16 popular slang words you'll only hear in certain regions of the US

ShutterstockWords like ‘y’all’ are region-specific.
  • There are words in the English language that exist solely in certain regions in the US.
  • In the Northeast, they use words like “sneakers,” “leaf peepers,” and “wicked.”
  • In the South, they use terms like “sugar” (to describe a kiss) and “ragamuffin.”
  • In the Midwest, words like “Hoosier” and “ope” are commonly used.

While English is the predominant language in the US, there are different dialects around the country. In some regions, in fact, there are words used that no other part of the country has heard.

As slang words developed over time, regions created their own names for common things. For example, the majority of the country uses the word “soda” to describe the bubbly drink, but the Midwest calls it “pop.” In the South, it is referred to as “coke,” and some places simply call it “tonic.”

Check out some more quirky words that regions have created.

In New England, children drink from “bubblers.”

Mario Tama/Getty ImagesTake a sip from the bubbler.

The term “bubbler” – more specifically heard in Boston and Providence – is used to describe a drinking fountain. In fact, a North Carolina State University study found that only 18% of people in the US use the term “bubbler” and most of them are in the Northeast.

Southerners refer to a group of people as “y’all.”

ShutterstockY’all come back now.

One of the most popular and well-known slang words from the south is “y’all. “

In the Northeast, people call their gym shoes “sneakers.”

andersphoto/ShutterstockSneakers or tennis shoes?

While the rest of the country refers to them as “tennis shoes,” the Northeast calls them “sneakers.”

In the South, when you kiss someone, you’re giving them sugar.

Another common idiom from the South is referring to a kiss as “sugar.” It’s often used in a phrase, as in “give me some sugar.”

People of Indiana call each other “Hoosiers.”

ShutterstockYou’re a Hoosier if you’re from Indiana.

If you’re from Indiana, you’re called a “Hoosier.” But the term could also refer to someone from a rural part of town and is interchangeable with the word “redneck.”

When something is great in Massachusetts, they call it “wicked.”

Boston Globe/ GettyWicked high tides.

While the rest of America uses the term “wicked” to describe something evil, parts of New England – specifically Boston –use the term to describe something that is great, cool, interesting, or fascinating. It can also be used to describe the size of something, as in “that is wicked big.”

On the West Coast, however, they say something is “gnarly” if it’s great.

ohrim/ShutterstockThat’s a gnarly wave.

Since “gnarly” originated in surf culture, it makes sense that it is mostly used on the West Coast. It can be used to describe something that is difficult and challenging or something that is especially cool.

Soft served ice cream in Vermont is often referred to as “creemee.”

INSIDERI’ll take the right creemee.

When summer hits, most of the country loves to treat themselves to soft serve ice cream. In Vermont, however, they rush to eat a creemee.

In Utah, the phrase “Oh my heck” is often used by Mormons.

George Frey/ GettyMormons sometimes say, ‘Oh my heck!’

In Utah, many people – mostly Mormons – say “Oh my heck” in place of saying “Oh my God.”

New Englanders call sandwiches “grinders.”

Daniela Snow/FlickrTake a bite into a grinder.

Sandwiches go by many different names around the US. For some, they are “heroes,” while others call them “subs.” But in the Northeast, they call them “grinders.” Sometimes the term is used to distinguish a hot sandwich from a cold one (the hot sandwich being a grinder).

Citizens of Maine often say “ayuh” instead of “yes.”

While the rest of America uses some variation of “yes,” Mainers respond in the affirmative with “ayuh.” It’s pronounced “ay-uh.” The word has also appeared in a number of Stephen King novels, as he is a well-known Mainer who sets most of his novels in the state.

If you’re a tourist in the fall and visiting the Northeast, they will call you “leaf peepers.”

Flocking to the Northeast just to look at fall foliage will earn you the title of “leaf peeper.” It isn’t necessarily a compliment,” but lately travel blogs and publications are taking ownership of the word and prompting people to travel to fall-centric destinations.

If you are referred to as a “ragamuffin” in the South, you aren’t looking your best.

Touchstone PicturesBeing called a ragamuffin isn’t a compliment.

According to the dictionary, a ragamuffin is anyone who looks disheveled, unclean, or unkempt. So, if someone is calling you a “ragamuffin,” you better take a second look in the mirror.

In California, the term “freeway” is often used while driving.

Getty ImagesGet off the 405 freeway.

Freeways are most popular in Los Angeles where people can access the high-speed road at any point. It’s also common for people in this region to call the freeways by name, including the word “the.” For example, someone in Los Angeles might say, “You have to take the 405.” In other parts of the country, it’s simply called a highway.

The Bay Area is known for coining the word “hella.”

ShutterstockThe term ‘hella’ started in Oakland.

The term “hella” started in Oakland as a shorter way to say “hell of a lot” when referring to a large amount of something. The word quickly grew in popularity and is now part of the entire West Coast vernacular.

In the Midwest, when someone does something accidentally, they say, “ope!”

NetflixOpe, that’s surprising.

Midwesterners may also blurt out “ope” when something silly or surprising happens. The term is meant as a replacement for “uh-oh” and “oops.”


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