A few weeks or maybe months ago there was some discussion over at Language Log about the complex intersection of the terms "blog," "blawg" and the low-back merger, which linguists call the "cot/caught" merger, and which Argotnaut calls the "hottie/haughty" merger, a merger I've touched on here. The complexity I wasn't aware of -- well, one of many -- is that people who distinguish between these vowels don't always agree on which word has which vowel. For instance, the vowels in "Chicago" and "sausage" for me are "caught" vowels, whereas for others they are "cot" vowels.
Thus, when in a recent email my mother coined the term "blahg" -- get it? I had to find out how she pronounced it, so I asked her, ever so innocently (This blog is a secret: don't tell my parents! Or my adviser!) if "blahg" and "blog" are pronounced the same. She said they were.
Does this mean she has the "cot/caught" merger? No, and I can attest she doesn't, nor should she; she's from Barrington, Illinois, what was a small town when she lived there and is now an outer northwest suburb of Chicago, definitively in unmerged territory. Rather, this means that "blog" and, implicitly, "log" in her dialect have the "cot" vowel. Me, I would definitely pronounce "blahg" and "blog" differently -- "log" and "blog" are "caught" words for me.
Thus I propose that there is an isogloss dividing the western suburbs of Chicago from the rest of the Chicagoland area, which I will call the "blahg/blog" isogloss. Since I am making up facts, I will further suggest that this isogloss is in the same place as the one delimiting the occurrence of positive 'anymore' in Chicagoland. So we see that there is actually an isogloss bundle running roughly (why not?) along I-294, or maybe the Cook/Du Page county line. This isogloss reflects cultural differences and historic settlement patterns, though I can't say which ones. Boy, making up facts is fun. Here's a map:
How's that for armchair dialectology? The closest thing to data behind this map comes from my Positive 'Anymore' Unscientific Survey Experiment (PAUSE), which clearly shows that people from the city of Chicago and the inner suburbs think they don't use positive 'anymore' and in fact probably don't, though anymore it's hard to tell.