There are many names for a sandwich with meat, cheese, lettuce and tomato on a long bun. The Dictionary of American Regional English, whose fifth and final volume has just been published, can tell you where in the country it is called a hero, hoagie, sub, grinder or torpedo. We discuss the distinct local flavor that language can take on, and the work that has gone into documenting it. What are your favorite regional terms or expressions?

Joan Houston Hall, chief editor of the Dictionary of American Regional English
Erin McKean, member of DARE Board of Visitors and founder and CEO Wordnik, an online dictionary that shows definitions from multiple sources

  • PrintDeutschmarks

    One word that I hear more and more these days is pressttitute, which is a merging of “press” (as in news) and “prostitute”. I think Gerald Celente coined it.

  •  One of my favorite regional terms is “sack” (Midwest) and “bag” (Northeast and West Coast) for the container the grocery uses to pack up your purchased items. I also like “soda” (again, East and West Coast) versus “pop” (Midwest) for sugary carbonated beverages. If you ask for a “pop” on either Coast who knows what you’ll get!  And if you don’t ask for a “pop” in the Midwest you will never get your sugary carbonated beverage!  My professional work has me writing and coaching people to say what they mean and that often requires harnessing different words in different regions. That’s where the Regional Dictionary comes in.  Looking forward to this interesting segment. – Judy Grant, Grant and Associates

  • Alsaldich

    “hella”, as in “that’s hella cool” (or something like that). Seems to be an East Bay term used by kids around Berkeley & Oakland, including mine. May be over already though. Completely unknown to my kids’ cousins in New Jersey last summer, but pervasive here.

  • Meghan V. Malloy

    I’m a Midwest girl who three years in Maine.  I was teased a lot for saying “pop” instead of “soda” while living there.  However, upon my return to the Midwest, I brought back the Maine/northern New England phrase “right out straight” (stressed out, swamped, etc).  I also say “all set,” meaning, “I’m fine” or “I’m done.”  This is better understood by Midwesterns, although I still occasionally get the question, “All set with what?”

  • Kathy (Santa Rosa)

    Pronouncing “the”:  I have always pronounced this word as “thuh” before a consonant and “thee” before a vowel (as in “the bold” but “thee old”.)  This distinction is quickly disappearing, at from what I hear on NPR and KQED. I’m told it’s regional (Southeastern), but it seems to be everywhere.  Have your guests noticed or addressed this?

  • Naprom2

    “Wicked” used in the Boston, MA area as synonymous with Great or Good is one of my favorite regional adjectives to use in quotidian conversation..

  • bidaho

    In Westchester county New York, the sandwich in question is called a “wedge”.

    • Fay

      I emailed the show that very phrase. I never heard “wedge” used anywhere else than Westchester County and vividly remember the signs in pizza and sandwich shops “Wedges”.

      • bidaho

        Cool! I had to get out of the car before the show ended — did they say it on air?  The cool thing about ‘wedge’ is that it seems to be limited to northern Westchester, in just a few towns north of White Plains — Briarcliff Manor, Pleasantville, Hawthorne, Millwood, etc. 

  • John

    Why do some people says “no” when they mean “yes”?
    As in, “no, you’re correct” … or “no, I’m in complete agreement
    with you”. 

  • Jv

    Just curious about the derivation of the words “dish” and “diss” which I believe can mean to gossip in a disparaging manner.  Would someone comment, please?

  • julie thompson

    I suspect the “a” in a-purpose is not the indefinite article but related to the a in afoot, meaning “on”

  • Lynn Landry

    Growing up New Orleans, we had quite a few regional words: When you ordered your POBOY, you would ask for it to be “DRESSED” if you wanted everything on it. 

    A “median” is a “neutral ground” stemming from the days when the anglos moved into Creole neighborhoods. 

    When you run into an old friend you ask, “HOW’S YOUR MAMANDEM?”

    And, when your pantry you do to the store to “MAKE GROCERIES.” 

    • Mizlandry

       I meant “when your pantry is bare, you go to the store to make groceries

  • Louis

    What’s with younger people, educated ones at that, increasingly using the word “me” instead of “I.” (as in “me and Michael enjoy a variety of topics.”)

  • Hank

    What do the guests think of the recent “business speak” terms, such as “on-boarding”, etc. They can be quite annoying and convoluted at times…difficult to understand and wordy.

  • Fay

    Also, it’s not a word, but what would you call the current vogue to
    chirp “Thanks, SO MUCH” as the replacment for thank you? On NPR, it is
    used routinely to thank a guess with rare exception. If you listen to a
    ten yr old NPR radio show, you will hear “thank you very much”, but
    today, it’s always “thanks SO much”. Is the thanking phrase a victim of
    thank you inflation (LOL)?!

    The City

  • Archie

    One winter in Colorado I spent some time with some people who called the practice of catching a ride on a car bumper in the snow “skitching” or ski-hitching.

    • Neighborhood Watch

      I heard someone from Idaho call that “hooky bobbing.”

  • Tatiana

    From: Tatiana Harrison, educator from Santa Rosa, California.

    Hello, are there any Spanish words in the dictionary? I’m wondering if at some point there could be Spanish in this dictionary, even though it sounds like a contradiction in an “English” dictionary. But it is an American language compilation, and Spanish has always been in parts of America, especially in the regions of the southwest and southern california.

    There is so much Spanish in my American experience in Northern Cali and I see, as a teacher, “white” kids using Spanish terms.  I think it would be fascinating to research this.

    And often the Spanish used here has an interesting relationship with the world outside America. For example, the chicano kids I work with often use the word “chota” for police. Imagine my surprise when, in the middle of Iraq, I found out the arabic word for police is “chota.” And a peruvian journalist was telling me how amazed he was at the antiquated nature of the Spanish he heard among Latinos who had always lived in Arizona, since before it was American territory. He said it was Spanish out of Don Quixote. And “chota,” the word they used for police, was one of this antiquated terms.

    I hope you will think of working Spanish into this English dictionary somehow!!

  • Mizlandry

    I’m also fascinated that some people say “all the sudden.” I always said “all of a sudden.”

  • Grace

    A new term I’ve heard recently on college campuses related to social media is a Biloxi Moment.  It refers to a moment when you know something about someone, not because they’ve told you directly, but instead because you’ve learned it through Facebook.  For instance knowing someone spent their vacation visiting Biloxi, or that their sister just had a baby.

  • Anne

    Neologisms!  For about 5 years, I have been trying to popularize “edress” for “email address” without any observable success.  It seems to me to meet usual criteria being shorter and, to my ear at least, rather intuitive.  Maybe putting it on the radio will help it catch on?

    • Fay

      Sounds like a cop writing in his report, “the perpetrator in the bank collected cash and made his egress”. You dont have a bad idea, but you have been scooped by “email addy”.

    • Ron M

      Great!  You’ve got my support.
      In written form try using “e’dress”.or “e-dress”.  That might help the cause.  In spoken form stressing the “e” sound and saying “ee-dress” or “eee-dress” might help. 
      We might have to settle for “e’ address” or “i’ address”.
      I’ve been getting away with “v-mail” for voice mail in intra-office e-mails for +3 years.  

  • Katie

    What are the regional variations on “the way back” for that area at the back of a station wagon usually used for cargo, groceries, etc.

  • Catmarye

    Professor Krasny,
    Thank you for such an intriguing show on regional language differences!  I am an American Sign Language interpreter and would like to add there are vast regional differences in different signs across the nation between different states and even within Northern and Southern California.  In the south for example, the sign for “Sunday” is made as if wiping  grease from your chin because people ate chicken for “supper” or “dinner” (also regional words)  on Sunday while that sign is not at all like the standard sign for “Sunday”.  In fact there are many different signs just for “Sunday” across the nation.

    Historically as well, segregated African American Deaf folks had a different sign for “school” which depicted separation different than the standard sign for “school”.

    There are probably thousands if not millions of examples of regional difference in American Sign Language just as there are in American English.

    Take care,

  • Lrusten

    I came in late to the show, but wanted to ask about the “Butte” (Montana) “accent”. I grew up there in the 50’s and 60’s and when I go back, it’s very distinct. At a class reunion, a classmate said she wrote her thesis on it. Butte was very cosmopolitan in its early days of mining. The “accent” seems to be a mix of Eastern US and European, or ? Any comments?

  • Lookrkt

    Do the authors mostly consider North America? Hawaii speaks pidgin, not considered linguistically pidgin, but a dialect. ‘Howzit’, ‘bum bye pau’ ‘stink eye’ and many more.

  • Sara

    If you listen to “Fresh Air”, you’ll hear Terry Gross use “like”, in that Valley Girl way, all the time.  It’s gone far beyond Val Talk.

  • Teridmc

    My friends from the south had a different phrase for grocery shopping.  I grew saying” going grocery shopping”, they would “make groceries”‘ That had me confused for a while – how do you make groceries?

  • Yoel

    What about the word to describe a run-down bike or car called a “hoopty” (like “hoop-tee”)?

    Or the same term to describe anything else as “janky”

    Is this just slang? We grew up with it here in the Bay Area.

  • Dan Quickert

    I received the term “fixin’ to”  from the old Davey Crockett TV show, and wonder how many other Boomers got it that way.

    I spent a few years in northeren Virginia, and picked up a slight drawl. The most useful word that I still use is “y’all”, which you already discussed; but in the 70’s and into the 80’s it was an invaluable replacement for the (already discussed) “you guys”.

    I missed some of the program, so maybe this connection was already made?

  • Brian

    I moved to the Bay Area from Indiana and was surprised to find that all rentals come with a “gardener” included. In the Midwest this means you have a full time employee to maintain your flowers and tomato plants! 

  • Lapahl



    My 18-year old son, who graduated from Skyline High
    School last year, reports some Oaklandisms that I wonder if your guests are


    for example, “getting hyphy” means to have fun,
    “getting active” means to do something shady, and if you say “That go dumb”, you
    are giving someone a compliment.  Brought to you from the folks who have you



    in Oakland


    • Doogie Smythe

      “Oakland’s da bomb!”

  • Clif

    Anymore is used regionally: in the east coast it is only used as a negation , ” you never see garter snakes anymore” but on the west coast it’s used in the positive , ” it’s getting so everyone has a cell phone anymore”

  • Gloria

    Growing up in Southern Arizona, we always called any type of exercise shoes “tennis shoes” but when I moved to New Hampshire or the east coast they called them “sneakers” … Explain??

  • Sam

    What about “jeans” for Levi pants vs. “dungarees”

  • Linda

    My mother, who grew up in south west Ohio used the word ‘rig’ to indicate embarrassment. Old English in origin?

  • Jbolton

    I grew up in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia before moving to SF in the 60’s.  Our home language includes GRITCHEL for suitcase, COUNTEYPANE for bedspread, CHIFFEROBE for chest of drawers, RISIN for a boil or abcess, TAKIN THE VAPORS for shortness of breath, and many others.  The website http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com is devoted to our mountain speech.

    • Sage

       Counteypane is probably a variant on counterpane
      alteration of Middle English countrepointe, modification of Middle French coute pointe, literally, embroidered quiltFirst Known Use: 15th century

  • Bill Thomson

    On the East coast, if your car needs a repair, you “bring” it to the shop. In the west, we “take” it to the shop.

  • Dan McGuire

    Traveling the country with touring theater shows for many years, I reveled in the regionalisms that were heard every morning getting off the tour bus. One of my favorites was the various ways someone might give you advice on what to do: in the northeast, I was often told “Whats youse guys is gonna do is…” While in Iowa I was more likely to hear “What a feller might could do is…” while in the west one was more apt to hear “If I were you” 

    I often felt to that one could figure out within a few hundred miles where in the south one was by the way “Thank you” is pronounced – varying from Thankeeee to Thaaaaaank ewwwwee to many other inflections.

  • Marie

    why do people in northern California say “these ones” instead of “these”

  • sbrisend

    My mom uses the phrase “I look like death eating a cracker” to complain she doesn’t look good. I thought she’d made it up, and her friends tell me she’s used it for years. Your program got me to google it, and it was first written in 1949, but also appeared in two books by Rita Mae Brown. Also I had to change my pronunciations of umbrella and insurance when I moved out of the South – stop emphasizing the first syllable. Fun show!

  • Dane

    I like to hear kids these days using “moded” meaning someone who is mistaken or wrong about something that they said. 
    I tell my students that those in my generation began its use in our elementary schools, taking it to mean, “no longer in fashion”.  

  • Shereewright

    The word Hella….totally a Cali term. Means to like alot

  • Eyasta

    All my family are Slavic (actually, Carpatho-Rusyn, “Hillbilly Ukrainians”
    from the Carpathian Mts of southern Poland) who settled in central/eastern PA
    in the early 20th century. I am the youngest child by many years and we
    moved when I was 3 to Texas (then to Sacramento at age 11) but somehow I have
    held on to many of the strange words/pronunciation our parents had. People
    often think I’m from Minnesota or Fargo. Or if I’m Jewish from Long Island
    because of the hard “g”s I have at the end of my words. Go figure! My 3
    siblings all needed speech therapy for not saying their “r’s” and medial “l’s”.
    There’s a great website for the “coal cracker” dictionary.Random words:
    “buggy” for the grocery cart in the store (I wonder if this is from the coal
    mining world where “buggies” are the wheeled wagons used to move
    coal.”you guys/you’s/you’s guys – is there any other way???
    ;)Dad’s farm terms: “fell off the roof” = a women’s mentrual
    period as in “She fell off the roof.”And all our older relatives called
    their fathers “Pop”. Never Dad or anything else. Hmmm…crick =
    creekdungarees = jeanspocketbook = purseSo many others!
    P.S. InTexas we were confused by “put it up” for put it

  • Michael

    While growing up in Milwaukee, I recall some expressions possibly based on German word order. An example: “Down by Shusters, where the streetcar bends the curve around”.

    • Doogie Smythe

      Oh ja, hey, now dontcha know, ainso?

  • Carol Pollak

    In western Pennsylvania we called rubber bands “gum bands”; when I visited New Hampshire as a teenager and used the term I was asked what that meant, and informed that they called rubber bands “elastics”.

    • Sage

       In CT, we refer to rubber bands as elastics

  • Judy

    In Indiana my parents referred to bored or unhappy facial expressions as looking like you have the bots.  Maybe Bot flies.


  • Scott

    In New England, the word for a dry cleaning establishment is “Cleansers” rather than “Cleaners.”  Also, coffee reg’lar is with cream; you have to ask for black coffee by that name.

  • Ray

    Great show. I’ve been trying to figure out why I pronounce the word “won” as “juan”. I thought it was because of my Jamaica dad, figuring I had picked up some of his accent… Nope. After being teased for many years I tried tracking it back to the source. To my surprise, I actually got it from my African-American mother who was born near Portland and grew up in Seattle. Her family migrated to the Northwest from Oklahoma and Georgia to build ships.   

  • Jennifer

    I love hearing all of these great figures of speech!
    When I moved to CA from western NY, I apologized to someone for “horning in” on something they were doing – and they had no idea what that meant! My family still chuckles about local-isms like a junk store fiddle that was bought “up to Geneva”.
    My family has a few words that may be from Irish ancestors? – “Jeekers” I’ve never heard anyone else say this until I heard it uttered by a touring Irish band.

  • kiesha

    One of my favorite topics! I grew up in Southeastern Ohio and was treated to many of the following:

    My dad might ask you to warsh the dishes, while my mom would ask you to woysh the deeshes.

    My grandfather might say to you, “Keller me a pitcher of a feesh.” Which meant, “Color a picture of a fish for me.”

    My mom often tells me she has to run the sweeper, which means she has to vacuum.

    Tennis shoes = all athletic and canvas-style shoes.
    Pop = soda

    In Ohio, we stand ‘in line” while my husband’s New Jersey family stands “on line.”

    The New Jerseyians also “call out from work,” while in Ohio, we “call off work” if we’re sick.

    My grandmother pronounces aluminum as “ah-loon-ee-um.”

    I brought home a plastic bag from a store once and my dad asked, “What’s in your poke?”

    I grew up thinking the drink was “Ice Tea” (like the rapper!) and only learned it was actually “Iced Tea” upon reading a menu when I was a teenager.

    I only recently (I’m 30) learned that “nibby” is not actually a word. I tried to look it up in the dictionary and it was not there. In Ohio, we use it to describe someone who won’t mind their own business. “Stop being so nibby and get out of your Aunt’s medicine cabinet!” Variations include “nibnose” and “nibsh**”.

  • Karen M

    Growing up in the south (NC, with family from SC), we called warm beanie-type hats “toboggans.”  It was only when I got to college that I realized that toboggans in most places are sleds!

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