Regional Word Variations: A Fun Dive into America’s English Dialects

Different Words Used Across the Country

America is a long country, and even though we do speak English here, the dialect that we speak can change depending on what region of the United States we live in. I recently did a podcast about how these dialects have caused regional word differences for some common items and wanted to discuss those here. Some of these I had heard of before researching this episode, and other were completely new to me. Here’s a list of some of the most common word variations in the U.S.

From “y’all” to “you guys”: Addressing a Crowd the American Way

First things first, how you greet a group of people depends on where you are. Most of the country uses a casual “you guys” to address a group, even when addressing a group of female. Down South, you are much more likely to hear “y’all” or even “you all”. However, if you travel across Pennsylvania, you might hear “youns”, “youse”, or even “yins” depending on where you are in the state.

Grocery Adventures: Carts, Buggies, and… Trolleys?

Remember that trusty shopping cart you fill with weekly essentials? It might be a “carriage” in New England, a “buggy” in the Midwest or South. Across the pond in Britain, people even call it a “trolley”.

Nighttime Wonders: Fireflies, Glow Worms, or… June Bugs?

Those insects that illuminate summer nights have many names. For most, they’re “fireflies,” but Southerners might call them “glow bugs” or, oddly enough, “glow worms”. You might also hear “June bug,” but in other parts of the country, “June bug” could also refer to a brown beetle that does not light up.

The Great Bread Debate: Ends, Heels, or… Butts?

¬†According to a dialect survey¬†conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, that last slice of bread also had many names. Most of the country calls it the “heel” of the bread, which is a term I had never heard of before. I personally call it the “ends,” even though that term seems to be most common in New England. In the northern part of the country, people call it the “crust”, but I have to say that to me “crust” is the outer baked edge of the entire bread, not just the last slice. On the East Coast and around the Great Lakes region of the U.S., you might also hear it referred to as the “butt of the bread”.

Fountain of Confusion: Drinking or Water Fountain?

The next item on our list is the thing you drink water from. On the West Coast, a “drinking fountain” is the most common term, but on the East Coast it’s simply called a “water fountain.” The oddest term to me is a “bubbler”, which is apparently what they call it in Wisconsin or Rhode Island.

Fizz-ical Frenzy: Soda, Pop, or… Coke?!

The name for a carbonated, sweet drink is one of the most famous examples of regional word differences, and there is even an entire website devoted to it. Californians and East Coasters call it “soda,” while Midwesterners use the term “pop.” In the South, “Coke” becomes the generic term, meaning any fizzy beverage, not just the Coca-Cola brand. It seems like this would be confusing, especially if someone asked you if you wanted a “coke” while handing you a Sprite, but maybe I’m wrong!

Sandwich Showdown: Subs, Hoagies, or… Heroes?

The last food item on our list is a long roll sandwich filled with meats or vegetables. The vast majoirty of the country call this a “sub” which is short for a submarine sandwich. Think of how Subway got its name. Pennsylvanians refer to this as a “hoagie,” while New Yorkers might call it a “hero.”

Traffic Intersections: Circles, Roundabouts, or… Rotaries?

The scariest thing I have ever driven through was a nerve-wracking circular intersection. We have only one where I live and I’ve only seen three of them in my entire life, which means I had no clue what to do the first time I drove through one. I got through it safely, and referred to that intersection as a “traffic circle”, which is what is it called in Southern California and on the East Coast. While Midwesterners call them “roundabouts”, those who live in Maine and the surrounding states all them “rotaries”.

Shoe Shuffle: Tennis Shoes, Sneakers, or… Trainers?

And we close out our list with the shoes that you wear while doing athletic things like running or playing sports. Most Americans call them “tennis shoes” or “sneakers”. Others call them “gym shoes” because they are shoes that you wear at the gym. And across the pond, in Britain, they tend to be called “trainers.”

This list gives you a taste of the linguistic differences in America and shows you a little about how words can change depending on where you are in the country. I hope you found this list interesting and learned a little something about the variations that exist. If you’ve heard other, leave them in the comment sections below. I would especially love to hear about dialect differences from other English speaking countries.

Until next time, keep learning English!

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