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25 Words That Have Different Meanings Across the United States

25 Words That Have Different Meanings Across the United States

Even though the United States are united (thanks Abraham Lincoln!), there are still regional differences in the way they speak. Some of the differences come from pronunciations, while some come from a regional dialect. This list gives a glimpse into 25 Words That Have Different Meanings Across the United States.

1. Mini river crustaceans

In the North: referred to as “crawdads” and “crayfish.”

In the South: “crawfish.”

These mini river crustaceans make delicious local dishes, though the word to describe them is still under debate.

2. A carbonated sweetened beverage

In the North: ask for “pop.”

In the South: “soda,” or generalized as “Coke.”

In the North you order your favorite pop, say Mountain Dew. In the South it is a Soda, or you might even order a Mountain Dew by saying, “I’d like a Coke,” after which you’d be asked: “What kind?”

3. A group of people

In the North: Hey, “you guys!”

In the South: Hi “ya’ll!”

This phrase is the great divider between North and South, and how you address a group of people determines your geographical heritage.

4. Pastie

In the North: a “pastie” is a hot pocket, filled with vegetables and a choice of meat.

In the South: a “pastie” is a covering women put over their nipples in order to be modest.

This one is a bit interesting, because although the word is spelled the same, pronunciation is what matters. In the north (especially Michigan) you say “past” with an “ie” on the end. The nipple covering is pronounced “paste” with a “y” on the end. I’ve made this mistake when ordering food in the North before, and the locals thought I was an idiot.

5. Sugar

In the North: sugar comes in 5- or 10-pound bags and is normally used for baking.

In the South: “sugar” can mean a kiss.

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If you ask for some sugar in the South, you might be surprised when you get a big peck on the lips! If you ask for sugar in the North, people will assume you are doing a lot of baking.

6. Bet

In the North: a bet is something that you place on a game of poker.

In the South: “bet” is a way to say that you agree.

The word “bet” in the south comes form the saying, “you bet you” or “you betcha”, which is shortened to “bet” as a way to say that you agree. In the North, if someone says bet, it’s generally in reference to gaming.

7. Pitcher

In the North: a photograph.

In the South:  a container for a beverage.

The word picture, especially is rural areas in the North, sounds more like “pitcher” when pronounced. In the South, this almost always refers to a big pitcher of sweet tea.

8. Dressing

In the North: something that goes on salad, ie. ranch.

In the South: a bread based side dish.

In the North, there is basically one salad dressing: ranch. In the South, if you asked for dressing on your salad you would probably get croutons –“dressing” is that tasty bread concoction that is normally stuffed in a turkey for Thanksgiving.

9. Tea

In the North: black tea.

In the South: This is a cold drink consisting of sugar and an aftertaste of tea.

Another divider between the North and South is how we like to drink our tea. The South is legendary for their sweet teas. If you go far south enough, tea at a restaurant is always sweetened, and if you ask for it unsweetened they instantly know you are an out-of-towner.

10. “The Lake”

In the North: this can mean any of the Great Lakes, if you’re close to one.

In the South: the local swimming hole.

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If you are a Midwesterner, when someone references “the Lake” it generally means one of the Great Lakes. In the South if someone references the lake, it usually means a local pond or quarry.

11. Fixing

In the North: something you do when your car is broken down.

In the South: getting prepared to do something, ie. “I’m fixing to eat some crayfish.”

Another great divivder of the Norther and Southern dialect is “fixing”. When my boyfriend says he is a fixing, it usually means he is working on a car. If someone in the South says this, it means they are getting prepared to do something.

12. Buggy

In the North: if you live near the Amish, a horse-drawn cart.

In the South: a shopping cart.*

*A “horse and buggy” has an entirely different meaning in the South.

13. Greens

In the North: a salad.

In the South: cooked collard greens.

If you ask for greens in the north, you will get a house salad. If you ask for greens in the south, you will undoubtedly get piping hot collard greens.

14. Shredded cabbage served with a milk-based cream

In the North: ask for “coleslaw.”

In the South: “slaw” will suffice.

The different between these words is minor, but again, Southerners seem to have a way with getting to the point when it comes to food.

15. When it is sunny while raining

In the North: this weather phenomenon is commonly referred to as a “sun shower.”

In the South: they say, “The devil is beating his wife.”

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This saying speaks for itself, and for the vivid imagination that Southerners have.

16. Dope

In the North: generally a slang term for drugs, or to say something is “cool.”

In the South: toppings that you put on your ice cream sundae.

Again, Southerners have a great way of getting to the point when describing food. I will make sure to ask for dope on my sundae in the future.

17. BBQ

In the North: a sweet sauce made from tomatoes, garlic, and Worcestershire that you slather on ribs.

In the South: a process of cooking meat slowly over fragrant wood.

The different in BBQ between the north and south is rather significant — one is a marinade and the other is a form of cooking.

18. Peninsula

In the North: this either means Upper Michigan, or the Mitten of Michigan that is covered on all three sides by lakes.

In the South: Florida.

Geographical heritage plays a major role in where the peninsula is located. Northerners will unanimously say Michigan, once you get south of the Ohio River, it is always Florida.

20. Butter

In the North: the condiment you put on bread.

In the South: the basis of all cooking.

Southerners (Paula Dean for example) use an excessive amount of butter to cook, well, everything. In the North, butter is more often a condiment.

21. Football

In the North: this means “the Big Ten” or, more specifically, Ohio State.

In the South: The Sec or, more specifically, ‘Bama.

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This played out perfectly in the 2015 Sugar Bowl.

22. Shorts

In the North: a garment that is worn as soon as it 40 degrees.

In the South: a garment that is worn as soon as it is 70 degrees.

A big difference between the North and South is our wardrobe. In the North the first day that is warmer than 40 degrees, girls are wearing hot pants. In the South, the girls are a bit classier and hold off until it’s at least 70 to put on the daisy dukes.

23. Rustbelt

In the North: the area of cities along the lakes that were part of the industrial boom and bust, now populated with mostly hipsters.

In the South: a belt that is rusty.

Midwesterners fondly call the old industry areas the Rust Belt. In the south, a rust belt would probably be something on a chain saw that has sat out the whole rainy season..

24. “Bless your heart”

In the North: a way of showing sincerity and appreciation.

In the South: a way of telling someone they are an idiot.

I have heard plenty of northerners say “bless your heart” and generally it came off as a way of saying “thank you,” but in the South it basically means the opposite.

25. Snow

In the North: white precipitation that comes in increments of feet and might cause schools to close when there is a wind chill of -40.

In the South: white precipitation that causes entire states to close down with a total snowfall of 2 inches.

Another example of geographic differences — the winter of 2013/14, the South was shut down several times when they received 1-2 inches of snow. In the North, I drove 20 miles to work in -40 degree weather, with close to a foot of snow on the ground.

Featured photo credit: Leo Reynolds via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

Boundaries are limits

—they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

1. Self-Awareness Comes First

Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

  • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
  • When do you feel disrespected?
  • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
  • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
  • When do you want to be alone?
  • How much space do you need?

You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

2. Clear Communication Is Essential

Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

Sample language:

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  • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
  • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
  • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
  • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
  • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
  • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
  • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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Final Thoughts

Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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