Well, here's one: has anyone ever come up with an explanation as to Minnesota's "duck, duck, grey duck" phenomenon? It seems bizarre that something like that would be so universal within Minnesota but stop pretty much right at the border.A rich and beautiful question, as it happens, for multiple reasons:
- First, the link is to an old piece by James Lileks, of Gobbler fame. Good start!
- Second, this is a very robust view — people in the Upper Midwest firmly believe that the game is called that in Minnesota but 'duck, duck, goose' or something else in other places. The Dictionary of American Regional English reports the relevant variant in Minnesota and only there. So, the first pass at the data suggests that the generalization holds.
- Third, it raises a cool broader issue: We always say that dialect features don't recognize state lines. How can we get exceptions to this?
[Resume reading …] The results suggest a heavy concentration in Minnesota but a good smattering of attestations outside of the state, especially in Wisconsin. So, the boundary doesn't look so firm, crossing the Mississippi River.
But I think there's more here: Some features have emerged or are emerging as stereotypes of state speech. In Wisconsin, that's bubbler for 'drinking fountain'. That term is the answer you get if you go around asking Wisconsinites what linguistic features they associate with the state. In fact, I hear this often from people who report that they don't use it and who do have a full palette of Wisconsin / Upper Midwestern features. Just a hunch, but I think duck, duck, gray duck has caught on in just that kind of role in Minnesota.