From whistle pigs to toad-stranglers
Several days ago Slate ran an article titled “The United Slang of America.” In it the author presents a variety of words that are more or less exclusive to certain states (or, as the author explains, are staff’s favorite words from each state). The science is questionable given the mobility of American society, but the topic is almost guaranteed to add a few new gems to your vocabulary.
The map is interactive on Slate’s website and a click on any state reveals details about the illustrated word. Or you can just scroll down into the body of the story and read the text.
“toad-strangler,” a particularly hard, heavy rain, is said to be a Florida word. That may be, but Okies have been saying “frog-strangler” since I was a little girl.
In Mississippi, “nabs” are peanut butter crackers. I’m not sure how exclusive that is because if memory serves, “Nabs” is or was an actually brand name for peanut butter crackers.
Arizona claims “snowbirds,” but I’ve always thought of snowbirds as wealthy Northeasterners who flock to Florida for the winter.
I’ve been around prairie dogs all my life without hearing them called “whistle pigs” as they are in Idaho. Appropriate appellation, though. I’ll give them that.
In Iowa, a port-a-potty is a “kybo.” I’ve no idea how that came about unless Kybo is a brand name in that part of the world.
“Chugholes” in Kentucky? Come on. I’ll bet every state in the union has chugholes. Or at least chuckholes. Or maybe potholes.
In Louisiana, a sidewalk is a “banquette.” Must be that French influence or something. Totally new to me.
A “yupper” in Michigan is someone from the Upper Peninsula (U.P.-er). That one may very well be exclusive since no other state has an Upper Peninsula.
I refuse to give Montana an exclusive on “graupel.” Those tiny little ice balls or hail balls occur throughout the Rockies. I encountered the stuff years ago here in Colorado.
Did you know “Cackalacky” is another name for North Carolina? Neither did I.
“Quakenado” may be big in Oklahoma now, with all the earthquakes in recent years caused by fracking’s disposal wells (boo! hiss!), but they were unheard of when I left there ten years ago.
One of my favorites in the list is “whirlygust,” a strong wind in Tennessee. It sounds like something some little country girl would say. Lots of country in Oklahoma, much of it pretty Southern, but I’d never heard whirlygust before. It’s kinda cute.
There are more, of course, but I leave it to you to go read Slate’s article.