The Slang Super Bowl: 5 Words New Englanders and Californians Can't Agree On

Wait—is it a "drinking fountain" or a "bubbler?"

Sure, we may live in one country that speaks the same language, but there are certain slang terms that are so specific to various regions that it only takes one "y'all" or "wicked" to give away your roots. Recently, the social-media savvy folks Merriam-Webster pulled together a list of regionalisms between California and New England in honor of the upcoming Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams, and it's interesting to see how and why these two coasts can have different words for the same thing. So read on to discover some of the slang terms the two regions can't agree on. And for more on regional slang, check out these 17 Hilarious Words You'll Only Know if You're From the Midwest.

Milkshake vs. Frappe

In California, using the word "milkshake" to describe a frothy blend of milk, flavoring syrup, and cream has been around since the 1800s. But, in New England, the same drink often goes by the name "frappe," from the French verb frapper [/frah-pay/], which could mean "to hit" or "to strike"  but can also mean "to chill" or "to ice" when used for drinks.

Though, granted, the word "frappe" has taken on a whole other meaning since Starbucks came around.

Liquor Store vs. Package Store

New Englanders have been referring to stores that sell bottled or canned alcoholic beverages to consume off the premises as "package stores" since the beginning of the 20th century, and have even sometimes used the abbreviated version—packy—when going on a run for a six-pack of beer. But, elsewhere, most people just say liquor store.

Freeway vs. Highway

If you're bicoastal, you might notice that West Coast drivers tend to refer to the open road as the "freeway," whereas East Coasters tend to say they're merging on to the "highway." Between the two, highway is more widespread in America, not least of all because it's older, dating all the way back to the 12th century.

Drinking Fountain vs. Bubbler

"Water Fountain" is the most common term used in America to describe those public machines at which you can drink water through a spout for free. But using the word "bubbler" is unique to Wisconsin and New England, and you'll notice that Californians sometimes use the term "drinking fountain" to refer to this watering hole.

Hella vs. Wicked

Both of these are used as adverbs that mean "extremely" or "very." But while Californians are more likely to say something is "hella good," New Englanders are more predisposed to the term "wicked cool." Given its notoriety in the Boston area, "wicked" is believed to have originated with the Salem Witch Trials, with the English dramatist Thomas Porter writing that it was a "wicked hot day" in his 1663 play A Witty Combat. "Hella," on the other hand, seems to have originated in Oakland, California in the mid-1970s, and spread throughout the state. Who knew? And if you can't get enough slang trivia, we've got some great news for you: Here are 100 Slang Terms from the 20th Century No One Uses Anymore!

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Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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