Vernacular regions are regions that are informal and colloquial. They’re the opposite of formal regions which are politically or scientifically defined.
Examples of vernacular regions include the bible belt, silicon valley, and the midwest. These regions are not formal or have clearly set political boundaries. Rather, they exist in the popular imagination.
Vernacular regions generally don’t have specific boundaries. In human geography, we also call them perceptual regions.
Vernacular Region Examples
1. The Heartland
The term ‘heartland’ refers to the central area of a country. In recent years, however, the term has been used more broadly to refer to any place that is considered to be the ‘essence’ of a country.
For example, some people might refer to the United States heartland as being the Midwest, while others might see it as being the rural South. The term is highly subjective and can be used to describe any place that someone considers to capture the country’s true culture and values.
2. The Bermuda Triangle
The Bermuda Triangle is an informal term to describe an area of the Atlantic Ocean that has seen a lot of unexplained disappearances of planes and boats.
It is, roughly, bordered by a triangle formed by Florida, Puerto Rico, and Bermuda. It is one of the most heavily trafficked shipping lanes in the world and is also a popular tourist destination.
Although there are many theories about what might have caused the disappearances of planes and boats, no one knows for sure what happens in the Bermuda Triangle. Some believe that the triangle is home to powerful storms that can capsize ships or bring down aircraft. Others believe that the disappearances are simply the result of human error or bad luck.
3. The Bible Belt
The Bible Belt is a region of the United States where evangelical Christianity has a strong cultural influence. It doesn’t have a specific beginning or end, and isn’t a formally recognized jurisdiction.
The term “Bible Belt” was first used in the 1920s, and it originally referred to the areas of the country where Protestant churches were most active. Today, the Bible Belt includes parts of the Midwest, South, and Northeast.
While evangelical Christianity is still strongest in the Bible Belt, the region is not as religiously homogeneous as it once was. In recent years, there has been a decline in church attendance and an increase in religious diversity.
‘Chinatown’ is the colloquial term for a neighborhood or district in a city with a high concentration of Chinese residents and businesses. It is a term that tends to be embraced by Chinese people and they may hang up welcome signs or lanterns at the entrances.
Chinatowns can be found in cities all over the world, but they are most commonly associated with large metropolitan areas in the United States and Canada.
Many of the earliest Chinatowns were established by Chinese immigrants who came to North America during the 19th century in search of economic opportunity.
Today, Chinatowns continue to be vibrant centers of Chinese culture and commerce, offering visitors a glimpse into the diverse tapestry of Chinese-American life.
5. The Outback
The outback is a term used to describe the middle of Australia. It is often associated with images of red dirt, vast plains and rugged mountain ranges.
While its exact origins are unknown, it is thought to be a corruption of the word “backcountry”. The term first appeared in print in the 1860s, and was popularized by famous Australian writers and poets such as Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson.
For many Australians, the outback is the place where the very spirit their country resides, and its spirit has come to represent the nation as a whole.
6. The Pacific Northwest
The Pacific Northwest is a region of the United States that roughly crosses over the states of Washington and Oregon. Whether the inland areas of these states are considered the PNW is not clear.
It is a region that isn’t formally defined, but exists in the cultural imaginary as a place where people love to hike, are into outdoor activities, and are politically progressive. It’s also got relatively low cultural diversity with a majority white population.
The region is known for its scenic beauty, including the Cascade Mountains, the Puget Sound, and the Columbia River.
7. The Midwest
The Midwest is a region of the United States that includes the states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
The Midwest is not an official region. Rather, like the Pacific Northwest, it’s a vernacular region rather than a formal region. Saying ‘The Midwest’ invokes the culture of a general region of the nation. It does not refer to a formal government area.
The region’s culture is characterized by a strong work ethic, a love of family, and a commitment to community values. Midwesterners are also known for their love of sports, particularly basketball and football.
8. Flyover Country
Flyover country is a term that is typically used to describe the inner rural regions of the United States. It emphasizes the fact that coastal elites and politicians seem not to care about the middle of the country. They prefer to simply fly between LA and New York.
The term can be used by people from the middle of the country to explain how they feel about being forgotten by the government. It may also be used by coastal elites as a derogatory term for the middle of the country that they think is boring.
9. Wine Country
Wine country is a term that is colloquially used for a region that produces wine. The term can refer to the location of a wine region, as well as the climate and geographic features that make it ideal for grape cultivation.
Wine regions are typically classified by their climate, which is determined by factors such as elevation, latitude, and the proximity of bodies of water.
In common vernacular, it can be used to refer to places like Napa and Sonoma, where people take romantic weekend getaways. It doesn’t have a clear boundary or formal status, but is rather just a term that’s used and everyone understands.
10. Silicon Valley
Silicon Valley is a colloquial term that refers to the southern portion of the San Francisco Bay Area in the United States, which is home to many of the world’s largest technology companies.
The region got its name from the silicon chips that are used in computer processors, which were first developed there in the 1960s.
Today, Silicon Valley is a global center for high-tech innovation and research, and it is also home to numerous venture capital firms. Some of the most famous companies in the world, such as Apple, Google, and Facebook, are headquartered in Silicon Valley.
Perceptual regions are some of the hardest types of regions to understand in human geography. Even once you get the general idea that these regions exist in the imagination rather than as formal regions, it’s hard to find examples of perceptual regions. Personally, my favorite example is the bible belt: it explains a culture and a way of life, and everyone generally understands what it means, but no one can really say where it begins and ends.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]