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Regional Dialect Meme (a.k.a “Regional Dialect Challenge”) is a YouTube video fad in which English-speakers from various regions of the world enunciate a list of 30 words and respond to a series of questions in their native dialects and accents. This is intended to highlight the various ways certain words can be pronounced as well as different slang terms that exist in assorted parts of the world.
Tumblr and YouTube have both been widely attributed as the origin of the Regional Dialect video series, as it grew through communities on both sites at the same time. The collaborative project may have been conceived as a tool of reference for actors who need accent training, though its creator remains unknown. The earliest known response video titled “Regional Dialect Meme” was posted by Tumblr user thefrogman on January 5th, 2011:
Precursor: Dialect Comparison
Discussion of the effects of location on different English dialects has been studied by Linguists for years. For example, the Northern Cities Shift reflects the way people in the Great Lakes area of the United States between Albany, NY and Green Bay, WI pronounce certain vowels. Additionally, pronunciation discussion has been in the mainstream since 1937, when George and Ira Gershwin composed the song “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off” (shown below), originally sung by Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire in the film Shall We Dance.
In terms of formatting, the questionnaire is structured quite similarly to a national dialect survey conducted and published by Harvard Professor Bert Vaux in 2002.
Say these words:
Aunt, Route, Wash, Oil, Theater, Iron, Salmon, Caramel, Fire, Water, Sure, Data, Ruin, Crayon, Toilet, New Orleans, Pecan, Both, Again, Probably, Spitting image, Alabama, Lawyer, Coupon, Mayonnaise, Syrup, Pajamas, Caught
Now answer these questions:
What is it called when you throw toilet paper on a house?
What is the bug that when you touch it, it curls into a ball?
What is the bubbly carbonated drink called?
What do you call gym shoes?
What do you say to address a group of people?
What do you call the kind of spider that has an oval-shaped body and extremely long legs?
What do you call your grandparents?
What do you call the wheeled contraption in which you carry groceries at the supermarket?
What do you call it when rain falls while the sun is shining?
What is the thing you change the TV channel with?
The first video inspired dozens of viewers to create and share their own Tumblr video or audio posts using the same questionnaire. While the initial response videos were uploaded directly via Tumblr, response video threads began to emerge independently on the video-sharing site YouTube as the number of variations on the original questionnaire continued to grow.
On YouTube alone, there is a multitude of regional dialect videos highlighting accents from all over the world, including “Bogan” (Australia), “Southern Georgian”, “New England” (U.S.A), “Southern Welsh”, “Scottish” and “Irish” dialects. Many variations also feature additional commentaries on the regional discrepancies of word choice and manners of speech. As of February 2013, there are nearly 1000 search results on YouTube for “regional dialect meme” and an additional 4000 results for “accent meme.”
Related Meme: Worldwide Accent Project
Months prior to the introduction of Regional Dialect Meme on Tumblr, a similar “accent reading” video series was launched by The Worldwide Accent Project via YouTube in September 2010. Unlike the Regional Dialect videos, English-as-Second-Language YouTubers may also participate in the project; the series was launched as a collaborative project among YouTubers and follows a different instruction which requires the participant to recite the passage provided (shown below). As of February 2013, there are nearly 2000 search results for this project on YouTube.
See above those clouds, near where the blue sky appears to fold? Some say it is the entrance to the floating isles where pirates still rule the air and dragons choose to live. Only the most skilled pilots can sail their craft close enough to even glimpse the light coming from within. You can’t find those who know the way; they find you. Rather, you four lazy tourists must learn from your books and be ready, so that you may not miss an opportunity to travel to that mysterious place. It would be an adventure that you would never forget. Now, I think that’s enough with this pleasurable story telling