The United States is a huge country. It encompasses 50 states,
five territories, and nine minor outlying islands – and over 3.8 million square
With the population scattered so widely – and people from different ethnic backgrounds having settled in different areas — it’s only natural that some different terminology for common words has developed over the generations.
We come across these terms when we interact with people from
other parts of the country, or when we consume media – or when we move.
Some of these words and phrases are easy to pick up, while
others are a bit more mystifying. (One of the strangest we’ve come across: In
Rhode Island, they call a milkshake a cabinet.)
Bubblers, cokes, and hotdishes
For example, let’s say you’re on vacation in Wisconsin and are exploring a city park with your local relatives. Mention that you’re thirsty, and you just might be directed to the nearest “bubbler.”
What are they trying to tell you? Where to find the closest
water fountain (or drinking fountain).
On that same vacation, your relatives have a casual potluck at their home, and you overhear them asking a neighbor if they could bring a “hotdish” to share.
Are they looking for something spicy? No, they’re just
referring to a casserole.
Now, let’s say you’re a native of Louisiana, and you’ve just
relocated to California. On your second day in town, you wander into a café for
a late lunch. The waitress welcomes you and asks what you’d like to drink. “A
coke would be great, thanks,” you say. You’re caught off guard when she leaves
to fulfill your order without asking which kind of coke you wanted…
Whereas a lot of the population of the west coast and Midwest uses the term “pop,” and “soda” is common throughout the Northeast as well as most California and Florida, it’s a different story down south. There, “coke” is not only used to refer to the famous cola drink. The Coca-Cola company has its headquarters in Atlanta, and its influence spreads far and wide. So you can go into a restaurant and request a coke and be given a myriad of options (Sprite, orange soda, root beer, etc.).
Do you say firefly or lightning bug?
Regional vocabulary variances often give an indication of
where people are from. Even if you now live in New Mexico, if you grew up in
Massachusetts, there may be some words and phrases that have stuck with you. So,
if you share a childhood anecdote about catching lightning bugs, you may have
to explain that you’re referring to fireflies.
Here are some other regional words and phrases. Which ones
do you use?
Do you refer to athletic shoes as sneakers (common in the
northeast but also fairly widespread) or tennis shoes (commonly used outside
When you’re hungry for a big sandwich, do you ask for a hoagie (mid-Atlantic), a hero (New York), a grinder (New England), or a sub sandwich (widespread use)?
Do you put your groceries in a shopping cart (widespread use), a grocery cart (slightly less common), or a shopping buggy (used in the south)?
When you want to wash your hands, do you turn on the faucet
(north) or the spigot (south)?
And, if you’re waiting on the sidewalk to buy concert tickets, are you standing on line (something you’ll primarily hear from New Yorkers) or in line (heard most everywhere else)?
A handy source of information about
Of course, regional vocabulary isn’t the only thing that
distinguishes one state from another.
You probably already know that Intelius is a great resource
for reverse phone lookups, people searches, and more.
But did you know that it also has tons of useful information
about each state? This can be helpful if you’re looking to relocate and are
Just visit the Intelius state directory home page, and click on any state. You’ll instantly see a wealth of facts and figures, such as:
- Population growth
- Largest city
- Rank in state size
- Top causes of death
- Median annual income based on household size
- Area codes
- And more
And, to make things even easier, you can conduct an Intelius
search right from the same page.
Perhaps while enjoying an ice-cold soda (or pop or coke) …
unless otherwise indicated
Intelius does not provide consumer reports and is not a consumer reporting agency as defined by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). This site should not be used to determine an individual’s eligibility for credit, insurance, employment, housing or any other purpose covered by the FCRA.