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10 Common Items That Have Different Names Depending On Where You Live

10 Common Items That Have Different Names Depending On Where You Live

We’re a cultural melting pot and nowhere is that more evident than in the many regional dialects that we Americans speak. From coast to coast, American English is largely the same, though spoken with different accents, but there are a few terms that cause some confusion. Here are a few examples of 10 common items that have different names depending on where in the U.S. you are!

1. Sneakers or Tennis Shoes?

Depending on where you’re from, you might call athletic shoes with rubber soles one of three different names: sneakers, tennis shoes, or gym shoes. The majority of the United States uses the term “tennis shoes,” but New Englanders and southern Floridians call them “sneakers.” Only a few small pockets of the population refer to athletic shoes as “gym shoes.”

2. Lightning Bugs or Fireflies?

Head outside on a summer night and what do you see? The western half of the U.S. almost exclusively refers to the glowing bugs as “fireflies.” South Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Texas, Florida, New York and most of the New England States use both terms, while large parts of the South and Midwest prefer the term “lightning bug.”

3. Soft Drinks

Ironically, the one term that no one uses for soft drinks is… “soft drinks!” Most of the northern half of the U.S. refer to soft drinks as “pop,” but the New England states, part of Wisconsin, much of Illinois and Missouri, Florida and California call the fizzy drinks “soda.” If you live in “Southie,” outside of Boston, Massachusetts, you might call it “tonic.” People in Texas and most of the Southern U.S. sometimes refer to soft drinks as “coke.”

4. What is a Hoagie, Anyway?

It turns out that only people in Pennsylvania and New Jersey know what a hoagie is. Most of the United States calls the long, cold-cut sandwich a “sub,” but Pennsylvanians use “sub” and “hoagie” interchangeably. These sandwiches are also known as a “hero” in New York City, a “Po’boy” in Louisiana, a “grinder” in Massachusetts, a “wedge” in Westchester County and The Bronx, New York.

5. Crawfish, Crayfish and Crawdads, Oh My!

Which of these three do you say? In the North, people are more likely to refer to these freshwater crustaceans as “crayfish,”  “crawdaddies” or “crawdads,” but in the South, people call them “crawfish.” If you’re curious, all three terms are regional versions of the original Middle English word, “crevise.”

6. Pancakes, Flapjacks, or Hot Cakes?

These three terms, which all describe the same syrup-smothered breakfast cake, all have wildly varying histories. The term “pancake” is the oldest, originating in the 14th century. “Hot cakes” are listed in the dictionary as an Americanism that came about in the late 17th century among early American settlers. Then, in the American West, cowboys came up the term “flapjack.” Back then, flapjacks were a little different from those we’re used to today — cowboys liked theirs hearty with whole grain wheat and oats.


7. Need A Drink of Water?

For most of New England, the South and the Midwest, you can get a quick sip of water at the “water fountain.” However, the West and a few pockets of the Midwest prefer to get a drink at the “drinking fountain.” Oddly, people in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and the eastern half of Wisconsin call them “bubblers.” This is not to be confused with another water-related item that goes by different names: Tap or spigot, depending on where you live.

8. Mixed (Traffic) Signals

You pull up to an intersection where the roads meet and form a circle that you need to drive around in order to find your exit. What do you call it? In Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Maine, it’s a “rotary.” Most of the rest of the U.S. calls this a “roundabout.” But people in Texas, Ohio, Michigan, Southern California and the East Coast from Pennsylvania down through Georgia call it a “traffic circle.”


9. The Perfect Ice Cream Topping

For most of us, those small, colorful chocolate confections that we put all over ice cream, sundaes, and cupcakes are called “sprinkles.” To New Englanders, however, the correct term is “jimmies.” Where did that word come from? No one is quite sure, but the Just Born Candy Company of Pennsylvania says that they are named after an employee — Jimmy Bartholomew — who created them!

10. Supper? Dinner? Who Cares! Let’s Eat!

Lunch, dinner, and supper are three terms that are used differently all over the U.S. Depending on who you ask, you either eat lunch at noon or you have dinner. Evening meals are the same way — to some, the evening meal is dinner and to others, it’s supper. Even more confusingly, some people use dinner for formal evening meals and supper for more casual repasts. So is there a correct way to use dinner and supper? According to Dictionary.com, “dinner” refers to the main meal of the day, whether you eat it in the evening or at night.

Are there any other terms you’ve heard that are unique to a specific part of the U.S. where you live or where you were visiting? Tell us in the comments below!

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  • Doreen says:

    Sofa v couch
    Living room v family room
    Seltzer (water) v soda water
    Cream v half-n-half

  • Ines says:

    How about a piece of furniture in your living room where 2 or more people sit side-by-side: couch – sofa – davenport – settee ….

  • MarilynnGrace says:

    My grandmother in Mass called the front screened in porch the “piazza,” which is Italian for town square. No, she wasn’t Italian. Go figure.

  • Amanda says:

    Washrag or washcloth. Born and raised in Virginia and I say washrag.

  • Tonya says:

    Crayon & Crayola

  • Kelly Schaefle says:

    In South Dakota a stop light is called a stop and go. We thought the young lady was refering to a convenient store. Lolol

  • Beverly Duffy says:

    I was raised to call it sheetrock. The midwest calls it wall board. Also: we call it a sofa. Others call it a divan.

  • Pam Payne says:

    What about hose pipe and water hose? Here in North Carolina, it’s a hose pipe!

  • Cherie says:

    Gum bands for Anything with rubber banding : from pants with elastic waist to hair ties, is used here in sw pa. I’m A transplant from California . Where I always said a rubber bands is used to secure a bundle. Cracks me up.

  • ibaphd says:

    In the west, you carry your groceries in a sack. In the east, you carry them in a bag.

  • Pat says:

    I have really enjoyed this article! Growing up in Nebraska my family said yum yums for sloppy joes, some referred to the creek as the crick. It was always crawdads, lightning bugs, and locust.

  • Jodie C says:

    I’m from Texas, and a few of us consistently have another name we use for __Tennis Shoes/Sneakers/Gym Shoes__ ….. we call them “Tenni-Runners. Yep, guess we’re all different. And isn’t it Fabulous!!!

  • Cindi Rice says:

    I grew up on the west coast, & we called them shopping carts. My husband is from the Midwest & calls them buggies. To me, a buggie (as in baby buggie) is something you put a baby into, then go for a stroll.

    • Hazel says:

      I’m from Southern Illinois and we call them shopping carts. The first time I heard someone from the south call it a buggy I thought it was hysterical!

  • George Shutt says:

    ground hog or woodchuck

    speed bump or speed humps or any of the other 100 or so names.

  • LEslie I says:

    OK, how about……
    Pedal Pushers
    Clam Diggers

  • Teresa Adkins says:

    Soup Beans or Pinto Beans, I’m from Kentucky and I call them Soup Beans!

    • Cindi Rice says:

      My husband is from KY, & calls them soup beans. But let me sneak Navy beans, or great northern beans, & he’ll as me if we were out of pinto beans?

    • Hazel says:

      Growing up soup beans could be Navy beans or Northern beans. Pinto beans were just called pintos. My folks were from Ohio.

  • Caroline Ruth Molloy says:

    front porch or stoop

  • Richard says:

    In Alaska snowmobiles were always snowmachines.

    • PAM says:

      Yes, I know that is weird, coming from Wisconsin. My friend from Alaska, called them “snow machines” and I was like “what?”. Also, on Alaska shows on TV, they call them snowmachines.

  • Leon G. Smith says:

    I’m from eastern Pa. Traffic circles are being added to some major highways, mainly State route 222. Myself, and some other locals, call them “circle jerks”. That term has other meaning also.

  • Leslie I. says:

    As a New York City child, linoleum was oil cloth ( my grandmother, a New Yorker, pronounced it earl cloth), now vinyl flooring. You entertained guests & families retired to the parlor after dinner. My grandmothers boyfriend said viaduct instead of bridge. You had a Garage sale(whether you had a garage or not) rather than Yard or Lawn sale. Raincoat, slicker. Home fried potatoes, usually served with breakfast eggs…haven’t seen a comparison 😁

  • Becky says:

    In Illinois our cars have license plates. When traveling to Florida I heard them called tags.

  • Janet says:

    Here in the Canadian prairies a hoodie is called a bunny hug.

  • BetteLee Henry says:

    According to my mother, roundabouts are “hell”. 🙂

  • Goody says:

    Growing up in Vermont I’ve always had to sweep the dust bunnies out from under the bed, but my husband from Alaska swept dusty mice!

  • Chris Apel says:

    Living room or front room….Diner or restaurant
    Soft drink or pop…When I was growing up, we said front room in Cleveland, Ohio

    • MarilynnGrace says:

      We had a living room in Mass and NJ, but my husband growing up in Utah had a front room. The first time I heard his family use that term I wondered which room was the “back” room? LOL

  • Morecatspls says:

    Born in Michigan, California since age 14. Still can’t stop saying sideboard instead of counter, and “sideyard”, which no one seems to understand! I know there’s more, just can’t recall them all. Pop is very common if you’re from Michigan.

  • D. Smith says:

    We live in the Nothern Great Plains and here we call them (instead of subs) Grinders and they are made with finely shredded cabbage rather than lettuce. They are delightful!

    • Don Live says:

      I was born and raised in South Philadelphia in 1950s. People that worked in 1940s at the Navy Yard – at southern most part of South Philly – wanted a hearty lunchtime sandwich of cold cut meats, cheese, lettuce, tomatos, sliced peppers (option), mayo (option), olive or vegetable oil (not an option), italian seasonings, salt & pepper; all wedged into a sliced elongated roll (“hoagie or steak roll”). Many of the workers called it either a “hoggie” – for Hog Island, which is a small parcel of land east of Navy Yard – or “hoagies.“ No south phillyer called them “subs” or a “hero”. Those were names used by “foreigners:” any one not from south philly.
      If you took the same hoagie / hoggie and placed it in an over for a few minutes to heat the roll and meats and melt the cheese it was called a “grinder.”
      Where this stuff got all confused about its identity i have no idear (sow-filly term for idea). 🙂 It must be an usurpation of a south philly staple, like cheesesteaks, by them darn “foreigners” from (New) Jersey, or worse yet, that big wormy apple, New York City.

  • Wendy says:

    Shopping cart or buggy?

  • Jaclyn says:

    I am from California and call it a tow truck. My midwest boyfriend calls it a wrecker.

  • Jenny M. says:

    Here in lower Michigan we call traffic circles Roundabouts!

    • Danielle M. says:

      I call them a pain in the keister because it doesn’t seem like most people know how to drive in them.

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