Wacky Regionalisms: Different Word, Same Meaning

Just One Word Won’t Work

If you want a carbonated soft drink to quench your thirst, you'll need to phrase your request wisely. If you're in the Northeast, ask for a sodaIn the South? Request a coke (yes, even if you want a Sprite or Dr. Pepper)And if you're in the Mid- or Northwest, say pop. There are exceptions, of course. In California, Nevada and Arizona, people tend to say soda, Alaska seems to favor pop, and in Hawaii, it’s soda again. Let's discover more surprising regionalisms! 

Drinking fountain

People from the North and West refer to the public device that people drink water from as drinking fountains. Down South, the most popular term is water fountain. Simple enough, right? But if you’re from Wisconsin, Rhode Island, or eastern Massachusetts and you’re thirsty, you’d likely ask for directions to a bubbler.

Athletic shoes

Go shopping for athletic shoes, and the salesperson might ask what sport you play. But for those of us who wear rubber-soled shoes off the court, there are various generic names we use. In the Northeast and southern Florida, they are called sneakers. Most everywhere else, people refer to them as tennis shoes (even if you don't play tennis). And in Chicago and Cincinnati, they're referred to as gym shoes.

Circular intersections

Technically, traffic circles, roundabouts, and rotaries are not synonymous. But if you live in New England, you’ll refer to a circular intersection as a rotary. In the Midwest, it's called a roundabout. And most everywhere else, you'd direct someone to the traffic circle. Speaking of driving, a big road that you drive fast on is called a highway on the east coast, a freeway on the west coast, and an expressway in places like Michigan.

Tiny candy ice-cream toppings

People take their chocolate or multi-colored candies on top of ice cream very seriously. There are jimmies and there are sprinkles. If you grew up in Boston, some other New England areas or Philadelphia, you'd call these candies jimmies. Most everyone else calls them sprinkles.

Heavy rain

Ever hear of a chunk-floater? If you’re from Arkansas, you know it’s a heavy rain. What about a fence lifter? That’s what a heavy rain is called in the Ozarks (a highland region of the central United States). You’ll hear folks from the Gulf States, such as Alabama, Louisiana and eastern Texas, refer to a very heavy rain as a frog strangler. And New Englanders call a very heavy rain a gully-washer. Californians don't have to worry too much about finding a word for "a very heavy rain," but they would probably call it a downpour in those rare occasions when rain visits the Golden State.

Goose bumps

Goosebumps is the name of the popular children’s series by R.L. Stine. The scary stories are named for the involuntary physical response to fear (or cold), in which small bumps appear on your skin. This term is pretty widespread, though many people in the South call them chill bumps.

Halloween prank

Have you ever mischievously covered a neighbor's house in toilet paper? Or, perhaps you’ve been the recipient of this prank, which frequently takes place on Halloween. The most common term nationwide is TP-ing. But in the Northeast, it’s typically called toilet papering, and in the South, rolling.

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