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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 December 2, 2019

10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

Plato knew that the body and mind are intimately linked. And in the late 1800s, the Mayo brothers, famous physicians, estimated that over half of all hospital beds are filled with people suffering from frustration, anxiety, worry and despair. Causes of worry are everywhere, in our relationships and our jobs, so it’s key we find ways to take charge of the stress.

In his classic book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie offers tools to ditch excessive worrying that help you make a worry-free environment for your private and professional life.

These are the top 10 tips to grab worry by the horns and wrestle it to the ground:

1. Make Your Decision and Never Look Back

Have you ever made a decision in life only to second-guess it afterwards? Of course you have! It’s hard not to wonder whether you’ve done the right thing and whether there might still be time to take another path.

But keep this in mind: you’ve already made your decision, so act decisively on it and dismiss all your anxiety about it.

Don’t stop to hesitate, to reconsider, or to retrace your steps. Once you’ve chosen a course of action, stick to it and never waver.

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2. Live for Today, Package Things up in “Day-Tight Compartments”

You know that feeling: tossing, turning and worrying over something that happened or something that might, well into the wee hours. To avoid this pointless worrying, you need “day-tight compartments”. Much as a ship has different watertight compartments, your own “day-tight” ones are a way to limit your attention to the present day.

The rule is simple: whatever happened in the past or might happen in the future must not intrude upon today. Everything else has to wait its turn for tomorrow’s box or stay stuck in the past.

3. Embrace the Worst-Case Scenario and Strategize to Offset It

If you’re worried about something, ask yourself: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Could you lose your job? Be jailed? Get killed?

Whatever the “worst” might be, it’s probably not so world-ending. You could probably even bounce back from it!

If, for example, you lose your job, you could always find another. Once you accept the worst-case scenario and get thinking about contingency plans, you’ll feel calmer.

4. Put a Lid on Your Worrying

Sometimes we stress endlessly about negative experiences when just walking away from them would serve us far better.

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To make squashing that worry easier, try this strategy, straight from stock traders: it’s called the “stop-loss” order, where shares are bought at a certain price, and then their price development is observed. If things go badly and the share price hits a certain point, they are sold off immediately. This stops the loss from increasing further.

In the same manner, you can put a stop-loss order on things that cause you stress and grief.

5. Fake It ‘Til You Make It – Happiness, That Is

We can’t directly influence how we feel, but we can nudge ourselves to change through how we think and act.

If you’re feeling sad or low, slap a big grin on your face and whistle a chipper tune. You’ll find it impossible to be blue when acting cheerful. But you don’t necessarily need to act outwardly happy; you can simply think happier thoughts instead.

Marcus Aurelius summed it up aptly:

“Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

6. Give for the Joy of Giving

When we perform acts of kindness, we often do so with the expectation of gratitude. But harboring such expectations will probably leave you disappointed.

One person well aware of this fact was the lawyer Samuel Leibowitz. Over the course of his career, Leibowitz saved 78 people from going to the electric chair. Guess how many thanked him? None.

So stop expecting gratitude when you’re kind to someone. Instead, take joy from the act yourself.

7. Dump Envy – Enjoy Being Uniquely You

Your genes are completely unique. Even if someone had the same parents as you, the likelihood of someone identical to you being born is just one in 300,000 billion.

Despite this amazing fact, many of us long to be someone else, thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But living your life this way is pointless. Embrace your uniqueness and get comfortable with who you really are: How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

8. Haters Will Hate — It Just Means You’re Doing It Right

When you’re criticized, it often means you’re accomplishing something noteworthy. In fact, let’s take it a step further and consider this: the more you’re criticized, the more influential and important a person you likely are.

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So the next time somebody talks you down, don’t let it get to you. Take it as a compliment!

9. Chill Out! Learn to Rest Before You Get Tired

Scientists agree that emotions are the most common cause of fatigue. And it works the other way around, too: fatigue produces more worries and negative emotions.

It should be clear, therefore, that you’ve got to relax regularly before you feel tired. Otherwise, worries and fatigue will accumulate on top of each other.

It’s impossible to worry when you are relaxed, and regular rest helps you maintain your ability to work effectively.

10. Get Organized and Enjoy Your Work

There are few greater sources of misery in life than having to work, day in, day out, in a job you despise. It would make sense then that you shouldn’t pick a job you hate, or even just dislike doing.

But say you already have a job. How can you make it more enjoyable and worry-free? One way is to stay organized: a desk full of unanswered mails and memos is sure to breed worries.

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Better yet, rethink about the job you’re doing: What to Do When You Hate Your Job but Want a Successful Career

More About Living a Fulfilling Life

Featured photo credit: Tyler Nix via unsplash.com

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