Tuesday, September 20, 2016

What do you call it? - Lisa Dyson

Maybe it’s the writer in me, but I’m always fascinated by what people call things, depending on where in the United States they live. A few years ago, while reading my soon-to-be-published manuscript after copy edits had been done, I saw words I knew I hadn’t written. My secondary female character from southern Virginia was ordering a “pop.” It stopped me immediately. Unless she was a transplant from Ohio or upstate New York, she’d call it a soda. Luckily, this read-through was my last opportunity to make any changes to the manuscript before it went to press.

We talk about other English-speaking countries having different words for things. Our elevator is a lift, and our bathroom is the loo. So I did a little research for this topic and came across many things that are called by different names right here in the United States.

Soda/pop/coke seems to be the most popularly discussed. (My Pennsylvania parents drank soft drinks.) According to Wikipedia, there’s a long list. Things I never even thought about. Growing up in eastern Pennsylvania and then living in several different eastern states over the years, I find that I use some of the names interchangeably.

Here are a few with where they’re used in parentheses. Faucet (north) and spigot (south). In my house, the kitchen and bathroom sinks have faucets. But the outside hose is connected to the spigot. Teeter-totter (widespread) and seesaw (south and midland). I’ve called it both things and never realized it. What about pit (north) and seed (elsewhere)? In my mind, peaches have pits and tomatoes have seeds.

When I lived in Rhode Island, I found that a water fountain/water cooler is called bubbler (pronounced bubbla). In eastern Pennsylvania, we ate hoagies. But when visiting my grandmother in central Pennsylvania, they were called submarine sandwiches (which freaked me out as a young child because I only pictured those old diesel boats in the glimpses of war movies I’d seen). Now I just call those long sandwiches subs.

You can see how fascinating this subject is to me and I hope I’ve peaked your interest, too. Do you have any examples to share? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below. One lucky commenter will win an advanced autographed copy of my upcoming book, a twist on the Cinderella story called Prince Charming Wears a Badge. It’s the first book in my Tales From Whittler’s Creek series. (Ironically, the “creek” that ran through the playground where I grew up will always be the “crick” in my mind!) Rest assured that none of my characters drive on a rotary/traffic circle or go into the cellar/basement.

I'll announce the winner in the comments section on Saturday, September 24. I’m also giving away a signed copy to one of my newsletter subscribers/patrons/supporters, so sign up today at lisadyson.com!


Colleen C. said...

I find it interesting too as to what things are called in different areas. Growing up, I heard my mom and grandma say things differently... I even picked up a few sayings when I moved.

Mary Preston said...

I grew up calling a suitcase or school bag a PORT - short for the antiquated portmanteau. We also call our swimming bathers TOGS. Just like the toffs of old called their get up. This is just our state of QLD mind.

Laurie I said...

I loved this post!! When I moved from NYC to NC I learned a few new words for things. In a NY supermarket we grab a cart to shop, in NC they grab a buggy. I like eating chips and salsa (sounds like a short a, like in the name Al), but here in NC I hear Salsa, pronounced like salt. I wear sneakers, but here I've heard tennis shoes. (The person who said tennis shoes is from West Virginia though.) She also says "it poured the rain down," whereas I just say it rained.
I'm fascinated by this. Especially when I read a British author's book. I'm amazed at how different the words are compared to how we say things here in the U.S.

Laurie I said...

Forgot something. They add the word "the" before things. I'd say I'm going to Walmart. They'd say I'm going to THE Walmart, or THE Goodwill. I find myself saying that now after being here in NC 13 years. Also, I say inSURance, they say INsurance. Just wanted to mention those too.

holdenj said...

I always find this fascinating too! I am from Minnesota, so it's definitely called pop here! However, I lived in Texas as a kid and everything was Coke, no matter the brand. And another favorite is actually the game, Duck, Duck, Grey Duck. It's very strange that the other 49 states play it as Duck, Duck, Goose!

bn100 said...

only heard of soda and pop

bn100candg at hotmail dot com

Jo McNally said...

What a fun discussion topic! I'm an upstate NY girl married to a Boston boy and we now live in North Carolina, so sometimes I confuse myself! Himself still looks for "bubblahs" (water fountains). The one that baffled us the longest was "tonic." To me, tonic is what I mix my vodka with. To him, tonic was soda/pop. He'd tell me to pick up tonic and I'd come home with liter bottles of tonic water when he meant Pepsi. He has family in Ireland, and I've always loved how they say the time. It's not 8:30, it's "half eight" (pronounced "hahf eight"). And "car parks" instead of parking lots, which always made more sense to me. Language is fascinating!

Cathryn Parry said...

I'm in Massachusetts, Jo, and we called it tonic, too. I think it was more a North Shore word, rather than a Boston word, but I might be wrong. Nowadays it's just soda. :-)

Ellen Hartman said...

Hi Lisa--I wonder if we grew up near each other? I'm from Scranton where they make excellent hoagies!

Two sort of interesting speech items from the NE Pennsylvania region:
Pank means to smash down. "Her perm was so big she had to pank her hair down to get into the backseat."
Any more used in the positive way. "I'm going to take the shortcut to town any more because I don't like being late."

I didn't realize those weren't "standard" English until I left Scranton!

Lisa Dyson said...

And the winner of a copy of Prince Charming Wears a Badge is...Laurie! Congratulations! Laurie, please email me at lisa@lisadyson.com and tell me if you'd prefer paper or ebook. I loved everyone's comments! So many things that I didn't even think of and some I use interchangeably. :-) Jo, I completely forgot about tonic! Ellen, I grew up outside of Allentown and never heard the Scranton terms you mentioned. But I do remember growing up adding "say now" at the end of every sentence. I'm pretty sure that was a local thing. :-)

Fedora said...

I've always loved these discussions! Apparently there are parts of the country that call all of them "coke"--"orange coke", for instance :)

Regional language differences make the world go round ;)

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