Thursday, November 01, 2007

Stretch your mind

On to much less serious topics. On a flight to Washington on Monday, I was reading the US Airways magazine and saw an article on rubber bands, entitled "Quite the Stretch," by Kostya Kennedy. Among other things, it noted, In Pittsburgh, some call rubber bands "gum bands" -- the only place in the U.S. where that slang is used.

This got me wondering, can you come up with other items that have a particular slang version in a unique part of the country? Please submit them here. (Don't tell me about a sub being a hero in some areas and a hoagie in others. Please only submit examples of a single moniker for an item that is totally different from what is used in the the rest of the country.)

Another assignment: Provide examples of words that mean their opposite. For instance, cleave means both to join together and to pull apart. Extra credit: Provide the term that describes such words. Try this without using the web to find them, ok? Honor system.

48 comments:

fm said...

How about "jimmies" and sprinkles? Yum, ice-cream!

Paul Levy said...

Excellent example. As far as I know, chocolate (and other colored) sprinkles are only called jimmies here in Massachusetts.

I remember arriving in Boston as a college student and ordering an ice cream cone at Brigham's and being asked by the server if I wanted jimmies. It took several back-and-forths before I understood the question. The answer, of course, was "yes."

Speaking of Brigham's, how many out there remember the hot fudge sundaes at Bailey's, served in a silver bowl, with the fudge running over the rim and into the saucer? Marvelous memories . . .

Anonymous said...

Wrong about only Massachusetts. My parents were from Pawtucket RI and we always called 'em jimmies. It was a problem because at the time we lived in Virginia......

Patient Dave said...

Citation (award and traffic ticket).

Sanction (endorse and punish).

Soda (the Coke type) is called pop in Minnesota (and probably nearby), and used to be called tonic around here. (Actually when I was new to Boston, in college, I most often heard it called (e.g. by Reveah girls) chawnic.)

---Plug: those who like this kind of inquiry should check out Parvum Opus, a modest little newsletter by a friend of mine, spouting her own interesting opinions and observations about language. She's quirky. :) I often disagree with her stance on issues, and I love her writings.

Paul Levy said...

Oops, thanks to anon 8:16. But we will consider it localized enough for today's purposes.

Dave, I'll accept "tonic", but not "pop". "Pop" is pretty widespread across much of the US. I've only heard this use of "tonic" (i.e., meaning all kinds of soda) in the MA area.

And thanks for the word pairs, Dave.

Anonymous said...

How about tennis shoes? I grew up in Mass and I always called them sneakers - no matter what sport they were for. Everyone I talk to down south calls them tennis shoes. Jimmies is a good one!

Paul Levy said...

Comments from southerners out there? If you agree, can you localize this to particular parts of the South, or is it widespread?

In NY, sneakers were sneakers. Tennis sneakers were the particular type you wore to play tennis.

Jerry said...

Frappe -- or as a newcomer to Boston once said, frap-pay (very French.)

And yes, I do have fond memories of those wonderful Bailey's Sundaes. So, unfortunately, does my waistline.

Paul Levy said...

Right, a milk shake anywhere else is a frappe here. Don't ask what a milk shake is here . . .

Jason said...

In Texas, 'tennis shoe' refers to any kind of athletic shoe. I don't know about other parts of the south.

adamg said...

Eastern Massachusetts - and parts of New Hampshire and Maine - actually have a fairly extensive vocabulary of unique words. From American chop suey and bubblers (well, OK, we share the latter with, oddly, Wisconsin) to snappin' gaggahs and spas (where you can get a tonic, but not a massage), the vocabulary is one of the things that makes life around here wicked cool. Well, unless you've just moved here and don't have the slightest idea why your neighbor just exclaimed "So don't I!" when you said you loved the foliage.

Sharon S said...

Paul, I know you disallowed sub/hoagie/ hero, but is it called a grinder anywhere other than Connecticut?

Paul Levy said...

Awesome, Adam, thanks.

My Worcester-(MA)-born-and-raised wife tells the story of going to UMichigan as a freshman and asking her roommate, "Where's the bubblah?" The rooms on the floor emptied as her roommate fell on the floor howling in laughter and all the other students came out in wonder. The roommate kept saying, "The bubllah! She said, 'The bubblah'!"

Anonymous said...

In Illinois we call lollipops 'suckers', we call them trash cans and not barrels, water fountains and not bubblers, and you can get a malt or a shake but certainly never a frappe.

Paul Levy said...

Sharon, probably not, but I am looking for examples where everyone else in the US calls it "X" and some region/state/city calls it "Y'.

Anonymous said...

Here in Illinois, I often here people refer to going to the movies as going to a 'show'. It took me a long time to catch on to that one, as I always assumed they were talking about a live performance of some type, not a movie.

I am originally from the South and the term tennis shoes is used in both North & South Carolina.

Paul Levy said...

Thanks. What about it, Midwesterners? Is a "show" a movie anywhere else in America, or just in Illinois? Note, not a "movie show", just a "show."

And thanks for the footwear info!

Dick Williams said...

Back to Pittsburgh, land of my birth...

What is "chopped ham" or "chipped-chopped ham" around here is called "chipped ham" in the Pittsburgh area (where I think it is most popular) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chipped_chopped_ham

Also, a "poke" is a name for a brown paper bag. That tends to be common in Amish areas, so it might be the same in some other regions.

And ... in the western PA area "tennis shoe" is generic for sneaker; it is sprinkles and jimmies is a verb for how to open a lock sans key; we have hoagies and grinders are used on your molars by the dentist; we drink pop there;

wannatakethisoutside said...

Bubbler is in Australia, too.

Jim Perry said...

For diction that varies regionally:

Out West we have "barbeques," in Boston I remember "cookouts."

As a kid I remember "supper," in the West it is always "dinner."

For contranyms:
Back east, "liberal" describes those who want to protect individual life and liberty and advocate using the government to do it.
Out west, "liberal" describes people considered arrogant because they pretend to know what's best for others and don't mind using other people's money to help them.

Anonymous said...

When I was a kid growing up, folks from Rhode Island (pronounced Rho Dyland) used the term "cabinet" for milkshakes/frappes. That's about the strangest one I've heard...

Jim M said...

When I was a kid we used to fish in Lake Cochituate (Boston Burbs) for sunfish, which we called "Kivers." (pronounced "Kiv-ahs", of course, in our Boston accents)

As far as I know this word was not known beyond my neighborhood. I've always wondered where it came from and who else may have used it.

Hillary Stasonis said...

Speaking of frappes... in Rhode Island they call them "cabinets"

Anyone know if that word is used elsewhere?

jessica lipnack said...

In Ohio, a bag (as in paper or plastic) is called a sack. Or was when I went to college there.

And in SF, the restaurant check is called the ticket.

Paul Levy said...

"Cabinets" has to be unique. I think "ticket" is, too. Any disagreements?

"Sack" is used throughout the South, too.

Jim is right about the term "contranym", and it can also be "autantonym" or "auto-anonym".

Paul Levy said...

..and I loved Dick's Pittsburghisms.

Marc said...

Paul,

Interesting stuff. My grandparents, who were from the West Virginia panhandle, used the term "yous'ns" for "you'all" or all of you.

A few years ago, I read in a book of the BBC Television series "The Story of English" that this was an Elizabethan expression -- which I suspect must have survived in the less accessible parts of West Virgina.

Marc

Sara said...

How widespread is "package store" (or, as any good New Englander would put it, "package stah")?

adamg said...

Not a unique word per se, but New Yorkers stand on line at the bank or post office, instead of in line - which I get reminded of every single time I slip up and say "on line" to somebody around Boston. Also, New Yorkers love sitting on stoops - when they're not playing stoopball on them (with their spaldeens, of course) - which makes them so hungry they go out and get some heroes (as in the play: "A Hero Ain't Nothin' But a Sandwich").

Terry at Counting Sheep said...

People from the metropolitan Philadelphia area and Southeast Jersey always refer to going to the beach as going down the shore, as in "Where youse goin'?" "Down the shore!" I believe that is unique to this area.

Paul Levy said...

For admag and others, the true story about "spaldeens", aka "pinkies" -- pink rubber balls ideal for punch ball or stick ball:

These were, of course, made by Spalding Company in Western MA. They were actually the inner core of tennis balls, and the irregulars were sold separately as spaldeens. You may remember that they had a white powder on them when they were fresh. That was part of the manufacturing process. I'm not sure if the powder helped the rubber core adhere to the outside part of the tennis ball, or whether it just kept them from sticking together in the processing system.

When the process for making tennis balls evolved and changed, spaldeens were no longer made or sold.

Source: Personal conversation with the CEO of Spalding Company sometime between 1987 and 1992.

Paul Levy said...

Marc,

I am guessing that the expressions "yous'ns" and "you'all" came from the use of the second person plural of "you" -- still common in Romance languages -- which was dropped in more modern English. While we all know "y'all" and "you'all" from the South, I have never heard "yous'ns" anywhere. Thanks for mentioning it.

Paul Levy said...

Awesome that bubbler is in Australia, too, wannatakethisoutside! Does the water go down the drain in a different direction?

Anonymous said...

This is awesome - 33 comments! I'm the one with the parents from Pawtucket; they also called the lower unfinished level of our house the "cellar"; whereas everyone around me in Va. calls it the "basement." Is cellar a New England term, I wonder, or just an old fashioned leftover from "root cellar"?

Carrie said...

I'm originally from Pittsburgh, so I grew up saying gum band. Another phrase that I think is unique to Pittsburgh is tin foil instead of aluminum foil. My husband always laughs about the fact that Pittsburghers seem to have difficulty identifying what common household products are actually made from.

Pittsburghers also have some issues with verbs. They say (e.g.) "needs done" instead of either "needs doing" or "needs to be done."

Paul Levy said...

Hmm, not many contranyms yet . . .

Anon 9:39, cellar is pretty common throughout the northeast as a synonym for basement. Of course, another "basement" for New Englanders is the bathroom in a school. As in, "Miss Jones, may I go to the basement, please?" I assume this started because the toilets were in the basement in school buildings of a certain era -- but the expression was still used in later buildings in which the toilet was not in the basement. Check this site for more commentary on this: http://www.boston-online.com/glossary/basement.html

Carrie, we used "tin foil" in NY, also. I don't think it was actually ever made of tin (i.e., before aluminium foil was common.) I think it just looked like tin.

And adamg, I still stand on line, too . . .

Anonymous said...

I remember "bathrooms" at public school and "basements" at Catholic school (Worcester).
Wonder if some of these words, like cabinet, have their roots in other languages and have been Anglicized.

thomas said...

Back to Pittsburghese... there's a whole repertoire of unique uses of English. And it is categorized at Pittsburghese.com. I'd say that the dialect is an urban variation of Appalachian parlance.

My favorites from my college days there are:
yinz or yunz: Pittsburgh's version of y'all;
redd up, meaning to clean up;
and
jumbo, meaning balogna.

Paul's wife Bahb said...

Following up on Paul's story about my bubblah experience at UMich, here is another, playing off the fact that regional accents sometimes express different things in different areas of the country:

My father used to call me every Sunday night during my freshman year -- just to check in on his daughter living far from home. One night, he called and asked for "Bahb". My roommates thought he was asking for Bob (which Michiganders pronounce "Bahb"). We lived in a girls’ dorm which had been a boys' dorm during the summer months. As it happened, a boy named Bob had lived in my room during the summer. Thus, my native Michigander room mate told my father that “Bahb doesn’t live here any more.” My father was shocked and disturbed to learn that his young daughter had already moved off campus!

Anonymous said...

Only in Boston have I heard the term "bulkie" for a kind of sandwich roll. Kind of like a Kaiser roll elsewhere, but I think the local version is a little softer.

In New York City they ask "to stay or to go?" instead of "for here or to go?" when you order fast fod.

Patient Dave said...

Bahb,

I mentioned Reveah girls; I had an experience similar to yours once, on a double blind date. Anita, my date, had told me on the phone that her friend's name is Joanna (with an "ah," Joahnna). Halfway through the evening Joanna turned to my buddy and asked why he kept calling her that. Turns out her name was Donna, but in Anita's speaking it came out Joanna.

Eeeuuuuw, is all I can say.

Anonymous said...

Liquor stores around Boston are called "packies"
Then there's wicked pissa meaning really, really excellent.
In Salem, "wicked" would be a contranym - really as in wicked good or wicked pissa and evil as in wicked witch.

The "T".

Anonymous said...

Bubbler is used in Wisconsin too.

Anonymous said...

Qualify: to deem sufficient or to deem limited

eeka said...

What about the opposite of word opposites? Ravel and unravel mean the same thing. And flammable and inflammable of course. Bwahaha.

In the Pacific Northwest it's common to say "hella" as in "there were hella people there" or "the soup was hella salty." Colloquial, yes, but readily understood there and gets strange looks here. Also "freeway" to refer to, well, freeways. That seems to spread across much of the U.S., but in the Northeast they're not "freeways" even when they're free. Oh, and, in the PNW, "garage sale" regardless of whether it's in a garage. And of course, all sorts of words to refer to things having to do with hydroplanes and geoducks, not so much regionalisms as just words that have no reason to be used anywhere else.

Anonymous said...

This might be a bit late, since no one has posted in a few days, but when people don't understand what you say in Cincinnati they say "Please?" (instead of excuse me, pardon, huh or what)

Jeff said...

Haven't read every comment, but on the sub/grinder issue, I believe in Haverhill they are known as 'rockets' and in parts of Boston, maybe South Boston, they have been known as 'spuckys'.

Anonymous said...

Late to the game, but one recent word that has come to mean both itself and its opposite is 'leverage.' It originally meant to assit or provide with an advantage e.g. The bank leverages my ability to buy a home by providing me with a loan. However in popular usage it has come to mean take advantage of e.g. We will leverage the mistakes made by others in order to ensure our success. (presumably the latter will not involve helping others make larger or more frequent mistakes)