12 words only people from New England will understand

3 min read

Blisteringly cold and snowy in the winter and hot and humid during the summer, New England is one of the best places to live despite its extreme weather. Consider its beautiful waterfalls, some of the oldest history in the United States and its distinct and recognizable slang.

Have you ever wondered what your friends from Maine meant when they talked about the horrors of mud season? Or why on earth people from Rhode Island love to eat cabinets? Look below for 12 New England slang words and what they mean. In no time you’ll be convincing people you’re from the snowy Northeast!


In the rest of the country, a bubbler is known as a water fountain or a water cooler. In the Northeast (particularly Massachusetts), it's a bubbler, most likely because of the bubbling noise it makes when you empty it. Props to you if you say it with a broad Boston accent, turning the “r” into an “ah” sound.


While other people know this as the TV remote, Northeasterners refer to this device as the clicker. This one also makes sense, because of the clicking noise of the buttons as you push them to change the channel.


In most of the United States, milkshakes are made with ice cream, milk and syrup or flavoring. In New England, however, a milkshake is only milk and syrup. A frappe is the thicker version that includes ice cream. This can get confusing for out-of-towners who are used to milkshakes containing ice cream, but just remember to ask for a frappe and you’ll be fine.

New England bonus: Cabinets are the Rhode Island-specific name for a frappe.


Sprinkles for cakes and ice creams in New England are known as jimmies. No one knows where the term came from, but it’s been around since roughly the 1930s.

Leaf peepers

Leaf peeper refers to tourists who come to New England to drive slow, eat doughnuts, and look at leaves throughout the fall season. New England has beautiful fall foliage and plenty of traditions that are unique to the autumn season, and leaf peepers are an important part of the economy during those months. We say it with affection!


Instead of a roundabout (the traffic control where you drive in a circle, exiting and entering on a curve), New Englanders call it a rotary.

Mud season

Mud season is the worst possible season. Existing after winter but before spring, mud season is that so-called fifth season that's cold and gray, but just warm enough that the ground turns to mud. The mud gets everywhere — in the car, in any establishment or home you walk into, on your clothes — and it’s just cold enough so the mud sometimes freezes, only to melt again and get everywhere.

Tag sale

In most of the country, people hold yard sales: a weekend event where you put items for sale on your front lawn and sell them to people walking by. In New England, they’re called tag sales, most likely because of the tags you attach to the items you want to sell.


This one’s a given and perhaps the most well known of the New England slang terms. Wicked in New England, particularly around Massachusetts, is an intensifier of very, such as “wicked hard” or “wicked beautiful.” It’s a useful catch all, and it’s a wicked easy way to tell if someone’s from the area.


Grocery carts are known as such in the rest of the country but in New England, they’re known as carriages. It's just a fancier word for something you put eggs in. And if you hear buggy, you're talking to someone from the South.


Hair bands are a staple for everyone with long hair. In the Northeast, however, they’re known as elastics or hair elastics, in reference to what they’re made out of.


The special sandwich that has meat, veggies and cheese on a long roll is traditionally known as a sub (unless you’re from Pennsylvania, then you call it a hoagie). In the Northeast, it’s called a grinder for unknown reasons. Just be sure to ask for a grinder in the deli and you’ll get the sandwich you crave.

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