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2012 MetaFilter Survey & Research Discussion Thread
August 22, 2012 9:01 AM   Subscribe

Hi MeFites! This is the discussion thread for the 2012 MetaFilter Pronunciation Survey, available for 5 days to all logged-in site users. Even if you already took the 2010 survey, it'd be valuable to have you do it again. Additionally, this time around all survey participants will have the option to have a word frequency table of their MetaFilter posting history generated and emailed to them. If you would like to take the 2012 survey, I would ask that you please do so BEFORE you read or participate in the discussion here (as well as before you view the previous MetaTalk thread about the 2010 survey). This is to help ensure that your responses to these survey questions are entirely your own decisions and are not influenced by the opinions of those participating in this thread. If you have already taken the 2012 survey or are not interested in taking the survey but would like to discuss it, please go ahead and do so here.

If you have taken the 2012 survey, thank you! I really appreciate you taking the time to contribute to this ongoing research about language and MeFi. Please share any thoughts, questions and concerns here. I am happy to discuss any aspect of this study with you (including the 2010 survey). As this second survey will be the last (and because I’ve been able to devote 3 years to this project so far), there’s a lot more that I can share with you all. I’m looking forward to whatever you have to say!

About the Research: This survey is part of an ongoing sociolinguistic research project focused on language variation in an online community. I am conducting this final stage of research towards the completion of my PhD degree in Linguistics, and with the full consent of the MetaFilter moderators, the University of York and its Ethical Review Board (HSSEC).

About the Survey: The survey is open to all logged-in site members who are over 18 years of age. Please submit the survey only once, using your primary MetaFilter account (not a spare or ‘sockpuppet’ account). There are 20 questions in total. The first several questions will be about your participation on the site. The remaining questions will be about your demographic background. The survey concludes with a request to generate a word frequency table of all of your MetaFilter contributions, which you can choose to have emailed to you as well. Lastly, an opportunity to share any concerns or comments directly with the researcher (Kim Witten, iamkimiam) is provided.

Participation in any part of this study is entirely voluntary and you may opt-out at any time. You may also email me directly at mefistudy@gmail.com.

I hope you’ve enjoyed being a part of this, and thank you!!
posted by iamkimiam to MetaFilter-Related at 9:01 AM (306 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

Clicking on the 2012 survey link produces the following:

Forbidden

You don't have permission to access /“http://www.metafilter.com/contribute/mefi-survey-redux.mefi” on this server.

Apache Server at metatalk.metafilter.com Port 80

posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:03 AM on August 22, 2012


Yeah, my amazing hyperlinking skills at work. Fix is on its way.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:04 AM on August 22, 2012


Fixed up the link, it should be working now.
posted by pb (staff) at 9:05 AM on August 22, 2012


Thanks!
posted by iamkimiam at 9:06 AM on August 22, 2012


AND DONE.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:10 AM on August 22, 2012


Is it just me, or is the text box for Question 15 and 16, I can only select the radio boxes - I can't fill in any associated text. This might be a browser issue?
posted by muddgirl at 9:13 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is a sort of weird buggy thing when you click on a y/n radio button that is accompanied by a dropdown menu - the dropdown won't actually drop down.

Might just be my firefox though.
posted by elizardbits at 9:14 AM on August 22, 2012


YES and muddgirl's comment above too, same.
posted by elizardbits at 9:14 AM on August 22, 2012


Yeah, 15 and 16 are broken in Firefox 14.0.1 on Linux. With Ghostly and ABP installed, but *metafilter.com whitelisted.
posted by skynxnex at 9:18 AM on August 22, 2012


Yep, this is a Firefox issue. I'm working on a fix, but until then click into the text box and then hit Tab to send the cursor there.
posted by pb (staff) at 9:19 AM on August 22, 2012


Yikes, thanks. I let pb know...hopefully it's something that can be easily fixed.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:20 AM on August 22, 2012


Also I couldn't make any of the mp3's play so I had to muddle through the phonetic thingy. :/
posted by elizardbits at 9:21 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Thanks, pb. I came in to file a bug report. :)
posted by zarq at 9:21 AM on August 22, 2012


No problems on Chrome (Win 7), but the questions about my past sexual experiences seemed a bit intrusive.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:24 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Everything works a-ok with Chrome, just FYI.
posted by Defying Gravity at 9:25 AM on August 22, 2012


Should be working better in Firefox, you'll need to reload.
posted by pb (staff) at 9:25 AM on August 22, 2012


Eponysterical?
posted by zarq at 9:26 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Doh. That was for Rock Steady.
posted by zarq at 9:26 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am pleased this pressing issue is receiving the attention it so justly deserves.

MEE-fie, MEE-fight
posted by Curious Artificer at 9:27 AM on August 22, 2012 [66 favorites]


Was a link to results / analysis from the last survey ever posted? I'd love to peruse.
posted by aught at 9:32 AM on August 22, 2012


I assume other people will report it, but it looks like the Ffx problem now exists for 17 (picking a state when checking YES) and the Word Frequency count email box.
posted by skynxnex at 9:32 AM on August 22, 2012


Based on the last few days, it is 'we-fight.'
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:32 AM on August 22, 2012 [10 favorites]


Note for United Kingdom residents that there is no UK option. You have to choose, for example, England.
posted by vacapinta at 9:32 AM on August 22, 2012


No it wasn't shared then, but after this survey is over (after Sunday night), I'll post some stats about the pronunciation distribution and other things you all might be interested in. Also, I've got a published article coming out this November with some results from the first survey...it covers the pronunciation of MeFi between Australia, Canada, US and UK.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:36 AM on August 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


Thanks skynxnex, fixed those up.
posted by pb (staff) at 9:38 AM on August 22, 2012


the man of twists and turns: "Based on the last few days, it is 'we-fight.'"

WetaFilter never uses a Professional White Background.
posted by zarq at 9:39 AM on August 22, 2012


skynxnex: I assume other people will report it, but it looks like the Ffx problem now exists for 17 (picking a state when checking YES) and the Word Frequency count email box.

That's adorable! Skynxnex's first bug report. Definitely one for the baby book!
posted by misha at 9:47 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Loved the audio files, they let me hear how other, obviously wrong people pronounce MeFi.
posted by arcticseal at 9:49 AM on August 22, 2012 [34 favorites]


posted by vacapinta at

No staff tag. Is vacapinta no longer a moderator?
posted by grouse at 9:55 AM on August 22, 2012


I've never had the staff tag because I have never been staff. :)
posted by vacapinta at 9:57 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


vacapinta has always been, basically as what works for him, a volunteer quasi-moderator with a far, far lower level of expected responsibilities and stuff. He's a wonderful now-and-then helper, basically, and these days especially taz is covering the dark nights of the antipode that he had traditionally been helping on so it's more then than now most of the time.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:00 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I can't listen to files at work, so I also had to muddle through the phonetic things. I hope I picked the right ones! I used this in case anyone else needs help:
Pronunciation Chart
posted by Grither at 10:05 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Curious Artificer: "MEE-fie, MEE-fight"

You are correct, sir!
posted by Grither at 10:07 AM on August 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


Because if it wasn't MEE-fight, then MeFightClub wouldn't make any sense at all!
posted by Grither at 10:08 AM on August 22, 2012 [15 favorites]


Yeah, maybe it would be good to let people know, before they start the survey, that they need to be able to play audio files or else deal with IPA.
posted by in278s at 10:09 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Now what I chose sounds even weirder to me.
posted by theredpen at 10:12 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is a sort of weird buggy thing when you click on a y/n radio button that is accompanied by a dropdown menu - the dropdown won't actually drop down.

Might just be my firefox though.


Yeah, I've run into this before with Firefox too. It's related to inputs nested in labels for radio boxes and how Firefox handles the focus on that. Can be rather annoying. Basically, for normal radio labels you want to select the radio when you click anywhere inside the label. But if you have an additional input inside that label it creates a problem in Firefox because focus immediately shifts to the radio selector. I imagine something similar can happen with checkboxes too.

Also I couldn't make any of the mp3's play so I had to muddle through the phonetic thingy. :/

I couldn't get them to play normally either. They ended up working when I opened each pronunciation file in a new tab.

(Meh-Fee, Mee-Fight)
posted by kmz at 10:14 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's a great reference, Grither. I've been looking for a dictionary convention respelling translation for ages and there they all are in one overwhelming table! I might have to load that into my database, just for fun.

Also, for the few of you who've stated here that you couldn't access the sound files, I'd love to go back through this thread later and check the pronunciation explanations in your survey against the sound files you chose and clear up any discrepancies, if that's alright?
posted by iamkimiam at 10:14 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


what dialect of English best describes the one you currently speak?

Kiwi as bro!

(Plus I was excited to see that iamkimiam's real name is, wait for it, Kim. I may be easily amused.)
posted by shelleycat at 10:22 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


oh my... but... do I think meh-fee?

"Doubt grows with knowledge" - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
posted by greenish at 10:26 AM on August 22, 2012


But it's pronounced like awesome.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:26 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Should the thank you page link to this thread instead of just suggest we come to MetaTalk?

(Mee Tah Talc?)
posted by ODiV at 10:39 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Me-figh and Me-fight.
posted by ericb at 10:39 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


ODiV: "(Mee Tah Talc?)"

Hah! We should totally go with MEE-tah-File-ter, too.
posted by Grither at 10:50 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Submitted! And made me realize that I (mentally, but sometimes out loud to the lurker boyfriend) say Meh-Tah instead of Mee-Tah for MeTa/MetaTalk, even though I'm a Mee-Fye, Mee-Fight kind of girl.
posted by alynnk at 10:52 AM on August 22, 2012 [10 favorites]


Done. I had to disable Adblock plus and Flashblock to get the audio to load on Firefox/Win7.
posted by essexjan at 10:56 AM on August 22, 2012


I... say Meh-Tah instead of Mee-Tah for MeTa/MetaTalk, even though I'm a Mee-Fye, Mee-Fight kind of [dudeman].

Oh, totally. I am Mee-Fye 'till I die, but Mee-Tah is crazytalk. Meh-Tah.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:56 AM on August 22, 2012 [18 favorites]


Done. No problems in Chrome.

Meh-Ta-Talk sounds like something a certain someone would cook up on April 1.
posted by ambrosia at 11:12 AM on August 22, 2012


mee-fie, mee-fight. But when I stop to think about it I realize that those are not the way I pronounce the vowels in "meta" and "filter". Language is weird.
posted by madcaptenor at 11:28 AM on August 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: volunteer quasi-moderators with a far, far lower level of expected responsibilities and stuff
posted by zombieflanders at 11:34 AM on August 22, 2012


Any linguistic interest in the fact that "MeTa" is a contraction two different ways?
posted by carsonb at 11:34 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Or, a contraction and an abbreviation, I should say.
posted by carsonb at 11:34 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Done. Meh-fee, Meh-fight. (Do people really pronounce the -fite part as "fit"? WEIRDOS! ...Er, I mean, that's an interesting alternative.)
posted by languagehat at 11:34 AM on August 22, 2012 [10 favorites]


Also, I've got a published article coming out this November with some results from the first survey...it covers the pronunciation of MeFi between Australia, Canada, US and UK.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:36 AM on August 22


I'm just curious... how will you classify people like me, who were born and raised in one country but moved to another? Are we sort of dropped out as bad data? Or are we allowed to skew the results? I am sure my pronunciation is not typical of people from my zip code. Well, except probably the only other mefite in my zip code is my husband. But you know what I mean.
posted by joannemerriam at 11:41 AM on August 22, 2012


Meh-fee, Meh-fight. Mee? Where do you get this vowel from, did you pull it over from -fite to pronounce as -fit?

I have strong feelings about this. I am also very much looking forward to my personal corpus.
posted by jeather at 11:42 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Any linguistic interest in the fact that "MeTa" is a contraction two different ways?"

Totally. I'm currently all about exploring CamelCase variation and how that aligns with people's pronunciations, too. I'll save the rest of my thoughts and findings on that for Monday, after the survey ends. But yeah, there's definitely something to how people break down words for abbreviations and if and at what point they decide to analyze the new chunks as novel unparseable wholes.

Metata's would be, um, interesting, but probably not linguistically so.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:44 AM on August 22, 2012


Meh-fee. Meh-fight. It seems I am not alone.
posted by vacapinta at 11:45 AM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


ok then, mee-fie, mee-fite.
posted by elizardbits at 11:45 AM on August 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Hey, I noted in the survey comments that I would pronounce it differently if it were spelled 'mefi' instead of 'MeFi'. CamelCase indeed. I wonder if 'me_fi' (my variable naming preference) would have a third pronunciation/
posted by benito.strauss at 11:47 AM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


meh-fee, meh-fight. I'm pretty sure I remember from the podcast that this is counter to the general staff consensus of mee-fie, mee-fight. OR MAYBE THAT IS WHY vacapinta isn't real staff, because he won't drink their pronounciation kool aid.
posted by juv3nal at 11:48 AM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Done! And I feel like a genius for not taking it until all the bugs were exterminated (actually, I just didn't see this meTa in the forest of other meTas).

I'll always remember that the last time this came up, it emerged that St. Alia of the Bunnies and actually agree on something: the proper way to pronounce mefi.
posted by rtha at 11:50 AM on August 22, 2012


Good gravy. My son is home sick and I am now feeling feverish. As I am reading this, I cannot even remember what I answered two hours ago. I shall now be claiming a spot within the margin of error.
posted by wallaby at 11:50 AM on August 22, 2012


Everything worked wonderfully for me in Firefox 3.6.13

oh go away you irritating popups telling me I'm too outdated to check email
posted by infini at 11:53 AM on August 22, 2012


Mee fye (foe, fum).
posted by Zonker at 12:04 PM on August 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


That's adorable! Skynxnex's first bug report. Definitely one for the baby book!

I'm fairly certain you're thinking of Pinkxno, son of Stynxno, rather than skynxnex. I mean, based on his profile alone, skynxnex has to be at least 9 years old.
posted by ocherdraco at 12:07 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Works pretty well on iPhone with a bit of pinch zooming. I couldn't hear the audio but that's probably because I'm sitting in the middle of the Registry of Motor Vehicles while my son takes his permit test. Again.
posted by dorkydancer at 12:14 PM on August 22, 2012


Meh-fee and Mee-fight.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 12:15 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I'm just curious... how will you classify people like me, who were born and raised in one country but moved to another? Are we sort of dropped out as bad data? Or are we allowed to skew the results?"

First, no such thing as bad data. It's all truly awesome and I mean that. Even the blank surveys have something to say about participation. So yeah, I'll take it, no matter how much, how little, how complicated or whatever.

For the article, I wanted to analyze the strictest set of comparable data as a starting point, so I only focused on a subset of surveys that targeted what I was looking for -- specifically, monolingual native English local dialect speakers of Australian, Canadian, American or British varieties, living in those respective places at the time of the survey.

But even so, there will always be some skewing in the respect that you mention. There's a couple things that make this ok in the long run...It is likely that one region won't have statistically more relocators (people born/raised in one place, moved/living in another) than another -- at least not enough to significantly skew pronunciation outcomes in some unidentifiable way. Also, the overall percentage of relocators for any given region is not going to be all that high anyway, and again, not enough to skew the pronunciation outcomes in some unidentifiable way. Lastly, one assumption that I may make (depending on the context and what aspect I'm analysing) is that people tend to be motivated to accommodate one way or another to their new environment. While they might not lose their native accent entirely, when new lexical forms are encountered those new forms may be adapted to the rules of their new linguistic context. Or not. It's one of the things I'm looking into, in tandem with the other variables and comments from the surveys.

But even if things are skewed for one place or situation or another, I can separately analyze the data where there aren't consistent alignments between nationality, ethnicity, residence, dialect and language experience...those are five related dimensions that can provide a pretty good picture of what the cultural identity influences on pronunciation choice might be. There are solid 'n complex statistical tests that will suss out the significant correlations among that tangled ball.

So yeah, lots of ways to account for those types of changes and few rationales as to why they're not really worrisome. They just make the data richer, for finer-grained analysis...when I get there. I've been mostly working on broad strokes, creating the big picture of what's going on. I'll be busting out the little brushes soon.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:15 PM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


misha: That's adorable! Skynxnex's first bug report. Definitely one for the baby book!"

Aww, man, is my face red. I am an idiot. I confused "Skynxnex" with pinkxno. Which is particularly hilarious, you see, because that is baby Oliver's Mefi name.

Hence my comment above, which is obviously completely off the wall if you didn't get how my brain was just broken. Which, um, Skynxnex didn't.

I caused a valued contributor to seriously question WTF my problem with him was, and rightly so.

I'm so sorry, Skynxnex! Please keep right on reporting bugs.

How about I just shut up for a while? Okay, then.
posted by misha at 12:28 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


No hard feelings about being confused for a one and half month old. I'll take it as a complement, that even at the ripe old age of at least 9, I'm still youthful and opened mind in both appearance and attitude.

Hugs all around, I think, are the MeTa order of the day then, based on all these threads.

Unrelated to that! Thanks for doing this survey, iamkimiam, I look forward to the results. And thanks to pb and the other MeFi staff for letting it happen!
posted by skynxnex at 12:29 PM on August 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


ThatCanadianGirl: "Meh-fee and Mee-fight"

Whaaa...?? Now that is just plain weird.
posted by Grither at 12:29 PM on August 22, 2012


I can understand why you focussed on people living where they grew up for the beginning analysis. But I truly honest to god have exactly the same accent after 16 months in Ireland as I had back in NZ. I've had visits from my friends back home who have verified it. It's kind of amusing me at this point actually, apparently my voice is like my main identity or something and it's really really ingrained.

That's why I said in my reply that I have a strong New Zealand accent, because I really do, so I hope when you do the more advanced, messier analysis you believe me (and anyone else saying things that are similar about their accents) and treat me as a Kiwi despite my current location.
posted by shelleycat at 12:31 PM on August 22, 2012


While they might not lose their native accent entirely, when new lexical forms are encountered those new forms may be adapted to the rules of their new linguistic context. Or not. It's one of the things I'm looking into, in tandem with the other variables and comments from the surveys.

Oh good, my beanplating won't just be all that extra bibble babble. I'll volunteer if you ever need an indepth interview on dialect switching.
posted by infini at 12:31 PM on August 22, 2012


"No it wasn't shared then, but after this survey is over (after Sunday night), I'll post some stats about the pronunciation distribution and other things you all might be interested in. "

Here or in a new thread?

Although I guess now it'll show up in my recent threads so it's okay either way. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:33 PM on August 22, 2012


There are solid 'n complex statistical tests that will suss out the significant correlations among that tangled ball.

And of course, if these come out with my answers making me look Australian, please don't tell me. (insert semi-serious winkyface here)
posted by shelleycat at 12:34 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


(that should probably say "sound Australian")
posted by shelleycat at 12:35 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


My accent varies drastically depending on if I just spent a weekend with Canadian relatives or a weekend with my aunts (from Northern Minnesota, doncha-know) or a week on the phone with customers from France, England or Poland.

Uff da.
posted by jillithd at 12:36 PM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


shelleycat, my stats program pops out the results as animated gifs of kangaroos or koala bears. If I see a kangaroo, you have my word that I'll never tell.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:37 PM on August 22, 2012 [10 favorites]


I wonder how many people here after a hard day at work by throwing a record on their Hi-Fih and browsing the internet over their Wi-Fih connections.
posted by Shepherd at 12:37 PM on August 22, 2012


Wow, that made no sense.
posted by Shepherd at 12:38 PM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Clicking the audio samples, nothing plays. I'm in Safari 5.1.7 on a Mac.
(I'm not reading the rest of the thread yet, so apologize if this has been addressed above. If it has, can someone copy the answer here?)
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:48 PM on August 22, 2012


The answer posted above is to open the sound hyperlinks in a new tab. This also worked for me in Firefox.
posted by squinty at 12:51 PM on August 22, 2012


Meh-ta, Meh-Fie, Meh-Fight. Haven't formally taken the poll yet because I'm at work and need the audio files to translate linguist-ese into sounds.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:53 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


done d-d-done done done it again.
posted by cashman at 12:53 PM on August 22, 2012


"That's why I said in my reply that I have a strong New Zealand accent, because I really do, so I hope when you do the more advanced, messier analysis you believe me (and anyone else saying things that are similar about their accents) and treat me as a Kiwi despite my current location."

Also wanted to add that what you said there is such a perfect example of why the different categories such as nationality vs. location vs. dialect matter, both separately and in combination with each other. It's interesting to see, because some people feel exactly the same, some are similar but in different ways (if that can make any sense), some are more aligned to their current geography, some tend to lose their accents easily and adopt new ones, and on and on.

So whatever the deal is, thanks so much for sharing those details either in the survey or in this thread. It generates some good thought for me, and hopefully fun conversation for everybody else too.

My stupid trackpad on my mac is sort of broken and it wants to control-click everything and everywhere. Annoyingly, the first option under the menu that pops up when you control-click is "undo". So I'm constantly retyping everything I just typed. Grrrrr.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:57 PM on August 22, 2012


While I've definitely noticed my accent "softening" since moving to the UK, I don't believe it's had any bearing on how I pronounce these words. But that being said, despite lurking on Ask for aaaages, I only became a member after I'd moved. So I really only took on the identity of a MeFite post-move. Hmmm...
posted by catch as catch can at 12:59 PM on August 22, 2012


Everything worked great in Google Chrome 21.0.1180.79 on my Mac. Very cool research, iamkimiam!
posted by capricorn at 1:00 PM on August 22, 2012


New tab not working either. Maybe I will try it on another computer. Thanks.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:05 PM on August 22, 2012


I say "Meh-fee" and "Mee - fight", too. It is strange. My impression is that Mefite has been more recently coined, so maybe the Mee-fi people are winning.
posted by muddgirl at 1:10 PM on August 22, 2012


Meh-ta, Meh-Fie, Meh-Fight.

Hello, my brother/sister. Exactly right!

This is also how I feel about most of the current fighting around here.
posted by bearwife at 1:20 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


some tend to lose their accents easily and adopt new ones,

I thought that was going to be me. I was looking forward to it, sounding different seems fun! But nope, apparently not.

Or not Irish anyway, I find the accent here just about impossible to imitate which probably doesn't help with the changing thing. But then I also do talk a real lot so my family just roll their eyes and ask what am I expecting: Shelley you've had way too much practise at talking like that to change.
posted by shelleycat at 1:34 PM on August 22, 2012


Once, I was hanging around with a bunch of graduate students from Southern Illinois and Northern Missouri. As always, when asked where I'm from, I give the short answer "Chicago" and one of the folks mentioned that I did not sound like I was from Chicago. And I said, well, no, I guess not because I never lived here full time until I was an adult and really I'd never lived anywhere more than a couple years until I was an adult, but that my parents were born and raised in Chicago.

At that another student said, "I guess that explains why you pretty much speak flat unaccented English." I guess, I said.

Then the guy at the end of the table spoke up and said in his rather thick Yorkshire accent, "I dunno, you speak pretty heavily accented English as far as I can tell."

Anyway. I love this survey!
posted by crush-onastick at 1:38 PM on August 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


MeFi, like wifi and or lofi.
posted by maryr at 1:51 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jesus christ you shouldn't ask English people to describe their own accents. I put down like a paragraph of thinly-disguised self-loathing and class consciousness and eventually ran out of space in the textbox. I had so much more to say about how the way I speak is ridiculous and awful, but still not as bad as Those People! This is important data for your researches goddammit!
posted by Acheman at 1:58 PM on August 22, 2012 [17 favorites]


Also on Team Meh-Fee, Meh-Fight. And, yeah, it's inconsistent, but like Unca Walt Whitman, I contain multitudes.

So "nationality" confused me a bit. Was that for expatriates, whose nationality and post codes wouldn't match, or was that so people with Spanish post codes could proudly declare themselves Basque or Catalan or like that? It seemed like it would have made more sense coming after "post code" than where it did.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:22 PM on August 22, 2012


One summer just before I started high school, I spent two weeks at a camp in Vermont where the staffers were all (or all sounded like) Vermonsters, but most of the other kids were from New Jersey; then I went to visit my dad in Kentucky, where I hung out with a couple of born-and-raised-there kids down the block, and also two of my pidgin-speaking cousins who were visiting from Hawaii. When I got home (Boston) my mom and all my friends noted that I talked funny.
posted by rtha at 2:23 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mee - fight, motherfucker! *fist bump*
posted by deborah at 2:32 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


What's the semantic satiation equivalent for when you think about a word's pronunciation so much that you no longer know how to pronounce it anymore?
posted by jpeacock at 2:52 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Acheman: Americans have our own issues. I described my accent as "Western North Carolina educated redneck". Sometimes, when dealing with local folks, it comes in handy to sound like a hick with a PhD, but mostly it just means I try my best to avoid hearing recordings of myself.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:53 PM on August 22, 2012


Bachman Turner Phonetic Overdrive
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:56 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've been living in Texas for twelve years and I can produce a pretty credible drawl, but I haven't picked up more than a couple of linguistic markers that I use unconsciously. But give me ten minutes of conversation with anyone from anywhere and I will slide into whatever they're using. I hijack verbal tics and facial expressions, even. It's kind of creepy.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:56 PM on August 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


(Actually, it occurs to me that I've been on the podcast enough that y'all could check that. I can't stand listening to myself, so now I wonder how accurate my self-reporting is.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:58 PM on August 22, 2012


Is this the place to tell weird pronunciation stories? Because this 50-something woman at my work calls "WiFi" "wee" and I don't know whether or how to correct her.
posted by Night_owl at 3:03 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


MEFFY MEFF!
FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!
posted by emeiji at 3:11 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mee - fight, motherfucker! *fist bump*

MeFi mofo?
posted by looli at 3:21 PM on August 22, 2012


as it is every year: MEH-FIGHT TIL I DIE. and languagehat has my back on this, so suck it haters!
posted by ifjuly at 3:32 PM on August 22, 2012


Metafilter: volunteer quasi-moderators with a far, far lower level of expected responsibilities and stuff

o_O

I, too, have taken the survey. I just wrote "I work here" in the box where it asked why i think I'm right.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:33 PM on August 22, 2012 [22 favorites]


It's supposed to be anonymous! Now Kim has to start all over.
posted by ODiV at 3:37 PM on August 22, 2012


restless_nomad: "I've been living in Texas for twelve years and I can produce a pretty credible drawl, but I haven't picked up more than a couple of linguistic markers that I use unconsciously. But give me ten minutes of conversation with anyone from anywhere and I will slide into whatever they're using. I hijack verbal tics and facial expressions, even. It's kind of creepy."

I'm actually from Arkansas, but I do this more than I speak Arkansawyer. The only time I really speak Arkansawyer is when I'm rather upset (read: angry). Don't get me wrong, bits and pieces will slip in from time to time, but I don't really drawl, although I could I guess. I mainly speak news anchor or whatever the people I'm with speak. I have a hard time not adopting an English accent when I go visit my friends from England and I have a hard time not adopting a Spanish accent when I'm in a Spanish speaking country, even if I'm speaking English. (I know pitifully little Spanish, btw)
posted by wierdo at 3:43 PM on August 22, 2012


I love these threads because SCIENCE and all but I really love these threads for all of dropped descriptivist acts littering the floor.

"It's MEE-FIGHT or we fight!"
posted by carsonb at 3:49 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I sometimes pick up other people's accent quirks while I'm talking to them. Which would be fine if my speech production wasn't actually terrible. It's like perception and processing are happily figuring things out up in there, but then I speak and mortify the hell out of myself. Then I wonder if maybe there is a part of me that really is trying to mock people. So I have this little lecture with my subconscious self, "What's going on Kim? Why aren't I on my side here? Get it right or get out!"
posted by iamkimiam at 3:52 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


wierdo - fellow arkansan here (and i think we're from the same area in arkansas) and fellow news/tv talker. i absolutely use my accent for different status things - trying to get underestimated, bring out the drawl - fully awake and discussing the economy, flat talking. my accent does come out unwittingly when i'm angry, tired, or around my family.
posted by nadawi at 4:02 PM on August 22, 2012


MEE-FIE and ME-FIGHT

Gah , what the hell are the rest of you thinking. It's the only thing that SOUNDS right. Who cares how the REAL WORDS are pronounced.

Night_owl: A certain couple I know pronounce meme "May-may", which makes my skin crawl. I can't bring myself to correct them, though, it seems so rude, and we're just talking about cats etc. But still, it is obviously pronounced 'meem'. Right?
posted by kittensofthenight at 4:32 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Me-Φ
posted by fragmede at 4:35 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dawkins, The Selfish Gene: "We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. 'Mimeme' comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like 'gene'. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme. If it is any consolation, it could alternatively be thought of as being related to 'memory', or to the French word même. It should be pronounced to rhyme with 'cream'."

(I actually cut and pasted this from Wikipedia.)
posted by madcaptenor at 4:35 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Are we doing bets on the outcome of the MeFi-fight?
posted by yohko at 4:48 PM on August 22, 2012


If you want to know how a robot would answer this survey you can open up Terminal on OSX and type: say mefi and say mefite. For bonus points you can switch the system voice in Dictation & Speech system preferences. Each voice pronounces it the same way but they each have their own spin on it.
posted by pb (staff) at 4:59 PM on August 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Thanks for letting us choose England rather than the UK! I love you pretty much for that alone.
Jesus christ you shouldn't ask English people to describe their own accents. I put down like a paragraph of thinly-disguised self-loathing and class consciousness and eventually ran out of space in the textbox. I had so much more to say about how the way I speak is ridiculous and awful, but still not as bad as Those People! This is important data for your researches goddammit!
I'm likely the only soul who used the word "politically" in describing their accent. Because, you know, if somebody's going to hold my accent against me, I would rather they did it for the right reasons.
posted by Jehan at 5:19 PM on August 22, 2012


Skooden-froody. Skooden. Froody.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:23 PM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Slavoj Žižek
posted by benito.strauss at 5:31 PM on August 22, 2012


The survey went better than I expected on my iPhone, except that I kept clicking the audio link when I meant to click the radio button.
posted by desjardins at 5:45 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Survey worked perfectly on my phone. But apparently I say things incorrectly. Harrumph.
posted by two lights above the sea at 5:57 PM on August 22, 2012


Meh-tah, Mee-fie and Mee-fight, because switching the way you pronounce vowels in two words with the same basic root form is more jarring to my brain than switching the way you pronounce the same syllable in an abbreviation of a longer word. If that makes sense.

Also, I was born in China, learned English in Germany, had my accent shaped by Canada, and now live in the American South. I won't hold it against you if you discard my data...
posted by Phire at 5:57 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can't believe you people. The correct answer is clearly MEH-fee/MEH-fight.

All the me-me-me going on is making me wonder if I've fallen into a vat of narcissists by accident.
posted by Superplin at 6:24 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't see why you even care, with all your meh-meh-meh-ing!
posted by rtha at 6:30 PM on August 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


Submitterated!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:42 PM on August 22, 2012


participation : disambiguation :: comment : deletion

Meh-tah Filter: Wii du teh common vernacular.
posted by vozworth at 6:58 PM on August 22, 2012


I don't think anyone has claimed my pronunciation here yet (Me-Fee and Me-Fight). Then again, I say "wee-key-pedia" so I'm pretty sure I'm wrong about this one, too.
posted by k8lin at 6:59 PM on August 22, 2012


I'd fight for my pronunciation against all the MEEEs, but meh.*


*fiyt
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 7:01 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Benito has a point; if it were written "mefi" instead of "MeFi", I, too, would have pronounced it differently, but it's too late now--- "me-fie" is stuck in my head. Another contributing factor is that I first stumbled upon ask.metafilter years ago via a search engine and it just seemed natural to read MeFi as "me" because "ask.me". Duh. And pronouncing "Fi" with a short "i" just seems wrong when it's preceded by that long "e". Me-fie just sounds better.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 7:23 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I will happily sell my pronounciation to the highest bidder. Will enunciate for food.
posted by arcticseal at 7:24 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


mee-fie, mee-fight but I pronounce MetaFilter as meh-tah filter and MetaTalk as meh-tah talk.
posted by fuse theorem at 7:42 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh god the horror of listening to all those options with the growing fear that you are too weird even for metafilter
posted by skrozidile at 7:45 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Until you find the right little penguin call that matches yours of course.

Emphasis on right.
posted by skrozidile at 7:50 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is the frequency count email supposed to arrive right away? I assumed that the frequency count email was supposed to arrive right away. My frequency count email did not arrive right away. I have not received a frequency count email.

I'm only mildly interested because it's not like I often repeat words often so I'm just mildly interested.
posted by ceribus peribus at 8:00 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Me-Fi. Like Hi-fi.

Miffy.
posted by carter at 8:03 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I didn't request a copy of my frequency count, because I was terrified it would be mostly "fuck", "dude", and "therapy".
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:07 PM on August 22, 2012 [9 favorites]


One small cultural oddity was in asking my ethnicity. Australians don't do that. I mean, I guess I'm "caucasian" (not exactly sure what that means - I'm of purely northern european descent), but there's not one single official thing that says that in our country. Yes you can be identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, and every ten years the census asks you where your parents were born (which is not quite the same thing), but no one ever asks for or identifies ethnicity here.
posted by wilful at 8:13 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I established the correct pronunciation at Forvo last month.
posted by unliteral at 8:14 PM on August 22, 2012


I got stuck on "Is English your native language?" Because I've been speaking both English and Urdu right from the beginning. And both my parents were fluently bilingual, although they mostly spoke to us in Urdu. So, I feel like really, I have two native languages. And that isn't an option...
posted by bardophile at 8:21 PM on August 22, 2012


I haven't picked up more than a couple of linguistic markers that I use unconsciously.

When I was in the US, my Canadian accent got significantly stronger. I met other Canadians who almost hit parody with the strength of their accents.

We have the one Canadian who happily took a US accent while in grad school and then kept it when he got a job in Canada. That was weird.

I was told by a lot of people that when I read texts in some language no one knew, I always read it with a French accent.
posted by jeather at 8:25 PM on August 22, 2012


It's still MyFy (ike Sci-Fi) to me.
posted by 26.2 at 8:36 PM on August 22, 2012


I was struck, during the survey, by a sudden horror that made more than one option acceptable to me. I'm going to say this earthshattering moment was induced by the robo-voice, but I can actually see how people who say Meh-Fie aren't horrible people. I mean, yeah, it's Mee-Fie, and we all know that, but it is, after all, Meh-Tah.

But just now, I've regained my happy space. After all, how do you pronounce AskMe? Seriously? AskMeh? Does anyone actually think it's AskMeh, unless their doing a Cartman-as-police-officer-AuTHORiTAH voice?

Mee-Fie. All the way.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:38 PM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Worked great - even audio - on my Android phone.
posted by k8t at 9:02 PM on August 22, 2012


After all, how do you pronounce AskMe? Seriously? AskMeh? Does anyone actually think it's AskMeh, unless their doing a Cartman-as-police-officer-AuTHORiTAH voice?

This is so weak. It is Meh-tuh-filter and Meh-tuh-talk, and two out of three tabs, not to mention the origin of this site as a METAfilter for the web. Just because AskMeFi happens to have a cute punning handle does not mean the exception is the rule.

*Removes loud authoritarian bullhorn from lips*
posted by bearwife at 9:59 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is the frequency count email supposed to arrive right away? I assumed that the frequency count email was supposed to arrive right away. My frequency count email did not arrive right away. I have not received a frequency count email.

Generation and delivery of the frequency table stuff got a little back-burnered, something that may not have gotten into the language of the survey. It'll happen but not quite yet, so don't worry, we'll get that stuff batched up in the coming days-or-so.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:01 PM on August 22, 2012


Meh-fi and Meh-fight, but I am unable to see the interest in the subject.
posted by scottymac at 10:20 PM on August 22, 2012


I still think "MeFi" is silly and would never actually write it sans quotes, much less pronounce it. It's Metafilter, you syllable-averse newbies, and its inhabitants are Metafilterians. How many years have these terms been around, now? I feel old, still thinking of them as fluffy neologisms, but they just don't seem real enough.

But I truly honest to god have exactly the same accent after 16 months in Ireland as I had back in NZ.

During my second week in Ireland I met a Dubliner in a pub who was astonished to discover that not only did I know nothing about curling, but I wasn't even from Ireland at all. I can't "do" an Irish accent, but I'd apparently adapted enough by then that I wasn't obviously foreign. Or maybe he was just really drunk.

It's funny listening to my aussie/kiwi-hybrid wife talk to friends back home, because her accent gets much stronger: clearly she's been adapting to Cascadian speech patterns for conversation with me and my friends.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:10 PM on August 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's funny listening to my aussie/kiwi-hybrid wife talk to friends back home, because her accent gets much stronger:

I love talking to my sisters, one which lives in Scotland with an English husband and one which lives in Aus with an Australian, and hearing their voices turn back to kiwi over the first fifteen minutes or so of the conversation. I totally win.
posted by shelleycat at 12:35 AM on August 23, 2012


I made the mistake of hitting return in one text box instead of tabbing to the next field, and got the 'thanks for participating' message even though I wasn't finished and hadn't clicked any sort of 'done' button. There doesn't appear to be any way to go back and finish.
posted by jon1270 at 3:07 AM on August 23, 2012


So very interesting! I was a bit torn on how to answer some of the participation questions (does IMing a mod once every couple years count? Now that I hardly have time to look at Twitter does it count? If I looked at Projects exactly once, should I just put "never?" Why yes, I overthink things, why do you ask?)

The only nitpick I have is that there were no degrees of fluency listed for other languages. I used to have near-native fluency in my second language, but now I'm just conversationally fluent, so is that Advanced or Fluent? I put Advanced.

And of course at the end of this the mods will declare the One True Pronunciation, right?
posted by digitalprimate at 4:22 AM on August 23, 2012


If anyone is having trouble with the sound files (and is reading the posts down there) "Save link as" works like a charm.
posted by ersatz at 4:40 AM on August 23, 2012


Well, since you mention that you kind of care above, I'm a code switcher who easily and unconsciously picks up the accent of whoever I'm speaking to. I was living in the states when I joined MeFi, though. (MeFi like SciFi or HiFi).
posted by Diablevert at 5:29 AM on August 23, 2012


I'm going to start responding to some comments above and common questions from the survey...

Many people are wondering about any potential self-selection bias in this survey. That's a great question, as you would think that more people of a certain place or personality type (or whatever) might be apt to take the survey. So far, I've found it to be the case that on every metric I can measure, the survey respondents accurately reflect the site demographics (based on things like cortex's infographic, beanplate and the Infodump, and previous studies and stats*). It'll be interesting to see if this has changed between 2010 and 2012. The demographics are my starting point...before I even get into pronunciation and all that...I want to get a sense of the whole MetaFilter community; gender, age and geographic distributions, etc...more info on that soon.

What about sample size? With fishbike's help a while back, we were able to determine the size of the active MetaFilter userbase. The 2010 survey, with 2,521 MeFites participating, made up 16% of the active MetaFilter userbase. That's 8x what is usually considered a minimal representative sample. I was over the moon about that. Thanks, people!

I'm going to grab some lunch and then I'll be back with some of the more info, thoughts and responses.

*I'd link to these things, but I can't find the links easily and my trackpad is broken, making scrolling a total 'mare.
posted by iamkimiam at 6:08 AM on August 23, 2012


Wow, so I took the survey in 2010 as well, and vaguely remember the discussion that ensued... but I definitely don't remember anyone saying they pronounced it like wifi or scifi*.

Really? My Fie? Where does that even come from?? It's not yours! It's everybody's!

* - syfy is pronounced siffy, btw, because that channel sucks
posted by Grither at 6:19 AM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Some random, questionably not-so-serious thoughts:
posted by iamkimiam at 7:11 AM on August 23, 2012 [11 favorites]


Whee! More datawankery! iamkimiam, are variations in phonetic spelling across the userbase coming into play in your final product, somehow? Because now that the 2010 survey got me over my incredulity at the fact that more than one pronunciation is possible, I'm curious about whether there are observable trends in terms of who thinks what letters make which sounds in what combinations.
posted by EvaDestruction at 7:17 AM on August 23, 2012


(but your answers will make me laugh...as I slowly go mad)

Ponders changing population demographic of interest. Never has enough fun or toilet paper. Lets not get into running water and all that country chicken
posted by infini at 7:41 AM on August 23, 2012


How do you pronounce "M"? eMm followed by...

How do you pronounce "E"? eee

How do you pronounce "F"? eFf followed by...

How do you pronounce "I"? eye

eMm-eee-eFf-eye

Mee-Fie

MeFi
posted by panaceanot at 7:42 AM on August 23, 2012


I filled out half here on my iPad and accidentally hit something that submitted it - incomplete as it was. Eek.

At least I got to chime in on my mefi pronunciation.
posted by routergirl at 7:45 AM on August 23, 2012


I hadn't really thought about it until I skimmed this post's comments but I bet "wifi" does influence my pronunciation of "MeFi".
posted by immlass at 7:45 AM on August 23, 2012


Wow, so I took the survey in 2010 as well, and vaguely remember the discussion that ensued... but I definitely don't remember anyone saying they pronounced it like wifi or scifi*.

I see where that was unclear now --- I don't pronounce the e in MeFi like an i, I pronounce it like an E instead of an eh. It takes the long vowell and not the short, like WiFi or LoFi. I'm a Mee-fie, mee-fight person.
posted by Diablevert at 8:00 AM on August 23, 2012


I hadn't really thought about it until I skimmed this post's comments but I bet "wifi" does influence my pronunciation of "MeFi".

There's a personal wifi hotspot one of the mobile carries puts out called a "Mifi", which is fine and all except that sometimes people on twitter misspell it as "Mefi" and I get confusing tweets showing up in my mefi dragnet.

But "mefi" also seems to be some sort of burgeoning term of affection in some youth cultures somewhere because it shows up like that too, stuff like "me and mefi went bowling!" or etc.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:10 AM on August 23, 2012


Wow, so I took the survey in 2010 as well, and vaguely remember the discussion that ensued... but I definitely don't remember anyone saying they pronounced it like wifi or scifi*.

Bizarrely, I pronounce the Fi like WiFi, but the Me like "me"....and that's the justification I made in the survey.
posted by inturnaround at 8:12 AM on August 23, 2012


cortex: ""me and mefi went bowling!""

Aww. That's adorable.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:20 AM on August 23, 2012


Diablevert: "I see where that was unclear now --- I don't pronounce the e in MeFi like an i, I pronounce it like an E instead of an eh. It takes the long vowell and not the short, like WiFi or LoFi. I'm a Mee-fie, mee-fight person."

Oh phew.... though the jury is still out on whether or not maryr says My-Fie or Mee-fie!
posted by Grither at 8:33 AM on August 23, 2012


Or Moe-fie!
posted by Grither at 8:36 AM on August 23, 2012


Frankly, I find this entire exercise quite nasty (I don't really).

Mee-fi-fo-fum,
I smell the blood of an Englishman,
Be he live, or be he dead
I'll grind his bones to make my bread.


Voluntarily logging my pronunciation preferences for analysis, on an American server, is worrisome.
posted by panaceanot at 8:52 AM on August 23, 2012


when people mention that two of the sound recordings sound very similar, they don't agree on which ones...sometimes even within themselves.

That is so great.
posted by shelleycat at 8:53 AM on August 23, 2012


Whoops... that was supposed to be a PM to Frankly.
posted by panaceanot at 8:57 AM on August 23, 2012


Same as Diablevert. Hence using the exact same examples (wifi, lofi).

Like the first two syllables of what a giant says.
posted by maryr at 9:00 AM on August 23, 2012


Responding to comments starting from this one and working up the thread...

First...some terminology:
  • feedforward (in)consistency: refers to the way a specific spelling pattern that maps onto a pronunciation pattern. It can be consistent ('met' is always pronounced [mɛt] ... in most Standard English dialects) or inconsistent ('meta' is sometimes pronounced [mɛtə] and sometimes pronounced [meɪtə] ... more or less for most Standard English dialects).
  • feedback (in)consistency: refers to the way a specific sound pattern maps onto a spelling pattern. It can be consistent ([mi] is always spelled 'me' ... in most SE dialects) or inconsistent ([haɪ] can be spelt 'hi' or 'high').
  • Bi-directional feed inconsistent: can be inconsistent in both feedforward and feedback directions: [faɪ] and [fi] can be spelt 'fie', 'fi', 'fy' or 'fie'.
  • phonetic variation: variation in sounds; sometimes 'meh' is pronounced as [mɛ], other times as [meɪ].
  • sociophonetic variation: variation in sounds that is at least partially influenced (conditioned) by social factors such as age, gender, dialect, health, language experience or formality of the situation, to name several. For example, my grammatical rules of my dialect might influence me to pronounce 'MeFi' a certain way, such as...ah, nevermind that.
  • orthographic variation: variation in letters; 'favourite' vs. 'favorite'
  • orthographemic variation: variation in symbols or letters: 'wifi', 'WiFi', 'Wifi', Wi-Fi', etc.
  • sociographemic variation (this term doesn't yet exist really): variation in the representation of symbols or letters that is at least partially influenced (conditioned) by social factors. Genre is a big social factor here...do you spell things the same on Facebook vs. texting vs. email or formal letters? Bet not.
  • phonotactics: allowable combinations of sounds in a given language; 'sb' is not generally allowable in English (which is why Sbarro is kind of a nightmare).
  • orthotactics: allowable sequences of letters in words of a given language; part of the classification prob of abbrevs and acronyms.
That list was much longer than I intended.


inturnaround: WiFi is an interesting one...people are analogizing from that word in a whole bunch of different ways. WiFi is bi-directionally feed inconsistent (feedforward and feedback) as well as sociophonetically AND sociographemically variable. Interpreting what someone means when they say "I pronounce 'MeFi' like 'WiFi'" is hugely bound by context and other factors. Our level of awareness of all that possibility varies as well. Sometimes we know exactly what someone means when they say that, other times we need more information. I think it's fun and funny to figure it out, and watch others do the same. Ahhh, the complexity of it all! Because with that word, there's even more...are they saying that it's just the first syllable, the second syllable, or both syllables that match their pronunciation? If they say 'WiFi' like [waɪfaɪ] not [wɪfi] or something else, then they may be asserting that they pronounce 'MeFi' like [maɪfaɪ], which implies that they are violating the ortho-phonotactic rules of English (which is fine, happens all the time...but some people have very strong feelings about that). Not to mention the semantic associations of internet community = MeFi and internet technology = WiFi. Or the matches in orthographemic representation, CamelCase for both forms (the capital 'F'). In sum, it's a pretty strong match to MeFi in a lot of ways, but because all of those ways are variable in and of themselves, it actually doesn't tell us much at all. Except when they're aligned ("I pronounce both the same") and you can disambiguate what that means with, say, someone selecting an option from an array of sound files that would clear things up.

cortex: two things. "Meff" is a derogatory term here in parts of Northern England. It's fairly obscure though. It can also be used as a term of endearment, in the way many other derogatory terms can. But also here in the UK there's a wireless internet router/product called MiFi...presumably pronounce like WiFi...however you choose to pronounce that.

panaceanot and EvaDestruction: spelling conventions (and variation) totally influence pronunciation...at the letter level (how do you pronounce 'e'), the bi-gram level (two letters together), the syllable level, the morpheme level, the word level and even positionally for both letter, word and sentence (beginning, middle or end of each). Also influenced by capitalizations (especially within a word). And your own production frequency of these letters in words, and of the words themselves --- all of this is going to influence what you produce for any other given form. Enter word frequency tables...

I'm going to stop here. Long email is long. Sorry...hope this is interesting!
posted by iamkimiam at 9:17 AM on August 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


Huh, I just noticed something I wish I'd been able to put in the 'additional comments' field, but didn't notice until too late, so now that I've noticed it I'll put it here where maybe iamkimiam will notice it:

I pronounce "MeFi" and "MeTa" with "meh" as in "meta". And felt pretty smug for being so logically consistent. But "MeMail" clearly ought to be pronounced "mee mail". And "AskMe" is obviously "ask me."

So much for logical consistency.
posted by ook at 9:21 AM on August 23, 2012


Ops, I must have tapped some wrong button, I haven't completed the questionnarie, but now It says I can't complete it :( Can my answers be resetted?
posted by elpapacito at 9:42 AM on August 23, 2012

Jesus christ you shouldn't ask English people to describe their own accents. I put down like a paragraph of thinly-disguised self-loathing and class consciousness and eventually ran out of space in the textbox. I had so much more to say about how the way I speak is ridiculous and awful, but still not as bad as Those People! This is important data for your researches goddammit!
I'm likely the only soul who used the word "politically" in describing their accent. Because, you know, if somebody's going to hold my accent against me, I would rather they did it for the right reasons.
Oh god yes. I sort of hate my accent: my parents and the place I grew up all have different, identifiable regional accents, and yet somehow I ended up sounding like I'm from the more pretentious end of Radio 4. I end up with people making all sorts of weird assumptions about my background, (aspired) class, etc., almost none of them accurate or flattering. Seriously, I can silence a pub in my home village by just talking in my current accent. But there's no denying that in the right context, a confident manner in a slightly posh/"educated" voice can be a bizarrely powerful tool, and I'm not above milking it occasionally. Which heaps on another layer of confusion/guilt. Aargh.
posted by metaBugs at 9:44 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


sociographemic variation (this term doesn't yet exist really): variation in the representation of symbols or letters that is at least partially influenced (conditioned) by social factors. Genre is a big social factor here...do you spell things the same on Facebook vs. texting vs. email or formal letters? Bet not.

I first saw this when I was analyzing data from a pilot program on USSD classifieds for townships in South Africa. It was an entirely different language, the textspeak (in English presumably) and conventions were very different.

Is this what you're going to make happen, iamkimiam? Manifest this new term?
posted by infini at 9:44 AM on August 23, 2012


I hope so. A huge part of the dissertation focuses on the enregisterment* of MeFi/MeFite. It's been necessary to come up with a handful of new linguistics terms. I had a little laugh when I realized this meta-layer of enregisterment I'm attempting within the sociolinguistics community and the new words I need to explain enregisterment processes within the MeFi community.

*how forms become part of the register of a community and take on their own social life from there...think of the meaning of "beans" here.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:51 AM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


But "MeMail" clearly ought to be pronounced "mee mail".

I cut the head off this particular gorgon by prefering "mefimail".
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:55 AM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


The future of search on the emerging mobile based global webs is going to be fascinating. Your work will be part of that foundational knowledge.
posted by infini at 10:00 AM on August 23, 2012


I pronounce it my way because that is the right way.
posted by chillmost at 10:24 AM on August 23, 2012


Hmm, I spent 11 years in Arkansas myself (same town as wierdo). I live in California now, though.

It's clearly MeFi-rhymes-with-bee-pie for me on the analogy of wifi, hifi, DiFi (Dianne Feinstein - yes, note spelling), FiDi (the Financial District of SF), refi, and even other localisms like CoHo (the coffeehouse at Stanford). Many of these show a change in vowel sound that is officially described by linguists as "wacky." ;)

(Seriously though, the overriding "meta" overwhelms this mechanism for me in MeTa, so I go back to the other pronunciation.)
posted by wintersweet at 10:29 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Like Abraham Lincoln once said, "It's pronounced Meh-fie and Meh-fight. Duh."
posted by book 'em dano at 10:53 AM on August 23, 2012


I cut the head off this particular gorgon by prefering "mefimail".

Given all the pronunciations of mefi, I think that makes it more of a hydra.
posted by maryr at 10:54 AM on August 23, 2012


Just send memail. See, that's easy.
posted by infini at 11:26 AM on August 23, 2012


Random things...many of your suggestions have been incorporated into the survey (note about UK pronunciations, link to MeTa thread at the end, bug fixes, etc.)...thanks! Also, if anybody is having problems with the survey or submitted incomplete, you can leave comments here and I will respond (or I already have responded) via MeFi Mail. I've also responded to as many comments/questions from the surveys as I can, so thanks for bringing up concerns and just generally being awesome with the support. It's really encouraging!

"What's the semantic satiation equivalent for when you think about a word's pronunciation so much that you no longer know how to pronounce it anymore?"

Oooh! We should come up with a word for that!

"Is the frequency count email supposed to arrive right away?"

Ack. I wish I had mentioned something about this in the survey text. This is cortex's domain (and thanks cortex!), but we'll definitely wait until all the results are in (Sunday night) and then it'll be a bit of time after that. It's a lot of data to process and email!

"One small cultural oddity was in asking my ethnicity."

Ethnicity means different things to different people in different places. Some questions don't apply, or do, but not in the same ways. I'll be taking that into account wherever possible. Don't worry. Answer what you feel comfortable with answering. It's all helpful, and I totally appreciate the insight about how people from various places approach the subject of ethnicity and the like. It really is useful to know.

"So, I feel like really, I have two native languages. And that isn't an option..."

Darnit...I thought I worded it in a way that addressed that possibly, but now I see that I didn't. I should've added "Native" to the options in proficiency in other languages. Darn. It won't be a terrible loss, but would've been good to have that distinction. Thanks for pointing it out.

I think I'm caught up on comments. Thanks again for all the greatness. I want to favorite everything. Even the moments where I read something one of yous wrote and I find myself laughing. I wish I could favorite life.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:04 PM on August 23, 2012


I wish I could favorite life.

This is my favorite thing I have heard today. It warms the nerdy cockles of my heart. And it therefore makes me sad that I shall have to denounce you for spelling "youse" incorrectly. ;-)
posted by EvaDestruction at 2:14 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


The 'e' is silent.

and invisible.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:19 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd love to read the paper that comes out of this research. Any way I can be alerted when that happens?
posted by cmchap at 3:48 PM on August 23, 2012


sociographemic variation (this term doesn't yet exist really): variation in the representation of symbols or letters that is at least partially influenced (conditioned) by social factors. Genre is a big social factor here...do you spell things the same on Facebook vs. texting vs. email or formal letters?

Also I bet it varies depending on what device someone's doing the survey on - eg it might be more annoying to add in the extra capital F in MeFi when typing on a phone, so maybe people are less likely to do it then. (And same thing for why there are different standards when texting or twittering maybe - people are more likely to do those from a phone?)
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:30 PM on August 23, 2012


I'm another one of the Meh-fee, mee-fight crowd. We're so going to rule! Y'all drool! We'll take you to skool! and push you in the pool!

We get, like, chocolate or something, right?

'mefi' instead of 'MeFi'. CamelCase indeed. I wonder if 'me_fi'

Oddly, I parse me_fi as "Mee-fie"! I blame you all.
posted by Deoridhe at 6:52 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


By the way, I just asked my wife how she'd pronounce MeFi and MeFite, and since neither of us think she'd ever heard me use either out loud, she's a virgin to the debate. She said -- with no hesitation -- Mee-Fye and Mee-Fight.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:55 PM on August 23, 2012


but I haven't picked up more than a couple of linguistic markers that I use unconsciously. But give me ten minutes of conversation with anyone from anywhere and I will slide into whatever they're using.

I pick up enunciation but not as much accent, except sometimes I can recapture my childhood new English accent and I am happy. I, however, mug language for all I'm worth - which can be difficult when I've read too many historical romances and I use "bluestocking" without thinking people might not know what I mean!!!

([haɪ] can be spelt 'hi' or 'high').

I am somehow amused I tend to spell hai as... hai. Or, more usually, OHAAAAAAAAAAI~!!! (aren't you guys glad I don't greet you on mefi and meta? I use a lot of tilde's in casual conversation, and little hearts, and too many exclamation points.)

I pronouce AskMe as ask me and MeTa as meta because that's... right. Duh!
posted by Deoridhe at 7:08 PM on August 23, 2012


It had never occurred to me to say MehFie or MehFight, but that sounds so much better than my previously preferred "Mee." I just might switch.
posted by apricot at 7:36 PM on August 23, 2012


On Google chrome with plugins disabled the buttons load for the audio files, but clicking them does nothing (because plugins are disabled) until I figured this out and temporarily enabled them. Just a little side problem.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 3:07 AM on August 24, 2012


accent? I didn't see a question about accent, I saw a question about dialect, which to me are very different things.

Mine's a hybrid of a zillion influences: Malaysian, Bangladeshi, British, American, Singaporean, Australian. People tend to read all sorts of accents in my voice. "Where is your accent from?" is the second-most common question I get after "where are you from?" - though I hate them both because no one believes or respects my answer.
posted by divabat at 8:06 AM on August 24, 2012


Yep, some of you people put a *LOT* of stuff in that box. Needed a bigger box. I might just code those as "Dialects. ALL THE DIALECTS."
posted by iamkimiam at 9:52 AM on August 24, 2012


ME FI FO FUM!

That's my argument.
posted by Kabanos at 11:49 AM on August 24, 2012


I don't think I actually know what a dialect is, exactly. I can't access the survey again, but I think I answered that question thinking 'accent'.
posted by muddgirl at 1:13 PM on August 24, 2012


(I mean, I can look up the dictionary definition of a dialect, so feel free to skip that bit. But whenever I see the word 'dialect' I think 'accent.')
posted by muddgirl at 1:14 PM on August 24, 2012


"What's the semantic satiation equivalent for when you think about a word's pronunciation so much that you no longer know how to pronounce it anymore?"

Oooh! We should come up with a word for that!

I'd call that [binplaItIŋ].
posted by knile at 1:36 PM on August 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think in the US, regional dialects (ie, the few distinctive vocabulary and usage idiosyncrasies) are pretty closely tied to regional accents. Anyway, I answered in the same way, talking about dialect as a way to get at regionalisms.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:38 PM on August 24, 2012


A while back I visited this gotoquiz site to find out what accent I have, and used it to specify my dialect.

Which, now that I think about it, is the wrong answer. Sorry!
posted by CancerMan at 1:42 PM on August 24, 2012


An accent is basically the sound layer of a dialect. So a dialect includes the accent, but also the words and phrases that are specific/local, as well as the differences in syntax (word order and sentence structure) and other bits, like the social conventions that manifest in language (ex. in many American dialects, if you want something it's fairly common to say "Can I get a..." which may be interpreted very differently, i.e., rude, in other, non-American dialects).

The confusion between accent and dialect is not helped by the everyday, colloquial use of the words, where they're pretty much considered interchangeable, or one term becomes a proxy for the other. Or reporters and such aren't clear on the difference and misreport. Easy to do, because it is really confusing already!
posted by iamkimiam at 2:24 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


So if I say both "y'all" and "hella", what dialect do I speak :(

I guess I am still more Western than Texan because whenever someone says, "I might could," I get an irrational urge to slap them.
posted by muddgirl at 2:33 PM on August 24, 2012


I should clarify...I don't expect people to answer that question on the survey in technical terms. I'm more interested in how people define/describe the way they speak...in their own terms. Some will answer in technical terms, but most will talk about it in terms of the city, region or stereotype of where they're from. It's super fascinating, that.

It also helps me categorize things...if somebody answers, say, "Texan" on the dialect question, but also says they're living in Scotland and the last survey they said Canada...it's a very different scenario than say, answering "Texan", Texas now and Texas two years ago. Two people with more or less the same dialect, but the first person is considerably more mobile and therefore has had quite a bit of exposure to other linguistic environments. Also, if somebody describes a dialect that is incredibly different than the place they're currently living, one can assume they weren't born and raised where they're currently living. It's not 100% accurate of course, but it is a very rough stand-in for asking the "where were you born and raised" question, which I definitely find waay to invasive to even think about asking people and is generally too complicated for most to answer anyway.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:37 PM on August 24, 2012


"So if I say both "y'all" and "hella", what dialect do I speak."

Oakland, yo.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:38 PM on August 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


After completing the survey, I thought of this: How do other MeFites pronounce the giant's chant from Jack and the Beanstalk, "Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum" (Joseph Jacobs' version)? I ask this because the "Fee" is how some would pronounce the Fi in MeFi, but then there's a "Fi" right next to it. WHAT NOW?!
posted by youngergirl44 at 3:10 PM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


See, I usually write it "Mefi", not "MeFi". So to me it looks more like "Buffy" than "Me Fi."

Gosh, that's a way better explanation than what I put on the survey.
posted by muddgirl at 3:20 PM on August 24, 2012


Well harrumph! I just followed CancerMan's quiz link. My result: Philadelphia. Philadelphia?!?

To answer on Kim's survey, I googled images for US American English dialects and used the maps. My answer from that came in third on the goto quiz. I think I do not actually know how I speak, because I do not sound Philly! Ai yai.

I find all this fascinating, even if my eyes do cross when Kim starts to define the linguists' terms for us. Wish I understood it better. Interesting stuff.

MeeFie, MeeFight, MehTaah... and Me-Mail as in mail me!
posted by jaruwaan at 4:01 PM on August 24, 2012


Damn. I pronounce it "MEH-fee" and "MEH-fight".

Because, duh, it's not "MEE-ta", it's "MEH-ta". As in metacontextual, metaprogramming, metalanguage, etc. And "fite"...well, by itself you would pronounce it "fight", so...


And per CancerMan's link, I apparently have a Midland accent. My Southern ancestors despair....
posted by magstheaxe at 4:13 PM on August 24, 2012


Hmm. Am I the only one who says Mee-Tah?
posted by Night_owl at 4:33 PM on August 24, 2012


That quiz says I have a Philadelphia accent. It is right! Although I don't have an accent, the rest of youse just talk weird.
posted by madcaptenor at 4:57 PM on August 24, 2012


The quiz says Midlands for me - which it then elaborates on to say that it means no accent at all.

My favorite of these online dialect mappy things was the huge one that indicated that I came from a part of the country where we actually have *fewer* vowel sounds - 13 instead of the usual American 14 - which suddenly explained part of the reason I had *so much trouble* with the vowels in my college Linguistics class. Also I thie r-fronting thing mentioned here screws me up, but maybe I'm just really bad at hearing vowels independent of my native speech.
posted by maryr at 6:01 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a Midlands girl, per the quiz, which sounds about right. I did grow up in the Midwest, after all. But after many years of living abroad, something must have shifted slightly in my speech: lots of people seem very confused by my "accent" (or maybe lack thereof), and wonder where I'm from. They never seem to quite believe me when I tell them.

My guess is that the aliens messed up something in the reprogramming after they abducted me, and careful listeners can hear the ever-so-slight difference between my speech patterns and those of a normal human. It must be disorienting.
posted by Superplin at 6:26 PM on August 24, 2012


Yup, Midlands here too. They say that covers *southern* Illinois but I assume they are trying to differentiate the Chicago city accent, which is definitely different but also not all that common in the suburbs (and my parents are small-town Midwesterners.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 6:33 PM on August 24, 2012


Well, I tried. I just can't do the "Meh" sound. I guess I'm a dyed in the wool MeeFight.
posted by apricot at 8:06 PM on August 24, 2012


*ponders*

*selects "listens to Mefi Music a lot"*
posted by Pronoiac at 8:14 PM on August 24, 2012


The quiz says I'm from the Inland North, which is interesting since I grew up near Brum in the British Midlands.
posted by arcticseal at 9:33 PM on August 24, 2012


Hmm. Am I the only one who says Mee-Tah?
posted by Night_owl


I've only heard that when 'Meta' is a woman's name, from somewhere down southern.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:58 PM on August 24, 2012


Since others have mentioned their results from the accent quiz, I apparently have a Boston accent. This is funny, because I'm about as far away from Boston as a World Series title.

There's also a what accent do you really have quiz from the same person, that claims to be better as far as not giving out wrong answers (with apologies to Pittsburgh). Not much variance in my result for that one, as I seem to have a "Northeast New England" accent.
posted by CancerMan at 11:41 PM on August 24, 2012


I described my accent or dialect or whatever the survey question was as "American Broadcast Boring" which considering that I have the world's worst General American accent (wiki link) seems to me to be definitively the right description.

It's bizarre. I have two linguist acquaintances who want to study me. You have no regional variations! We don't get it! You have one parent from a Spanish speaking country and another parent who spent 8 of her formative years in a different Spanish speaking country! You speak fluent Spanish! You were in a relationship for 2 years with a person from English when you were 16 and you spent 4+ hours a day on the phone! You lived in Northern California for 2 years! This doesn't make any sense! (They get very excited about it, hence all the exclamation points.)

Look, I can't help it if I talk how everyone expects me to talk. Apparently I'm very resistant to pernicious influence. And for what it's worth, I'm Mee Fye and Meh Fight all the way.
posted by saveyoursanity at 12:57 AM on August 25, 2012


Huh. That's interesting. I wonder if it's that you're "resistant" to all this linguistic exposure, or if you're normalizing all of the various input. Or if, regardless of how you're processing it all, you're producing your linguistic output according to very narrowly defined targets (for a whole other host of reasons, internally and/or externally motivated). That's somebody else's dissertation...you should get your friends on it!
posted by iamkimiam at 5:12 AM on August 25, 2012


I've only heard that when 'Meta' is a woman's name, from somewhere down southern.

Then that's really odd, considering my grandma's name is Meta and she pronounces it May-tah.
posted by Night_owl at 6:57 AM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am a wrongheaded outlier, due to growing up with Southern Californian, moving to New Orleans, and then moving to Nottingham, so everything I say sounds wrong no matter where I am.

So I apologise for skewing your data.

(Although I do love shouting things like "Bloody hell, y'all, awesome!")
posted by Katemonkey at 7:52 AM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I took the accent quiz and got 'northern' which, well, yeah. Born in southwest Michigan, finished high school in the suburbs of Chicago, college in the quad cities. The thing is, that background has been a huge help in teaching English as a foreign language, though with the stress my junior high puts on phonics, I'll admit to serious over thinking of the questions in that quiz.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:34 AM on August 25, 2012


iamkimiam: I think you're on the right track with the normalizing idea. (And what the fuck, I can't believe I wrote "English" instead of "England" in my last post.) I'm one of those people that soaks up other people's dialects; I used to amuse my English ex when I visited by talking to his family in my (apparently extremely good) imitation of his accent so they could understand me. But in the end, I always come back to what I know.

I do always say "worsh" (wash) as well as use the word y'all (very rarely), but I blame that on being stubborn-- my mom says those words like that & when I used them at home or in school people would make fun of me, so I clung to them to show that I wasn't going to change just because they thought it was strange.

This whole study is simply fascinating; I can't wait for the results!
posted by saveyoursanity at 8:56 AM on August 25, 2012


Yeah, I pick up all sorts of accents and dialects and slang from wherever I lived and travelled, hence the constantly unplaceable nature of my voice & speech. The effect is usually this weird "you sound local! WAIT HANG ON" (and it especially trips up people's racist assumptions, but that inevitably leads to "Your English is very good!" -_-)
posted by divabat at 9:45 AM on August 25, 2012


Fascinating. This was one of the most interesting short surveys I have ever taken. The whole "how do you pronounce mefi" was something I'd never even thought about.

Nailing down my mongrel background was fun, too.
posted by clvrmnky at 4:50 PM on August 25, 2012


I (used to be) fascinated by the way people pick up accents in conversation— I pick up some parts of the speech style of the person I'm talking to very quickly (rhythm and a little word choice and sentence structure) but other parts much more slowly (vowels). And some of my vowels seem to be frozen at what was spoken around me at age 6-12, while most of the rest have changed as my context has changed, and a few will happily change within a few sentences to match whomever I'm speaking with, others in a few days if I'm away from home. Are some vowels always more fixed? Are the fixed/malleable vowels the same vowels for everyone?


Then again, I say "wee-key-pedia" so I'm pretty sure I'm wrong about this one, too.

It's derived from the Hawai'ian word wikiwiki, which is pronounced "wee-kee", as were the original wikiwiki webs from which Wikipedia drew its name and format. On the other hand I've never heard anyone else pronounce Wikipedia that way— I guess that at some point between Ward Cunningham's sites and Jimmy Wales', the pronounciation changed.
posted by hattifattener at 6:34 PM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


wifi, hifi, lofi, refi, sodo, soho: mefi.

mee-fie. mee-fight, and obvs AskMe, me-mail.

et cetera.

the rule is that in these two-syllable concatenated portmanteau crush words, the vowels are long. It's pretty consistent.
posted by mwhybark at 10:05 PM on August 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


My only regret is that we don't have longitudinal data to determine if there is a Western Websites Vowel Shift taking place. It would be completely imperceptible to the speakers.
posted by dhartung at 9:08 AM on August 26, 2012


I couldn't get the sounds to work and I don't understand the phonetic alphabet so I mostly picked randomly.
posted by octothorpe at 10:49 AM on August 26, 2012


If you provided a description of how you would pronounce MeFi/MeFite in writing (two of the later questions in the survey), that should be fine. Or if you don't mind, I can follow up with you in email to sort it out.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:47 AM on August 26, 2012


And done, hope that helped. Looking forward to seeing the paper in question if at all possible (and when it's complete of course).

Best wishes!
posted by RolandOfEld at 2:45 PM on August 26, 2012


If you provided a description of how you would pronounce MeFi/MeFite in writing (two of the later questions in the survey), that should be fine. Or if you don't mind, I can follow up with you in email to sort it out.

I don't really have a preferred way to pronounce it but I did try to indicate that in the comments.
posted by octothorpe at 6:04 PM on August 26, 2012


Actually the longer I thought about it and read the words, the more I became convinced that I was mispronouncing it, and my brain had just arbitrarily come up with what it felt was the best way to say it. But damned if I could remember any alternative pronunciation used - even after two MeFi meetups and listening to the podcast in the past.

But I'm going to ignore the conclusion that it's just me getting older and try and come up with something better, involving moving around the US a lot. And perhaps giant alligators.
posted by batgrlHG at 7:46 PM on August 26, 2012


Add me to the list of those unable to hear the audio (Chrome, OSX) But I have Flash turned off and run adblock, so troubleshooting what's to blame there would be a chore.

I managed to hear them by right clicking on the pronunciation, selecting "inspect element" and then clicking the MP3 link that highlights.

Because seriously, no one but a linguist understands that pronunciation madness. I'm a native English speaker and I can't even pronounce MeFi right. What are my chances when you add several hundred special characters?
posted by Ookseer at 2:16 AM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ha, I know. The thing is, I needed a way to label the different pronunciations that wouldn't inherently rank them (1, 2, 3 or a, b, c, etc.) or prime you to think about the pronunciations in a certain way. And since I'm interested in your phonetic respellings (e.g., "may-fight", "mee-fee", etc.) I didn't want to give you suggestions.

Secretly, I'm just trying to teach you all IPA...one word at a taɪm
posted by iamkimiam at 2:22 AM on August 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I made a shirt based on my previous comment.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:50 AM on August 27, 2012


That's hardcore! (should I expect no less from Rock Steady?)
posted by iamkimiam at 6:41 AM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm putting together a post with some info about the 2010 survey (and what I can gather from this 2012 one), but it's taking me some time and I'm heading out to a BBQ (in the rain)...it's a bank holiday weekend here in England, yay. Anyways, I want to crunch a few data things and prep this right, instead of rushing to spit out random results. I'll finish up and post what I've found so far when I return home later.

It looks like 1,920+ MeFites participated in this 2012 survey (2,521 in the 2010 one...that was 16% of the active MetaFilter userbase at that time), THANK YOU!! Also, your comments and suggestions have been helpful and hilarious. It's been great and encouraging to read and I've emailed many of you, with many more to go. Ok, gotta run; will update again soon. Thanks again!
posted by iamkimiam at 6:49 AM on August 27, 2012


Er, not a post, a comment.
posted by iamkimiam at 6:50 AM on August 27, 2012


Secretly, I'm just trying to teach you all IPA...one word at a taɪm

I'm kind of hoping you deliver on that. Slowly, you start introducing more and more IPA'ed words into your post. In a year or two, they're solid IPA, and no-one really thinks much of it. "Oh, that's just how kim posts".

/I would also like to offer this (awful) joke for use in Linguistics 101 classes: "What kind of beer does a linguist drink? IPA!".
posted by benito.strauss at 12:48 PM on August 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


I got my word frequency email; yay!

btw, I'm not sure it's linking to the right comment where it says:

There's some more detail on how the frequency tables are constructed in this comment from 2011:

http://metatalk.metafilter.com/20829/Words-words-words#908529

posted by lalex at 1:36 PM on August 27, 2012


Oh man, that is completely not the right comment and that is entirely my fault! I meant to link to this comment. Sorry, thousand or so confused people!
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:38 PM on August 27, 2012


Hi, ok, the survey is now closed and I'd like to start spilling the, əhɛm, beans.

First though, I want to say thank you to everybody who participated. The response and support was overwhelming! There's dust in my eye just thinking about it. Many of you also offered suggestions to improve the survey, which pb was able to incorporate as we went. That was truly helpful.

And thank you to the mods who let all this pronunciation silliness happen, and especially to pb and cortex, who made this happen with their mad coding skɪlz! I am forever grateful for their continued support of this project.

One more thing I want to say too, just because I think it's the sort of thing that should be shared. There were countless comments in the surveys where MeFites expressed their love for MetaFilter. This site means so much to so many people. As a single data point, I know what MetaFilter means to me, but to see this appreciation expressed so many different ways from MeFites everywhere was really wonderful. Sometimes when I have my own doubts about my participation on the site, or about this giant project, I can remember that people love the place just as much if not way more than I do and that's part of what makes it a real community. It's something that's hard to express in words and sounds at every level I guess.

Ok, let's pause the lovefest for a quick data diversion.

I've got a LOT of new data...so much that I can't even begin to code and tabulate it. That's not even including the word frequency files (which aren't generated yet and should take some time, as it's a lot of data for cortex and pb to process and deal with). For now, I'm just going to report mostly on the 2010 survey data.

There were 15,762 active MeFites* from March 2009 to March 2010. In the March 2010 survey, 2,521 MeFites participated, from across 50+ current countries of residence — that's 16% of the active MetaFilter userbase! 92% of those surveys were from MeFites currently living in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. The average age was 33; average gender distribution was 62% male, 36% female.**

fyi, this data subset was the focus of the paper that will be coming out in Names: Journal of Onomastics' special issue called "Names, Naming and the Internet". That's expected to be available in November, but I'm currently trying to find out if and how I can share a preprint of the article publicly, and before then. If so, then I'll throw it on my website and you all can read the finer details with the actual numbers.

Anyways, moving along. That data is focused on native English speakers living in those four places, as a starting point and a baseline to look at the rest. I also only looked at the first syllable for now, as that's the one people differ on and debate the most. More complex interactions and results from that a little bit later.

The 2012 survey resulted in 1,923 MeFites submitted surveys, from 47 different countries of residence. The preferred pronunciation order is still the same (see next paragraph), but I can already see from a quick glance that the amounts by which certain variants are preferred has shifted a bit, depending on which geography or other social factor (age, gender, length of time on site, etc.) they're sorted by. It's super exciting and I can't wait to see what this new data reveals with respect to changes over time.

As for the pronunciation distribution of MeFi, I made a post on my research website that has the full version of a presentation I gave last year at a great little conference called VaLP. In the presentation you'll see a little bit of everything I'm working on, including some charts showing the pronunciation distribution of the first syllable of MeFi, [mi-, mɛ-, meɪ-, maɪ-] divided by broad geographic categories. The list in that previous sentence is in order of most preferred to least preferred, meaning that "me" variants (specifically, mifaɪ) are the most common, but, depending on where you are and other factors, not by much, as [mɛ-] variants closely trail.

Here's a little chart I made to help make sense of all this IPA garble.

The thing to note is that while the preference order is consistent no matter how you look at it, the amounts that certain variants are preferred vary, depending on geography and other social factors. This is the main gist of what I'm looking at now. Which social factors are statistically significant in the pronunciation of MeFi (and MeFite) and why? I'm slowly solving the big puzzle, but there's lots to do. And I can't flip over the box to see what the picture looks like. Yet.

I'm happy to discuss this further and answer any questions you have. What do you want to know? What's interesting to all of *you* in this?

*An active user was defined as any MeFite who made at least one comment or one post within the prior year. Special thanks to FishBike for calculating that result from the InfoDump data.

**The ratio of male vs. female survey participants in the UK (72% male; 27% female) and the US (62% male; 36% female) was statistically significant (X2 = 5.51, p = 0.019, df = 1).

posted by iamkimiam at 1:40 PM on August 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Sorry, thousand or so confused people!

I fixed the comment link after the first 200 or so went out. So if you got an email that links to a wacky comment it's kind of like getting one of those upside-down-airplane stamps.
posted by pb (staff) at 1:42 PM on August 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


Did the word frequency tabulation include deleted posts or comments? In mine, there is a word that I can't find by searching my activity.
posted by lalex at 1:44 PM on August 27, 2012


I got my word frequency table. The first proper word (after all the pronouns and filler stuff like 'and' and 'the' and all that) was 'car' with 2070 counts.

Huh. Who saw that coming.
posted by Brockles at 1:45 PM on August 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


A weird thing I found—it seems some HTML (the tags for list items is where I noticed it) is elided somehow in the way the frequency tables are calculated. For example, my table shows this word:
strongadrianadrienagustinahmadaidanakselthe
which can't be found when you search for it on the website.* The actual text of the comment is: It seems to have to do with the fact that there are no spaces between the words strong, Adrian, Adrien, Agustin, Ahmad, Aidan, Aksel, and the.

*Well, now it can be found, in this very comment, but that's not the point.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:46 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks cortex and pb!
posted by iamkimiam at 1:46 PM on August 27, 2012


No ocherdraco, you just entered the time slip.

This is the frequency table of the future!
posted by iamkimiam at 1:48 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


[keanu]

Whoa.

[/keanu]
posted by ocherdraco at 1:52 PM on August 27, 2012


oooh I just got my word frequency table! it's pretty hilarious. Apparently I am very fond of making up my own words by stringing a bunch of stuff together with dashes (in fact I was tempted to do it with the previous phrase) resulting is such interesting table entries as:

distract-you-little-buggers-from-chewing-my-home-to-bits

calculatedly-mismatched

box-o-deliciousness

big-club-drunk-jerk

you-as-a-nice-norrmal-person

and this one that makes no damn sense:

self-obfuscating-dressed-up-extraneous-counter-productive-alienating
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:00 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Did the word frequency tabulation include deleted posts or comments? In mine, there is a word that I can't find by searching my activity.

It does, and so that may happen.

It also makes some assumptions about how to strip formatting out of the raw comments that, in combination with HTML and punctuation in the original comment, may munge some words up a little bit.

So, ocherdraco, you're right on; you've got that

strongadrianadrienagustinahmadaidanakselthe

because of this comment with a bulleted list, in which the stripping of the <li> tags seems to have left each name running together into the next without spaces, so that odd "word" starts with the "strong" on the end of the "Adan" line and ends with the "the" after "Aksel". (I found the comment by searching your activity for "Adrian", fwiw.) Presumably you've also got a

gallen-kallelaalastairalbertoalejandroalessandroalessioalexandrealexialialonsoalvaroamitandersandrethere

in there somewhere, and a few others likewise.

This is the tricky thing with trying to write a simple, general tokenizer/filter for free form text fields: people do surprising things that make sense once you see them but are hard to anticipate. So weirdness will likely happen in your counts especially with the hapax legomena.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:03 PM on August 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is the tricky thing with trying to write a simple, general tokenizer/filter for free form text fields: people do surprising things

You might say that they "go nuts."
posted by grouse at 2:26 PM on August 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thought my table was wrong because it claimed I never used the word octopus, then I noticed it didn't include IRL comments.
posted by mimo at 2:36 PM on August 27, 2012


I'm allergic to nuts, may I go bananas instead?
posted by maryr at 2:50 PM on August 27, 2012


NO.
posted by grouse at 2:51 PM on August 27, 2012


OK, why not.
posted by grouse at 2:51 PM on August 27, 2012


59 853.83502170767 always
59 853.83502170767 bad
59 853.83502170767 nice
59 853.83502170767 stuff
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 2:53 PM on August 27, 2012


208 2681.9330548249 their
208 2681.9330548249 there

Hmmmmmm.

(Thanks to this list, I now know that the "Hmmmmmm" I just posted breaks my previous record for number of "M"s in a "Hm." For some reason, I care about this.)
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 3:29 PM on August 27, 2012


I reread through what I wrote earlier and it's a bit of a confusing slog. Here's a summary of what results I've shared above: More later; I just wanted to state what I wrote above, more digestably. :)
posted by iamkimiam at 3:43 PM on August 27, 2012


Fourth bullet point, that "26%" should be "36%", meaning that 36% of the survey respondents were female.
posted by iamkimiam at 3:45 PM on August 27, 2012


Now I am sort of dying to know what deleted comment of mine used the word "zeithaml". I guess it was in the UVA thread but I don't recall being in a particularly flame-throwing mood for that one!
posted by lalex at 3:48 PM on August 27, 2012


You included the text of a resignation letter that grouse had included as a link just above it. Don't recall if we axed it at your request or not, but that was the comment.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:59 PM on August 27, 2012


How is one of my top words BLANK?
posted by divabat at 4:02 PM on August 27, 2012


Wow, you can tell I mostly chatter on about food in AskMe--some high ranked words include garlic, greens, dinner, eating, juice, lemon, bread, beans, and cookbook.
posted by ifjuly at 4:31 PM on August 27, 2012


I also enjoy the sequence that goes directly from "orange" to "partner" to "sexual".
posted by ifjuly at 4:32 PM on August 27, 2012


Aw, and "zitty/Zizek's/zombie-mode-before-passing-out".
posted by ifjuly at 4:34 PM on August 27, 2012


How is one of my top words BLANK?

I have that too! I'm thinking it's a parsing glitch from Cortex's rendering of the HTML text to plaintext. Maybe the dashes that I am fond of using for lists got turned into BLANK?
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 5:51 PM on August 27, 2012


A set I like from down in the single uses:
bacon-accented
bacon-accompanied
bacon-adorned
bacon-embedded
bacon-enveloped
bacon-infused
bad-idea
badasses
posted by maryr at 6:06 PM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


A sequence from my singletons best sung to the tunes of "Handlebars":

i'm-just-doing-this-as-a-side-project
i-can-build-you-a-simple-website-from-start-to-finish
i-cut-holes-in-my-muffler-to-impress-the-whole-neighborhood
posted by ook at 6:40 PM on August 27, 2012


I don't even recall using the word "zentrification".
posted by arcticseal at 7:15 PM on August 27, 2012


The BLANK thing is a bug, yeah. I started work on generalizing the tokenizer to do multi-word frequency tables, and thats just an artifact of a specific failure state I'm not handling elegantly yet. Ignore em, the lowercase "blank" is the actual count, if you've ever said it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:50 PM on August 27, 2012


I don't even recall using the word "zentrification".

There's a user named that. Maybe you quoted or addressed them?
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 11:02 PM on August 27, 2012


Looks like that is precisely the deal. For anybody's reference on this sort of stuff, be aware that aside from the normal site search field at the top right of every page there's also an additional search field on your user profile page you can use to search only your own comments, if you want to try and track something down.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:05 PM on August 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


There were statistically significant differences in the male/female ratio between the US and the UK — the UK tended to skew more towards males (72%); 27% of the UK survey respondents were female.

This is the part of the survey I find most curious. I wonder why that would be? Does it have anything to do with the time difference? I know that sounds on the surface pretty stupid because MetaFilter is available 24 hours a day, but there are definitely hours when there is more action so to speak.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:42 AM on August 28, 2012


MetaFilter: That's somebody else's dissertation



;P
posted by infini at 9:26 AM on August 28, 2012


SLoG, I wouldn't be surprised if it has to do with how these two different cultures embrace technology and internet life. MetaFilter is a bit underground and old school and US-centric. So for non-US cultures, perhaps first come the men nerds, then the women nerds, then the rest. I haven't looked into this too much, admittedly, but I'm curious about it too. Turns out that gender doesn't seem to be all that relevant in the pronunciation of MeFi, so I've back-burnered investigating that social factor (sadly, as internet and gender really interests me in general).

I realise that Pinterest is skewed in the other direction towards UK and gender, but I imagine that again goes back to cultural differences, but for other reasons (Pinterest and MetaFilter have really different ethos and appeal from each other). Anybody have any other thoughts about it?
posted by iamkimiam at 10:23 AM on August 28, 2012


I'd add historical context to what you're saying. I've looked more at mobile phone usage than PC based, in what are commonly known as developing countries and factors influencing internet usage trend more towards education and literacy rates (which also probably skew for gender).

On the other hand when I've looked at chats and classifieds where nothing existed previously, i.e. the mobile was the first piece of information technology easily accessible and thus no context of immersion in a highly technological society (ATMs for eg though we take them for granted) it skews towards the young and there doesn't seem to be an outstanding feeling of males but as many female voices as well.

Similarly with mobile enabled Facebook and Twitter usage.

So, is it social networking that will even out the gender balance eventually, I wonder?
posted by infini at 10:43 AM on August 28, 2012


iamkimiam: "The most preferred pronunciation was "me-fie", followed by "meh-fee" and "meh-fie""

I am glad to know that I say it correctly. Now... how much did we win by??
posted by Grither at 4:41 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hee, well that depends on who "we" is!
posted by iamkimiam at 5:16 AM on August 29, 2012


To be a little less coy now ... the presentation PDF I added to this post on my research website has some charts of MeFi pronunciation prefs, broken down by US vs. non-US and overall and US English monolinguals. It's better than me trying to explain it in words. And charts are fun. :)
posted by iamkimiam at 6:02 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks! And I'm sure you've likely answered this above, but this thread got long:

How do you pronounce them??
posted by Grither at 7:42 AM on August 29, 2012


EXTREMELY SELF-CONSCIOUSLY
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:48 AM on August 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


Self-consciously!
Self-consciously!
Self-conscious! L-y!
posted by grouse at 8:03 AM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh god cortex...I can't stop laughing. I am so, so sorry. I never meant for all of this to happen, not like this. I know this doesn't change anything, but I'm done now, honest.

fwiw, I'm so saturated by these pronunciations that I don't know WHAT the hell is going to come out of my mouth. A week ago I actually referred to you people as "muffles".
posted by iamkimiam at 8:18 AM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


We've got a meetup tonight and it will be interesting to see if I know how to pronounce "mefite" anymore! All versions now sound weird to me.

mee-fight is still correct, though, as is mee-fie.
posted by rtha at 8:37 AM on August 29, 2012


rtha: "We've got a meetup tonight and it will be interesting to see if I know how to pronounce "mefite" anymore! All versions now sound weird to me."

Try: "Youse guys and goils. From dat intanet ting."
posted by zarq at 8:43 AM on August 29, 2012


No worries, I'm just goofing.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:51 AM on August 29, 2012


As long as it doesn't accidently become 'those mofos' ;p *runs*
posted by infini at 9:01 AM on August 29, 2012


Oh man, the gender category has 377 distinct types. This is fun. "dude" was an overwhelmingly popular choice. "cis" designations were used an impressive amount. Anyways, I don't want to share anything about gender beyond that, but I thought those bits were fun and interesting and harmless to share. Also, thank you to everyone who provided extra information!

After doing this survey once with static gender categories (2010), and this time as free-form, I wholeheartedly recommend going the free-form route. Yes, you end up with messier data, and some of it can't be interpreted, but I think the freedom you give to participants to self-identify gives you a much richer dataset. And it promotes equality and all that jazz. It just seems like good practices; would free-form again!
posted by iamkimiam at 9:02 AM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Hee, well that depends on who "we" is!

I for one, welcome this "othering" of those who pronounce MeFi incorrectly (you know who you are). How long before we call a gathering of the tribes?
posted by arcticseal at 9:17 AM on August 29, 2012


We've got a meetup tonight and it will be interesting to see if I know how to pronounce "mefite" anymore! All versions now sound weird to me.

At least we're not doing it at frjtz, because then we'd have to argue about how to pronounce frjtz.
posted by madcaptenor at 10:25 AM on August 29, 2012


I pronounce it "That place we're never going back to unless iamkimiam is here for a visit/welcome home party."
posted by rtha at 10:56 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


> A week ago I actually referred to you people as "muffles".

And that's what I'm going to use from now on. I'm a muffle and proud of it!
posted by languagehat at 12:18 PM on August 29, 2012


"How much was the account?" "Five bucks." "So, you didn't pay a lot for that muffler?"
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:20 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


MUFFLED ALL MY LIFE.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:21 PM on August 29, 2012


So now we get "Muffies"?
posted by infini at 12:40 PM on August 29, 2012


Anyways, I don't want to share anything about gender beyond that, but I thought those bits were fun and interesting and harmless to share.
I think gender bits are often fun and interesting to share...
posted by knile at 1:35 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh man, the gender category has 377 distinct types. This is fun. "dude" was an overwhelmingly popular choice. "cis" designations were used an impressive amount. Anyways, I don't want to share anything about gender beyond that, but I thought those bits were fun and interesting and harmless to share.

I confess to being the "saucette."
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:45 PM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I dragged my family to a meetup tonight. They are sort of but not totally familiar with metafilter (although my mom spent a month googlestalking Matt when I got hired, dad is only vaguely aware of what this whole blog thing is.) As we're driving away, dad says "So, these things, you call them "meht-ups?" And I said "well... no, but I bet someone does, I will ask our linguist, she'll love it.

So. You evil, bad, and wrong "meh"-fites, do you attend "meht-ups"?
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:37 PM on August 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


We only call them met-ups after they happen.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:39 PM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


At a meetup right this very minute and someone came up and asked if we were from the Internet! However you pronounce mefite, we are all from the Internet, yes.
posted by rtha at 8:42 PM on August 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was amused by how many people listed "Internet" as their nationality.

And sometimes, ethnicity.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:17 AM on August 30, 2012


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