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What Do You Call the Grey "Bug" that Rolls Up? American Dialect Maps

 
gardener
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This is SO fun...it's a little ridiculous.

27 fascinating maps that show how Americans speak English differently across the US

Linguists Bert Vaux and Scott Golder surveyed more than 30,000 people from all 50 states in the early 2000s to compile some of the starkest regional divisions in American English, from vocabulary to pronunciation.

Graphic artist Josh Katz eventually turned the results into a series of maps, and updated them for his 2016 book 'Speaking American.' The surprising data illuminate the linguistic quirks that make American English such a fascinating dialect.



The first map is about pill bugs, well, as I call them.  But apparently there are at least three common names for them.  On the map, some areas haven't even heard of them - are there no pill bugs in North Midwest, and the North NE?



This makes me wonder how many other things we might have different terms or pronunciation for that are permaculture related.

The one on this list that I don't understand at all - some people pronounce the words merry, Mary and marry differently...  I haven't figured that one out!
 
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HA HA you had me saying merry Mary and marry at my computer screen! I defiantly say them differently. But then I am English :p
Hmm Merry has a "higher" e than the a in Mary and marry has a hard a. kind of hard to explain lols

To me the gray bug that rolls up is a Pill bug, and it's flat cousin is a woodlouse. I remember having a conversation about English pronounciation with a Newzealander and another Brit, we were talking about words that sound the same, we (the Brits) said Pear and Pair and the New-zealander piped up, Pier too. Urm no, that sounds totally different!
 
pollinator
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Roly Poly.  Merry, Mary, marry are the same.  If there is any doubt about pronunciation, you obviously need to ask an American  

Make that a mid-western American...
 
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I call those grey bugs a roly poly. Also my favorite Bob Wills song.
 
pollinator
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These days I tend to use the proper term, "wood louse" but have used roly poly, potato bug, pill bug. But then I also had a lot of exposure to others as I was born in the midwest then moved to the NW. I would summer in Iowa regularly as a kid, and much of the folks who lived in my town in the NW were from other places. So the name for them was pretty interchangeable with the kids I grew up with.

BTW wood louse are good eating. And one of the easiest to catch survival foods if your ever lost in the wilderness.

This is one of the problems with the grammar sticklers. They forget a living language is still evolving and changing. They want to have everything stay the same and have hard and fast rules, but it doesn't work like that. Language evolves over time into dialects and then slowly changes further into new separate language. For example Old English is so different from modern English that it truly is another language and one we can not even understand.


This chart shows samples of the changes in English. #1 is Old English or Anglo-Saxon (circa 450-1066 CE). #2 is Middle English (circa 1066-1450 AD). #3 is Modern English from about the time of Shakespeare. #4 is another sample of Modern English, but it is more recent than #3.
 
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We have them in the upper midwest.  I often hear them called pill bugs.  I prefer to call them armadillo seeds
 
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I now know what a pill bug is. Its a roly poly!
 
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Growing up in southern BC I called them saw bugs, like my mum did, but I've never heard anyone else call them that.  Presumably it came from sow bug, which is what my dad was taught by his mum from Saskatchewan.  I've since learned sow bugs are a different bug altogether anyway.  Now I try to call them wood lice.  Less confusing.

We have a big potted ficus inside that picked up a colony of wood lice when it was outside over the summer.  Now the leaf litter in that pot just keeps disappearing and we've started adding dead leaves from other plants to keep the wood lice happy.
 
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Roly Poly's around here ... but I live in the south so not only do we have different words for things, we have different dialects and phrasing as well. Fixin' to is common but unknown is other places in the US. I took a linguistics class once that dealt with the root of words and dialects across the US. It was pretty fascinating.
 
Todd Parr
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Here in Wisconsin there are some terms I find really odd, that I never noticed until I left and came back 20-odd years later.  Traffic lights are called "stop and go lights" here.  I don't know why the yellow light isn't acknowledged.  We also have "hot water heaters".
 
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I always thought of them as sow bugs, which is how they were identified to me as a child. I always thought the slightly smaller ones that roll up were the immature versions of the flat ones, due to similar appearance and habits, and the fact that the larger, flatter ones, while they don't roll up, they go immobile and tuck in, sort of.

So the grey armour-plated flat bug is a woodlouse?

-CK
 
Mike Haasl
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Wisconsinites also have bubblers (water fountains) and if you're old enough, everyone knew were to find a time machine.  Actual spelling was tyme and it was a brand of ATM.  It apparently got curious responses when you were on vacation and asked a New Yorker where the time machine was...
 
Kim Goodwin
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These are so fascinating.  Funny, funny stuff!  Thanks for sharing, Everyone.  

My husband hails from Kansas, and I from Oregon, and he was the first person I heard say "A whole nuther", for the word "another".

Ahhh, now I know where "hot water heaters" come from...  funny.  I thought that was a funny way to say it, until...

One day, one element of my 2-element electric water heater burnt out. Because I used a timer for the water heater (great way to save energy, very effective)it took awhile for me to discover this problem.  I kept thinking I was off on my timing for taking a shower.

But it was the element.  And with only one element working, I finally knew what a "warm water heater" was... hah!
 
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It appears I'm outnumbered here. I live in probably the darkest green area on that map, and those are definitely potato bugs!

I still remember, vividly, the day I learned their name, too. I was out by my parent's woodpile, while my mom was nearby. probably chopping/stacking wood. I was something like 6-8 years old, and saw some potato bugs crawling out of a log. I asked my  mom what they were, and she said they were potato bugs. I recall being confused, because they seemed to be eating wood, not potatoes. My brain stuck them in the same "file folder" as earwigs--both critters with names that didn't seem to make sense.

I also remember, something like 4 or 5 years ago, when we'd moved to our property, and my husband pointed to some "roly polys" where we chop our wood. I looked at him and said, rather confused, "Those are potato bugs." My husband is usually the insect expert in our family, and I'd heard him talk about roly polys in the past, but I was SURE those were the same as the potato bugs I'd once asked my mom about. I ended up going to look it up, to make sure my mom and I weren't wrong! I was quite relieved to see we were both right!

... And now I have no idea what to tell our kids is the name of that little crustacean!
Staff note (Jay Angler) :

You could tell your kids, "Armadillidiidium vulgare"? Mike Haasl more or less had it right in his post above, but that's a pretty big name for such a little "crustacean".

 
steward
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Nicole Alderman wrote:It appears I'm outnumbered here. I live in probably the darkest green area on that map, and those are definitely potato bugs!


I'm from the green, Seattle area, too, and grew up calling them potato bugs!

I love these kinds of language/dialect idiosyncrasies and found it can be an issue with common plant names.

See my post about chenopodium album:

I did a Google search and found this, Lamb’s Quarters? Pigweed? Scientific Names, Please!.

In this picture from that blog post,



‘Chenopodium album’ is in hand, on the left (which we usually call lambsquarters, though some call it pigweed! or goosefoot) and  ‘Amaranthus retroflexus’ is on the right, (which we usually call pigweed around here).



I imagine a similar map could be made for where folks call Cheno. album lambsquarters, goosefoot, or pigweed!

When I was in junior high (think of the emotional/maturity context of that age), a friend lived in New Zealand for a while. When she returned, she told us she was laughed at for calling the dot at the end of  sentence a 'period' since that is a woman's cycle! There, if I recall, they just call them 'dots.' Though she had many chuckles herself over the kiwis calling pencil erasers 'rubbers!'

Oh, and biscuits in America are usually not sweet on their own. Not like the bickies in English-speaking places across the ocean. English biscuits are often what we call cookies, am I right?

I suppose it's more expected to have different meanings or names in different countries, so perhaps I digress. I think it IS surprising how distinctly different the linguistics are in different American regions!
 
Kim Goodwin
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Jocelyn Campbell wrote: When I was in junior high (think of the emotional/maturity context of that age), a friend lived in New Zealand for a while. When she returned, she told us she was laughed at for calling the dot at the end of  sentence a 'period' since that is a woman's cycle! There, if I recall, they just call them 'dots.'



I just got up... in  case you couldn't tell.  As I was reading the above I thought "New Zealanders call getting your period... 'dots'?"  Then my brain finally caught up.   Dangerous to sleep and read.

That is all quite funny.  Also the point about earwigs.

Lambsquarters is also sometimes called "fat hen".  In herbalism, it's been noted that when plants that have a lot of names, they typically had a lot of uses to people.  Certainly a lot of usefulness in those two above.
 
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Jocelyn Campbell wrote:I imagine a similar map could be made for where folks call Cheno. album lambsquarters, goosefoot, or pigweed!



I think you mean fat-hen...
 
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Long live regionality! I know those as roly-poly, sowbug and pill bug.
 
Nicole Alderman
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Nicole Alderman wrote:It appears I'm outnumbered here. I live in probably the darkest green area on that map, and those are definitely potato bugs!

I still remember, vividly, the day I learned their name, too. I was out by my parent's woodpile, while my mom was nearby. probably chopping/stacking wood. I was something like 6-8 years old, and saw some potato bugs crawling out of a log. I asked my  mom what they were, and she said they were potato bugs. I recall being confused, because they seemed to be eating wood, not potatoes. My brain stuck them in the same "file folder" as earwigs--both critters with names that didn't seem to make sense.

I also remember, something like 4 or 5 years ago, when we'd moved to our property, and my husband pointed to some "roly polys" where we chop our wood. I looked at him and said, rather confused, "Those are potato bugs." My husband is usually the insect expert in our family, and I'd heard him talk about roly polys in the past, but I was SURE those were the same as the potato bugs I'd once asked my mom about. I ended up going to look it up, to make sure my mom and I weren't wrong! I was quite relieved to see we were both right!

... And now I have no idea what to tell our kids is the name of that little crustacean!



Apparently, my husband won out. I'd been using all the names for the little critters when I talk about them around my kids.  I just asked my son, and he said, "They have a lot of names, but I only remember Roly Poly." I showed picture to my daughter, and she said, "Roly Poly!"

My husband just sent me this:

Isopods are also known as: Roly polies, pillbugs, woodlice, slaters, potato bugs, doodle bugs, sow bugs, armadillo bugs, boat-builders, butcher boys, butchy boys, carpenters, cafners, cheeselogs, cheesy bobs, cheesy bugs, chiggy pigs, chucky pigs, gramersows, granny greys, hog-lice, monkey-peas, monk's lice, pea bugs, peasie-bugs, roll up bugs, roly-poly, wood bugs, gramfers, chisel bobs, woodpigs, timberpigs, peaballs, pishamares, tomato bugs, chuggy-pegs, crunchy bats, billy buttons, parson pigs, chickypigs, choogeypigs, chiggywigs, charliepigs, slunkerpigs, penny sows, grammasows, granddad gravys, granddads, granny greys, granny granshers, croogers if small, granfy croogers if large, granfergravys, granfygroogers, gramphycoochies, gramfycouchers, cheeserockers, cheeseybobs, chiselbugs, cheesers, cheeseballs, monkeypedes, monkeypigs, sourbugs, slateybeetles, leatherjackets, dampers, billybakers, bellybuttons, nutbugs, ticktocks, flumps, carpetmonsters and ogopogos.



 
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I grew up in Southern California, calling them all "sowbugs." I spent a decade in the SF Bay Area, where I started differentiating between flattish "sowbugs" and rounded "pillbugs," and that's what I still call them after 26 years in western Washington State.

I've always thought "rolly polies" was just a little kid thing, and have heard them called "potato bugs" or "woodlice" maybe once. Maybe I need to get out more, and have more discussions of small garden crustaceans?

Oh, and I did know a kid in grade school, who was not from Texas, yet he insisted they were "armadillo bugs," and would vociferously correct anybody who called them anything else. He was even weirder than me, and now I wonder what became of him...
 
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Born and raised in Wyoming. When my husband and I moved to Japan I had a lot of Japanese tell me I was very easy to understand because I did not have an accent. It's the first time I thought about such a thing. They said the southerners were the hardest, could barely understand them.
 
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