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Why Do Wisconsinites Call That A Bubbler, Anyway?

Katie Gnau recently moved to Shorewood from Chicago. And when her daughter came home from school one day, Katie noticed she had picked up a new word for a familiar item. So, she asked WUWM’s Bubbler Talk: Why does everyone around here call that a Bubbler, anyway?

It’s a question a lot of Wisconsinites don’t know the answer to, and those who think​ they know, have often fallen prey to the myth of Harlan Huckleby. As the story goes, a Kohler Water Works employee by the name of Harlan Huckleby designed the “Bubbler” in 1888. It was then patented by the company, which trademarked the name.

The only problem with the story is that none of it’s true.

Beth Dippel is the executive director of the Sheboygan County Historical Research Center, near Kohler. With the help of the archivist at the Kohler Company, she started to unravel the myth of Harlan Huckleby.

“They have done a bunch of research on this over a number of year, gone through their company records and have never been able to find a Harlan Huckleby working for Kohler period,” says Dippel. “And then you get a little bit deeper and the years are incorrect, Kohler didn’t really exist at that time. Kohler was part of Kohler, Heissen & Stein downtown in Sheboygan in the city. But they weren’t making anything like bubblers, they weren’t making plumbing products like Kohler is now.”

While Kohler did eventually create a design called a bubbler in the 1920s, the term actually predates that style of water fountain. So, where did “bubbler” come from? While we can’t be sure, Dippel has her own theory on how the term came to being.

In the late 1800s, Wisconsin was home to thousands of one-room schoolhouses. Many of them featured a relatively new bit of technology: a water container made by the Red Wing company. They were pretty similar to modern water coolers.

“But there was also an attachment that you could lean over, just like we do with bubblers now. And they called that the bubbler,” says Dippel. “And I’m thinking that’s where that came from.”

So, where did Harlan Huckleby come from? Dippel has no idea.

“The curious thing is it is everywhere. If you go on the internet and do any kind of research with bubbler that just comes up automatically,” she says.

You can hear the full conversation with historian Beth Dippel below:

Katie Gnau recently moved to Shorewood from Chicago. And when her daughter came home from school one day, Katie noticed she had picked up a new word for a

What’s A Bubbler? New U.S. Maps Outlines Regional Dialects, Pronunciations

It turns out the United States is polarized, but not a reflection on politics or social issues. A statistical study found that Americans are staunchly divided linguistically.

Many people might be familiar with some of these distinctions in words, phrases or pronunciation, such as the age-old debate over “soda” or “pop” and “you guys” or “y’all.”

Joshua Katz, a Ph.D. student in statistics from North Carolina State University, recently published a set of maps that color code how Americans speak based on where they live in the country.

Katz found that one of the most divisive pronunciations in the country is the word “pajamas.” People are virtually split in two over pronouncing the second “a” in the word like the “a” in “father” or the “a” in “jam.” According to the maps, Wisconsinites call them “pa-JAM-uhs,” not “pa-JAH-muhs.”

Badger state residents also make a name for themselves for what they call the thing someone drinks water out of. Only people from eastern Wisconsin and Rhode Island call it a “bubbler” while those from the rest of the country drinks out of a “drinking fountain” or a “water fountain.”

When it comes to “pecan pie,” one side simply can’t claim a majority. The pronunciations appear to be all over the place, Katz found.

For more information, examine the maps on this website.

It turns out the United States is polarized, but not a reflection on politics or social issues. A statistical study found that Americans are staunchly divided linguistically. ]]>