Assuming you’ve moved to a new region or gone on vacation, you’ve probably experienced what I like to call “the head tilt” (you probably just tilted your head there, didn’t you?). This is when you ask a question that seems perfectly simple, but the person you are asking tilts their head and looks confused, as if you’ve just randomly decided to start speaking Russian.
Far more sly than accents that are obvious and well-known, you are a victim of your lingo. If you’ve bounced around a lot, you’re used to this. But if not, there are a few things you should know that are giving you away as an “outsider” and confusing the new people you’re talking to.
You may choose to do what you wish with this information. I, for one, might be a little obnoxious and stuck in my ways, and continue to use my messed up New England vocabulary no matter where I live. What can I say, it’s built in and I love it. But, I know as soon as I say something that I might have to explain it. Or, you can choose to rule it out altogether to be nice and allow people to better understand you. It’s your call. But it might be fun to bring a little culture to wherever you go.
Kicking off this series is your New England translation guide. The first word is what a New Englander would say, the second is what the rest of the English-speaking world would understand. We’ll do a different region next time. Between my lovely co-workers and myself, we’ve lived in just about every part of the country – so I promise, it’ll be accurate (even though the call to mess with you guys is kind of tempting).
Note: For those of you using this to find out what other people have been saying, if any word below ends in “er”, replace the sound with “ah” to pronounce it correctly.
- Bubbler → Drinking Fountain
I’ll never forget the horror on my eighth grade, Texas teacher’s face when I asked where the bubbler was.
- Wicked → Very
Pretty commonly known, but this wouldn’t be complete without it.
- Bureau → Dresser
Try shopping for furniture when you move… it’s an experience
- Cabinet → Milkshake
Seriously, the housewares shopping thing. Nightmare
- Downcellar → Basement
More of a directional than a place. If you left something in the cellar (sella), you left it “downsella” (spelling is accounting for the accent). But, you wouldn’t say “My house has a downsella”. That’s just wrong.
- Grinder → Sandwich/Sub
Also more commonly known, but necessary.
- “I’m all set” → I’m good / I’m fine
This is accepted in some regions, but will get you a lot of weird looks in others.
- Jimmies → Sprinkles
You gotta get the rainbow jimmies on your ice cream cone.
- “No suh!” → No Way
I really thought this would be self-explanatory when I first started moving around… but it wasn’t
- Packy → Liquor Store
Another one that is used in a couple of places, but will get confused looks in most others.
- Regular Coffee → With normal amounts of cream and sugar
If you were hoping this would get you coffee with the perfect amounts of cream and sugar, you’re out of luck. You actually have to say “coffee with cream and sugar”. Black coffee is regular coffee. And if you want your coffee “extra extra”, you actually have to say “with extra cream and extra sugar”. I know… it’s the worst. I’m still trying to train my local Florida coffee shops on the right (New England) ways of ordering.
- “Side by each” → Side by side
Yep, we just like being different
- Stuffie → A Stuffed Clam
Instead of a beyond delicious appetizer, you will be given a stuffed animal in other parts of the country. Or more likely, you will be given a look telling you you’re crazy if you ask for this in a restaurant, like I imagine you would be.