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If you’re from the South, you likely already know the answer…

Mike Pomranz
November 16, 2018

Despite the fact that Americans shares a common language, the variation in our regional dialects can be far more intricate that we may notice. Of course, obvious examples exist like the classic map of which parts of the U.S. say soda versus pop versus coke. But the way we speak goes even deeper than that: The New York Times has an amazing quiz that can pretty much pinpoint where you’ve lived by asking 25 questions about your word choices. (I moved a few times growing up, and the NYT nailed pretty much every city I’d lived in.)

For Thanksgiving purposes, one dialect choice seems to come with a pretty significant geographical indicator: Do you say “stuffing” or “dressing”? GE Appliances recently surveyed 1,550 Americans across the country on a number of Thanksgiving topics (yesterday we looked at pie preferences), and though the brand found that the majority of us say “stuffing” – 74 percent of respondents to be exact – the remaining 26 percent were concentrated into a pretty specific area. According to their research, only five states prefer the use of “dressing”: Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama, Louisiana, and Tennessee.

What accounts for the difference? GE Appliance surmises that the difference in choice might be due to preparation. “Generally, stuffing is ‘stuffed’ into the turkey and roasted, while dressing is baked in a pan separate from the turkey,” the company writes. “But don’t get too literal; most people just have a family-based preference for calling it one or the other.”

Courtesy of GE Appliances

When I was growing up, my family was full of stuffing addicts (and we always called it “stuffing”). As a result, we used both methods: fit as much stuffing in the bird as possible and then also make some dressing on the side. Then, just to make sure the dressing got some of that delicious turkey moistness with it, we’d mix the stuffing and the dressing together. Looking back at it, turns out we had our own little “stuffing/dressing” melting pot happening. It seems fitting: Isn’t Thanksgiving about bringing people together anyway?

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