10 Common Items That Have Different names

10 Common Items That Have Different namesimage preview

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. Soda, Pop, Tonic, Coke?

three cans of soda pop in a row

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!

Business people enjoy lunch meal at restaurant management discussion

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!

Amber Kanuckel is a freelance writer from rural Ohio who loves all things outdoors. She specializes in home, garden, environmental and green living topics. Her article on woolly worm caterpillar folklore appears in the 2020 Farmers' Almanac.

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Doreen
Doreen
3 months ago

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

Ines
Ines
3 months ago

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

MarilynnGrace
MarilynnGrace
9 months ago

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
Amanda
10 months ago

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

Tonya
Tonya
10 months ago

Crayon & Crayola

Kelly Schaefle
Kelly Schaefle
10 months ago

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
Beverly Duffy
10 months ago

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

MarilynnGrace
MarilynnGrace
9 months ago
Reply to  Beverly Duffy

In the northeast, we call that particular item of furniture a couch.

Mary Ellen Hurteau
Mary Ellen Hurteau
19 days ago
Reply to  MarilynnGrace

in the northeast it was a davenport

Pam Payne
Pam Payne
10 months ago

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

Cherie
Cherie
10 months ago

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
ibaphd
10 months ago

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

Pat
Pat
10 months ago

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
Jodie C
10 months ago

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
Cindi Rice
10 months ago

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
Hazel
10 months ago
Reply to  Cindi Rice

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!

Hazel
Hazel
10 months ago
Reply to  Cindi Rice

Ground hog around here. (So. ILLINOIS)

Hazel
Hazel
10 months ago
Reply to  Cindi Rice

As a kid we called them pedal pushers, but as an adult I say capris.

Hazel
Hazel
10 months ago
Reply to  Cindi Rice

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

Hazel
Hazel
10 months ago
Reply to  Cindi Rice

I live in Illinois too, and I refer to the tags as the sticker on the plates.

Hazel
Hazel
10 months ago
Reply to  Cindi Rice

We call them shopping carts in my part of Illinois.

Hazel
Hazel
10 months ago
Reply to  Cindi Rice

I’ve noticed that too. Mother and Daddy. It was mom and dad for me.

George Shutt
George Shutt
10 months ago

ground hog or woodchuck

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

LEslie I
LEslie I
10 months ago

OK, how about……
Pedal Pushers
Capris
Clam Diggers

MarilynnGrace
MarilynnGrace
9 months ago
Reply to  LEslie I

We called them pedal pushers when I was growing up in NJ in the 40s and 50s.

Teresa Adkins
Teresa Adkins
10 months ago

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

Cindi Rice
Cindi Rice
10 months ago
Reply to  Teresa Adkins

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?

Caroline Ruth Molloy
Caroline Ruth Molloy
10 months ago

front porch or stoop

Richard
Richard
10 months ago

In Alaska snowmobiles were always snowmachines.

PAM
PAM
10 months ago
Reply to  Richard

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
Leon G. Smith
10 months ago

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.
Leslie I.
10 months ago

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
Becky
10 months ago

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

Janet
Janet
10 months ago

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

BetteLee Henry
BetteLee Henry
10 months ago

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

Goody
Goody
10 months ago

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
Chris Apel
10 months ago

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
MarilynnGrace
9 months ago
Reply to  Chris Apel

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
Morecatspls
10 months ago

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
D. Smith
10 months ago

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
Don Live
10 months ago
Reply to  D. Smith

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.

Coren
Coren
10 months ago
Reply to  D. Smith

When I moved to the south, I noticed most people referred to their fathers as Daddy, no matter how old they were. I called my father Daddy when I was a child, but once I grew up, he was Dad.

Wendy
Wendy
10 months ago

Shopping cart or buggy?

Coren
Coren
10 months ago
Reply to  Wendy

I grew up in California where that wheeled cart you use at the grocery store is called a shopping cart. I now live in Alabama where it is called a buggy.

Gary
Gary
10 months ago
Reply to  Wendy

Buggy in the Deep South.

Gary
Gary
10 months ago
Reply to  Wendy

I’m from Alabama. We call it “the grass”.

Gary
Gary
10 months ago
Reply to  Wendy

In Alabama we called it “the grass”.

Judy
Judy
10 months ago
Reply to  Wendy

We called the sofas “couches” in Seattle.

Judy
Judy
10 months ago
Reply to  Wendy

In Seattle it was a “parking strip”

Jaclyn
Jaclyn
10 months ago

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

Jenny M.
Jenny M.
10 months ago

Here in lower Michigan we call traffic circles Roundabouts!

Danielle M.
Danielle M.
10 months ago
Reply to  Jenny M.

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

Glenn Dunn
Glenn Dunn
10 months ago

Speaking of ice cream sundae’s: in St. Louis, the South Side calls them ‘sunduh.’ In 40 years there, I don’t recall ever hearing a plural version.

Deb Driesen
Deb Driesen
10 months ago

I think most of the country knows what a milkshake is, but in the Boston area it’s called a Frappe. Not frapp-ae. Just single syllable fraaape.

Susan
Susan
10 months ago
Reply to  Deb Driesen

And in Rhode Island in the fifties also known as cabinet my fav is chocolate from the creamery! Now I’m a WV yankee

Janine
Janine
10 months ago

Sandwiches, contain sliced meats cheeses lettuce & tomato are called grinders in RI.

Mia Foley
Mia Foley
10 months ago

Wreck or accident, signal or blinker, rubber band or elastic? I am a Mainer, but lived in NC for 9 years & constantly got teased for these. Glad to be back in Maine where I belong! (smiles)

Molly Bradley
Molly Bradley
10 months ago

I am a Louisiana girl born and raised, we had breakfest, dinner some people call this lunch and supper. Then I moved to Florida and this old dumb country girl was all confused lol so glad I’m back in Louisiana!!!!!

RJ
RJ
10 months ago

Think you forgot about “mud bugs”. That’s another term for crawdads I believe.

Marian Jackson
Marian Jackson
10 months ago

North Jersey people call this breakfast meat “Taylor Ham”, South Jersey folks call it pork roll.

Ted Emery
Ted Emery
1 year ago

In my area of Wisconsin, the strip of grass between the roadway curb and the sidewalk is generally referred to as a boulevard, and is owned by the city. When I find a water source in a building, I call it a drinking fountain. If it is outside on the street corner or in a park, that’s a bubbler. Since roundabouts seem to be getting popular with our local idiot politicians, I just call them a pain in the ass.

Seva
Seva
10 months ago
Reply to  Ted Emery

I agree wholeheartedly with you on the round abouts!

Somewhat Dopey
Somewhat Dopey
10 months ago
Reply to  Seva
Tamara
Tamara
2 years ago

I live in north-central Missouri and the grassy area between the street and the sidewalk is called the “parking”.

MarilynnGrace
MarilynnGrace
9 months ago
Reply to  Tamara

We called it the swale in the northeast.

Valerie Coquese
Valerie Coquese
3 years ago

sara { 02.12.16 at 6:52 am }

This was a fun read. I think I have one, Interstate, Freeway, or Expressway: No matter what you call it the road will get you there!
Good one Sara,I say Highway.Also distance,30 miles away or 30 minutes away,I use the minutes.Oklahoma.

BetteLee Henry
BetteLee Henry
10 months ago

I use minutes regarding distance. I used to live in the Colorado Rocky Mountains where you could drive 15 minutes and only go 7 miles because of switchbacks (s-shaped curves).

MarilynnGrace
MarilynnGrace
9 months ago

Northeast adds Thruway and Parkway, with the latter having a landscaped median strip.

gary l demoss
gary l demoss
3 years ago

used to ask a woman at the deli counter for a dipper of macaroni salad. the younger girls looked at me like i was crazy. a dipper was a 1 pint pan, a 1/2 dipper 1/2 pint. came from the pan you used to drink out of from the bucket at the well, or attached to the pump for a drink of water.

Kelley Jo Mayo
Kelley Jo Mayo
3 years ago

In Vermont what most people know as soft serve we call creamees.

Wayne Duncan
Wayne Duncan
3 years ago

There are many regional differences in what different things are called. I really enjoyed this article. In Canada we also have a few. At one time in Saskatchewan there was a dairy that produce a chocolate milk which was call ViCo. It became generic for chocolate milk, so when in a restaurant you ordered a ViCo. When I went out of province and order a Vico you wouldn’t believe the looks I got.

Another one that was unique to Saskatchewan was Bunny Hug. It was what most people call hoodies. It is a term I still use but when I get strange look I have to remind myself I am no longer in Saskatchewan.

Kim
Kim
3 years ago

I didn’t learn until my late 20’s that people in the south called their Grandma a “Meemaw”. Not sure if I’m spelling that right.

susan Wood
susan Wood
4 years ago

In California, I took my kids to the beach. In New Jersey, we go “down the shore.” At the park, they slid down the slide in California, and in NJ they went down the sliding board. In California they went sledding down snowy hills on sleds, in NJ they used sleighs and went sleigh-riding. In CA my coffee is black or with cream, in NJ it is dark, or light. And in California I kept my purse shopping cart, but here in NJ I put my pocket book on the buggy.

Michelle
Michelle
4 years ago

The name for the strip of lawn or grass between the curb and sidewalk seems to have many names. In the Chicago area I most often hear it called parkway. But in the Midwest I have also heard it called tree lawn, devil’s strip, hell strip, berm and curb lawn. Are there other names?

Mellissa
Mellissa
10 months ago
Reply to  Michelle

In Alberta, Canada, we call it a boulevard

Alma
Alma
10 months ago
Reply to  Michelle

MA calls it a treebelt. The 8 feet of your property front belongs to the town. The water pipes, gas lines and whatever else they have put underground belongs to the town to be protected against damage. If you plant a tree in that area, you can not cut it without a huge fine.

07phil
07phil
4 years ago

Most often in So. California it is “No problem” for “You’re welcome!” I think it comes from the Spanish “de nada”

Sandra
Sandra
4 years ago

Always lived in the Vancouver area, BC. Winter hats are Toques, athletic shoes are Runners, soda drinks are Pop, sofas are Couches or Sofas, large sandwiches are Subs,
we use rubber bands for office supplies and elastics for hair bands, and “Step on It” means go faster when driving:). Our fast roads are Freeways, but during rush hour they’re more like parking lots! I think our expressions are similar up and down the west coast, although we say You’re Welcome instead of Uh-Huh as they do in California….

RJ
RJ
10 months ago
Reply to  Sandra

I believe in Iowa, they call couches/sofas a “devan”. Remember that from my early childhood.

Richard
Richard
10 months ago
Reply to  RJ

I was wondering when someone would mention that! Couch, sofa, devan, davenport. And a short one is a love seat.

Virginia
Virginia
4 years ago

Living in south central Indiana I grew up calling cantaloupe “musk melon.”

BarbaraKhristi
BarbaraKhristi
4 years ago

in Pittsburgh rubberbands are called ‘gumbands’ and we ‘red up’ when we tidy a room.