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Old 11-15-2009, 12:09 AM
 
Location: New Hampshire
2,249 posts, read 4,214,827 times
Reputation: 3802
Well, comparative frequency is difficult to gauge from anecdotal evidence, and the best scientific, quantitative data we have is from dialect surveys.

You could chalk up the differences in "cellar" usage to sampling, but there is still a pretty dramatic difference between the states in question. All data is from the Harvard Dialect Survey:

Georgia
only cellar: 0%
only basement: 74%
both, no distinction: 5%
both, semantic distinction: 21%

total cellar users: 26%

New Hampshire
only cellar: 9%
only basement: 26%
both, no distinction: 41%
both, semantic distinction: 24%

total cellar users: 74%

Maine
only cellar: 12%
only basement: 21%
both, no distinction: 43%
both, semantic distinction: 24%

total cellar users: 79%

Massachusetts
only cellar: 13%
only basement: 30%
both, no distinction: 35%
both, semantic distinction: 22%

total cellar users: 70%

Rhode Island
only cellar: 18%
only basement: 28%
both, no distinction: 34%
both, semantic distinction: 20%

total cellar users: 72%

Vermont
only celar: 11%
only basement: 28%
both, no distinction: 39%
both, semantic distinction: 22%

total cellar users: 72%


26% is still a pretty significant segment of the population, and certainly that rate might be higher in your area. But overall it seems like "cellar" is used with exceptionally high frequency in New England and a few other parts of the country, and as such is often considered a local dialect marker. The dialect literature seems to support this observation.

If I have a chance I will take a look at the Dictionary of American Regional English and the OED to see if they can shed any more light on the regional usage patterns for these words.
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Old 11-15-2009, 08:21 PM
 
5,231 posts, read 9,287,884 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by malachai23 View Post
Out of curiosity, where did you move from? I'm wondering if maybe the place you moved *from* is the odd-man-out here? I'm only saying that because I have heard that phrase often in Oregon (West Coast), and *quite* often here in Ohio (Midwest). And you hear it in Boston (East Coast) and wherever the other poster is from, they hear it too.
I agree. I hear it quite often here in the Twin Cities, too.
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Old 11-15-2009, 08:35 PM
 
5,231 posts, read 9,287,884 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Katiana View Post
I am from western Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh area), have lived in Delaware, Illinois, Albany, NY, and for the last 29 years, Colorado. Some of the terms below that are ascribed to New England are used in other parts of the country as well. My responses are in blue.


My dad, a native western Pennslyvanian, used to say that a lot.

A term I had never heard until living in Champaign, IL was "scooping snow". At first, I couldn't figure out what it meant (it means shoveling snow). DH from Omaha had heard it there.
I'm from Western NY, and we never said basement, it was always cellar. And when you went there, you'd go "down cellar", not "down to the cellar". We'd use dinner only for more formal meals ("Sunday dinner," "Easter dinner", or "out to dinner" etc.) Otherwise, it was "supper".

When I lived in Iowa, I was told that "dinner" referred to what I called "lunch".

We also said "pocket book" for purse in WNY (pronounced "pockabook"") Also said "garbage", never trash or rubbish. We said "rubber band", but here in MN I hear people call them "rubber binders". I've also hear a few older MN'ans call traffic lights, "semaphores".

We called small summer houses "cottages", but here in MN they call them "cabins". Up in the Adirondacks they called them "camps".
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Old 11-15-2009, 08:42 PM
 
7,852 posts, read 12,357,408 times
Reputation: 2604
Quote:
Originally Posted by Verseau View Post
Well, comparative frequency is difficult to gauge from anecdotal evidence, and the best scientific, quantitative data we have is from dialect surveys.

You could chalk up the differences in "cellar" usage to sampling, but there is still a pretty dramatic difference between the states in question. All data is from the Harvard Dialect Survey:

Georgia
only cellar: 0%
only basement: 74%
both, no distinction: 5%
both, semantic distinction: 21%

total cellar users: 26%

New Hampshire
only cellar: 9%
only basement: 26%
both, no distinction: 41%
both, semantic distinction: 24%

total cellar users: 74%

Maine
only cellar: 12%
only basement: 21%
both, no distinction: 43%
both, semantic distinction: 24%

total cellar users: 79%

Massachusetts
only cellar: 13%
only basement: 30%
both, no distinction: 35%
both, semantic distinction: 22%

total cellar users: 70%

Rhode Island
only cellar: 18%
only basement: 28%
both, no distinction: 34%
both, semantic distinction: 20%

total cellar users: 72%

Vermont
only celar: 11%
only basement: 28%
both, no distinction: 39%
both, semantic distinction: 22%

total cellar users: 72%


26% is still a pretty significant segment of the population, and certainly that rate might be higher in your area. But overall it seems like "cellar" is used with exceptionally high frequency in New England and a few other parts of the country, and as such is often considered a local dialect marker. The dialect literature seems to support this observation.

If I have a chance I will take a look at the Dictionary of American Regional English and the OED to see if they can shed any more light on the regional usage patterns for these words.
That's a sample survey...there is no way to really know what percentage of people in an entire state use particular words. It's crap, sorry.

Last edited by DeaconJ; 11-15-2009 at 09:24 PM..
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Old 11-15-2009, 09:13 PM
 
Location: New Hampshire
2,249 posts, read 4,214,827 times
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So the 50% difference in usage is due entirely to sampling methods? Okay.
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Old 11-15-2009, 09:25 PM
 
7,852 posts, read 12,357,408 times
Reputation: 2604
Quote:
Originally Posted by Verseau View Post
So the 50% difference in usage is due entirely to sampling methods? Okay.
Yes. It is. Where did they sample these people? Which part of the state? It's crap, plain and simple. There is no way to really know that kind of information unless you live there and hear people talk every day...period.
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Old 11-15-2009, 09:34 PM
 
Location: New Hampshire
2,249 posts, read 4,214,827 times
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It was a random sample. And even if you live in the area, how can you calculate the exact percentage of frequency? Like I said, 26% of people is still a fairly significant portion, so it doesn't surprise me that you would hear the word being used on a regular basis.

More importantly, there's no way that anyone can accurately quantify the differences in frequency between two separate regions based solely on personal observation.

Even if the sampling is too limited to give us perfectly accurate results, the geographic trends are still very clear and very consistent with the dialect literature. All of the New England states show 70%+ usage of "cellar," with PA and NY coming close behind with 54% and 49%, respectively.

You can chalk it up to sampling as much as you'd like, but if that were the case we'd see wildly erratic and inconsistent results between the Northeastern states, for example. "Cellar" might be more frequent in your area than in other parts of the state, but I've never read anything in the dialect literature (going back to the studies done in the 1930s) attesting that the word is nearly as common in the South as it is in the North.
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Old 11-15-2009, 09:38 PM
 
7,852 posts, read 12,357,408 times
Reputation: 2604
For example...I have heard people use the word "cellar" my entire life - it depends on where you live. In the suburbs it's a basement; in the city where houses don't have large finished basements, it's a cellar. Yet, in your survey, it shows 0% for Georgia. That's absurd. And I'm pretty sure people in New England suburbs don't call their downstairs den a cellar.

I'm not trying to say I know what percent of people use what words. I'm saying no one could know that kind of information unless they surveyed everyone in the area - and that's not going to happen.
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Old 11-15-2009, 09:54 PM
 
Location: New Hampshire
2,249 posts, read 4,214,827 times
Reputation: 3802
Quote:
Originally Posted by DeaconJ View Post
For example...I have heard people use the word "cellar" my entire life - it depends on where you live. In the suburbs it's a basement; in the city where houses don't have large finished basements, it's a cellar. Yet, in your survey, it shows 0% for Georgia. That's absurd.
The 0% is only for people who use the word "cellar" for any underground room. The "both, semantic distinction" category indicates primarily people who use "cellar" to refer to an unfinished room and "basement" for a finished room. I'm sure there are some people who use "cellar" for both terms, but it seems like the majority of cellar-users make the distinction.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DeaconJ View Post
And I'm pretty sure people in New England suburbs don't call their downstairs den a cellar.
Not so. Anecdotally, I know that most of my suburban relatives refer to their finished "basements" as cellars.

The data from the dialect survey shows that roughly 48-55% of New Englanders use "cellar" regardless of whether the room is finished or not. I'm doubtful that the remaining 52-45% of respondents represent the entire suburban population.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DeaconJ View Post
I'm not trying to say I know what percent of people use what words. I'm saying no one could know that kind of information unless they surveyed everyone in the area - and that's not going to happen.
No, we can't know for certain. But this is how all surveys and polls work. There is a degree of error just as there is in polls asking people who they plan to vote for. But we shouldn't discount the results altogether.

Anyway, the initial point being challenged here is that "cellar" is a marked feature of New England vocabulary, and I really don't think that that point can be contested. The term is used elsewhere, but there are few if any states where it is as widespread and frequent across the entire state.
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Old 11-15-2009, 10:00 PM
 
7,852 posts, read 12,357,408 times
Reputation: 2604
It's a silly survey, just like most surveys. If you want to represent it as factual information then you can have at it.

You're actually acting like people call their finished basement a cellar? I seriously doubt that is true. I know plenty of people in New England, and they know the difference. Their pool table is certainly not in the cellar. That's hilarious.

This is a very lame argument that I don't care to continue. You go ahead and believe whatever fairy tales you like. You definitely haven't convinced me or anyone else of anything.
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