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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
This saying speaks for itself, and for the vivid imagination that Southerners have.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the North: this means “the Big Ten” or, more specifically, Ohio State.
In the South: The Sec or, more specifically, ‘Bama.
This played out perfectly in the 2015 Sugar Bowl.
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.
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.
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