CURIOUS LINGO

What Is A Kattywampus? And 9 Other Unique Words Only Locals Will Get


Published on June 25, 2024


Credit: Joey Csunyo

Each state in the U.S. boasts its own distinct culture full of unique slang and expressions. From endearing monikers for their home state to cacophonous sounding words with no fixed meaning, there is no shortage of linguistic gems waiting to be discovered.

Below, we've compiled a collection of some of the most intriguing or whimsical words coined by Americans from various states, to their own delight and the confusion of their neighbors.

1

Sourdough (Alaska)

Credit: Kathrine Coonjohn

Alaskans refer to long-time residents as "sourdoughs." This term comes from the extensive use of sourdough starter for baking bread in the state's early, isolated days. Frontiersmen would reportedly wear a pouch of starter around their neck to keep it from freezing. Now, it's a badge of honor denoting someone seasoned by the Alaskan lifestyle.

2

Cackalacky (North Carolina)

Credit: Elijah Mears

"Welcome to Cackalacky!" might sound like a line straight out of Alice in Wonderland, but in North Carolina, it’s actually a playful nickname for the Tar Heel State. While some have claimed it is a derivative of a Cherokee word -as it often happens- its exact origin is unknown. In any case, it has long been embraced in music and popular culture, and it symbolizes local pride.

3

Jughandle (New Jersey)

Credit: Manisha Raghunath

Driving in New Jersey, you might encounter "jughandles," which are road configurations designed to make left turns by turning right first - seen from above as forming a shape akin to the handle of a jug. This peculiar traffic feature is ubiquitous in the Garden State but, for some reason, rare elsewhere.

4

Uff Da (North Dakota)

Credit: Intricate Explorer

A multipurpose exclamation of Scandinavian origin, "Uff da" is used in North Dakota to express surprise, exhaustion, or dismay. The versatile phrase showcases the area's extensive Nordic heritage. Amusingly, it has even been used to name various places and events, including an airport and several festivals.

5

Red, Green, or Christmas? (New Mexico)

Credit: Joonyeop Baek

In New Mexico, ordering food often involves the question, "Red or green?" However, there's a third possible answer: "Christmas." This refers to the type of chile sauce you prefer: red, green, or both (Christmas). Considered by many as the "official state question," the answer can even reveal whether you are from the northern or southern part of the state.

6

Pogonip (Nevada)

Credit: Kitera Dent

Residents of northern Nevada might warn you about "pogonip," a dangerously thick and icy fog. If you were thinking of dismissing the warning of locals and braving this legendary - but very real - weather phenomenon, just know that the word comes from the Shoshone language and literally means "white death." We are not taking any chances, but you do you.

7

Meat and Three (Tennessee)

Credit: Chris King

In Tennessee, a "meat and three" is a beloved meal consisting of one meat and three side dishes. The term is thought to have originated in a Nashville cafeteria in the 30s where they served a similar version of the modern dish: a choice of meat and vegetables, plus bread, for only 25 cents. If you are curious, you can try this Southern culinary staple in most diners and restaurants across the state.

8

J'eet? (Oklahoma)

Credit: Raychel Sanner

Oklahomans might ask, "J'eet?" when they want to know if you’ve eaten. This contraction of "Did you eat?" is common in casual conversation and reflects the region’s relaxed speech patterns. In a similar vein, "that skeeter ate you up" can be used to point out that a mosquito has made a feast out of you, biting you multiple times.

9

Awful Awful (Rhode Island)

Credit: Michael Denning

Contrary to what it suggests, in Rhode Island, the term "awful awful" refers to a delicious milkshake. The term is derived from "awful big and awful good," emphasizing the drink’s rich, creamy appeal. Though both the name and the beverage originated in New Jersey, the original trademark was bought by a local restaurant chain, and it soon became part of the local culture.

10

Kattywampus (South Dakota)

Credit: Joshua Hubbard

If something is askew or out of order in South Dakota, it’s "kattywampus" (or alternatively "cattywampus"). This whimsical word can describe anything from a crooked picture frame to a disorganized room. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, this bizarre word is actually a variant of "catawampus," another slang word that traces back to the 19th century and can refer to an "imaginary fierce wild animal."


SPACE ODDITIES

10 Bizarre Objects Humans Sent Into Space


Published on June 25, 2024


Credit: NASA

Space exploration has propelled humanity into the cosmos, but along the way, we've also flung a bunch of bizarre objects at high velocity into the cold void of space.

From cultural artifacts to scientific experiments gone wrong, here are 10 weird things we've launched beyond Earth's atmosphere.

1

Pizza

Credit: Alan Hardman

In 2001, Pizza Hut made history by becoming the first company to deliver pizza to space. They sent a vacuum-sealed pizza to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a resupply mission, allowing astronauts to enjoy a taste of home among the stars.

As NASA has a restrictive policy regarding advertising and product endorsement, Pizza Hut had to turn to Roscosmos, paying the Russian agency $1 million to display their logo on the side of their rocket and deliver a shrink-wrapped salami pizza to cosmonaut Yuri Usachov.

2

Tardigrades

Credit: Schokraie E, Warnken U, Hotz-Wagenblatt A, Grohme MA, Hengherr S, et al. (2012), CC BY 2.5

These microscopic creatures, also known as water bears, are incredibly resilient and can survive extreme conditions , including the unforgiving vacuum of space. Since 2007, tardigrades have been sent into space onboard various scientific missions, and in November 2011, an Israeli lunar lander accidentally crashed on the Moon’s surface, potentially spilling around thousands of tardigrades in a cryptobiotic state that were part of the mission’s payload.

Whether these tough little beings have survived the impact is anyone’s guess, but if there’s a terrestrial species capable of withstanding the harshest environments, it’s them.

3

Buzz Lightyear

Credit: Brian McGowan

In 2008, Disney and NASA collaborated to send a toy replica of Buzz Lightyear, the fictional space ranger from the movie "Toy Story," to the ISS. The toy spent 15 months aboard the station as part of an educational outreach program before returning to Earth.

And after returning to Earth, Buzz Lightyear got to meet its legendary namesake, Buzz Aldrin, who "coached" it for future space missions. The spacefaring toy was eventually donated to the Smithsonian Institution, where it now resides.

4

LEGO Figurines

Credit: Daniel K Cheung

People seem to love sending LEGO figurines on the craziest adventures, whether it’s strapping them to weather balloons, miniature submarines, or even on a mission to Jupiter! A partnership between NASA and LEGO in 2011 resulted in the creation of a very special set specifically designed for space travel. Three figurines representing statues of Galileo Galilei and the Roman gods Jupiter and Juno were sent onboard NASA’s Juno Mission towards the gas giant.

5

Tesla Roadster

Credit: Vlad Tchompalov

In 2018, SpaceX made headlines when they launched Elon Musk's personal Tesla Roadster into space aboard the company’s Falcon Heavy rocket. The car was piloted by a mannequin dubbed "Starman," and it served as a dummy payload to test the rocket's capabilities without endangering a real (and potentially more costly) payload.

Named after a David Bowie song, the mannequin and its shiny convertible will remain in a heliocentric orbit for millions of years , an enduring testimony to humanity’s ingenuity and sense of humor.

6

Dinosaur Fossils

Credit: Jesper Aggergaard

Surprisingly, not even dinosaurs are safe from being sent into space! In 1985, fossil bits from Maiasaura peeblesorum , a duck-billed dinosaur, visited the Mir space station onboard the shuttle Endeavor. And in 2014, a Tyrannosaurus fossil was launched into space as part of NASA’s Orion spacecraft test flights. More recently, Jeff Bezos' spaceflight company Blue Origin sent hundreds of 70 million years old Dromaeosaurus fossil fragments on a suborbital trajectory, as part of its "Club for the Future'' initiative.

7

A Literal Block of Cheese

Credit: Alexander Maasch

It seems like SpaceX might send just about anything to space, as in 2010 it launched a wheel of cheese as part of a secret payload onboard the company’s Dragon space capsule. The only reason it was kept secret is because SpaceX’s CEO Elon Musk didn’t want to overshadow the success of the test flight.

The wheel of cheese is a - although debatable - reference to a classic skit from the British comedy show Monty Python's Flying Circus where John Cleese tries to order cheese from a "cheeseless cheese shop." While the joke might not have landed as well as in Elon’s head, the wheel of cheese certainly did, safely returning to Earth along with the company’s space capsule.

8

Luke Skywalker's Lightsaber

Credit: superneox lightsaber

Of course, a real lightsaber should be rigorously space-tested , or at least that’s what anyone who has seen Star Wars would expect. As part of an educational program, in 2007, NASA carried one of the actual Luke Skywalker lightsaber props used in the movies aboard the Discovery space shuttle. The "elegant weapon for a more civilized age" spent a total of 14 days in orbit before successfully returning to Earth - and to George Lucas’s hands.

9

Space Whisky

![]( https://lh7-us.googleusercontent.com/rjTlXhBfNiJ2SFu-acGArRn42HQ5ZtRpkaLq9RsFfUYU4wuYXYQsTjNOqMYduRb9-K4iQ_iN892XwUQCVSUb7gQfHgAaOkjcV_NkyHmjl5EUqtg-5WwP9Xc_z3qm_sCqy0UjIf91Zq9KMgFSH8vfX_-Xjbbz9-3q?cropProperties=%7B%7D " Vinicius "amnx" Amano")

Who'd have thought there was room for whisky research in space? In 2011, a Scotch distillery named Ardbeg sent samples of its whisky to learn how microgravity would affect the maturation process of their spirit , with the goal of improving whisky production back on Earth. Interestingly, after spending nearly three years in space, Ardbeg’s director of distilling claimed that the samples tasted noticeably different from their terrestrial counterparts , likely due to how microgravity affects the process of oak flavoring that is essential for making scotch.

10

A Nuclear-propelled Manhole Cover

Credit: Mick Haupt

Yes, you read that right. According to some sources, the first object sent into space - even before Sputnik - was in all likelihood a manhole cover that was accidentally launched at turbocharged speed during Operation Plumbbob, one of the earliest nuclear tests conducted by the U.S. government in the 1950s.

Robert Brownlee, one of the scientists who worked on Operation Plumbbob, maintains that the accidental spacecraft was propelled at five times the escape velocity of the Earth (around 125,000 miles per hour) during the nuclear blast, seriously dwarfing the speed of any intentional spacecraft made by humanity so far. In fact, it was going so fast that it wouldn't have time to burn up in the atmosphere, and some argue that it carried enough momentum to actually leave the Solar system entirely.

Looking for an extra scoop of literary fun?

Learn more with our Word of the day

quibble

/ˈkwɪb(ə)l/