Monday, January 27, 2014

Where Y'all From? Wanta Soda?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  When I first moved to Boston, thirty years ago, yikes, I remember hearing someone in a coffee shop ordering a "coffee regular." Silly me, I assumed that person must be such a constant customer at that coffee shop (which I later learned was called Dunkin's, DeeDee's, or Dunkies) that the clerk knew what he meant by "coffee regular."

I soon learned it was not about the customer, it's that in Bay State parlance, "coffee regular" is coffee with cream and sugar.  And  though I call every carbonated beverage a "coke"--as in, "let’s go get a coke" even though you could order ginger ale or root beer,  here they call them all "soda." When everyone knows a soda is ice cream and syrup and fizzy water.

And when someone suggested we go down the street to a packie, I had no idea. Turned out, a "packie" is the local term for package store. By that, they meant --as we say back home in  Indiana--a liquor store.

Recently everyone 's been taking a fascinating test that purports to be able to pinpoint, based on your jargon, idioms and colloquialisms, exactly what part of  the country you are from.

DO you call it a lightning bug, or a firefly? A garage sale, a yard sale, a tag sale, a rummage sale? A sub a grinder or a hoagie or a poor boy or a spuckie?

 What do you call the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the road?  (I have no special word for that I realize...)  What do you call it when it's sunny and raining at the same time? I have no word for that, either. Do you?

Did you take the test? It was really interesting, but sadly, got me all wrong, It pegged me as being from Lexington or Louisville Kentucky (!) or Mobile Alabama. (double!).  It said my speech patterns were LEAST like Jersey City. 

I'll put the link at  the bottom of  the blog so you can take it yourself--and report!

How about you, Reds?   Tractor-trailer, semi-, or eighteen wheeler? Sneakers, tennis shoes, Keds, running shoes?

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Um, it's pop, not soda, at least where I'm from...

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING:  When I took the quiz, my "you are most like" shading darkened as it went across New York and into New England, and was deep red (aka "you speak most like the inhabitants here") in Maine. After almost twenty-seven years living here, I say "Italian" for sub and "turnpike" for the highway, However, I also have deep linguistic roots in upstate New York and in Alabama, and, like Debs, I shift into appropriate usage wherever I am. If I planned to go into Syracuse when visiting my parents', I would say "I'm going downcity" while anywhere within thirty miles of Portland, Maine, I'd go "intown." 

In Maine, I'll order an Italian with soda, in New York, it's a sub or hero, also with soda, and in Tuscaloosa, I'd ask for a po'boy, a co'cola, and tell the cashier "Roll Tide" at the conclusion of the transaction!

HANK: Well, Roll Tide, of course.  But I say highway, whether you have to pay or not. And in Massachusetts, if you're in Boston, and headed to Sandwich, which is southeast, you're still going "down the Cape." Awesome.

LUCY BURDETTE: Oh fun, I went over and took the quiz. They got me just right, as far as growing up in New Jersey anyway...I was most similar to Yonkers, Newark, and Philadelphia, which pretty much triangulates my home town! I have spent a lot of time in the South though, too. The most different dialect was East Tennessee y'all...

HANK: I just re-took it, because I realized I say Pa-JAH-ma not Pa-JAM-a, and I call  them "trucks" not semis.  Now it pegged as New York and Philadelphia too--but definitely not Oklahoma City.

Do you say crans? Or cray-ons?   Ant or Auhnt? What do you call a traffic jam caused by people slowing down to look at an accident? A rubberneck? Curiosity factor? Do you have a word for it.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I took the quiz, and I tried really hard to think "TEXAS" and not England, because I am always so culturally and linguistically confused.  I say "truck" and "18 wheeler" and "lorry." I say "roundabout", but I put "traffic circle" because that's what you say in Dallas, although I actually grew up saying "glorietta" because my family spent so much time in Mexico.  On two things I was definite--in England I would say "fizzy drink" and in Texas I would say "coke" or "soft drink" but never, never "pop." 

So how did I come out?  Deep South.  Shreveport, Baton Rouge, and Jackson, Mississippi.  Go figure.

RHYS BOWEN: There is no sense in my taking this test because I'm a hopeless case. I've only just learned to say 'truck' instead of 'lorry', trunk instead of boot, and tomayto instead of tomato.

HANK: Rhys, I want to hear you say to-MAY-to. I don’t believe it.

RHYS: Well, it takes a long time to adjust to the jargon of a new country. When I was teaching a drama class years ago I told my actors to come onstage carrying torches. They looked bewildered and asked how they were going to light them and wasn't that dangerous. I had meant flashlights, of course.

But I've lived on the West Coast for many years and we don't drink soda or pop. In Marin County we drink natural spring water and eat organic kale! (just kidding) But we do like our sourdough bread.

HANK:Kale! As you Reds know, I have no word for that.

So Reds, here’s the quiz—let us know if it surprises you!  Did it get you right?

(And the winner of NORTH OF BOSTON by Elizabeth Elo is Kathy Reel. Kathy, when you get a chance, send me your address at hryan at whdh dot com)


  1. Okay, that is just freaky. I took the quiz, figuring a few of my answers would throw it way off. No, it came up with Salt Lake City, Modesto, and Santa Rosa. While I currently live in Southern California, I grew up in Santa Rosa.

    Guess I'm a product of where I grew up even after having lived in So Cal for 20 years.

    Of course, if they'd asked about what you call freeways, I would have given away my So Cal living. Tomorrow, to go to work, I'll get on the 5 and drive south. My understanding is that calling freeways "the 5" or "the 405" is a So Cal thing.

  2. Wow . . . . The quiz chose Springfield, Tulsa, and Little Rock as my three least similar cities and picked Jersey City, Newark/Paterson, and New York for the three most similar ones. I think I’d count that as getting it right since most of the cities selected are in the state --- I grew up in Point Pleasant and Neptune [New Jersey], went to college in New York.
    Years of living in California have conditioned me to say “freeway” although it was always the “parkway” when I was growing up in New Jersey. John, who grew up in California, calls traffic circles “roundabouts,” but we always said “traffic circle” or just “circle” . . . neither one of us ever really adopted the colloquialisms of the south even though we lived in Alabama for ten years . . . .
    Absolutely amazing . . . .

  3. Hank,

    When I was a girl growing up in Massachusetts sodas were called tonic. But you could buy soda water and ice cream sodas. If you ask for a soda back then you would get a glass (or quart bottle) of plain soda water.

    When I lived with my grandmother in Dorchester, everybody called the TV the telly. When I went to England the first time my friends there told me not to say telly, because Americans sound stupid saying telly. When I explained that's what we said back home, they said no one would understand and would make fun of me for trying to sound like a Brit.

    I think in Boston there are a lot of differences across neighborhoods—at least there used to be. In Marblehead a submarine sandwich was called a sub, but when I moved to Ashmont/Dorchester they were called spuckies. Across the river in Cambridge they were called something else. If it was heated they call it something else again. It got too confusing.

    Coffee—right. When I moved to California to live with Auntie-Mom I asked for a regular coffee. The person waiting on me said that's all they had. I said really? No one has it black or without sugar? She said... huh? It never got better. Wherever I went in California people felt compelled to correct my pronunciation or tell me the right word to use. I cried the first six months I was there.

    Okay but here's the weirdest thing about moving to California as a teenager? Right near Auntie-Mom's house there was a burger stand. They had a big sign advertising a Boston Burger. It had lettuce, tomato, onion, and mayonnaise. Absolutely nothing like that in Boston when I was a kid! You ordered a hamburger and you got a burger on a bun. You might have garnish on your plate like lettuce and tomato, but I don't remember anyone putting it on the burger. The first Burger I had that came with anything on it was the McDonald's on Gallivan Boulevard at Adams Street. Shocking! Mustard, ketchup, chopped onion, and a pickle. No one asked me if I wanted it. I didn't know what to do. No clam rolls in sight. No hotdogs either! And no one ever heard of a lime rickie!

  4. And most people called plain soda water—tonic water.

  5. Such a fun topic. I took the quiz when I first heard about it, and even though I have now lived longer in Massachusetts than in my native southern California, it still nails me as from LA. Where I never, ever saw a traffic circle/rotary/roundabout, so why would I have a word for it? My partner Hugh still laughs at my use of "tennies" for every variety of exercise shoe. And I still say freeway, although I only revert to "the 5" when I'm back west (people from Oregon also use that terminology, Mark). And Reine, we had hot dogs!

  6. Wow. The test nailed me to the map, putting me on the east side of Los Angeles County between Glendora and Ontario. Exactly where I grew up -- Alhambra--San Gabriel. All my California friends -- wait, they're only two left. Both of my California friends say I sound like a New Jerseyite, but obviously not enough to fool these people.

    You were especially clever today, Hank. Thanks for the laughs.

  7. Regional "dialects" are charming and fast disappearing. It seems like everyone wants to sound like everyone else. Television news readers all sound like they've had any semblance of a regional accent beaten out of them in mass communications school. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina newreaders insisted on referring to the region as the"golf" coast. Does that mean the sport is "gulf?"
    I grew up on Long island, but have lived most of my life elsehwere. I refer to limited access roads by their number and have done so in several regions.
    Wonder how many NYT staffers use all four ws when pronouncing the word talk?

  8. This test nailed me... gave me bullseyes in southern california AND new york. Right on target.

  9. I took it twice, and it was wrong both times. I don't understand that, and am trying to puzzle out why that might have happened. Hmm/

    MArk, the whole "Taking the 5" thing is so funny to me! Ir remember when I first heard it--a news photographer had moved to Atlanta from San Diego--so I guess this was the late 70's, and he kept referring to I-75 as "The 75." I thought it was incredibly weird.

  10. This test nailed for me as well. Put me right in the middle between Baltimore and Washington DC.

    Pretty impressive, given that some of my answers were "best of the options".

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  12. And yes,Reine, I agree--it does usually sound weird when Americans use British terms-- My brother came back from New Zealand saying "Good on ya" for "good for you" and we all hooted at him until he stopped.

    Aw, Jack..thank you. xoo

    You know what the test didn't ask--my version, at least--do you say off-en or off-ten.

    Where I come from, Off-ten is considered almost illiterate. But here in Boston, educated and otherwise correct people say it all the time.

    Like poinsettia. Poin-set-ee-ah? It's Poin-setta, right?

  13. I think I confused it. It picked western New York State when I actually grew up in the Sullivan County Catskills, which sound more like Brooklyn than Buffalo. Then again, I've lived in Maine for most of the last 45 years.


  14. It got me exactly right. It pinpointed St. Louis (where I grew up) and Philadelphia (where I've lived more than half my life). Fun, but a little scary.

  15. SUNSHOWER - rain during sun. fortunately we still enjoy a lot of this sort of weather in Lucy Burdette's & many other SinC authors'm Flor-ee-dah.

    fun fun fun post!

  16. I took this a while ago, and it pegged me dead on - Western New York (and I think Michigan, if I remember correctly).

    Yes, pop, not soda. A soda is something with ice cream in it. My kids occasionally argue with me because in Pittsburgh it can be both. And I do say off-ten. And cray-on, and pa-jam-ma. =)

    What kills me is that both of my kids have a southwestern PA accent (think flatter vowels, sawcks not sahcks). After 20 years, you can still tell I'm from Buffalo. They make fun of me, I make fun of them. It's hysterical.

  17. I love taking test like this. I can never resist them. This one places me in the deep south, imagine that!

    (Hank - Poin-setta, yes. That other way confuses me and my tongue. And Off-en, yes).

  18. It nailed me dead on - boston (never lived more than 20 miles away), with Worcester and Providence as the other cities. (That's Worssterr...)

    I remember stopping in CT once for an ice cream cone and asking for "Jimmies" on it. Clerk didn't know what I meant. When i explained, she said, "Oh, you mean sprinkles." Go figure.

  19. Help! It put me in Arizona where I've never lived. I grew up in Houston and then New Orleans. Then Austin, El Paso, Lubbock, NE Ohio, Minnesota, and back to Houston. All I can say is I picked up the lingo from everyone.
    The trouble is I don't say just one of the expressions. I said ya'll as a kid but dropped it as a teen for other things. Oh well. Call me a southerner or Texan who is multi-cultural-sensitive. Any such word?

  20. Interesting :-) It put me in the deep South, especially Birmingham and Montgomery, AL, and Jackson, MS. I came from north Alabama and went to college in Vicksburg, MS. Pretty accurate. I'm impressed.

  21. Pat D: "southerner or Texan who is multi-cultural-sensitive" - sounds like someone who moved to Phoenix!

  22. What a fun test - of the 3 cities it chose, 1 one Tacoma ... less than 60 miles from where I was born and central to the area where I grew up. The other 2 were in California, where I live now.

    Edith, I say "tennies" too!

    And Susan, it's definitely "pop" where I grew up - which I think came over with the midwesterners.

    I love that our country is so large we can have some a wide variety of words and pronunciations for the same things.

    Great choice for today's topic, Hank!!

  23. I took the test a few weeks ago and it pegged me right. The minute I say soda and bubbler and barely get the state I am from out of my mouth, people know right away I am from Wisconsin.:)

    Jackie Jones

  24. It was dead-on for me, Newark - New York - Yonkers

  25. Soda? Pop? Coke? Phosphate? Ptah! It's TONIC, just as Reine said -- although now that I am in Southern Maryland instead of Massachusetts, I just order a "soft drink." (Why waste my time trying to educate the people down here about proper terminology?)

  26. Taking the test right now...And I'm surprised by the number of words I have no words for, Hank ...

    Carbonated bev = soft drink

    Drive-through liquor stores? That's a new one to me!

    And ... wait for it wait for it

    Pegged me!

    What's hilarious is that I'm similar to most of the US but big-time blue starting with Texas, through all the southern states and sweeping up the eastern seaboard.

    Makes sense. I'm west coast all the way. In general, I don't think our speech patterns have as much regional flavor as those from the south and the east coast.

  27. I took it again and changed a few of my answers on things that could have gone either way--and still came out as Shreveport, Baton Rouge, and Jackson.

    How could I have missed being from Texas? I've lived here all my life, except for time spent in Britain and Mexico.... Grrr.

  28. Bubbler? Yes, Ive heard that, Jackie, here in Boston!

    And I love the Jimmies thing, Claire--I think we called them chocolate sprinkles. Is Jimmies only Boston? do you know what the derivation is?

    And I have been fascinated by the icing/frosting conflict. DO you ice a cake with frosting, or frost a cake with icing? Or, or..

  29. Hank, that one confused me, too. I THINK I'm more liking to say "icing" for a cake, and "frosting" for a cupcake...

  30. I had heard of the test, but never actually went through it. My cities are Kansas City, Wichita, and Springfield. I was born in Kansas City and lived in Kansas 57 years, so very accurate in my case.

  31. I took it several months ago and it pinned me down almost exactly to east central Wisconsin and down to Chicago, the areas I've lived my whole life. Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin and Gary, Indiana I was rather amazed.

  32. I'm from NE Indiana and when I took it awhile back, it said St. Louis???
    I've always said pop and we say interstate or I-number (I-69). Lots of things I think I only have words for because of all the reading I do. So maybe that's why it didn't get me close to home. :)

    Pen M

  33. Yeah, icing / frosting. I say frosting for everything, but you know those drippy glazes that you put on, hmm, bundt cakes? Would those be icings? I think of icings as thinner, and maybe more decorative (like for fancy bakery cakes).

  34. Oh my goodness. That is fascinating! I finally took the test, truthfully, with my British pronunciation AND it came up with San Francisco (where I've lived for 40 years)
    It really does know its stuff.

  35. What happens if you're so old that you've lived in a "new place" two and a half times as long as your "home town?" I'll tell you. You can no longer remember if you say lightening bug or firefly, frosting or icing, pot holder or hot pad. I had to wing it when I took the test and it said that I was from Boston/Worcester/Providence area. Which I But I grew up in Missouri and Kansas.

  36. Bubbler and jimmies! How could I forget! I still say bubbler. I always Forget to say fountain or water fountain remember how many times I told myself not to ask where the bubbler is— I still do! Same with jimmies I'll ask them a vanilla cone dipped in jimmies, and they give me the look. Maybe they think I mean Jimmy's? That would be weird to imagine. Please dip my vanilla cone in Jimmy's... Well no wonder they laugh look at me like that!

    I have to take that regional test now! bbl

  37. Sheesh. I'm taking it again. HOw can it be so wrong? I never got a question about a hot pad or potholder.

    Reine, I am howlng! Yeah, why would you dip your cone in Jimmy's?

    Yes,Lisa, I have come to thing icingnad roosting are different. But what do I SAY? "Do you want a piece with a lot of--" I guess, frosting. Unless it's icing.

  38. I was born in 1952 and have spent all but 4 years of my life living in Southern NH. The test did place me in the right area but many of the words I used in my youth were not answer options. During the 70s and 80s there was a great influx of people from elsewhere in the country to work the high tech boom. Tonic became soda, frappe became milk shake, jimmies became sprinkles, grinder became sub, and I had to change the way I speak to be understood. It is somewhat sad to see the homogenization of language.

  39. My results surprised me: Philadelphia PA/Newark-Paterson NJ/Springfield MA.

    Except that I was born and raised in lower Fairfield County CT, and expected that New York City would have been one of the cities mentioned! I've even been asked if I'm from New York! (I don't understand why, as I don't sound at all like a New Yorker, except to people from outside of the area, apparently.) I've lived in New Haven County for about thirty years, and people here ask me where I'm from because they can't place my "accent".

    Gee, if I had time, I'd take it again!

  40. Oh, DebRo, I just took it again. NOw it says I'm from Denver. I think this is scary.

  41. Came up New York City, Yonkers NY and Newark NJ. Spot on! I grew up very close to Yonkers and lived in NYC most of my adult life.

  42. Wow, it got you, EB in NYC! (Although I could have probably guessed you were from NYC, too...:-) )

  43. Got me in Boston and Worcester, MA. I'm from Lynn, 12 miles north. BUT, it also said Arlington, VA. Must be some familiar dialects between the two areas. And Reine is right, growing up in Mass it was tonic for soda or Coke, coffee regular, rotaries, and all kinds of other stuff no one else says. There's an email that names them all, and it's a hoot.

  44. I tried it again. Now I've moved from 3 cities in Arizona to Little Rock, Lexington, and Louisville. Well. . . getting closer.

  45. Love hearing where everyone is from. Regionalisms are great -- long may they thrive.

    My husband grew up near Boston, and when he went to college he used the phrase "so don't I" which his friends took to mean that he did not want to go -- but he meant he did want to go!

  46. Denise Ann! That still floors me. Yes! "So don't I" means "So do I."

    How on earth did that one develop? And I have to say, it drives me crazy because it makes no sense. SO funny you would bring it up!


  47. Okay, so I thought I'd play along, being from Toronto. So here's my reaction.

    a) DRIVE-THROUGH LIQUOR STORE??? This is a joke, right?

    b)Americans sure have some funny words.

    c) Okay, I can see that Rochester might be similar, because we share a lake. But Salt Lake City?? Wow, who knew? Third city was Portland. I was expecting Minneapolis.

    I thought I'd try it again, but a number of the questions were different. And some were missing. This time, Rochester was replaced by Honolulu. I do not share ANY body of water with Honolulu.

    Okay, call me obsessive (or would that be anal?) I took it a third time, very carefully, without changing any answers. But I still swear not all of the questions came up every time. Final asnswer:
    Minneapolis, Portland, Seattle.

    Okay, do Americans know what a double-double is?

  48. Oh, Denise & Hank... " So don't I!" I had to burn that one out of my brain when I moved to California or risk being laughed at forever. Still my sister-in-law loves just tell the story of how I pronounced drawer when she first met me. "She even spelled it D-R-A-W!" Of course and she had to throw in my bad manners. "She eats everything on her plate. And once she took the last piece of pizza!"

    I took the regionalisms test and came out high on Boston—low on Baton Rouge. Hard to figure .

    PS: I think "So don't I" makes perfect sense. I just don't say it anymore. xoxoxo


  49. Susan D, I am still laughing.

    A double double? WHen a basket ball player has points and assists in double figures?

    Or--a drink with FOUR times the regular amount?

  50. Susan D, is it two double-headers in a row?

  51. The test nailed it for me. Although I grew up 70 miles south of Boise, I spent my adult life in Boise. And the test did say Boise. Woo hoo

  52. Double Double
    It's a coffee with two creams,two sugars. Standard term at Tim Horton's, which means all across Canada.

    Who's Tim Horton? Hockey player (Leafs, then Sabres) who died in a single car crash on the highway between Buffalo and Toronto after a game one night. But first he founded a donut shop chain that went viral. Ask any Canadian.