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Beyond Wayfinding: Mapping the Use of “Cray-ahn,” “Cran,” and other Regional Speech

Posted by on Jun 22, 2013 in Directional Sense, Directionally challenged, maps, navigation, personal navigation | 0 comments

Beyond Wayfinding: Mapping the Use of “Cray-ahn,” “Cran,” and other Regional Speech

You’re probably used to thinking about maps primarily as a tool for finding your way around. If you’re directionally challenged, you may consider them a bit intimidating and overwhelming. They’re often packed with tons of useful detail, but it takes effort and practice to learn how to use them to answer your own wayfinding questions. (More about that in our book, “Directional Sense” Chapter 6.)

The good news is that if you twitch at the very thought of using a map to get from one place to another, there’s a new way to make them seem less off-putting and even fascinating. As part of the digital revolution, maps are now being used to show, and thus explain, all kinds of information beyond personal navigation.

Joshua Katz, a statistics grad student at North Carolina State University, maps American regional dialects: how various words are used or pronounced depending on where you live. For instance, if you call the colored wax drawing tool that’s a favorite of kids everywhere a “cray-ahn” you probably live in the eastern part of the US, but if you call it a “cran” you probably live west of the Mississippi or in New England.

His dialect maps (see the link below for 22 of them) show the outlines of the lower 48 states, with overlaid colors corresponding to different pronunciations of common words, such as lawyer or mayonnaise, or different words that mean the same thing, such as soda and pop. Take a look at the pajamas map for the dramatic – non-political – divide between “red states” and “blue states”.

Once you start seeing maps as a compact – dare we say “fun”? – way of discovering something new, we’ll bet you might even pull one out of your car’s glove compartment and dust it off for another go at getting from here to there.


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If you’re directionally challenged you need the book, Directional Sense: How to Find Your Way Around, by Janet R. Carpman and Myron A. Grant.


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