- When ordering a carbonated beverage, Northerners call it soda, in the Midwest, it’s “pop,” and Southerners prefer to say “coke.”
- It’s just one example of the countless regional word variations in the US.
- Some experts specialize in analyzing regional word variations across America, including University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Dictionary of American Regional English.
- Here are 18 things that have totally different names depending on where in the US you’re from, showing how nuanced American English truly is.
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Many regional word variations – such as “y’all” and “you guys” – mark clear-cut differences in the language of US states and regions. Learning about the origins of these word variations is a reminder of just how nuanced the American English language is.
Some researchers specialize in studying regional language differences in the US. Professors affiliated with the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) project have published a dictionary of words and phrases that vary across US regions, as well as maps depicting these variations.
Keep reading to explore 18 words that prove that there are countless ways to refer to the same thing – it just depends on who you ask.
A grocery cart can also be called a “buggy” or a “carriage,” depending where you’re from.
- Spencer Platt / Getty
The Dictionary of American Regional English cites “carriage” as a word for grocery cart, usually used in the Northeast, especially in Connecticut and eastern Massachusetts.
In the South and some Midwest states, grocery shoppers might opt for the word “buggy” to refer to the four-wheeled cart.
These luminous bugs are most often called “fireflies” or “lightning bugs,” but they can also be called “firebugs,” “glowworms,” or “June bugs.”
Records from the Dictionary of American Regional English show that most people call these luminous insects that often dot the sky with light during the summertime “lightning bugs” or “fireflies.”
Other popular variations include “glowworm,” “firebug,” “June bug,” and “light bug.”
A favorite candy treat on a stick can either be called a “sucker” or a “lollipop.”
Most people in the US refer to candy on a stick as a “lollipop” or a “sucker,” according to the Dictionary of American Regional English.
“Lollipop” appears to be more common in the Northeast, while “sucker” is more widely used in the South and Midwest.
In some corners of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, a “drinking fountain” is called a “bubbler.”
- Kris Schmidt/Shutterstock
Most commonly referred to as a “drinking fountain,” some people in Wisconsin and Rhode Island call the water-dispenser a “bubbler,” according to 2013 data from Joshua Katz, a researcher at North Carolina State University.
There’s quite a few names for the end piece of a loaf of bread, including “heel,” “crust,” and “butt,” but it depends who you ask.
- Corrado Baratta/Shutterstock
The next most-common name for the final bread slice was is “end,” which appeared to be concentrated in New England and parts of the Midwest and Southeast. “Crust” is next in line, with a greater concentration in the North. Another variation is the word “butt,” which was selected by some survey respondents from the East Coast and the Great Lakes regions.
A blended drink made with ice cream is widely known as a “milkshake,” but many New Englanders call it a “frappe.”
Though many Americans know the cold, creamy drink as a “milkshake,” New Englanders have historically called the same drink a “frappe.”
To make matters even more confusing, many people in the New England region call a glass of chocolate milk a “milkshake,” according to WJBQ, a Portland, Maine, radio station.
Most Americans call circular traffic patterns “roundabouts” or “traffic circles,” but some Northeasterners prefer the word “rotaries.”
- REUTERS/China Daily
Researcher Joshua Katz found that “roundabout” is used in the West and South, “traffic circle” is mostly used on the East Coast and in Midwestern states, plus parts of the South. A less-common word choice is “rotary,” which appears to be used in parts of the Northeast.
An even more rare, and likely obsolete, term used for the same traffic pattern is a “cloverleaf,” which appeared as a result in a survey of regional American English from 1965-1970.
A carbonated soft drink has many names across the US, from “pop” to “soda” and “coke.”
- successo images/Shutterstock
This is perhaps one of the most hotly debated regional word differences.
Thanks to the Pop vs. Soda project, an online map that documents how Americans refer to fizzy drinks, it’s easy to pinpoint which words are most-used in specific regions.
According to the map, “soda” is the most popular term in the Northeast, California, Hawaii, and parts of Nevada and Arizona. “Pop” is mainly a Midwest term, and several states in the South prefer “coke” – as in, “What flavor coke would you like?”
A pair of shoes with rubber soles used for walking and running are usually called “sneakers” or “tennis shoes” across the US.
- Brian Snyder/Reuters
“Sneakers” and “tennis shoes” are the top contenders that describe how people call “low canvas-top shoes with rubber soles,” according to the Dictionary of American Regional English.
The Northeast and south Florida say “sneakers,” and the rest of America says “tennis shoes,” according to research from Joshua Katz.
The colorful embellishments on ice cream and donuts are called “sprinkles” in most US states, but are known as “jimmies” in New England.
- Noel Vasquez/Getty
A post from Epicurious showed a bowl of these colorful, sugary embellishments, and asked respondents to name what they are called. Many com mentors were quick to note that in New England, the sugary sliver are known as “jimmies.”
A dinner where everyone brings a dish is known as a “potluck,” or, in some states, a “carry-in dinner.”
- Chrysaora via Flickr
In Ohio, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan, it’s not uncommon to get invited to a “carry-in” meal, where all invitees contribute a dish to share. According to records from the Dictionary of American Regional English, the phrase “carry-in dinner” has been used interchangeably with “potluck” in some Midwestern states for more than a century.
The buttercream topping found on cupcakes can be called “frosting” or “icing.”
A survey of more than 10,700 people from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that while many respondents used both words interchangeably, the word “frosting” was the most common response, and popular on the West Coast, in the Northeast, and in most of the Midwest.
A dish of cold cuts on long pieces of bread is called a “sub” in most parts of the US, except for in parts of Pennsylvania, where it’s called a “hoagie.”
Records from the Dictionary of American Regional English cite “submarine,” “poor boy,” “hoagie,” and “hero” as the top contenders for describing a “sandwich in a larger, longer bun, that’s a meal in itself.”
In the US today, “sub” is the most widely used word to describe cold cuts, while parts of Pennsylvania call it a “hoagie,” according to findings from researcher Joshua Katz.
When referring to a group of people, some Americans say “you guys,” while others say “y’all.”
- Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
In the South, the term of choice is, perhaps stereotypically, “y’all” – except for South Florida, which adopts the more-northern phrase “you guys.” Most of America tends to say “you guys,” but a small part of Kentucky says “you all,” according to research from Joshua Katz.
Another point of contention is the debate over “freeways” and “highways.”
- Getty Images
People from America’s West Coast know call big roads “freeways,” whereas the rest of the US is more likely to use the word “highways.”
Miniature lobsters found in lakes and streams are called “crawfish,” “crayfish,” or “crawdads.”
- REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman
“Crayfish” is the word of choice among Northerners to describe these tiny crustaceans, while people in the South and parts of the East Coast call them “crawfish.” “Crawdad” appears to be used in parts of the Midwest, California, and Oregon, according to researcher Joshua Katz.
The topping “gravy” can mean different things depending on where you’re from.
While many Americans might think of gravy as the thick, soupy turkey topping that sits on the Thanksgiving table, some people also say “gravy” to describe tomato or pasta sauce.
An article from Slate outlines the debate, citing an expert who suggested that Italian Americans might have adopted “gravy,” a word with English origins, as a way of assimilating to Western culture.
The topic has also been debated in Reddit threads and discussion boards.
Insects known as cicadas have also been called “August flies.”
- Kirsten Acuna / Business Insider
In parts of the Northeast and the Midwest, “August fly” was once a common term for cicadas, the bugs known for making loud noise and appearing in the hot month of August.