Regional Dialects

12 Aug 2019: Regional words in my writing

One issue I come across in my writing is trying to make sure I use the correct regional words for my characters. I’ll admit, I fudge around this issue a lot because all my main characters are from my home town in New York State. If I grew up calling an item a certain word, it’s accurate for them. But supporting characters are always an issue.  Thankfully, living here in Orlando, I know folks from all over the country.  We’re a bit of a modern-day melting pot of Americans from all over this great country.  Most of these friends are used to random questions from me, like “Sneakers” or “Tennis shoes?”  “Ballcap” or “Baseball hat?”

A while ago I was leafing through a Reader’s Digest and came across this interesting article on regional words.

I thought this one odd. I mean, growing up on Long Island, I’d say Fireflys and Lightning Bugs were pretty interchangeable. Maybe more Lightning Bugs.  Never knew it had real regional variation.

I disagree here. We were Yard Sale folks out on Long Island. I see some green there saying garage sale.

“You guys” vs. “Y’all.”  Humm … Where “Alls you’s?”  On Long Island, it would be “Are alls you’s guys going?” or “I don’t think alls you’s guys are gonna fit in that car.”

Ok, straight up, A garbage can and a trash can are two different things. A garbage can is what you leave at the curb for the garbage man. A trash can is what you have in your kitchen or bathroom (inside the house). I think this is an unfair question to ask.

A Bubbler? Yeah, never heard that one before?!?!?!

Caramel (three syllables) is the candy. Two syllables is the town in California. Guess that makes sense now.


25 March 2017: There’s a case of pop in the boot.

Here’s the tenth installment of my series on How to Write a Good Romance (or any story really) based on what not to do:

10: There’s a case of pop in the boot.

If you’re from eastern Long Island, like I am, you say things a certain way.  We call it soda.  Up in Buffalo where I went to school, they called it pop. Keep this in mind if you’re writing for characters that are from a different region of the country than you are.

I recently read a book that took place in the Carolinas, but the protagonist kept saying things like she was going to take the lift up to the third floor or put her groceries in the boot of her car.  It was obvious the author was from the UK, yet she didn’t take care to edit out words that folks in the Carolina’s wouldn’t use.

If your writing dialogue for charters that are from anywhere other than where you grew up, be sure to research regional dialects for things like:

Would your characters say …

  • Sneakers or trainers
  • Ball cap or Baseball hat
  • Pop, soda or coke

If they lived in Boston, everything there is described as “wicked,” however, as a New Yorker myself, I’d be more likely to describe things as cool, never wicked.

To be honest, I cheat a little.  All my novels have heroines from my small, hometown of Wading River, NY. Being from this town, I’m apt to be accurate in how my heroines talk.


Jennifer Geoghan, author of:

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