There’s No Way You’ll Know All These Florida Words

Oh, Florida. Filled with gorgeous beaches from coast to coast, prolific fresh produce, and sunshine all year, Florida is known as a great place to vacation, live, and retire. It’s also known for being a wee bit of unconventional.

No offense to the 27th state in our great nation, but it does seem to be the setting for more than its fair share of, let’s say … unique happenings and situations. Maybe it’s the heat or the alligators or the torrential thunderstorms that somehow electrify the air, but Florida is … well, Florida. 

So special is the Sunshine State that it has inspired a whole slew of slang words. Some are used primarily within the state’s borders while others are used around the world to describe this sui generis place and its people. Let’s take a look at some.  

Florida man

Florida man is a slang term used to describe “a person who commits bizarre or idiotic crimes, popularly associated with—and often reported in—Florida.” It seems to have sprung to life around May 2012 from a tragic case that involved a Florida man who attacked and ate the face of another man. After that, people started noticing a trend of headlines that identified the perpetrators of bizarre crimes as “Florida Man,” as in “Florida Man Caught on Camera Licking Doorbell.”  

Few people may know, however, that Florida has robust freedom of information laws compared to other states, which makes it easy for reporters to access arrest records—and report on every single Florida Man who makes the news. (It’s called the Government in the Sunshine Act, fittingly, and dates back to 1909.)

In 2013, the Twitter account @_FloridaMan was established and went viral, further promoting the term. In March 2019, however, the creator of the Twitter account marked it “RETIRED” and hasn’t posted since. He expressed his regrets about the account to the Washington Post, saying that if he had to do it again, he would have done it differently. He said he asked himself at one point, “How much do I want to be a party to essentially making fun of people on the worst day of their lives, even if they have done something wrong? Like, who gave the Internet the right to add to someone’s punishment?” 

The term, however, lives on and shows no sign of disappearing. 

Florida bath

While many kids across the United States see having a swimming pool in their backyard as the ultimate luxury, in Florida, they’re as common as garages. And for many pool owners, pool time is pretty much the same as bath time. 

Sure, there’s no soap involved, but after a long day in and out of the water, when bath time comes around, many parents will skip it saying the kids (and maybe themselves too) already had a Florida bath

Pub Sub

Philly has its cheesesteak sandwiches, but in Florida it’s all about the Pub Subs. Short for Publix submarine sandwiches, these are sandwiches that can be purchased at the deli counter of Publix supermarkets (which Floridians will also tell you are the best supermarkets hands down). 

As for why these are called submarine sandwiches, there’s no great story there. Rather, according to Bon Appetit, it’s simply because they look like submarines. Sandwiches in general, however, were named after the fourth Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu, who didn’t want to leave gambling tables to eat his meals, so he ate sandwiches instead. 

love bugs

We’re not talking about pet names for smooshy, sweet toddlers, or love-struck teens. In Florida, love bugs are real bugs … or insects if you prefer that term. They travel in pairs of two and are attached at the rear, so they have the appearance of two-headed creatures. They fly like that because they’re mating, which is kind of romantic? Sadly, for female love bugs, they die within 86 hours of laying their eggs. 

Swarms of love bugs can be quite a sight to see, as are the Florida windshields splattered with those who suffer an unfortunate fate. 

Floridabulous

Here’s yet another term people use to poke fun at Florida: Floridabulous. The origin of this word meant to slam the Sunshine State isn’t known, but it made it into Urban Dictionary as an entry in November 2014, and there’s an Instagram account dedicated to it. 

The term isn’t so pervasive, however, that it couldn’t be reclaimed and used in positive light, capitalizing on the true meaning of the word fabulous, which means “almost impossible to believe; incredible.” Such as, “That sunset was Floridabulous!” 

snowbirds

While there’s a species of actual birds called snowbirds or junco, in Florida the people who flee their cold climates and flock to Florida are the ones dubbed snowbirds.

The term isn’t usually used in the most positive light, but rather by natives who complain that the snowbirds, who are typically older, retired folks, drive slowly, cause traffic jams, and contribute to other problems when they arrive in droves. 

Gator 

Of course, no list of Florida slang would be complete without gator. Short for alligator, you’ll find gators nearly everywhere in Florida. They can be seen on the side of the road, lurking in nearly every body of water and have even been known to knock on people’s front doors in the middle of the night. 

The Gators are also the mascot for the University of Florida, so people frequently proclaim proudly, “I’m a Gator.” (There’s a major rivalry in Florida, so pick a side.) Florida has crocodiles too, but they don’t get nearly as much attention as gators. 

First evidence of the word alligator dates back to 1560–70. It comes from the Spanish word el lagarto, which means “the lizard.”

Now that you’ve learned all these new words, you’ll understand the very Florida joke that there are only four seasons: summer, hurricane season, lovebug season, and football season. (There’s a tourist season somewhere in there too, depending on where you live.)

Did you know these words came from Chicago? Check them out!

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