25 Things That Have Different Names Throughout the U.S.
Are those illuminating insects called fireflies or lightning bugs? It all depends on where you live.
Even when conversing in the same language, there are plenty of opportunities for things to get lost in translation. In American English, for instance, the same object might go by one name in Maine, another name in Mississippi, and yet another in Minnesota. And a Californian attempting to order a "milkshake" in Connecticut may be met with a blank look of confusion on the face of the person taking their order. Keep reading to learn about some of the many things with different names throughout the country.
Soda vs. Pop vs. Coke
According to the Harvard Dialect Survey, a linguistics survey conducted in the early aughts by a team led by Bert Vaux, in most of the country, a carbonated soft drink is known as a "soda." Once you get into the Midwest, though, you're in "pop" country. This is apparently due to the pop sound the drink made when the top of the original glass bottles were opened.
And to make things more complicated, people in the South tend to call all versions of this drink "coke," most likely because Coca-Cola was invented in Atlanta. It's hard to keep up with the pop vs. soda vs. coke debate, but if you're really interested, you can stay up-to-date using cartographer Alan McConchie's interactive map.
Tennis Shoes vs. Sneakers
The Harvard Dialect Survey found that the vast majority of the country calls rubber-soled shoes worn while exercising or running either "tennis shoes" or "sneakers." New Englanders, in particular, seemed to be partial towards using "sneakers."
Roundabout vs. Traffic Circle vs. Rotary
According to the Harvard Dialect Survey, these road areas designed to mitigate traffic jams are called both "roundabouts" and "traffic circles" from coast to coast. In states like Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, they're also known as "rotaries."
Crawfish vs. Crayfish vs. Crawdads
What do you call those miniature lobsters lookalikes found in lakes and streams? According to the Harvard Dialect Survey, the South knows them as "crawfish," the East Coast and states in the upper Midwest may refer knows them as "crayfish," while other sections of the Midwest know them as "crawdads." Whatever you call them, they sure are delicious!
Water Fountain vs. Bubbler
Those faucets from which you can drink water in a school or a gym are primarily referred to as "water fountains" or "drinking fountains." In some northeastern and midwestern states like Wisconsin, however, folks go a whole different direction and call it a "bubbler."
In an interview with Milwaukee's WUWM, Beth Dippel, executive director of the Sheboygan County Historical Research Center, notes that the name "bubbler" stems from old water containers used in the late 1800s. "There was an attachment that you could lean over, just like we do with bubblers now. And they called that the bubbler," she explains.
Tap vs. Spigot vs. Faucet
You get water out of your sink's "tap"—unless you're in the South, where they prefer to call it a "spigot," according to a 1948 survey published in American Speech. In the northern areas of the country, the survey found that they largely prefer the more French-inspired "faucet."
Pill Bug vs. Potato Bug vs. Roly Poly
You know that little crustacean that rolls up into a ball when you touch it? According to the Harvard Dialect Survey, there are several names for this little guy. Though the most popular name is "roly poly," people in some parts of the Midwest and Northeast also call it a "pill bug" and even sometimes a "potato bug." In Texas, you might even hear "doodle bug" thrown around!
Lightning Bug vs. Firefly
On warm summer nights, you may see a little glow illuminate from a flying insect. According to the results of the Harvard Dialect Survey, in the South and Midwest, you'll want to refer to this creature as a "lightning bug," while in New England and on the West Coast, you'll probably hear it referred to as a "firefly."
Daddy Long Legs vs. Grandaddy
The most common term for this creepy, but harmless, critter is "daddy long legs," as per the results of the Harvard Dialect Survey. But head South, and you might find folks who call it a "granddaddy." In Texas and Arkansas, you might even hear the spider-like arachnid being called a "daddy graybeard."
Waterbug vs. Waterstrider
What do you call that long-legged insect that strides along the top of the water? Per the findings of the Harvard Dialect Survey, most Americans would call this a "waterbug," though northeasterners and some midwesterners prefer calling them "waterstriders." Respondents scattered across the country also noted that they use terms like "water-spider" and "watercrawler."
Tomato Sauce vs. Gravy
Most of the country knows the delicious stuff you put on top of spaghetti as "tomato sauce." But there are pockets of the U.S.—Philadelphia, the Bronx, Boston, and Chicago, according to Lorraine Ranalli, author of Gravy Wars—where communities are more likely to call the pasta sauce "gravy."
Sub vs. Hero vs. Hoagie vs. Grinder
As the Harvard Dialect Survey found, this is an item with many different names depending on what part of the country you are in. While in 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," and in New England it's often called a "grinder." Sure, there are fine distinctions between each of these, but when it comes down to it, they're pretty much the same thing with different names.
Heel vs. End vs. Crust
If you are like the majority Americans, you more than likely refer to the last slices of bread at the end of the loaf as the "heel." But according to the Harvard Dialect Survey, about 17 percent of Americans prefer to call it the "end," while 15 percent use the term "crust." In a few parts of the country—particularly Louisiana—it's even called the "nose."
Milkshake vs. Frappe
A blended concoction of ice cream, milk, and flavored syrup is most commonly known as a "milkshake." However, New Englanders have their own term for the delicious dessert drink, preferring to call it a "frappe." And in Rhode Island, according to Eater, the drink is referred to as a cabinet.
Bag vs. Sack
While the vast majority of Americans refer to the item pictured above as a "bag," a number of people—particularly in the Midwest and the South—know it as a "sack," per the Harvard Dialect Survey's findings.
Shopping Cart vs. Carriage vs. Buggy
When browsing the aisles of their local grocery store, the majority of Americans would refer to the wheeled device they use to haul their selected items around the store as a "shopping cart." In many southern states, however, this cart is often referred to as a "buggy." And in some regions of the Northeast, the Harvard Dialect Survey found, it's even called a "carriage."
Brew Thru vs. Beer Barn vs. Beverage Barn
There are a surprising number of places where you can pick up alcohol without getting out of your car—and they go by different names, depending on what part of the country you are in. As the Harvard Dialect Survey notes, the Southeast tends to call this type of drive-thru beverage depot a "brew thru," while Texans are inclined us the term "beer barn." A smattering of spots across the country also know these stores as "bootleggers" and "beverage barns."
Clicker vs. Remote Control vs. Zapper
When it comes to their television's channel-changing device, New Englanders like to go the nickname route, referring to it as the "clicker" or the "zapper." As the Harvard Dialect Survey reveals, the majority of the rest of the country calls it what it is: a "remote control."
Poached Egg vs. Dropped Egg
In several areas of the country, the cooking technique of cracking and dropping an egg into boiling water is called "poaching an egg." The term "poaching" is also a term chefs use when they simmer other ingredients in a small amount of liquid, such as salmon, chicken or fruit. But as a survey published in the Brown Alumni Magazine found, New Englanders go for a more literal term, calling this particular preparation a "dropped egg."
Pancakes vs. Flapjacks
No matter where you find yourself in the U.S., the odds are pretty good that you'll hear a stack of these flat—or sometimes fluffy—breakfast treats referred to as "pancakes." But head to some corners of the country, and the Harvard Dialect Survey notes that you're more likely to encounter "flapjacks." The Dictionary of American Regional English offers up even more synonyms for the pancake—clapjack, flapcake, flapover, flatcake, flatcjack, flipjack, flipper, flopjack, flopover, and slapjack, to name a few.
Yard Sale/Garage Sale vs. Tag Sale
Pooling together all the old stuff you longer need, putting it outside, and inviting friends, neighbors, and complete strangers to buy it is called a "yard sale" or "garage sale," right? Not if you're in New York City. Most people don't have garages or yards, so they have "stoop sales." In New England, they keep things a little more organized with price tags, and thus, refer to these events as "tag sales," the Harvard Dialect Survey found.
Pepper vs. Mango
If you're in the Midwest and someone asks you for a "mango," you're not going to reach for the closest, well, mango. Instead, it is likely a mild, green bell pepper they are after, not the exotic fruit. 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 if and when this situation arises.
Sofa vs. Couch vs. Davenport
Here's what the Harvard Dialect Survey has to say about this piece of furniture: New Englanders like to call it a "sofa," while in upstate New York, you might have the opportunity to recline on a "davenport." The rest of the country simply calls it a "couch."
Bern vs. Terrace vs. Verge
Though it may not be common to refer to the patch of grass between the road and the sidewalk by a specific name, those who do give it wildly different monikers depending on their region of residence. According to the Harvard Dialect Survey, those in the Northeast call it a "bern," those in the Great Lakes region call it a "terrace," and the term "verge" tends to be more popular on the East Coast.
Lollipop vs. Sucker
While "lollipop" is the most familiar name for this classic hard candy on a stick throughout the country, folks in the Midwest and South are more likely to call these "suckers," the results of the Harvard Dialect Survey revealed. There is a slight difference between these two things, though: While lollipops tend to be shaped like discs, suckers are usually more spherical.