What Do You Call It? 10 Common Items That Have Different Names

Who knew that so many common items had so many names depending on where you live!? Check out this fun list!

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, Gym Shoes, Trainers, 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.” In the U.K., you’ll hear them called “trainers.”

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. Jimmies? Sprinkles?

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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Amber Kanuckel

Amber Kanuckel is a freelance writer from rural Ohio who loves all things outdoors. She specializes in home, garden, environmental, and green living topics.

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Gary Mc Daniel

think long time ago kick the can was called shennie

Jan

couch, sofa, davenport

Barbara Khristi

In western Pennsylvania, folks “red up.” Elsewhere folks tidy, tidy up clean up.

Gina Moore

This article took me back to a college linguistics class. We had an all-out war one day over the right name for what a lady carries her belongings in. As a Georgia gal, my mom always said pocketbook. When I moved to TX, I adopted purse, but as I traveled the country, I also heard handbag. Any others?

Sandi Duncan

Hi Gina,
That’s a great one to add to the list! We call it a pocketbook here in the Northeast!

Gina Moore

What do you use to cook bacon and eggs? In the Deep South it’s a frying pan; Midwest and Northeast, a skillet. But I’ve heard in the UP of Michigan it’s called a spider? True or false?

Mary McNeely

In Ohio you push a grocery cart. In the south it’s buggy. What is it called in other places?

Sandi Duncan

Hi Mary,
We often call it a shopping cart.

Margie Davis

Texas: sodawater or sodie is a soft drink; overpass vs. viaduct; it’s always been breakfast dinner supper; kitchen table is used as a family deposit of mail, sunglasses, keys, laundry stacks while the dining room table is where you eat on Thanksgiving or have company over for dinner. We all use TV trays to eat or use the coffee table but we never bring coffee to the coffee table. We say the blessing or turn thanks before we eat with company but usually we don’t even wait on each other to sit before we start eating.

Mikki

great article – brings back memoies of growing up in Iowa in the 1950s

1 tennis shoes made of canvas not leather
2 lightning bugs
3 pop
4 hoagies were the bun you used for sandwiches filled with lunchmeat or used
for guinea grinders, Italian sausage & mozzarella cheese sandwiches
5 didnt have crawfish for meals
6 pancakes
7 drinking fountain
8 traffic signals
9 sprinkles put on cupcakes or cake frosting
10 supper during the week at 5-6 p.m., dinner on Sunday at 1 pm after church

Susan Higgins

Glad you enjoyed it, Mikki!

Mark

Laundromat vs Washateria

Doreen

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

Ines

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

Susan Higgins

Interesting! We didn’t think of that one. Thanks for sharing!

MarilynnGrace

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

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

Tonya

Crayon & Crayola

Kelly Schaefle

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

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

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

Mary Ellen Hurteau

in the northeast it was a davenport

Pam Payne

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

Cherie

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

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

Pat

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

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

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

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

Ground hog around here. (So. ILLINOIS)

Hazel

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

Hazel

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

Hazel

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

Hazel

We call them shopping carts in my part of Illinois.

Hazel

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

George Shutt

ground hog or woodchuck

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

LEslie I

OK, how about……
Pedal Pushers
Capris
Clam Diggers

MarilynnGrace

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

Teresa Adkins

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

Cindi Rice

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

front porch or stoop

Richard

In Alaska snowmobiles were always snowmachines.

PAM

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

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.

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

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

Janet

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

BetteLee Henry

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

Nancy Gagnier

My sentiments, exactly! They stress me out.

Goody

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shopping cart or buggy?

Coren

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

Buggy in the Deep South.

Gary

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

Gary

In Alabama we called it “the grass”.

Judy

We called the sofas “couches” in Seattle.

Judy

In Seattle it was a “parking strip”

Jaclyn

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

Jenny M.

Here in lower Michigan we call traffic circles Roundabouts!

Danielle 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

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

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

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

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

Mia Foley

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

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

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

Marian Jackson

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

Ted Emery

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

I agree wholeheartedly with you on the round abouts!

Somewhat Dopey
Tamara

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

MarilynnGrace

We called it the swale in the northeast.

Valerie Coquese

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

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).

Susan Higgins

Yes! BetteLee Henry – this is true in Maine. People tell you how long it will take instead of how far!

MarilynnGrace

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

gary l demoss

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.

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