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Home of the Um, Land of the Uh: the Filler Words Dividing America
Yes, there is a map for that.
They're taboo for newsreaders and other public speakers, but the rest of us use filler words whenever our brain needs to catch up with whatever we're saying. Which at least in my case is, uh, fairly frequently.
Although we use these words thoughtlessly, they're not without cultural context. They vary widely between languages, for instance. Which is a bit weird for such seemingly automatic interjections. The Danish øh and the Greek εμ may resemble the English uh and um, but that is certainly not the case for wallahi (Arabic), niinku (Finnish), Þúst (Icelandic), znači (Serbian) or paatheenga-na (Tamil).
And of course each language has a range of filler words, often with connotations for region, class or age. If you want to sound intellectual in Hungarian (and let's face it, who wouldn't), you'll fill the pauses in your sentences with ha úgy tetszik instead of the more common asszongya. Using ke'ilu in Hebrew marks you out as a somewhat younger speaker, not unlike like in English.
You would think that the two most common filler words in English – uh and um – would be totally interchangeable, being so short and sounding so similar. But we wouldn't live in the Information Age if we couldn't crunch a heap of data that says otherwise.
Is that, um, a bulge in your pattern or are you just happy to, uh, see me? (reproduced with kind permission from Quartz)
This remarkable map, the result of a thorough screening of 6 billion words on Twitter, shows that there is, in fact, an um/uh divide running through the United States. Assuming that the twitterverse is sufficiently colloquial for people to write uhs and ums where they would say them, we see Uh Country dominating the Deep South, New England, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Um Land stretches from Ohio and Kentucky in the east to Arizona and Wyoming out west. The West Coast is undecided, except, uh, for the Bay Area and, um, a contiguous coastal zone between California's north and Oregon's south (a.k.a. the State of Jefferson, see #458).
Some states are completely torn up between both fillers - neither of which, fortunately, sounds like a plausible rallying cry. The northwestern half of Arkans-uh is decidedly um-minded. Tenn-uh-see is facing an um-vasion from the north and particularly in the northeast. The southern half of Iow-uh is completely um-ified, as is the southern half of Michigan's Lower Peninsul-uh.
The question, of course, is: what other data does this seemingly trivial divide correspond with? Could it be the Appalachians (if you haven't tired of the gimmick yet: Uh-palachians) keeping Um Country from reaching the coast? Is the Minnesotan preference for uh a residu of the øh imported by Scandinavian immigrants? Is the West Coast a mix of both or do they simply prefer, like, other filler words? And, finally: who's winning? Will the um bubble in the Midwest burst, or will it eat into the northern and southern wings of the uh pincer?
The raw data: more detail, less overview (reproduced with kind permission from Quartz)
The data for these maps was compiled by Dr. Jack Grieve, a forensic linguist at Aston University in Birmingham (UK), and Mark Liberman, a fellow linguist with a long-standing interest in the um/uh divide, who earlier posited that women are more likely than men to use um over uh.
As linguists, the data made more sense to them than to this, uh, mere cartographer. The Midwestern um bulge largely corresponds to the so-called Midland American English dialect, which stretches from central Pennsylvania along the Ohio River valley into the West. In fact, according to Dr. Grieve, this is the first time he's been able to pin down the elusive Midland dialect on a map.
For more on this subject, see the this article at Quartz. Dig even deeper with this article by Mark Liberman on Language Log. For more on Dr. Grieve's work, including a map of the recently popularised word thottie, see his homepage and his blog.
Strange Maps #679
Got a strange map? Let me know at email@example.com.
Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.
Here's why you might eat greenhouse gases in the future.
- The company's protein powder, "Solein," is similar in form and taste to wheat flour.
- Based on a concept developed by NASA, the product has wide potential as a carbon-neutral source of protein.
- The man-made "meat" industry just got even more interesting.
Seriously sustainable<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTk0MDIzNS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMjM4NTMzMX0.BCEfYnn6C3z1zUHIS38xOWjXktgamNBi5iyqklSMYK8/img.png?width=980" id="ea524" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="50533380eeb18eb5833b6b6aa3abec38" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Solar Foods<p>Solar Foods makes Solein by extracting CO₂ from air using <a href="https://www.fastcompany.com/90356326/we-have-the-tech-to-suck-co2-from-the-air-but-can-it-suck-enough-to-make-a-difference" target="_blank">carbon-capture technology</a>, and then combines it with water, nutrients and vitamins, using 100 percent renewable solar energy from partner <a href="https://www.fortum.com" target="_blank">Fortum</a> to promote a natural fermentation process similar to the one that produces yeast and lactic acid bacteria.</p><p>When the company claims its single-celled protein is "free from agricultural limitations," they're not kidding. Being produced indoors means Solar Foods is not dependent on arable land, water (i.e., rain), or favorable weather.</p><p>The company is already working with the European Space Agency to develop foods for off-planet production and consumption. (The idea for Solein actually began at NASA.) They also see potential in bringing protein production to areas whose climate or ground conditions make conventional agriculture impossible.</p><p>And let's not forget all those <a href="https://www.bk.com/menu-item/impossible-whopper" target="_blank">beef-free burgers</a> based on pea and soy proteins currently gaining popularity. The environmental challenge of scaling up the supply of those plants to meet their high demand may provide an opening for the completely renewable Solein — the company could provide companies that produce animal-free "meats," such as <a href="https://www.beyondmeat.com/products/" target="_blank">Beyond Meat</a> and <a href="https://impossiblefoods.com" target="_blank">Impossible Foods</a>, a way to further reduce their environmental impact.</p>
The larger promise<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTk0MDI0MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NjU4MTg2OX0.7dZZYT5WEV_EupBuLVFwHynarTiz8RYR9aJtC6Ts2C4/img.jpg?width=980" id="3415d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2e6eebe06d795f844752f9e9d30040d7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Solar Foods<p>The impact of the beef — and for that matter, poultry, pork, and fish — industries on our planet is widely recognized as one of the main drivers behind climate change, pollution, habitat loss, and antibiotic-resistant illness. From the cutting down of rainforests for cattle-grazing land, to runoff from factory farming of livestock and plants, to the disruption of the marine food chain, to the overuse of antibiotics in food animals, it's been disastrous.</p><p>The advent of a promising source of protein derived from two of the most renewable things we have, CO₂ and sunlight, <a href="https://solarfoods.fi/environmental-impact/" target="_blank">gets us out of the planet-destruction business</a> at the same time as it offers the promise of a stable, long-term solution to one of the world's most fundamental nutritional needs.</p>
Solar Foods' timetable<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTk0MTEzMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTU5OTU1OTMwMn0.wnXh56iO_77x2XKV2uIPf78BKw4AJLUpmiyq_JBVGvo/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=172%2C146%2C62%2C135&height=700" id="0297c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="125c9a98ec818f5c241fa28ef1423e67" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Lubsan / Shutterstock / Big Think<p>While company plans are always moderated by unforeseen events — including the availability of sufficient funding — Solar Foods plans a global commercial rollout for Solein in 2021 and to be producing two million meals annually, with a revenue of $800 million to $1.2 billion by 2023. By 2050, they hope to be providing sustenance to 9 billion people as part of a $500 billion protein market.</p><p>The project began in 2018, and this year, they anticipate achieving three things: Launching Solein (check), beginning the approval process certifying its safety as a Novel Food in the EU, and publishing plans for a 1,000-metric ton-per-year factory capable of producing 500 million meals annually.</p>
The protein powder Solein. Image source: SOLAR FOODS
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