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A Field Guide To The World’s Most Distinctive English Regionalisms

27 February 2015

From i09:

Why will asking for directions to a time machine get you sent to an ATM in Wisconsin, a request for a sarsaparilla spider gets you a root beer float in Australia, and someone wondering if you’ve seen their bunnyhug in Saskatchewan is actually searching for their favorite hoodie? Read on to find out.

In response to this call for the most distinctive regionalisms in your area we got responses from all over the English-speaking world. Here’s a field guide to just some of our favorites:

. . . .

Having grown up & lived in Wisconsin most of my life, here are my favorites:

1) Let me stop at this bubbler. (drinking fountain)

2) I got to hit up a time machine. (ATM – TYME was a local/regional brand name of ATM)

3) I’m heading upnort for the weekend. (“up north”) – regardless of which direction you need to travel, if you have a plot of hunting land/cottage/cabin/lake house, you go “upnort”

. . . .

Kinda surprised not to see New Orleans represented yet, so

neutral ground = median

gutter cans/gutter pipes = gutters

poboy = sub sandwich

go cup = a plastic cup to take your drink with you when you leave the bar

inkpen = pen

lagniappe = little extra thing tossed in with your order

. . . .


Change of clothes you wear at the gym: gym strip

Coloured markers: felts

Lunch bags (basically any non-paper bag lunch container, especially kiddy themed ones): Lunch kits

. . . .

I’m from the west of Ireland and the local language gets strange enough to warrant subtitles on national TV. Although admittedly when written down without the accent they look a lot less weird. How it is said can also change the meaning.

Bertie/Berty = Very good. Wiery = Bad. Sound = Good/OK/Yes. Just to name a few.

. . . .

In the same way the Inuit “famously” have several words for Snow, the people of Glasgow, Scotland have a selection of words for (a) bleak weather and (b) lunatics.

(a) Bleak Weather:

Dreich, minging, drookit, haar, sump, perishin, smirry, etc.

Link to the rest at i09

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13 Comments to “A Field Guide To The World’s Most Distinctive English Regionalisms”

  1. Some of my favorite police procedural authors are from Scotland and Ireland. I usually listen to them on audible and I’ve found that my teen-aged fascination with the Childe ballads has helped my ear a good deal with understanding. However, everyone seems to swear a blue streak (or as my grandmother used to say in W.Va., “lose their religion.”)

    • Back in the 1970s, my ears well-tuned to the Child ballads (but not yet Old Norse), I traveled from York to London by train with a random, elderly, Yorkshire farmer. He told stories the whole long way, in a friendly desire to entertain me.

      Couldn’t understand a bloody word.

      It was worse than when my mother (a native Flemish speaker from Antwerp) would find a random immigrant and start telling Flemish stories. At least you could follow the main points of the stories (a great language, I’ve always thought, for P G Wodehouse and Ray Chandler translations – all slang). There was so much “Norn” in the Yorkshire country dialects that I was flummoxed.

  2. I was born in New York, and one thing I remember from my childhood was the use of “pocketbook” to mean purse. I wonder if that’s still the case. Never heard it anywhere else.

    • My family, from Pennslyvania and New Jersey, said “Pocketbook.” We also had “davenports” instead of sofas.

      • I was born in Canada (Windsor) and came to Florida when I was 8 (more than 60 years ago, sigh), but it was years before I could automatically say ‘sofa’ instead of ‘chesterfield’.

        And I still remember my 3rd grader consternation at asking for a ‘rubber’ in class (turns out that even 8 yearolds in the Bible Belt knew that THAT was funny … and WHY).

  3. I did high school in Wisconsin and I remember the “bubbler”. I think the term is being phased out, though. The kids all knew it was a funny local phrase that could earn them ridicule from the wider world. I hope the internet doesn’t homogenize us all too much; it’s this kind of local flavor that keeps things interesting wherever you go.

  4. I remember seeing and using the TYME machines as an undergrad at UW-Madison, but I can’t remember if I and my friends used that term.

  5. Here’s an Okie-ism:

    “You want a coke?”
    “What kind?”
    “Dr. Pepper.”

    • I think that occurs through most of the south.

    • When I ask for a large pop at the theater they come back with a large popcorn. When I say I want a soda pop they still come back with a large popcorn.

      It’s a soda. Great. Give me one of those then.

      When in college my roommate’s mother called. I told her he was downstairs getting a pop. She thought that was a drug thing and freaked out.

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