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Richard Nordquist

Nominate Your Favorite Regionalism

By October 29, 2012

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Reader Wendy Low responded to a recent post on dialects with this excellent suggestion:

I was taught by my downstate mother that I should not take on the harsh short A of Western New York; I was to mimic Uncle Walter (Cronkite). It always comes as a surprise to find out that my preferred phrasing and word choices are regionalisms: "down cellar" instead of "down in the cellar" or "dove" (long o) instead of "dived." Richard, I'd love it if you ran an interactive feature: nominate your regional word, idiom or phrasing to go global. Get people to nominate their favorites and then have a vote on which ones would most contribute new meanings or liven up the lingo!
So let's try it. Regardless of where you live in the world or which variety of English you speak, send us your favorite regionalism--that is, a distinctive word, expression, or pronunciation favored by English speakers in your area.

Click on "comments" (below) to spread the word, and be sure to tell us where in the world it can be heard.

More About Regional Variations in English

Blackboard: some of the regional names for large "submarine" sandwiches in the U.S.


October 29, 2012 at 8:42 am
(1) Ben says:

The word ‘duck’ used as a term of endearment (or at least professional endearment). When I lived in the English Midlands in the 1970s, shop assistants commonly addressed customers as ‘duck’. It’s a term I rarely if ever hear in London, and I miss it.

October 29, 2012 at 9:02 am
(2) Agnes Bell says:

“Poot” – a fairly genteel synonym for “fart” in the South (US)

October 29, 2012 at 6:34 pm
(3) SB says:

‘All mouth and trousers’–used by women in the north of England to describe a cocky git.

October 29, 2012 at 7:39 pm
(4) gramps says:

In winter when I was growing up in Connecticut we’d play “cracky benders,” running and slipping on thin ice until it broke.

October 29, 2012 at 8:33 pm
(5) Kate says:

Here are two that I heard and disgusted me in Alabama; so they are my favorite for being my least favorite:

“You done it.”
“Ain’t got none.”

They were spoken by those of the female persuasion– Southern belles?

October 30, 2012 at 4:48 am
(6) Minnie says:

I love the word “folderol” but it’s probably not a regionalism, just an old-fashioned word my granny used to use.

Granny also used to say “ain’t” and so would probably dismiss Kate’s response above as “folderol”

October 30, 2012 at 5:36 am
(7) apropos says:

In Philadelphia my buddies and I used to “bag school” (cut school or play hooky) whenever we could get away with it.

October 30, 2012 at 6:49 pm
(8) samiam says:

Blue norther, for a sudden drop in temperature in Texas

October 30, 2012 at 9:31 pm
(9) Skilly says:

Chaw = embarrass in West Virginia

October 31, 2012 at 11:17 pm
(10) Sher says:

Fixin’ to is commonly used in Oklahoma when announcing, “I’m fixin’ to go to the store, does anyone need anything?” or when being badgered by someone to complete a task that you have been procrastinating, “Not yet, but I’m fixin’ to.”

November 3, 2012 at 4:24 am
(11) Mitchell says:

Borrowed from German, the word “gumban” in Pittsburgh means rubber band

November 5, 2012 at 10:32 am
(12) Andy Hall says:

As a Southerner, I love the fact that we’ve created acceptable redundancies. The best is when an educated addresses a group as “all y’all.” If you’re from the South, you’ve heard it and it works.

November 5, 2012 at 10:34 am
(13) sornord says:

My WV-born parents have several regional words and phrases I have never heard elsewhere:

“Poke” – i.e. a bag or sack.

“Maul” – which as far as I can tell is a heavy bladed garden tool, similar to a pick.

“Brogans” – which is, I think, are high-topped shoes but not a full boot.

“Holler” – a small valley community, usually centered upstream of a well-known creek. My mother saw a development in FL called “Maple Hollow” and called it “Maple Holler.” Took me a few seconds to figure out that one.

“Hunky” – a term used to describe folks of Hungarian descent. I don’t know if it was pejorative or a mispronunciation.

Yourn – Your with added “n,” meaning yours.

“Hit” – a pronounced “H” on the nominative case of “It,” as in, “Hit’s a nice day today.”

November 5, 2012 at 10:34 am
(14) George DelMonte says:

In Paterson, N. J, particularly in the section known as Riverside, the word, “bunked” was used to mean “have an encounter;” i.e., “You’ll never guess who I bunked into today.”
Also, the word, “stood’ was used to mean “occupy” – such as I stood at the Bates Motel last week end.

November 5, 2012 at 10:36 am
(15) Jillybean says:

Bubbler: in Central Wisconsin a “bubbler” is what most people call a drinking fountain. If you’re thirsty, there’s a “bubbler” around the corner. It comes from the days when instead of a fountain, the water bubbled up.

November 5, 2012 at 10:36 am
(16) June says:

I grew up in Minneapolis, MN and moved to northern Minnesota about 20 years ago. Folks who grew up in the north woods tend to put “the” in front of road names. So instead of saying, “Take Stebner Road to Jean Duluth,” they’ll say “Take the Stebner Road to the Jean Duluth.”

I have never heard that anywhere else!

November 5, 2012 at 10:41 am
(17) Jane says:

Regionalism from friend from Iowa:

Hahh, how are you ‘n y’urins.

Means ‘Hi, how you and your ‘uns’, your ones, your family.

And yes, it’s pronounced just like urine.

November 5, 2012 at 10:43 am
(18) Cory Howell says:

I have two favorite regionalisms here in TN that can sometimes be heard in retail (especially from older people). “To trade” as a verb in place of “to shop,” and “charge plate” instead of the more common “charge card.” E.g., “I’ve been trading at Macy’s for years, so I guess I’ll use my Macy’s charge plate.”

November 5, 2012 at 10:48 am
(19) Marilyn Litt says:

Two that I have found useful upon moving to Texas are:

“all hat and no cattle” which means a person (usually male – but it can mean an idea) who has the gear but not the career.

And I could not choose between them, so I also include the satisfactorily self- explanatory, “I don’t give a rusty rat’s ass.”

Having an ear for language and having grown up in small-town Indiana with family from rural West Virginia, and then live having lived in Chicago and Texas I could go on and on with this subject!

November 5, 2012 at 10:56 am
(20) Wendy Low says:

So happy to see this!

Not sure if this is regional, but it isn’t in my dictionary: “Soaker,” for “a thoroughly soaked shoe.” We used to play down at the creek and get soakers all the time.

My best friend growing up was from Pittsburgh, and had the habit of saying: “the bed clothes need washed,” rather than “need washing,” or “need to be washed.” I like to use that construction, as it suggests an urgency…they should have been washed last week!

Agnes: We called my son “Poot” when he was gestating. The OED said it was an archaic regionalism (Scots) for a wee fish…but with your very onomatopoeic definition, it would still work!

November 5, 2012 at 11:01 am
(21) HillRunner says:

“Tree the wrong raccoon”

I heard this from a Southern friend to describe a situation where someone sadly underestimated the strength or ferocity of an enemy or antagonist.

“They thought our town would lie down for their new Wal-Mart, but they treed the wrong raccoon!”

November 5, 2012 at 11:06 am
(22) kerry wood says:

My college roommate from Buffalo referred to a sleeping back as a scrote.
Come on overnight. You can scrote out in the back room.

November 5, 2012 at 11:20 am
(23) Nina says:

It drives me crazy as a transplant from the West, that my Southern friends say “50 cent’, dropping the ‘s’ on anything that is not a whole dollar amount. “That’s $10.45 cent.”

November 5, 2012 at 11:27 am
(24) Mukund says:

We here in India use a very peculiar word “prepone” which is used as an opposite of postpone.
Well, I wanted to write this post tomorrow but I just preponed it to avoid any delay.

November 5, 2012 at 11:59 am
(25) BigJake says:

Due to local flooding, my wife, when visiting a friend said, “I had to go around Charlie’s barn to get here.” Her friend asked “who is Charlie?” So, not everyone who is local knows local idioms. Too bad, they add so much to the color of the language.

November 5, 2012 at 12:17 pm
(26) Bridget says:

In South-Central Pennsylvania where the language has been heavily influenced by Pennsylvania “Dutch,” many of us were told by our mothers that it was time to stop playing and time to “redd-up” our rooms. We were also chastised for being distracting because we could not sit still: “Stop being rutchy!”

November 5, 2012 at 1:02 pm
(27) Elaine says:

My mother used to always say: “I ran all over Hell and half of Georgia” to describe having drive all around looking for a particular item. I have no idea where the saying came from…mom was born and raised in Michigan.

November 5, 2012 at 2:23 pm
(28) thebobweb says:

How ’bout, jeet jet? Like, did you eat yet? That’s s’posed t’ be from somewhere around Texas what I heard.

November 5, 2012 at 2:45 pm
(29) V Wilkins says:

I was born in Wiltshire (UK) which makes me a Wiltshire Moonraker – nothing whatsoever to do with James Bond they pinched (stole) the title! One of the regionalisms you might still hear from Wiltshire is “alright my lover”? It simply means, “Hi, how are you?” and has no sexual connotations at all. It might be said to a person of the opposite or same sex, younger or older (not so much) person than the person saying it.

November 5, 2012 at 5:22 pm
(30) QuiltPat says:

In Queens, NYC area we said ‘stoop’ for the steps in front of the house. My Dad always called a faucet a ‘spicket’ (rhyme with picket) but I don’t know if that was from Brooklyn NY or South Maryland.

In Altoona PA I’ve heard ‘two squares over’ to mean ‘two blocks away.’


November 5, 2012 at 5:36 pm
(31) JAD says:

If you just don’t care about something, one of my friends would respond: “I just don’t give a rat fart”. I respond: “Frankly, Mrs. McGillicudy, I just don’t give a damn’!

November 5, 2012 at 10:31 pm
(32) ESD Mat says:

Hanging on to the rear bumper of a moving car in a snowstorm was called “ghouling” in my neighborhood as a kid.

“Looks like enough snow for ghouling. Wanna go?”

Southern New England.

November 6, 2012 at 1:42 am
(33) Carole says:

I was brought up in Lancashire, NW England where at the end of a meal someone would be asked to ‘side the table’ meaning to clear the used plates etc.

November 6, 2012 at 2:26 am
(34) Craig Hunt says:

In New Orleans they say “he’s making groceries,” rather than “he’s shopping for groceries.”

November 6, 2012 at 11:29 am
(35) Wendy Low says:

My Dad says in Hamburg New York, near Buffalo, they used to say ” We went all around Robin Hood’s barn to get here.”

My Mother-in-law, from the Lockport / Newfane area called any barely visible ormicxroscopic water critters or germs “Gillywackers”

November 7, 2012 at 10:29 am
(36) mommbsta says:

‘Big Up’ to Wendy for her suggestion – coming form Jamaica means respect /commendation or ‘Nuff’ respect. / hurricane Sandy sent ‘Nuff’ breeze to Jamaica – plenty/ much/alot

November 7, 2012 at 11:28 pm
(37) john hill says:



etc etc etc……

November 9, 2012 at 4:47 pm
(38) barrben says:

East Texas….deep East probably

“howshamominem?” = literally “how is your mom & them?”


“them” – probably family but could be that group that was with your mom the last time we visited with her.

November 11, 2012 at 1:11 pm
(39) Aparna says:

In India, emphasis is gained by repetition, such as, ‘eat slowly, slowly or the food will not be digested properly’. Probably a result of literal translation from Hindi which uses this grammatical construction. Virtually any verb can be doubled.

Another curious one is, ‘sabse best’ literally best of best.

November 12, 2012 at 2:03 pm
(40) Philip van der Merwe says:

South African English seems to be very keen to lose the difference berween nouns and verbs. So we have, for instance, ‘With regards to that’, blurring the distinction between verbs (as regards that) and nouns (with regard to that). Is that happening in the rest of the world, or is it a part of the language dumming down that plagues only the beloved country?

November 18, 2012 at 6:14 am
(41) jean says:

I live in Perth, Western Australia and when the sea breeze is in (blowing)
we say the Fremantle doctor has arrived.

November 19, 2012 at 3:42 am
(42) Philip says:

In Cape Town, South Africa, the South Easter wind is likewise referred to as the Cape doctor (because it blows the smog away from the CBD).

November 26, 2012 at 11:45 am
(43)  revival related says:

What’s up to all, how is everything, I think every one is getting more from this website, and your views are nice designed for new viewers.

November 26, 2012 at 10:44 pm
(44) Kevin says:

My Irish parents would say “stop acting the goat” if someone was messing or Kidding around! Whoa look at that!

January 4, 2013 at 8:22 am
(45) Lisa says:

growing up in Western Pennsylvannia, I have heard the phrase “clean back there” and/or “clear back there” meaning a direction to find something….

May 13, 2013 at 3:59 pm
(46) TripleOG says:

“Dress Down”

My Jamican-British father used this one when asking someone to move over. It nearly got him smacked on the bus once.

“Beg yu a dress down please?”

Try that with a muddled yardie accent.

August 27, 2013 at 8:45 pm
(47) Billy says:

Growing up in Philadelphia, when snow accumulated on the ground, Mom said, “It’s laying.”

October 22, 2013 at 4:55 pm
(48) Jim Platt says:

Over in N.E. South Carolina, there are so many – but here are a few that I grew up with over the past 75 years. Agnes #2 and Wendy #20: We say “toot” for a fart and “poot,” to defecate. Occasionally, there is a friendly argument about which one is which and that always brings smiles and chuckles. The not so amused debater may — at that moment, express a “Sardonian Laugh,” which means — A distortion of the face, without gladness of the heart — then both debaters and any by-standers break out with a hearty guffaw!

Nina –#23 — There is virtually no amount of money– under $1.00 — that is stated with an “s.” It’s always 40 cent, 50 cent,71 cent.

Another, that my older sister always used to say, was “yeh-ya” for yeah/ yes. Then there is the ubiquitious “Co-co Cola”

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