In a country as large as the United States, it’s natural that certain regions have their own lingo. From fizzy drinks (“pop” in the Midwest) to the roadways that bring drivers from point A to point B (“freeways” in California), some words immediately call to mind a specific place. Test your American slang knowledge with some of these terms from around the country.
Pronounced “ah-yuh,” in Maine, this word works in a similar way to “yup” or “yeah.” The history of the word “ayuh” is sparse, but it’s likely that it comes from the nautical word “aye,” which also means “yes.” While it has fallen out of favor with younger Mainers, Stephen King (who famously grew up in the state) uses the word often in his novels.
Whether it’s spelled “cattywampus” or “catawampus,” in the South it means something that is either literally or figuratively crooked. Some sources attribute it to Alabama, while others claim North Carolina, but it can be used all over the South to mean a big old mess.
The “Glawackus” is a cryptid (mythical creature) from Glastonbury, Connecticut. The story of the Glawackus arose from real events: In the late 1930s, The Hartford Times reported that farm animals were being killed, but the cause was unknown. The Glawackus (a combination of “Glastonbury,” “wacky,” and “us”) was coined when The Hartford Courant used it to explain the random animal deaths.
While Massachusetts drivers use “rotaries,” New Jersey drivers use “jughandles,” a specific kind of traffic loop. If an intersection doesn’t allow left turns, a driver can proceed through the intersection to the jughandle — a right turn that loops them back around to the intersection to go straight through, completing what would have been the left turn.
Across the country, visitors to Michigan might be confronted with the “Michigan Left,” a traffic pattern that must be experienced to be understood.
“Jawn” is used almost exclusively in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and researchers believe this word evolved from the word “joint” in the 1970s. “Jawn” can mean multiple things, depending on the context. The closest comparison to this all-purpose noun would be “thing” — “Are you going to the thing?” “Can you grab that thing?” “I need to take that thing to the garage.”
“Jawn” works in the same way. Need to remind someone to bring food to the cookout? “Don’t forget the jawn.” Or it can be used to compliment a great pair of shoes. “Those jawns are so cool!” Any Philadelphians will also understand the request to “bring that jawn to the jawn.”
In Boston, “wicked” is an adverb that means “very” or “really.” People get wicked excited for a Red Sox game, and they get wicked pissed when the Bruins lose a game. There’s not a clear explanation for how or when Bostonians started using “wicked,” an adjective that means “evil,” as an emphasizing adverb, but it was popularized outside of Boston through entertainment such as the movie “Good Will Hunting.”
“Y’all” has long been the primary way to refer to a group of people in the South, but “yinz” is the Pennsylvania alternative. Try out this non-gendered word and say “Hey, yinz!” or “Are yinz coming over after the game?”
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