In some regions, people say "spendy," and in other regions, people have never heard the term. Do they say it in your area?

Mignon Fogarty,

When I was researching the regionalism "needs washed," Bill Bevington recommended that I look into "spendy," which means "expensive" or "extravagant."  Here's the resulting map:

spendy dialect map


A blue pin represents one person who had heard or used "spendy" in the region. A red pin represents one person who has never heard "spendy" in the region. A purple pin represents someone who has heard "spendy," but only rarely or only from a transplant from another region. n=430+ (Go to the interactive map.) Not shown on the map: one person from the UK, one from Dublin, one from the Philippines, and four from Australia who reported that they don't hear "spendy" where they live. Apparently "exxy" is used like "spendy" in Australia.

"Spendy" Is Most Common in the Pacific Northwest and Midwest 

Clearly, "spendy" is common in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Since those regions are not contiguous, I first investigated whether there was some reason a lot of people would migrate from one region to the other. That was a dead end, but I did discover that both regions were centers of immigration for Norwegians starting in the mid-1800s. According to Wikipedia,"today "55% of Norwegian Americans live in the Midwest, although a large number (21%) live in the Pacific States of Washington, Oregon, and California."

This is what scientists call correlation and not causation. That the states with a lot of Norwegian immigrants roughly matches the states in which people say "spendy," doesn't prove that "spendy" is of Norwegian origin. It's just a correlation—a hint—but certainly not an answer.


About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network and creator of Grammar Girl, which has been named one of Writer's Digest's 101 best websites for writers multiple times. The Grammar Girl podcast has also won Best Education Podcast multiple times in the Podcast Awards, and Mignon is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame. Mignon is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing" and six other books on writing. She has appeared as a guest on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and the "Today Show" and has been featured in the New York Times, Business Week, the Washington Post, USA Today, CNN.com, and more. She was previously the chair of media entrepreneurship in the Reynolds School of Journalism in Reno, NV. She hates the phrase "grammar nazi" and loves the word "kerfuffle." She has a B.A. in English from the University of Washington in Seattle and an M.S. in biology from Stanford University. Mignon believes that learning is fun, and the vast rules of grammar are wonderful fodder for lifelong study. 

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