Speakers of a language from different geographical areas sometimes use different words or different pronunciations to refer to the same object. These variations define a dialect. The Harvard Dialect Survey was developed by Bert Vaux and Scott Golder in 2003. Of the 100+ questions, several featured insects or arthropods. The name “Daddy Long Legs” was used by almost 95% of respondents from all areas of the country. “Firefly”, “Lightning Bug” and “I use both interchangeably” split equally (29-40%) with most using the two names interchangeably. Entomologists have sought to discontinue the term “lightning bug” in favor of “firefly” as the insect is a beetle and not a bug. Perhaps this indicates and education effect?
The creature with the most variability was the terrestrial isopod. The strongest showing was “Roly Poly” (33%) followed by Pill Bug (16%). There were a lot of names given. Terrestrial isopods are not a single species but a group that contains over 4000 species. Wood Louse the name more commonly used by biologists was used by only 0.5% of the population. It is useful to be aware of the commonly used names when communicating to the public about arthropods. A presentation about the “Roly Poly” may elicit a visual image in more of the audience than a presentation about wood lice.