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

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:

The United States


Georgia. Here things can be "as ugly as homemade sand." (Alternately, "as ugly as homemade sin")



As a native Midwestern moving to the Northeast, I still think its funny that everyone here says "on line" when referring to waiting in line.


Bostonian here:

tonic == any kind of soda

frappe == "milk shake" in the rest of the world, milk shake in NE is milk, shaken with the syrup, no ice cream included.

But these in effect when I first moved to NE in '70's, maybe it's different now, don't get out much.



"Gum band" for rubber band, never heard it anywhere else outside of the 3 years I lived in Penn Hills, PA. (just outside Pittsburgh)



A town located right next to mine here in middle TN has "yert!" I put the exclamation point there because, well, it's always shouted. No matter what or the situation. It's kind of a local "woo!" and other similar shouts.



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"


Otto Lipschitz

Kinda surprised not to see New Orleans represent 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


Having lived in the Minneapolis for a bit less than two years there are a number of local expressions that catch one's attention. My favorite so far is "spendy" as in, "Those are some good wiper blades, but they'er a little spendy."


David Gustafson

Minnesota. Not sure how confined it is to the area, but: "Can I go with?"

Been here since '74, and it still grates.


I am a Canadian by birth, currently living in North Carolina. When we moved here, I found the following, said by high school teachers, to be strange to my Canadian ears:

- "Put up your calculators." (I kept looking up, to see where they were going to put them, but it just meant to put them away.)

- "Take that toboggan off your head." (I looked for the kid wearing a large wooden object on his head, designed to go down snowy hills, but instead found someone wearing a knit cap.)



I've found wherever I live, a lot of the regional expressions are based on two things: food and location/direction.

When I lived in New Orleans, I found a plethora of these:

(1) making groceries = shopping for food

(2) would you like it dressed = would you like your sandwich (po-boy) with condiments and veg? (lettuce, tomato, pickles, mayo)





It's the Saskatchewan term for a hoodie.



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



Alex Cass

Australian, here. It took me a while to work out that if I went into an American restaurant and asked for a sarsparilla spider, they'd have what I wanted, but they'd have no idea what the fuck I was asking for.




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.


I'm from Ayr, a small town on the west coast of Scotland, and we have a word I've never quite heard a decent equivalent for anywhere else. If a friend or enemy has something unpleasant happen to them- stubbs a toe, spills a drink, gets caught cheating- and you need a sound to fully express you relishing in their misfortune, you let loose a nice loud 'Haneck!'. Take a second to mutter that word to yourself, and imagine the absolute devastation of hearing that after tripping in public or whatever, and the power you'll have when its your turn to use. Your buttock of an ex-boss got caught dodging tax? Haneck to them! Ha-neck!


Regionalisms: Multilingual Edition

And, to wrap it up a final regionalism not just from English but also Swedish, this little not quite spoken affirmation:

Blinde Killen

The strange way of saying yes in Sweden through blowing air in your mouth (rather than out) is most commonly used in the north, but it can be heard all over Sweden to some extent. I think I've found myself using it sometimes.



We have a more abbreviated version of that in Northern Ireland, where inhaling and making a little 'hah' noise, as if gasping for air, means "Yes" or "I'm listening."

Given that some vikings settled in Ireland centuries ago there may be a connection with the swedish custom.

Have your own to add? Tell us about them now in the comments!

Image: Masson / Shutterstock


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