Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A few maps of the US

I don't know what to make of this. But it has to do with Tom Jones, political leanings, and coleslaw. Three infographic maps of the USA wandered through my browser in the past few weeks. As I recalled, they bore a striking resemblance to each other, so I decided to blog about them.

I will start out by talking about regional dialects. A grad statistics student at NC State recently sent ripples through the twittersphere with some cools maps showing dialectic differences between areas of the USA. He looked at regional data on pronunciation and word usage questions like whether that white stuff on your bagel is called "CREAM cheese" or "cream CHEESE", and how to pronounce the "i" in miracle.

The important question that I want to focus on is the preponderance of people who hold the mistaken belief that it is somehow appropriate to refer to coleslaw as "slaw". In the map below, the regions shaded with a reddish-orange indicate where the use of "the slaw word" is acceptable in mixed company. The areas where you just don't say that are light blue.
Reddish-orange means that the word slaw can be used in place of coleslaw

Important stuff indeed if you are on a road trip and get a hankering for coleslaw!

This next infographic map of the presidential election results showed up in a sidebar in a news article that I was reading. I know... election results? This is old news, but, there is a striking resemblance between this image and the slaw image. Except for a slightly different choice of colors.

State by state presidential results

The following states are reddish in both maps: Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma (15 states). The following states are bluish in both maps: New Mexico, Colorado, California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine (21 states). 

So, unless I counted wrong, 36 of the 48 contiguous states are colored similarly in these two maps. I figger the odds for this happening at random to be around 0.07% [1]. 

There is some very practical advice here. Let's say that, while travelling the US, you were in a bar and wondering whether to bring up the topic of immigration reform. Now, if you didn't happen to know what part of the country you were in, you could easily get a handle on the political leaning by just asking for an order of slaw. If the waitress looks at you funny, then you are pretty safe espousing a liberal viewpoint [2].

Hey, that was fun! How about another infographic of the US that caught my attention this last week? Below, we see a graph of the number of Welsh people per 10,000, on a county by county basis. I am sure most of you were wondering when I would come around to talking about the Welsh [3]!

Number of Welsh people per 10,000

My opinion here (with no math to support it) is that if you squint your eyes just right, this looks a lot like the other two maps. Well, maybe more like the election map than the slaw map. That is, if you ignore what's going on in Wisconsin. And who cares about them anyway?

So, here again, is the practical advice. It is abundantly clear that eating slaw instead of coleslaw will help rein in the rampant Welsh immigration into this country. Please do your civic duty.

[1] This is a quick estimate. I assumed that the choices in both cases were 50-50. It would be preferable to start with the raw data, and do correlation on actual percentages, rather than the binarized red/blue. It would also not be such a bad idea to look at data county by county, if this were available for the coleslaw data. I did not take the time to do that, but hey, come on! Cut me some slack. I write this blog every week! 

[2] If you try this helpful trick and get beat up, I will gladly refund the money you paid me to read this blog.

[3] Useful bit of trivia: Tom Jones was Welsh. Another useful bit of trivia: "Jones himself has admitted that during his Lothario period he slept with up to 250 women a year."

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