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Josh Katz’ colorful new book ‘Speaking American’ & why Americans talk the way they do

"Speaking American: How Y'all, Youse, and You Guys Talk: A Visual Guide" by Josh Katz.
Josh Katz/New York Times

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Tennis shoes or sneakers? Firefly or lightning bug? Have you ever heard someone from Alaska say, “the Lower 48s”?

Depending on where you’re from, a single object can yield a list of colloquialisms and phrases unique to your own region. But why?

Curious to explore these American “dialects,” Josh Katz, a graphics editor at the New York Times, merged his love for statistics and visual arts to create an online interactive dialect quiz in 2013, which quickly became the most viewed page in the New York Times’ history.

Katz collected over 350,000 surveys inspired by the Harvard Dialect Survey and gathered all of that data into art. Specifically: maps. He’s now published his first book, "Speaking American: How Y’all, Youse, and You Guys Talk: A Visual Guide."

Host Larry Mantle speaks with Katz about the making of the book and some of the most surprising discoveries about English language in America. You can take the quiz and find out what your interactive map looks like here.


Josh Katz, author of “Speaking American: How Y’all, Youse, and You Guys Talk: A Visual Guide,” and graphics editor at the New York Times; he tweets @jshkatz

This story has been updated.