30 Things That Have Different Names Throughout the U.S.

One man's "lightning bug" is another man's "firefly."

30 Things That Have Different Names Throughout the U.S.
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Even if you’re conversing with someone in the same dialect, you might be speaking different languages. Take American English. The same object might be called one thing in Maine and one thing in Mississippi and another thing entirely in Minnesota. A Californian trying to order a milkshake in Connecticut might not get very far, while an Alabaman might get laughed out of a Arizonan grocery store if they ask for a “sack.”

Though some might say differences like this divide us, we’d like to believe that, actually, they just make this grand country of ours that much more rich and interesting—and there’s no way that’s more apparent than in our language. Here, as proof, are 30 common things that have wildly different names around the country, even if you just step across a single simple state line. And once you’ve burnished your lexicon with this knowledge, brush up on the 30 Words That Have Different Meanings Throughout the U.S.

Soda pop top useless brilliant products

1
Carbonated Soft Drinks

In most of the country, a carbonated soft drink is known as “a soda” or maybe “a Coke” (especially in the South), but once you get into the Midwest, you’re in “pop” country. Apparently due to the “pop” sound the drink made when the top of the original glass bottles were opened, if you hear someone say it, you know you’re talking to a Midwesterner. And if you’re drinking pop or soda from a can, learn The Secret Second Use Built into Your Soda Tab.

crayfish

2
Tiny Lobsters

Linguistic researchers Bert Vaux and Scott Golder conducted a survey of how Americans pronounce words or describe the same thing, and statistics Ph.D. student Joshua Katz at North Carolina State University published a group of maps to help visualize the data. One of the most divisive terms was what word Americans use to “call the miniature lobster that one finds in lakes and streams.” The South knows these as “crawfish,” the East Coast and Great Lakes region knows them as “crayfish,” and the Midwest knows them “crawdads.”

roundabout

3
Roundabouts

Though we think of these convergences of several roads into a circle as a more European thing, there are quite a few throughout the United States—and, similarly, quite a few names for them. While much of the West calls them “roundabouts,” in the Southeast, they tend to call them “traffic circles.” In parts of Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, however, they’re known as “rotaries.” And for more coverage of the crazy things we say, here are the 40 Common Sayings You’ve Been Using Wrong Forever. 

water fountain

4
Water Fountain

The refreshing faucets providing fresh water is known as a drinking fountain in much of the Western and Midwestern states, but head south and you’re more likely to call it a “water fountain.” In Rhode Island and Wisconsin, folks go a whole different direction, though, and call it a “bubbler.”

dressing well in your 30s

5
Tennis Shoes

While Katz found that the vast majority of the country calls rubber-soled shoes worn while exercising or running as “tennis shoes,” New Englanders opted to call them “sneakers.” (Apparently because they are doing more sneaking than exercising? No, that doesn’t seem right…)

Aerial View of Highway

6
Big Road on Which You Drive Fast

Most of the U.S. calls these stretches of tar “highways” or maybe “interstates.” But on the West Coast—California in particular—they prefer to call them “freeways,” emphasizing the open road and high speed limits. And for more on how the asphalt differs from state to state, learn The Busiest Road in Every State.

Coleslaw in dish

7
Coleslaw

The South keeps it simple and just calls this popular shredded-cabbage dish “slaw.”

sidewalk

8
The Patch of Grass Between the Sidewalk and the Road

Most Americans have no word for this whatsoever, but those who do give it wildly different names depending on their region. According to Vaux and Golden’s findings, those in the Northeast call it a “bern,” while those in the Great Lakes region prefer “terrace,” while the term “verge” tends to be more popular on the East Coast.

highway median

9
Freeway Median

Most of us call the long narrow area in the middle of a divided highway a “median,” while a smaller number of people (about 13% of Americans, by Vaux and Golden’s account) call it a “median strip.” But people in Louisiana, specifically coastal Louisiana see it in competitive terms, calling it “neutral ground.”

daddy longleg spider

10
A Certain Long-Legged Insect

The most common term for this creepy, if harmless critter, is “daddy long legs,” which more than 94 percent of respondents to Vaux and Golden’s survey called them. But head south and you might find folks who call it a “granddaddy” and a few respondents in Texas and Arkansas who call it “daddy graybeard.” Also, speaking of these creepy crawlers, did you know they’re technically not spiders? That’s just one of the 100 Facts That Will Make You Say “Wow!”

marinara sauce

11
Sauce

Most of the country knows the delicious stuff you put on top of spaghetti to be “tomato sauce.” But there are pockets of the country—Philadelphia, the Bronx, Boston, and Chicago, according to Lorraine Ranalli, author of Gravy Wars—where communities are more likely to call it “gravy.”

Sub sandwich deli

12
Submarine Sandwich

This is an item with many names depending on where you’re standing. While most places a long sandwich filled with cold cuts, cheese, and veggies is simply a “sub,” in New York City you’ll be more likely to get what you want by asking for a “hero.” In Pennsylvania, it’s a “hoagie” (usually filled with Italian cold cuts), while New Englanders call it a “grinder” (where it’s going to be filled with meatballs or sliced chicken breast). Sure, there are fine distinctions between each of these, but when you come down to it, they’re pretty much the same thing with a different name.

Slicing Bread Anti-Aging

13
End of a Loaf of Bread

Most Americans call those last slices of bread at the end of the loaf the heel, while a smaller number call it the “end” (about 17 percent) or the “crust” (15 percent), in a couple parts of the country, particularly Louisiana, it’s, per Vaux and Golden, referred to by some as the “nose.”

milkshake

14
Milkshake

Blended ice cream, milk, and flavored syrup is known most commonly as a milkshake, but New Englanders go their own way, preferring a “cabinet.” A strange name for a drinkable dessert, said to be called that because it’s made in a blender from the kitchen cabinet. The coffee cabinet (a milkshake with coffee) is so beloved in Rhode Island that its key ingredient of coffee milk has been minted as the state’s official drink.

Synchronous fireflies Great Smoky Mountains National Park Surreal Places in the U.S.

15
Light-Up Bugs

On those warm summer nights when you’re out as the sun goes down, you may see a little spark from a flying bug that adds a bit of romance and atmosphere to the evening. But if you’re looking for what to call it, in the South you’ll want to refer to it as a “lightning bug,” while in New England, you’ll be in the right by calling it a “firefly.”

people laughing at office friendly jokes

16
You Group of People Over There

In most of the country, when you’re addressing a group of people, you might just call them “you guys.” But the South famously has the much more charming term of “y’all” for this. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, goes its own way, with a version of “you ones” that’s somehow morphed into “yinz.”

grocery bag in car

17
The Thing You Carry Groceries in

While more than 90 percent of Americans refer to this as a “bag,” a number of people, particularly in the Midwest and South, know it as a “sack.” And if you’re hitting the store often, don’t miss the 15 Grocery Shopping Mistakes That Are Killing Your Wallet.

Remote Control Home Cleaning

18
Thing That Changes the Channel

New Englanders get to the point with this one, saving a few syllables and calling it a “clicker.” The rest of the country calls it a “remote control.”

sunshower

19
When Rain Falls as the Sun Shines

In Florida and New England, as well as smatterings of other parts of the U.S., this rather beautiful contrast in weather conditions is known as a “sunshower.” In the Southern U.S., however, they see a Biblical drama playing out, and refer to this as “the devil beating his wife” (though in Tennessee it’s “the devil kissing his wife”). The idea is that the devil is angry because God created such a lovely day and Satan wants to ruin it.

liquor drive thru

20
Drive-Through Liquor Store

While the plurality of the country only wishes that it had such an establishment nearby, there is a surprising proliferation of places where you can pick up alcohol without getting out of your car, all of them various degrees of clever. The Southeast tends to call one of these a “brew thru” while the Texas and other states might call it a “beer barn.” A smattering of spots also know them as “bootleggers” and “beverage barns.”

sprinkles

21
Sprinkles

Those colorful bits that go on the top of ice cream and cupcakes may be known as sprinkles throughout most of the U.S., but in the Mid-Atlantic region, you’re more likely to hear them referred to as “jimmies.”

we're thankful for cloud eggs in 2017

22
Eggs Prepared in Boiling Water

In most parts of the country, you’d call this technique “poaching an egg,” when you crack it and drop it into boiling water, serving on toast or atop veggies. It’s a term chefs use for other ingredients that are simmered in a small amount of liquid, such as salmon, chicken or fruit. But New Englanders go for a more literal term, calling the dish “dropped” egg, as in the action that happens to the egg after it’s cracked and dropped into a pot.

Kitchen sink

23
Water Spouts

You get water out of the “tap”—unless you’re in the South, where they prefer to call it a “spigot,” or the North, where they prefer the more French-inspired “faucet.”

pancakes breakfast

24
Flat Carbo-Loaded Buttered-Up Breakfast

You and I and IHOP all refer to these flat, batter cakes as “pancakes,” (before covering them in maple syrup, or some other sweet fruit topping). But head to some corners of the country, and you’re more likely to encounter flapjacks. The Dictionary of American Regional English offers up even more synonyms for the pancake, depending where you are ordering it: “Also called clapjack, flapcake, flapover, flatcake, flatcjack, flipjack, flipper, flopjack, flopover, slapjack.”

yard sale in the summer

25
Selling Stuff In Front of Your House

Pulling together all the old stuff around your house you longer need, putting it outside and inviting friends, neighbors and complete strangers to look it over and pay you for it is called a “yard sale” or “garage sale” right? Not if you’re in New York City, where most people have no garages or yards, so they have “stoop sales,” or New England, where they focus less on where things are being sold than how you know how much they cost and call these “tag sales.”

yellow pepper, look younger

26
Orange Peppery Produce

If you’re in the Midwest and someone asks you for a “mango,” you’re not going to reach for the sweet, juicy orange fruit, but rather a mild, green bell “pepper.” The reason for this may be that as green bell peppers ripen, they feature red-gold splotches and look similar to mangos. Either way, you may want to double check what food a person is referring to.

couch in nautical living room home decorations

27
Piece of Furniture Multiple People Can Sit On

New Englanders tend to like calling these “sofas” and while in Upstate New York, you might have the opportunity to recline on a “davenport.” The rest of the country? “Couch.”

funniest facts

28
Hard Candy on a Stick

While “lollipop” is the most familiar name for this confection throughout the country, folks in the Midwest and South are most likely to call these “suckers” (though there is a slight variation between the two, as lollipops tend to be shaped like discs, while suckers are usually more spherical).

woman wallet

29
Thing That Holds Your Cash and Cards

When pulling out your money in the South, you might be pulling it from a “billfold” rather than a “wallet,” as the rest of the country does.

weird British foods

30
Multiple-Ingredient Cuisine

This institution of home-cooked meals can come in many varieties with as many ingredients as you could devise, but while most of the country calls this decadence a “casserole,” in the Dakotas and Minnesota, you better call it “hotdish.”

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