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On the Devil's Wife, Moot Points and the Virtues of a "Brew-Thru"
What new maps of regional dialects reveal about word choice in Milwaukee.

A doctoral student from North
Carolina State University recently created some heat maps of English dialect patterns in the United States using data compiled by Cambridge University linguist and former UWM professor Bert Vaux.

As the maps indicate, the best-defined dialect clusters are found in the northeastern U.S. But one exception is seen in northwest Wisconsin, an island of local customs that displays a dialect distinct from both Minnesota and other parts of Wisconsin.

In some instances  including unique pronunciations of “poem” and “grocery” as well as atypical allegiances within the “hair tie vs. rubber band” and “soda vs. pop” debates  northwest Wisconsin is the polar opposite of the rest of the state.

Here are some other things we learned about Milwaukee ...

  • Fifty-nine percent of respondents have never heard of a drive-through liquor store, but three percent certainly have and refer to them as “brew-thrus.” The jury's still out on whether this is a good or bad thing.
  • Milwaukee splits from the majority of the Midwest with its sweetened carbonated beverage lingo, with almost 90 percent drinking “soda” instead of “pop.” How very cosmopolitan of us.
  • Sixty-two percent pronounce the “a” in “bag” like the “a” in “sat,” rather than the “a” in “say.” (Those around Eau Claire are split evenly between the two pronunciations.)
  • Less than two percent of Milwaukeeans use the term “the devil is beating his wife” to refer to sunshine during rainfall. We’re not so mad about this.
  • Almost 90 percent know that an inarguable or irrelevant topic of discussion is a “moot point,” not a “mute point.” We're so proud of you guys.

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