The Lowdown on U.S. Slang

“Ever’body says words different,” said Ivy. “Arkansas folks says ’em different from Oklahomy folks says ’em different. And we seen a lady from Massachusetts, an’ she said ’em differentest of all.”
The Grapes of Wrath

Every region has its unique speech variations, but there’s no need to stay in the dark with all the local jargon! Communication can be especially confusing when you’re traveling somewhere far from the surroundings you’re used to seeing. While we can’t define every word for you, we can help with some of the more common terms.

Some strange ones:

Bubbler [Wisconsin] a drinking fountain

Barrow pit [West] a ditch to conduct water off a surface road

Catty corner [southern Coastal] roughly means “on an angle to a corner”

Coke [South] any sweet, carbonated beverage

Davenport [West] couch or sofa

Fence Lifter [Ozarks, parts of TN] very heavy rain

Jawn [Philadelphia] could refer to nearly everything, almost interchangeable for the word ‘thing’

Leaf peepers [New England] tourists who visit the area to take pictures with the fall foliage

Devil Strip [Ohio] the grassy median between the highway and the sidewalk

Packie [Northeast] a liquor store

Pogonip [Nevada] a freezing fog that appears in deep mountain valleys in the Western U.S.

Ya mom’n’em [New Orleans] another way to refer to one’s family and close friends. Example: “Have you heard from ‘yourmom’n’em’ recently?”

Wicked [Massachusetts] used as an adjective. Another way to say “really/very”

Whoopensocker [Wisconsin] used as an adjective to describe something wonderful

Different words, same ideas

The word to describe a hole in the road:
chuckhole [scattered]
chughole [KY]
pothole [Northeast]

The word to describe a submarine sandwich:
Cuban sandwich [mostly FL]
dagwood [especially MN, IA, CO]
grinder [mostly NEng]
hero [scattered, but especially NYC]
hoagie [chiefly PA, NJ, but becoming more widely recognized]
Italian sandwich [NEast, esp ME]
poor boy [orig New Orleans LA; now widespread exc NEast, Mid Atl; esp freq Gulf States, TN, TX]
sub, submarine sandwich [orig scattered but chiefly NEast, N Cent, C Atl; now widespread]
torpedo sandwich [orig NEast, now esp Nth, N Midl]
wedge [chiefly NY]

The word that denotes the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street (really important for travelers!)
boulevard [chiefly Upper MW]
grassplot [chiefly Atlantic]
neutral ground [chiefly LA, MS]
parking [chiefly NW, Plains States, IA]
parkway [scattered, but esp Ohio Valley, West]
street lawn [scattered, but usually OH]
swale [FL, AL]
tax strip [OH, IN]
terrace [chiefly Great Lakes, Upper Mississippi Valley]
tree bank [esp IL, WI]
tree belt [NEast, esp MA]
tree border [WI, CT]
tree box [chiefly DC]
tree court [WI]
tree lawn [chiefly Gt Lakes, esp OH]
tree plot [esp IN]
tree terrace [esp WI]
verge [usually NEast]

Heard any other interesting words during your travels? Let us know what they are below!


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