How Americans Talk

Friday, June 26, 2009
Depending on where you live, you might call your submarine sandwich a “hero” (New York City area), a “hoagie” (New Jersey and Pennsylvania), a “grinder” (New England), or a “Cuban sandwich” (Florida).

This kind of information--the words and phrases used in distinct regions of the country--will be included in a new edition of The Dictionary of American Regional English next year. The compete series of five volumes will contain abut 75,000 entries, and will eventually be put online.

When my family moved from the East Coast to the West Coast, I can remember my new friends sniggering at my use of the word “sneakers” instead of “tennis shoes”. (Were we playing tennis? No. That still doesn’t make sense to me.) Some other regional word differences I can think of are soda vs. pop, sofa vs. couch, and iced tea vs. sweet tea. Apparently, there are many more!

Fiction writers may need to know about these regional variations, in order to create characters who speak the way they really would. I just think it’s fascinating to learn about the diversity of our language. What regional expressions did you grow up with?


Kerrie said...

Oh, this is great! I'm from Cali so, yeah, we say tennis shoes and soda. When I moved to Washington state, it cracked me up that everyone says pop. I didn't know about the sofa vs. couch one, but I don't like the word sofa, so I'll say couch no matter what. What kind of word is sofa? Ugh.

Do you think super-fun is the West Coast version of wicked-awesome?

Beth C. said...

I'm from central California, and during my husband's time in the Navy I learned all about the regional differences in dialect. We always called soft drinks Coke or soda; like the other poster, it amused me that Washington state residents used the word "pop." In South Carolina, they call shopping carts "buggies." Also, it turns out Californians are the ones who refer to highways with "the" before the number. Like, "go south on the 5," or "I live right off the 99."

LuAnn said...

I grew up in Ohio and moved to Washington state in 1975. My son still sniggers over some of my wording (and pronunciation!).

Rev. Linda M. Rhinehart Neas, M.Ed. said...

I am thrilled to learn about this! I teach ESL at college level and my students are always asking me why in one place they hear something called one thing and then it is called another someplace else.

BTW, I grew up in South Boston, MA and we called submarines sandwiches, "spukies!"

Thanks for the info! Linda

Anonymous said...

I was raised by parents from Ohio in Westren Texas and Arizona, so I ended up with a lot of odd words that people still make fun of me for. The most prominent are:
warsh = wash
sweep = vacuum
oan = on
my mom said pop I always said soda pop
Another one I find funny is because my parents grew up in rural areas they say "we're goin' to town" even when we lived in town. I still catch myself saying this one every once and awhile.

I think these books are a great idea, I'll have to check them out! Thanks for the information!

Carla Michelle

Cher'ley said...

I want these books too. I hope they aren't real expensive. I've lived in a lot of different areas so I've heard many expressions. Like "Carry me to..." One time I was visiting a nursing home and this lady kept asking me to carry her to bed. She actually just wanted me to lead her in the right direction. Some of the people in TX would say "Carry me to town". GA=Build me a sandwich, FL "You wanna go with", most Ohioans end sentences with a preposition. "Where are you at?" And of course, back to TX, "What kind of Coke do you want? 7up, rootbeer, Pepsi? and We're fixin' to do that.
These are just a few I thought of off the top of my noggin.

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