Southerners wear toboggans, Midwesterners drink pop, and we are all divided and confused on chaps and sugar

After a long hiatus, I’m back with another Odd Survey analysis, this time on turns of phrase. I asked folks what their first interpretation was of four different common English phrases. Not surprisingly, the results varied significantly by region but not age and gender. For each phrase, I’ll chart out the interpretations by region in which respondents currently live. So giddy up, let’s dig in!

Chart 1: “Where’s your toboggan?”

Most of the world is in agreement that a toboggan is a long wooden sled with a curved front. Not folks in the Southern US, though. More than half of them believe it’s a warm stocking cap. As a native Alabaman, I can vouch for this. It didn’t snow often growing up, and we didn’t have hills even when it did, so I never saw a sled. But any time the temperature dipped to around freezing, I was wearing my red and white University of Alabama toboggan. Super warm!

Chart 2: “I like pop”

Now it’s time for Midwesterners to be the weirdos. Have you heard of pop music? Apparently no one in the Midwest has. Literally every respondent’s initial reaction to the phrase “I like pop” is to think of a carbonated beverage. In every other region, at least half of the respondents think of Britney and N’Sync first. Side note: all I could think of when creating the above graphic is that I was creating a “pop chart”.

Chart 3: “Give me some sugar”

The geographic divide wasn’t quite as stark for “Give me some sugar”, but over 75% of respondents in every region in along the East Coast (South, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast) instinctively think of sugar as a metaphor for a kiss in the context of that phrase. Meanwhile, less than 60% of Midwesterners, Westerners, and those living outside the US think of it in that context. Multiple respondents immediately went to “Pour Some Sugar on Me” by Def Leppard (one in all caps) or “Hey Ya” by OutKast (“Lend me some sugar, I am your neighbor!”). Sugar is a winning ingredient in pop classics, by which I mean both songs and carbonated beverages. Dad joke, check.

Chart 4: “Those are some nice chaps”

Our final phrase, “those are nice chaps”, had the least stark geographic divide. Not surprisingly, those living outside the US (and more exposed to British versus American influence) were the most likely to interpret chaps as men. Some of those who chose “other” correctly pointed out that chaps are a type of pants without a seat (or as one person called them, “those cowboy half-pants things”) that generally go over traditional pants.

That’s it for the turns of phrase Odd Survey. But now’s your chance to fill out our next survey on sleep, jetlag, and daylight savings time. It will be open until November 25. And if you’re not on the survey list but would like to participate going forward, send an email to Cheers!