Seesaw or Teeter or ?

03 Apr 2016Steve Schwarz

I was at Canine Sports Zone for their awesome 2016 National Agility Championship fun match and we were watching the AKC event on the live stream and listening to Esteban and Sarah, from Bad Dog Agility, doing their usual excellent job announcing and we noticed they used the word “Seesaw” for this obstacle:

Meeker on the Teeter or is it a Seesaw?

In my part-o-the-woods, Chicagoland, almost everyone I know uses the term “Teeter” and it got me wondering if using these two different words was a regional thing in the USA. So what do you do when you want the definitive answer to a question? You ask on Facebook!

Make It Happen!

Of course nothing is ever as easy as it first seems… I went to surveymonkey and created a three question survey:

  • What country do you live in?
  • What state/province do you live in?
  • What do you call this obstacle?

Within seconds of posting the survey I found out: I forgot to add Canadian provinces and, most importantly, I hadn’t clarified what I meant by “call”… Within seconds I was getting people adding responses with the verbal cue word they use. So I quickly edited that question and added the Canadian provinces.

Thinking I dodged a bullet, one more hurdle was thrown my way. Surveymonkey has started charging to get the data after the first 100 responses. Sigh. So I paid them a $26 monthly fee to “unlock” the first 1,000 results… I guess I’ll find a different survey solution next time I want to poll people.

Speak English!

On a related note I was surprised to read comments by one or two UK folk who were offended by the Americans “changing English words”. I found the description of the origin of both words very interesting:

Seesaws go by several different names around the world. Seesaw, or its variant see-saw, is a direct Anglicisation of the French ci-ça, meaning literally, this-that, seemingly attributable to the back-and-forth motion for which a seesaw is known.

The term may also be attributable to the repetitive motion of a saw. It may have its origins in a combination of "scie" – the French word for "saw" with the Anglo-Saxon term "saw". Thus "scie-saw" became "see-saw".

In most of the United States, a seesaw is also called a "teeter-totter". According to linguist peter Trudgill, the term originates from the Nordic language word tittermatorter.

When it comes to American English and British English I always think of this wonderful quote attributed to Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw:

England and America are two countries separated by a common language.

Show Me the Results!

I was originally planning on using a fancy web library to create a chloropleth map of the results divided by state and province. It turned out that wasn’t going to be very helpful; you’ll see why when you see the results. Here’s the overall break down for all worldwide responses:

Teeter/Seesaw/Other Graph

So 70% of respondents use the work “Teeter”, 27% use the word “Seesaw” and 3% gave a different answer. The “Others” were folks who use both words, a non-english word, and people who gave me their verbal cue word.

I went to break down the results by country and found:

CountryTotal RespondentsOther %Seesaw %Teeter %
Australia166.25%93.75%0.00%
Canada543.70%3.70%92.59%
Denmark1100.00%0.00%0.00%
Finland10.00%100.00%0.00%
Ireland40.00%100.00%0.00%
Japan10.00%100.00%0.00%
México1100.00%0.00%0.00%
Netderlands10.00%100.00%0.00%
New Zealand110.00%100.00%0.00%
Norway475.00%25.00%0.00%
Soutd Africa20.00%100.00%0.00%
Sweden10.00%100.00%0.00%
Switzerland10.00%100.00%0.00%
United Kingdom1722.84%97.16%0.00%
United States6362.04%5.50%92.45%
Grand Total9102.86%26.59%70.44%

Clearly the USA and Canada are the only countries that use the word “Teeter”! The rest of the world uses “Seesaw” or a different country-specific word. Looking at Canada only 2 of 54 people used “Seesaw” and 2 used other words so they were even more homogenous than the USA in their use of “Teeter”.

So then I looked at the percentages by State for the USA to see if the % 5.5 of Seesaw users where concentrated in a certain part of the country:

StateTotal Votes% Other% Seesaw% Teeter
Alabama30.00%0.00%100.00%
Alaska20.00%0.00%100.00%
Arizona80.00%0.00%100.00%
Arkansas40.00%0.00%100.00%
California444.55%4.55%90.91%
Colorado110.00%0.00%100.00%
Connecticut70.00%28.57%71.43%
Delaware10.00%0.00%100.00%
Florida248.33%8.33%83.33%
Georgia812.50%0.00%87.50%
Idaho80.00%0.00%100.00%
Illinois580.00%5.17%94.83%
Indiana110.00%0.00%100.00%
Iowa70.00%0.00%100.00%
Kansas50.00%0.00%100.00%
Kentucky70.00%0.00%100.00%
Louisiana40.00%25.00%75.00%
Maine50.00%20.00%80.00%
Maryland812.50%0.00%87.50%
Massachusetts119.09%36.36%54.55%
Michigan190.00%5.26%94.74%
Minnesota511.96%0.00%98.04%
Mississippi50.00%0.00%100.00%
Missouri210.00%4.76%95.24%
Montana10.00%0.00%100.00%
Nevada10.00%0.00%100.00%
New Hampshire70.00%28.57%71.43%
New Jersey80.00%12.50%87.50%
New Mexico30.00%0.00%100.00%
New York290.00%0.00%100.00%
Nortd Carolina119.09%9.09%81.82%
Nortd Dakota40.00%0.00%100.00%
Ohio230.00%4.35%95.65%
Oklahoma210.00%4.76%95.24%
Oregon283.57%0.00%96.43%
Pennsylvania140.00%14.29%85.71%
Rhode Island10.00%100.00%0.00%
South Carolina120.00%0.00%100.00%
Tennessee100.00%10.00%90.00%
Texas456.67%8.89%84.44%
Utah30.00%0.00%100.00%
Virginia110.00%9.09%90.91%
Washington450.00%4.44%95.56%
Wisconsin240.00%0.00%100.00%
Grand Total6362.04%5.50%92.45%

So for states (with more than a few respondents) it looks like “Seesaw” users are definitely in the minority. The Northeast seems to have the largest percentage of “Seesaw” users with all the other states in the 5-10% range.

So my regional naming hypothesis does not seem to stand up with the numbers of respondents I received. Like many inquiries there are always more questions raised than answered: Could it be there was a regional effect at one time? Was it “Seesaw” everywhere when agility came to the US and was been diluted by American English? Are people who train with non-American trainers or their systems using their trainer’s “word”?

I can’t imagine there is any confusion, at least in North America, with the use of either term. But maybe the US and Canadian agility organizations that use the word “Seesaw” in their rules should consider changing to “Teeter” to match the majority of their participants?

I hope you enjoyed this fun little “investigation” as much as I did!

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