Ol' buddy, ol' pal: Minnesota's favorite terms of endearment


When was the last time you called one of your friends "dude?"

Not sure? A new article from Quartz says there's a good reason for it: that particular vocative (or a noun that refers to a person) is relatively uncommon here. The research cited in Quartz's article, however, suggests "buddy" and "pal" are Minnesotans' preferred terms of endearment (at least when it comes to our friends).

The business news site looked at a study conducted by forensic linguist Jack Grieve, who analyzed the "geography of language" using several billion tweets collected by Diansheng Guo of the University of South Carolina. Grieve surveyed the geographical pervasiveness of the five most common dude-like words: bro, buddy, fella, pal, and, of course, dude itself. With the help of spatial analysis, he came up with a heat map charting the popularity of each word by region. The picture the analysis provides of individual states, however, is telling.

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Perhaps not surprisingly, "dude" is still all the rage in Southern California. Perhaps less surprisingly, the term also abounds in much of the Midwest, with usage particularly heavy in Indiana, Ohio and Michigan. "Fella" has some scattered devotees, but the study found it's uncommon in most of the U.S.

Slightly more common is "pal," which, like fella, Quartz suggests is "on its way out." However, that vocative still has a strong presence in northern Minnesota, while the heat map shows "buddy" pervades statewide.

Gender Bias

If you don't use any of the aforementioned terms, you're certainly not alone. Quartz is quick to point out that the five vocatives in Grieve's research are used almost exclusively by white men.

The website also acknowledges the conspicuous absence of "man," admitting that the word has so many uses in such a wide variety of contexts that gauging its regional popularity as a colloquial vocative would have defied Grieve's research methods.

So, Minnesota – what do you call your friends, if not "buddy" or "pal"? We'd like to know.

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