The granddaddy of dialect surveys

I can’t seem to get enough of dialect studies. I’m always curious about whether the words and pronunciations I use are mainstream, regional, or just plain weird. Naturally when I came across a study I hadn’t seen before, I jumped right in.

The Cambridge Online Survey of World Englishes does include the usual pop vs. soda vs. coke question and a number of others that you’ve seen before if you’re a fan of these studies. But the question above was new to me. “What do you call the gooey or dry matter that collects in the corners of your eyes, especially while you are sleeping?” It didn’t specifically include my answer — sleepers — a word I learned from my parents when I was very young; I’ve never heard anything else.

As always I encountered some unfamiliar terms, perhaps because this survey originates in the United Kingdom — as one might guess from the title.

If you want to take this particular dialect quiz, or just look through the results, you can begin on the home page. The maps are produced, apparently, by adding an appropriately colored dot for each response. You can zoom in to see every dot from your region or hometown if you wish.

Older Cambridge surveys and maps are also included — that’s just a warning that you may want to spend a lot of time on the website. In addition, there’s a link to an old note (2013) that indicates early versions of this UK survey are the source from which others were drawn. There’s no date on this particular survey.

In closing — just curious — what do you call that stuff in the corners of your eyes in the morning?

Banner image: The study’s pop-soda-coke map

7 thoughts on “The granddaddy of dialect surveys

  1. “Sleep.”
    True story: When we lived in Boston for a couple of years, my wife applied for a job as receptionist for a dentist. One of his first questions was, where was she from originally? “Virginia, she answered.” He dismissed her, saying he didn’t hire people from the South because he found them “slow.”

    1. I believe it. When we lived in Connecticut for a year, somebody noticed our Oklahoma speech and said something like “It even rains slow there. It rains so slow you can walk around in it and never get wet.” I find people in the Northeast too “fast.” Then there was Judge Luttig at the hearing the other day. Now that was slow!

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