What you call an athletic shoe or a candy on a stick can reveal a great deal about you. Well, which part of the US you originally come from, at least. In recent years, linguists have pondered whether the homogenizing effect of TV and the Internet have begun to eliminate regional terms and dialects. If we look at several recent surveys, the answer seems to be - not at all. The same object can have a wildly different name based on whether you’re on the East Coast or West Coast, the Northeast or the Southwest.
Read on to explore 12 terms which prove that there are countless ways to describe one thing - it all depends on who you ask.
This is perhaps one of the most hotly debated regional word differences. To support this claim, we will tell you that there is a whole website dedicated to this dispute. The ‘Pop vs Soda Project’ is an online map that documents how people around the US refer to fizzy drinks and which words are used the most in which regions of the country.
According to the map, "soda" is the most popular term in the Northeast, California, Hawaii, and parts of Nevada and Arizona. "Pop" is mainly a Midwestern term, and several states in the South prefer "coke" — as in, "What flavor coke would you like?"
When describing what the Dictionary of American Regional English defines as "low canvas-top shoes with rubber soles," people in the Northeast and Florida would say “sneakers” while the rest of America would opt for ‘tennis shoes’.
Interestingly, the word ‘sneakers’ was first used in 1887 by the Boston Journal, saying “sneakers is the name boys give to tennis shoes”. Apparently, that name referred to how quiet the rubber soles were on the ground, in contrast to the noisy standard leather soles of the time.
According to the Dictionary of American Regional English, the most commonly used names for these luminous insects that often dot the sky during summertime are “lightning bugs” and “fireflies”. The latter appears to be more popular with younger Americans in recent years.
Other fun variations include “glowworms”, “firebugs” and “junebugs”.
Most people in the US would refer to candy on a stick as a ‘lollipop’ or a ‘sucker’. Lollipop appears to be more common in the Northeast, while the word 'sucker' is more widely used in the South and Midwest.
The term 'lollipop' may have derived from the term "lolly" (tongue) and "pop" (slap). The first references to the lollipop in its modern context date back to the 1920s.
Researcher Joshua Katz found that "roundabout" is used in the West and South, and "traffic circle" is mostly used on the East Coast and in Midwestern states, plus parts of the South.
A less common term is ‘rotary’ which appears to be used in parts of the Northwest. An even rarer, almost obsolete word is ‘cloveleaf’, which was popular between 1965-1970, according to surveys of the time.
A survey of more than 10,700 people from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that while many participants used the words interchangeably, the word ‘frosting’ was the more common response for those originating from the West Coast, the Northeast, and the Midwest. Both words have the same meaning and refer to the process of the sugary cream hardening on the cake to the point that it starts resembling ice.
A four-wheel grocery cart is called a ‘carriage’ in the Northeast, especially in Connecticut and eastern Massachusetts. In the South and some Midwestern states, however, shoppers might opt for the word ‘buggy’.
The word ‘buggy’ originated in 18th century England, referring to a two-wheeled cart. By the mid-19th century, the term had come to the United States and the buggy had become a four-wheeled carriage for two passengers.
The end piece of a loaf of bread is one of those things you never know what to call. Well, throughout much of the US ‘heel’ is the most popular way to refer to it, according to a dialect survey conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The next most common name for the final bread slice is ‘end’, which mostly appeared in New England and parts of the Midwest and Southeast. ‘Crust’ took third place with a greater concentration in the north. Lastly, ‘butt’ was selected by some survey respondents from the East Coast and the Great Lakes regions.
A cold creamy drink with sweet flavorings such as fruit or chocolate, and typically ice cream is known around most of the US as a ‘milkshake’. New Englanders have historically called the same drink a ‘frappe’. To make things even more confusing, many people in the New England region call a glass of chocolate milk a "milkshake”, according to WJBQ, a Main based radio station.
The word ‘frappe’ in itself comes from French, where it describes drinks chilled with ice.
The main road that connects different towns and cities is called a ‘freeway’ by people residing on the West Coast, whereas the rest of the US is more likely to use the word ‘highway’.
While most of us think of the words as interchangeable, Diffen.com begs to differ. “The main difference between freeways and multilane highways is that in the case of freeways, these roads are separated from the rest of the traffic and can only be accessed by ramps,” according to the website.
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