If anyone read my latest post, you know that I was talking about tanbark -- the stuff on the floor of the playground.
I've found that not many people outside of my area know what tanbark is, so I wanted to do a mini, "homemade" linguistics study to find out for sure. I asked people to answer a survey telling me what term they used for it.
I obviously didn't sample a large population of people, but I received answers from 17 different cities/ towns. Out of these 17, there were 3 names for the term: tanbark, wood chips and mulch.
I plotted them on a map, and while more people would definitely need surveyed (another Central PA dialect feature right there), the results are still interesting. From this basic glance and low-quality map, it looks like tanbark is a centralized term native to only Harrisburg-area residents.
Purple = wood chips
Blue = tanbark
Orange = mulch
So for those of you who are like me and from this area, I think this means we need to embrace it! And thanks to those of you who gave into my odd obsession with this word. I promise I'm done with it... for now.
****Jan. 2016 Update:
After publishing this almost 2 years ago, I'm amazed at how many people are still finding this tiny little post and taking the survey. While it's clear that Central PA is tanbark haven, an interesting percentage of Californians seem to know what tanbark is, too.
It might seem trivial, but I'm so interested to see where this term is actually used across the U.S. So if you've stumbled across my little site, please take the survey or comment/share with your thoughts! Feel free to read the post below the survey to learn the backstory.
If you're interested in linguistics like I am, you're probably familiar with all of the common features (soda vs. pop, sub vs. hoagie). There are tons of popular quizzes circulating the Internet nowadays that ask us how we say things -- and even if they're basic or on the surface, I admittedly always love to take them.
Anyone who has been around me for an extended period of time finds that I habitually bring up speech patterns and dialect features on a pretty regular basis. I don't know why I do it, but it always comes up. I personally think it's a great conversation starter, and most people agree with me. It's because everyone is interested in how they talk -- language is something we all have in common, yet still view differently. The way we say things can also give us a sense of authenticity, which never hurts anyone.
This leads me to a word I've been contemplating for the last few years. Up until my early years of college, I thought everyone said this. My best friend and I met at college, but grew up in the same area without knowing it. One day, we were walking outside on campus and she said "it smells like tanbark."
I nodded my head in agreement, until our other friend immediately asked us, "What's that?" We were kind of stunned that she didn't understand, but once I started asking around, I realized a large percentage of people didn't know what it was either. That's when I realized I had a linguistics goldmine on my hands...
If you're reading this and aren't familiar with the term, this is what it is:
ShYou know... the stuff on the floor of a playground. It smells kind of good when it's fresh. The stuff we all used to land in whenever we slid down the slide. It's become clear to me that only a certain group of people from a certain area refer to this as "tanbark." After talking about this with my coworkers the other week, "wood chips" was the other most common option. Although, I did find someone who calls it "shred."
There are a lot of linguistics studies and surveys out there -- this being my favorite one. (Look at it when you have time to be distracted) But I can't find anything about tanbark!
So what do you call it? We need to get to the bottom of it. Please. Help me out, people.
My favorite things are the simple ones: day-long book binges, cozy candles, dog kisses, ink on your hands, tree stars (leaves for those of you who never watched The Land Before Time) sweater weather, new ideas, local craft beer, punctuation, and knotty saltwater hair. Desserts are my favorite meal. I'm a creative writer and editor, and I created this space to keep my writing reflexes sharp and to share my simple ramblings with you!