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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 March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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