LANGUAGE FROM COAST TO COAST

So, What Exactly Is a Hoosier? Learn 10 American Regional Words.


Published on May 30, 2024


Credit: Morgan Lane

As the fourth biggest nation in the world, America is understandably home to many dialects, cultures, and traditions. All fifty states have their very own identity, constructed over generations of Americans working, communicating, and building a legacy. In that sense, each of these states' individuality has paved the way for thousands of unique regional terms and phrases to sprout.

Like we said, America is a massive country, so odds are most of us won’t get the chance to visit every single state and learn all the different dialects this country of ours has to offer. But don’t worry, we got you covered! We have compiled ten of our favorite regional terms for your enjoyment. They might help you on your next road trip! Enjoy!

1

Jawn

Credit: Rabie Madaci

We’ll start with what’s probably the most versatile word in this article . If you ever visit Philadelphia, you might hear people use the word "jawn" as a replacement for pretty much every noun you can think of. Someone might ask you to pass them "that jawn", or ask you if you know where "that new jawn" is.

Jawn is a context-sensitive word , so in most cases, you would know what the word replaces. Nevertheless, it is the noun to replace all nouns: If you hear someone in the City of Brotherly Love say jawn, they might be referring to anything in existence, from the Declaration of Independence to that salt shaker right in front of you.

2

Jimmies

Credit: Patrick Fore

Need to add a touch of color to that plain-looking ice cream? You might want to ask your server for a spoonful of sprinkles and witness a full rainbow descend upon your vanilla cone. However, should this hypothetical ice cream parlor be located in New England and parts of the Midwest, then you might want to use the preferred word for these small colorful pieces, and ask him or her for some jimmies.

While this term is definitively a New England staple, particularly in Boston, the truth is that jimmies is used in more places than you might imagine. Some places make the distinction depending on which food item is being consumed: For instance, you might call them jimmies when applied on an ice cream, while calling them sprinkles when they are on a donut.

3

Hoosier

Credit: Steven Van Elk

The word "Hoosier" is the official demonym of Indiana : The state has proudly boasted the nickname "The Hoosier State" for over 150 years. However, as proud as the good people of Indiana are of their nickname, the truth is that no one is completely sure about what the word means, or even where it came from.

The origins of this word are shrouded in mystery , but some theories have gained traction over the years. Most agree that the first popular use of Hoosiers as a demonym for Indiana comes from an 1833 poem titled "The Hoosier's Nest".

4

Alligator pear

Credit: Anne Nygård

This one is rather imaginative . It takes a particularly creative mind to see an avocado and think "Doesn’t this green, rugged fruit kind of look like the green, rugged skin of an alligator?" It is no wonder that this term likely originated in Florida, where alligators abound.

While avocados were not commercially grown in the United States until the late 1800s, a small production of avocados existed in Florida before that. The pear shape of the avocado combined with its similarities with alligator skin are clearly the origins of this regional term. Although still considered a Southern icon, the term "alligator pear" has seen a decline in popularity.

5

Davenport

Credit: Phillip Goldsberry

In 1897, the Massachusetts-based furniture company A. H. Davenport and Company designed a particularly popular couch that became known as "the Davenport". While the company itself is now defunct, its legacy continues: This line of sofas is still considered a design icon, and perhaps more importantly, the word "Davenport" has become synonymous with sofas and coaches all around the Great Lakes regions.

Because of the broad meaning this word has gained, it has grown to describe different pieces of furniture in different American regions. For instance, in some New York areas, Davenport is used to describe a couch that can be turned into a bed. However, is still mostly used to describe any sofa, particularly if it's an old or more formal sofa.

6

Wicked

Credit: Pascal Bernardon

Should the Wicked Witch of the West take a quick trip to Boston, she might be welcomed by a warmer crowd . This adjective has become synonymous with New England, appearing in countless movies, TV shows, and books about the region.

What’s curious is how a word that means evil or nefarious in the rest of the world evolved to become "excellent" or "extremely good" in New England. A theory makes the connection between wicked’s literal meaning and the witch trials that famously took place in Salem, Massachusetts. However, no definitive explanation has been discovered.

7

Stoop

Credit: Moses Vega

The stoop is a New York institution : these small staircases in front of apartment buildings have been a part of the Big Apple’s origins. They were brought over by settlers from the Netherlands in colonial times. The word comes from the Dutch word stoep , which means "sidewalk" and is pronounced the same way as the English "stoop".

Stoops are not just an architectural staple, but they are also considered a vital component of social life since they have provided New Yorkers with socializing opportunities. Perhaps more importantly, stoops have been used as a playground for generations of children to play street games, even inspiring its own game known as "stoop ball."

8

Bubbler

Credit: Daniel Hooper

Are you out on a hot day and your bottle is empty? Don’t worry, look for the nearest "bubbler" and enjoy some fresh, cold water. While most of the country knows this device as a water fountain, several American cities and towns have been calling them "bubblers" for decades now.

A few examples of states that use the word "bubbler" are Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and southern and eastern Wisconsin. Notably, residents of Portland, Oregon sometimes use the word , in reference to a series of water fountains installed in the 1900s by Simon Benson. These fountains are known as the "Benson Bubblers" and 52 of them are still functional.

9

Breezeway

Credit: Evan Tahler

This one is rather tricky to describe, not because of its complexity, but rather because it means different things in different regions of the country. Should you look up the word "breezeway" in the dictionary, it will describe an open passage, usually roofed, that connects two buildings. The main purpose of this structure is to allow the passage of breeze, whether it is to allow aeration or to accommodate to a high winds region. Notably, in Minnesota they are known as "skyways".

However, this word has a different meaning in the Mid-Atlantic region of the country. In places like Philadelphia and Baltimore, a breezeway is the space that separates two groups of rowhouses in the middle of a city block.

10

Potsy, punchball and stickball

Credit: MOHAMMADREZA Kr

We’ll end this article with multiple regional variants of the games we all enjoyed in our childhoods. As we mentioned in our "stoop" entry, these small staircases provided generations of New York children with the perfect playing ground for street games. These countless hours of fun have resulted in a couple of regional variations of our favorite pastimes.

For starters, the game of hopscotch is known in New York City as "potsy". The origins of the word are debated: many believe it is simply derived from the original name, while others believe it comes from "potsherd", which describes a piece of ceramic that would be used to draw the hopscotch line on the pavement. Other regional games include variations of baseball, like stickball (played with a broomstick), or punchball (where the "batter" instead punches the ball).


AMERICAN ICONS

10 Surprising Facts About America's Most Iconic Monuments


Published on May 30, 2024


Credit: Luke Stackpoole

From the rugged cliffs of the Grand Canyon to the stoic majesty of the Statue of Liberty, America's cultural and natural landscape tells the story of a nation shaped by diversity, resilience, and innovation. These landmarks stand as testaments to human achievement and the magnificence of the natural world.

Join us on a journey to explore some of the craziest facts behind 10 of America's greatest monuments!

1

Grand Canyon: Crazy Weather

Credit: Omer Nezih Gerek

Carved into layers of rock by the mighty Colorado River over millions of years, the Grand Canyon is proof of the breathtaking power of nature. Stretching 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and over a mile deep, this geological marvel is so intricate that it ends up creating its own weather - with temperature and humidity varying wildly between different points within the canyon.

2

Statue Of Liberty: The Color Of Freedom

Credit: Guilherme Bustamante

A symbol of freedom and democracy, the Statue of Liberty has welcomed immigrants and visitors to the shores of New York Harbor since 1886. Standing 305 feet tall, Lady Liberty holds a torch of enlightenment and a tablet inscribed with the date of the Declaration of Independence. Curiously, it wasn’t always green. When it was first assembled, it displayed a stunning reddish brown due to its thin patina of copper. However, as years passed by, the copper skin oxidized and turned into the bluish-green we know today.

3

Mount Rushmore: An Interrupted Legacy

Credit: Ronda Darby

Carved into the granite face of the Black Hills of South Dakota, Mount Rushmore features the sculpted heads of four iconic American presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. This colossal tribute to democracy is one of America’s most famous landmarks, and it attracts millions of visitors each year, but did you know that the monument is far from finished according to its original plan? The project was prematurely halted in 1941 due to the death of Gutzon Borglum - its leading sculptor - but it was intended for the carved figures to be sculpted down to the waist.

4

Yellowstone National Park: A Sleeping Giant

Credit: Lucas

America's first national park, Yellowstone, is a wonderland of geothermal features, with over 500 active geysers and hot springs. Designated as a national park by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872, it is nestled in the vicinity of the Yellowstone supervolcano, experiencing nearly 3,000 earthquakes annually. It also boasts diverse wildlife, from grizzly bears to bison, roaming across its vast wilderness.

5

Golden Gate Bridge: The Hollywood Star

Credit: Joseph Barrientos

Spanning the entrance to San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge is considered an engineering marvel and an iconic symbol of the City by the Bay. Opened in 1937, it stretches 1.7 miles long and stands a maximum of 746 feet above the water. Its distinctive "International Orange" color was specifically created for the bridge, ensuring visibility through the bay's frequent fog. Beyond its engineering feats, the Golden Gate Bridge has also become a cinematic icon, featuring prominently in dozens of films, further cementing its place in popular culture.

6

Independence Hall: Saved By The Bell

Credit: Ernie Journeys

Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Independence Hall is where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were debated and signed. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that offers visitors a glimpse into America's early beginnings. However, the historic building wasn’t always so revered. In 1816, it was almost demolished as part of a real estate development project, and the city of Philadelphia only intervened at the last possible moment, purchasing the entire block to prevent its destruction.

7

Lincoln Memorial: A Symbol Of Power And Democracy

Credit: Andy Feliciotti

Honoring the 16th President of the United States, the Lincoln Memorial is a neoclassical masterpiece located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Within the memorial’s marble columns, a towering statue of Abraham Lincoln seats majestically, overseeing visitors with solemnity. Interestingly, Lincoln's arms rest over representations of Roman fasces , an ancient symbol of power, both expressing his strength and authority and associating the monument with the imperial theme of the Washington Mall.

8

Antelope Canyon: A Beautiful Trap

Credit: Fudo Jahic

Carved by wind and water over millions of years, Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon located on Navajo land in Arizona. Known for its mesmerizing light beams and swirling sandstone formations, this natural wonder is a photographer's dream. But despite its serene appearance, Antelope Canyon demands respect and caution, as the same processes that created it are still active. During the monsoon season, swiftly rising water levels can flood the narrow passageways in a matter of seconds, and official tours are required to adhere to strict safety protocols.

9

Empire State Building: A Harbor In The Sky

Credit: Emiliano Bar

An enduring symbol of New York City, the Empire State Building is considered one of the best examples of Art Deco architecture in the world. Completed in 1931, the iconic skyscraper offers panoramic views of the city from its famous observation decks. Originally, it was designed to have a dirigible mooring mast, but only one airship ever docked at the skyscraper - and for only three minutes!

10

Niagara Falls: The Day The Falls Stopped

Credit: Rikin Katyal

Straddling the border between the United States and Canada, Niagara Falls is a breathtaking cascade of water that attracts millions of visitors each year. While its natural beauty is unparalleled, Niagara Falls has also witnessed remarkable human intervention. Amazingly, during the summer of 1969, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers diverted the majority of the water away from the American side of the falls, halting the majestic spectacle for several months. This unprecedented action was undertaken to assess the effect of erosion on the submerged rock face, while providing a unique opportunity to study the geological processes behind the iconic waterfall.

Looking for an extra scoop of literary fun?

Learn more with our Word of the day

infrangible

/ɪnˈfrændʒəbəl/