The United States is a large, diverse country. Not only do the 350 million or so citizens of this country come from different backgrounds and exist in all shapes, sizes, and colors, they all live in vastly different areas and states. And that means that even though most Americans speak English, they speak it all quite differently. And that means one thing: funny slang terms from each and every state.
Yes, if you’re from Ohio you may think nothing of calling a vacuum a “sweeper,” but that word is just plain ol’ silly to someone from Kansas. Meanwhile, a person from New Jersey will snicker at “shucky darn!” while thinking nothing of driving through a “jughandle.” Yes, a phrase that is completely and totally normal to citizens of one state is totally and completely hilarious to people from one of the other 49 states.
Shutterstock/ Sean Locke Photography
That sweet fizzy water we all know and love is “pop” in the Midwest, “tonic” in parts of New England, and “soda” across the country, but in Alabama, it’s simply “Coke.” Yes, Coca-Cola is “Coke,” but so is Pepsi. And Sprite. And Mountain Dew. If you simply ask for a coke at an Alabama restaurant, you won’t automatically receive a standard cola. You’ll be asked follow-up questions.
Alaskans have slang for everyone. Newcomers are cheechako, but Alaskans who have lived in the state their whole lives are… sourdough. “Sourdough” became the nickname for California Klondike miners at the turn of the century since they often relied on sourdough starter to leaven bread before commercial baking powder and yeast were easily obtainable. In fact, sourdough starter was so important that Alaskan miners supposedly slept with it in order to keep it from freezing at night. Nowadays, seasoned Alaskans happily wear the title with pride.
What’s a swamp cooler? Well, it’s just another word for an evaporative cooler. OK, great... Follow-up question: What’s an evaporative cooler? If you live in the drier parts of the west, you’ll probably already know that this is an air conditioner that uses the evaporation of water to both cool the air and add moisture to it. It’s a great way to cool your home in a dry heat, like they have in Arizona.
Cattywampus is funny to hear and fun to say, but in Arkansas, it has a serious meaning. Cattywampus or caddywonkers or caddywonked is a term for sideways, unconventional, or askew. It’s the perfect word to describe all those back roads in the South.
Want a sure sign you grew up in California? Well, you say “hella.” Popularized by Gwen Stefani and the No Doubt song “Hella Good,” this is a slang term for “very,” “really,” or “a lot.” It originated in the San Francisco region before expanding to the greater Northern California area. It’s hella useful, actually.
“Pow-pow” may sound like the noise a little toy gun would make, but it’s actually very important in Colorado. It’s the fresh powder that falls on the mountaintops. It not only makes for a super fun phrase, but it also makes for some premium skiing conditions.
Although it might sound like what a cashier does with your groceries after scanning them, this Delaware term actually means something totally different: to laugh uncontrollably. It makes just about as much sense as cracking up.
You know that brief, 15-minute rainstorm that happens every day around 3 p.m. while the sun is still out? Oh, no? Then you must not be from Florida. This very specific weather is when just one cloud bursts in to rain. It’s probably right over your head, but don’t worry. You can walk 50 feet away and be dry again.
Short for “mama and them,” this phrase refers basically to a Southern family. “How’s your mama’nem?” is a friendly way for Georgians to ask how your household is doing. It’s not only a useful slang term, it’s fun as heck to say!
“Da Kine” is Hawaiian Pigdin (a Creole language based partially in English that is commonly used by Hawaiians) that is likely derived from “the kind.” “Da kine” had endless uses, and it’s something only people from Hawaii say. It can be a placeholder (similar to “thingy” or “whatchamacallit”), a noun, a verb, an adverb, or an adjective. You can basically use it anywhere, anytime, anyhow.
You may pronounce it “boy-z,” but people from Idaho know its capital is pronounced “boy-see.” Technically, this may not be slang, but it’s definitely a sure sign you’re from the Gem State.
This phrase was introduced to the rest of America by the Chance the Rapper’s verse from Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam,” but this Illinois slang has been popular in Chicago for a while. It’s basically a more fun version of “yadda yadda yadda” or “so on and so forth.” Fill in the blanks as you will with “woo wap da bam.”
Listen, before the iPad took over backseat entertainment, the only way to entertain yourself on long road trips was to play card games. In Iowa (and across the Midwest), that meant playing the fun-to-say and even more fun-to-win “Padiddle.” Did you see a car with one tail light out? Hit the ceiling of the car and say this phrase. Related games include: Punch Buggy and the Alphabet game.
No, this one isn’t a beautiful scenic hiking spot. It’s a mullet, a signature haircut for the people of Kentucky, according to this slang phrase.
If you’ve ever visited America’s easternmost state, or simply read a Stephen King novel, you might know that folks from Maine have another way of agreeing or saying yes: “ayuh.” Just be sure, for true accuracy, to pronounce the “A” as if you’re saying the name of the letter. This term is one of the most Maine things you can possibly say.
While this phrase refers to a killer pop song or a whack on the head in most of the country, in Maryland a “bop” is a distance that’s just a little too far away to be worth the effort. Is that bar a bop away? Yeah, you’re drinking at home tonight.
Though most of the English-speaking world would use “wicked” only when referring to something evil, Massachusetts natives use it as an alternative to the word “very.” As in: “‘Wicked’ is a wicked fun word to say.”
If you think the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a different place from the rest of the state, you’d be right. People from downstate even have a very specific slang term for people from up there: the “Yooper.”
Adopted by Scandinavian-Americans and Minnesotans from a similar phase of Norwegian origin, “Uff da” (or huffda, uff-da, uffda, oofda, or numerous other spellings) is used to express sensory overload, as well as emotions like surprise, astonishment, exhaustion, relief, dismay, and almost anything else. Uff da! That’s a lot of uses.
A ”buggy” is best known in most of the country as that thing horses cart around. But, in Mississippi and other parts of the South, it’s a different kind of cart: a grocery cart.
Though some may think “hoosier” is a reference to "the Hoosier State," this derogatory slang term from Missouri is for local yokels or rednecks.
You know that sort of snow-like precipitation that’s like little balls of ice stinging your skin? You may not have a phrase for it, but in Montana, they call it “graupel.”
You don’t need to be from Nebraska to know about or use the farmer wave (also called the “lifted finger”), but considering the fact that the Cornhusker State has a higher percentage of farmland than any other state in the country, they use this gesture more here. The farmer wave is a very casual wave, using minimal effort, that people do while driving a car, truck, tractor, or other vehicle. It usually involves keeping part of your hand on the steering wheel while briefly waving with only one or two fingers. It’s a subtle “thanks” or “hey.”
If you think “toke” has something to do with illicit drug use in Sin City, think again; a toke is actually a tip given to a casino dealer. It may be short for “token of appreciation,” but that’s not known by everyone, so be careful if you say you “want to give your dealer a toke.”
Jughandles exist all over New Jersey but are seen little else throughout the country. For those who are unfamiliar, these are ramps or slip roads that force drivers approaching major intersections to exit to the right prior to making a left (or sometimes both a left and right) turn. There are also “reverse” or “far-side” jughandles that occur just after major intersections and forces drivers to exit to the right and loop around in order to make what would normally be a left-hand turn at the intersection. Confusing? You bet. Frustrating? Oh yeah.
“Bless your heart” showcases that perfect balance between the Southern charm the region is known for and the snide confidence Southerners can often have. Sure, “bless your heart” can be delivered directly to someone’s face with sympathy and sincerity, but it can also be used with pity or with the intention of being condescending or patronizing someone. It’s something only people from the South say, but it’s also certainly a North Carolina phrase through and through.
What is known as a casserole to the rest of the country is called “hotdish” in North Dakota. This meal is immensely popular in the region, thanks in part to the frequently frigid weather. The exact ingredients can be tinkered with, but beef, green beans, corn, and a can of cream of mushroom soup make for a solid, standard base.
“Sweeper” sounds like another term for a broom, but it actually refers to a vacuum. People born in Ohio know that sweeping the living room means that you break out that Hoover and suck up all that dirt. It’s all about context, you see.
A “quakenado” is not an official weather term, but Oklahomans have sure had their fill of the word ever since it was coined in November 2011 when a magnitude 5.6 earthquake struck the state while it was also under a tornado warning. Locals took the name and ran with it, as both a joke and a badge of honor for experiencing and surviving such a unique event.
Want to learn a new way to say something is pricey and expensive? Try saying it’s “spendy.” This simple term is used in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest.
Shutterstock/ Joy Fera
“Yinz” is basically the Pittsburgh slang equivalent of “y’all.” English is a deeply flawed language, because it has no plural version of the word you, so this is the western Pennsylvania solution to that very specific query.
In South Carolina, if something is “over yonder,” it’s a fairly far distance away. Is it north, east, south, west? I don’t know. It’s over yonder, accompanied by a broad hand gesture.
In South Dakota, saying something is close by or pretty nearby is too taxing, thus “pert’near” This phrase also can substitute for “almost,” as in: “The hotdish is pert’near done cooking in the oven.”This phrase is one of our favorites, mostly because it’s the go-to for anyone attempting a Midwestern accent. The best part about it, however, is the fact that it isn’t really used as a question, but rather as a placeholder. As in, “This term is pretty pointless, dontcha know.”
If you’re cutting class or playing hooky from work, in Utah, you’re sluffing it. It’s fun to say and even more fun to do.
Those in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest may take for granted the glorious, rich shades of gold, red, and orange that leaves bring to the landscape in the autumn. But in Vermont, this phrase refers to city dwellers (often New Yorkers) who travel up the coast to take in some of that sweet, sweet fall foliage.
What most people in the United States refer to simply as a bag is a “poke” in parts of Virginia. It’s related to an old colloquialism “pig in a poke,” which is when grocers would try to pull a fast one on customers in the Middle Ages by selling them a cat or dog in a bag instead of a pig.
This is one of the few Chinook jargon terms to have a lasting and mainstream usage in Washington. What’s known as a Sadie Hawkins dance (where girls ask boys out) in most of the country is a “tolo” in the Pacific Northwest.
Many people around the country know this phrase, but very few use it — with the exception of West Virginians. Britches are pants. Common uses of the term include the sayings, “He’s too big for his britches.”
Are you attracted exclusively to rodeo cowboys? Well, not only are you probably from Wyoming, but you’re also what is often referred to as a “buckle bunny.” And if you think this regional phrase is hilarious, wait until you read the absolute weirdest regional slang terms.
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