dialect quiz Josh Katz will take you on a journey over the U.S. to explore the way Americans speak. Katz’s background as a graphics editor for the Times plays a major role in the presentation of data in this book. In his role, he focused on finding patterns in data and turning them into stories, which is very well done in Speaking American as well. He uses colors, maps, and scales to express the data and the differences between the states. For example, the northeast and southern Florida say sneakers, but most of the US say tennis shoes. Chicago and Cincinnati, however, prefer gym shoes.

What do you call a long sandwich with different meats and cheeses? Are you selling your old stuff at a garage sale or rummage sale? Will you dump out the trash can or garbage can? It’s funny to think that these everyday words and phrases we use can tell a lot about who we are. The distinctions Katz finds throughout the nation give us a glimpse into the history of our regions and language. Speaking American makes a great coffee table book and amazing party conversation fodder. Maybe after reading the book, you’ll think twice before asking a Nebraskan to go to the store for some pickles. They might just come back with lottery cards and leave you with a pickle-less sandwich. Buy Here


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