Regionalisms

So you’re all probably well aware of things like the pop vs. soda debate (click here for map).  And you may know that a milkshake is a frappe is a cabinet in various parts of New England (you can actually get a separate thing called a “milkshake” in various parts of Boston… it’s like nesquick… milk with flavoring).  Or that rotaries are traffic circles are round-abouts and are a PITA no matter what they’re called.  Southern Californians are incapable of pronouncing words of more than two syllables.  Some folks say two different words when they say, “Which witch is which?” and some just say one.  Similarly, there, their, and they’re aren’t homonyms in some parts of the country (thar, thur, they’re).

We’ve both lived all over the country and we’ve picked up some different sayings here and there, as well as different names for the same things.    Here are some we’ve noticed:

“go with” :  Can I go with?  Do you want me to go with?

at:  Where is the store at?

might ought to:  Maybe this is something I should do… I might ought to write thank you notes.

Bless his heart = He’s a moron.  Or, if “bless your heart” = I feel really sorry for the idiot circumstance you got yourself into.

God bless his soul = He’s a real jerk.

lightning bug vs. firefly

hazelnut vs. filbert

sow bug vs. pill bug vs. roly poly

The 10 vs. I-10 vs. Interstate 10 vs. 10/ I-94 vs The 94 vs. The Kennedy

it took me a while to figure out that their “finna” as in “I’m finna go to lunch” meant “going to”, and even longer to realize that it was a contraction of “fixing to”.

Fun linguistics fact: the phrase “analog watch” is an example of a retronym (a word or phrase that is formed to refer to the older technology when the newer technology becomes standard).

Here is a link to this wonderful survey, complete with maps, that we participated in when we were graduate students.  Check them out!

What are your favorite regionalisms?  Anything local to your neck of the woods?

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: . 54 Comments »

54 Responses to “Regionalisms”

  1. Everyday Tips Says:

    I have lived in Southeastern Michigan my entire life, so I am somewhat sheltered. However, I met someone from Kentucky and she kept saying what I thought was ‘fixinta’. I finally asked what a fixinta was and she said it was ‘fixing to’. I was so glad I asked because she said it about a million times.

    Aren’t cockroaches in Florida called ‘Palmetto Bugs’?

  2. Becky Says:

    I live in Northern Minnesota, so cue the “Fargo” jokes. We end sentences with prepositions (the “Can I go with?”), and I picked up saying “Put gas on the car” instead of “in” the car from my hometown.
    Of course now that the pressure is on, I can’t think of anything else that we say that is weird to other people. I do know that people in Wisconsin call water fountains (that you drink out of) “bubblers”.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Yeah, those MinNESOtans sure do talk funny. Not to mention the folks from Wis CON sin (cue nasal middle syllable). Man, my hilarious regional imitations don’t carry over to the blog very well… probably just as well.

      My name is Jan Jansen,
      I come from Wisconsin
      I work at de lumber mill dere
      The people I meet
      When I walk down the street
      they say,
      Hi, What’s your name?
      And I say….

      Thank you thank you, I’ll be here all week.

  3. Trish Says:

    get a shower vs take a shower. or my favorite, in this area of southern Illinois, when someone ends a sentence that is not a question, the other conversationalist responds with’oh, uh-huh?’.

  4. Trish Says:

    I am also interested in regionally popular first names. Like for instance, the name Omar, or more commonly spelled Omer, popular in the 60s and earlier in this area.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Where I’m living now is like a totally different world first-name-wise than the rest of the country. So many different spellings, so many common names I’ve never heard in the rest of the country… and a lot more unusual last names as first names.

  5. imawindycitygal Says:

    What a fun topic! Looking at that survey made me realize just how many quirks there are in the amazingly elastic American English language.

    I’ve traveled around the U.S. quite a bit and encountered many of these, but one of the funniest experiences I had around regionalisms was in the Southwest. A friend from Ontario and I were in Flagstaff, AZ and had stopped at a local pharmacy to pick up some things. At the checkout, the cashier asked my friend if she wanted a “sack.” My friend was floored; she had no idea what the question meant and asked the cashier to repeat herself. After hearing it again, my friend was still confused. I interjected, “A bag…she’s asking if you want a bag.” I guess “sack” isn’t a word used much in Ontario.

    I grew up in the Chicago suburbs and learned to say “roof” and “root” as if they rhymed with “foot” and to use “go with,” too. Spending a couple years living in Toronto cured me of that since it led to lots of teasing. In Toronto I also changed over from calling it “pop” to calling it “soda” and picked up the “eh?” interjection. (I think it’s so much nicer sounding than “huh?” which I grew up using.) It’s pretty easy for me to switch back to a Canadian accent whenever I spend time talking with Canadian friends and acquaintences.

    I also love the word “ya’ll.” It’s so useful! I have no issues using it when talking with my colleagues from Tenneesee and other southern states, but I hesitate to use it with others. It is so much easier to say than “you all,” though.

    One very local expression here in Chicago is to refer to a local grocery store as “The Jewel.” Jewel is a local chain of stores, so there are Jewel stores all over. But invariably a homegrown Chicagoan will refer to this particular store as The Jewel. (“I’m going to The Jewel, do you need anything?”) Other chains (like Dominik’s, another local grocery chain) are not referred to this way, just Jewel for some reason.

    Oh, and as for Michigan regionalisms, we have lots of Michiganders here in Chicago. One of my Michigan friends uses the word “janky” (I’m guessing at the spelling) sometimes and had to explain what it means. What an odd word!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Awesome! And sometimes instead of bag it’s beg and I just can’t understand. Like my DH says pen and pin the same way. I like y’all too and have adopted it. Along with might ought. It’s a very useful construction… maybe this is something I ought to do…

      • Debbie M Says:

        I learned the roof that sounds like a dog “woof,” too.

        Maybe it’s a typo, but it’s y’all, not ya’ll. I enjoyed using that in foreign language classes to show I knew the difference between second person singular and plural (very fun since I went to college near Boston). Back in Texas, people even say “all y’all.” And it’s fun to have two apostrophes in one word: It’s y’all’s turn now.

    • Trish Says:

      yea, the grocery store thing, my sister lives in Virginia, and they go ‘The Giant’ which is a chain called, of course, Giant, but they also go to ‘Safeway”, another local chain. I love ‘The Giant’!

  6. Lola Says:

    Where I grew up, just about everybody said “Please?” instead of “Pardon?” or “Excuse Me?” or the prosaic “Hunh?” when they hadn’t heard what you said. It’s a direct translation of “Bitte?” from the German. Sadly, I hear the use of “Please?” for “Hunh?” is dwindling away.

    My college friends from Pittsburgh also used the term “bubbler” for water fountain and also “gummy bands” for rubber bands. Some of them also said “y’inz” instead of y’all, and I’ve heard the term “Yinzers” for people who use that collective noun.

    Also in college, I knew someone from Brooklyn who talked about things costing “a nominal egg,” which I found out later (in a not-too-embarrassing way) was actually “an arm and a leg.” I still like the phrase ” a nominal egg” – it would work well to describe non-expensive items, I think, but it doesn’t seem to have caught on.

  7. Bashir Says:

    Duck duck “grey duck” vs. duck duck goose.
    In Minnesota they say grey duck. Between that, pop, and the cold weather, I don’t think I could ever live there.

    yens vs. you all vs. yall.
    Yens is from Pittsburgh

    On line vs. In line

    Also I have learned that every state has some sort of mildly derogatory word (or jokes) about the next state over. I’ve had some amusing conversations with folks who couldn’t believe that everyone across the country didn’t know that random state X is totally better than those jerks in random state Y.

  8. Donna Freedman Says:

    I’m from South Jersey, my mom’s people are from Tennessee, and I’ve lived in Philadelphia, Anchorage, Chicago and Seattle. Here are a couple of regionalisms off the top of my head:
    My great-aunt used to call soda “dope.” I am not kidding.
    “Shut on the light” instead of “turn on the light” (not sure who’s responsible for that one)
    “It” when used to refer to a baby or small child (“Oh, it’s the cutest thing” or “Oh, it knows its auntie’s voice”)
    Instead of “fixinta” we had “I’ma” or “Ahma” (“Ahma leave for school now”)
    In Cumberland County, NJ, Delaware is pronounced “Delwer.” Five minutes after I get to my dad’s house I’m saying things like “Delwer Morial Britch” instead of “Delaware Memorial Bridge.”
    Oh, and they say “crick” instead of “creek.”
    “Yiz” as a corruption of “youse” (instead of “You, the people I am addressing”). Or maybe it’s a modification of “yens.”
    “I wouldn’t mind” for “I really would like to,” e.g., “I wouldn’t mind another piece of cake” or “I wouldn’t mind winning the Mega Millions lottery.” This bit of diffidence may be specific to my family for all I know.
    The Yup’ik people of southwest Alaska have some interesting uses: “I sometimes never,” “I sometimes always,” “I sometimes always never.” Not sure I get the true meaning since I didn’t grow up there, but apparently Yup’ik is a very nuanced language and English translations sound odd to us but make perfect sense to them. For example, “I sometimes always hunt there” might be construed to mean “I like to hunt there, but I don’t always hunt there; however, if I happen to be in that area then I will definitely hunt.”
    My former boss just edited a Yup’ik grammar by a University of Alaska professor, and it sounds like a really fascinating language. He told me that one way to say “I know” in Yup’ik is to say, “I don’t NOT know,” as in “As far as can be determined/there is no evidence to the contrary.”

  9. Comrade PhysioProf Says:

    “go with” : Can I go with? Do you want me to go with?

    I’ve never encountered this, but am very familiar with “come with”: I’m going to the store. Do you want to come with? My guess is that this is a mid-atlantic regionalism.

  10. Nancy Says:

    In Baltimore you drop your prepositions, and I think this is true for nearby states as well. So there, if you’re “going down to the ocean,” it is “going down the ocean.” And you add “hon.” So it’s “We’re going down the ocean, hon.”

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      My DH drops words sometimes too… I can’t think of a good example right now though. :|

    • Comrade PhysioProf Says:

      You’re not dropping a preposition here. You’re substituting the preposition “down” for the preposition “down to”. And yes, this is also a broader mid-Atlantic regionalism, and used in New Jersey and Delaware as well: “Let’s go down the shore! It’ll be totally bitchin’!”

      However, I think this is specific to the “shore” or, perhaps, “ocean” (although I’ve never heard that), because no one would ever replace “I’m going down the store for beers” with “I’m going down the store for beers”.

  11. MutantSupermodel Says:

    I lived in the Bay Area for one year and came back saying “hella” for everything. “Hella cold, hella tired, hella busy, hella, hella, hella.” My friends cured me of it but I wish they hadn’t. It was the ONE thing I brought back with me really and truly. Otherwise, I know I have a thick Hispanic accent and abuse Spanglish. It comes with the South Florida life.

  12. retirebyforty Says:

    It was pretty jarring to hear “pop” when I first moved from CA to OR, but now it’s pretty much exchangeable. A lot of young people likes “right on” in Portland….
    The regional map is pretty cool.

  13. Money Reasons Says:

    I notice that some people in my area replace the “n” with a “L” in the word chimney, so that the word sounds like “chimley” or sometimes “chimnley”.

    My favorite regionalism is when relatives from Massachusetts say the word car… It sounds more like the crow sound “Cha”.

    Very interesting post, reminds me of that very old movie called “Pygmalion” :)

  14. Debbie M Says:

    After going to college in Boston, I liked to solemnly warn my friends in Texas to never order a scrod frappe. Not that such a thing (fish-of-the-day milkshake) would ever be on the menu, but it’s fun to say. I love the way Bostonians say “SHOO-ah!” for “Sure!” when you ask a favor. I don’t love the horrible phrase I heard only once, “Shove some glee-ass up that crack!” (close the window).

    When I first moved to Texas (raised by Chicagoans), I noticed these:
    * pin instead of pen
    * fixin’ to instead of getting ready to
    * lunchkit instead of lunchbox
    * y’all instead of you guys
    And in east Texas, you get extra syllables. SHEE-it! is a swear word. Also, the vowels have different pronunciations. Like Hale County is pronounced Hell County. Also, there’s some Spanish-like concessions: Bexar County is pronounced Bear County. And there’s also some ignoring of Spanish: Manchaca is pronounced MAN-Shack.

    Another bad street name pronunciation: Ponce de Leon in Atlanta is Ponce de LEE-on.

  15. First Gen Ameircan Says:

    Wow. Good Stuff. I can’t believe no one mentioned the alcohol references. Like in some places, liquor stores only sell liquor, but in others, it just means the store where you buy all booze and then if you’re in Boston, then it’s the “packie” short for package store, which is what they call liquor stores in that part of the world.

  16. First Gen Ameircan Says:

    And I also find the mis-use of R’s interesting too. It’s weird how in the northeast, people drop their R’s and southerners must feel bad and decided to over use them.

    Washer turns to “Washa” in Boston, but “Warsher” down south.

    My nail against the chalboard word that I hate hearing misprounced is Nuclear. I just can’t stand when people say “Nuk-you-lar”

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      The Rs really do just flow down stream, eh?

      • Debbie M Says:

        In Boston, “drawing board” has the expected number of Rs, but one is not in the expected place (drawer-ing bawd).

        Right up there with nucular is Mass-a-two-shits, said unknowingly by some Texans. Nearby is ex-PRESS-oh (except for the place that did quick oil changes AND served espresso–I didn’t mind them calling themselves Expresso Lube).

  17. Molly On Money Says:

    Here in Northern NM when you are wrapping up a conversation it’s, ‘Bueno bye’. You must say it quickly.

  18. Lindy Mint Says:

    In Boston I noticed the use of the word “for” in place of the word “at” when discussing time appointments. As in, “I’ll meet you there for 10:00.”

    Drinking fountain vs. bubbler

    Carpet vs. rug. This one always got me because I worked in the design business back east. In the west, a rug is a 5×7 decorative carpet you put over hard floors, and carpet is what you install as a permanent flooring. In the east, they reverse it. They also have a weird word for ottoman in the east, but I can’t remember it.

    Mexican food regionalisms: Cheese crisp vs. Quesadilla

    This post is fun!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: