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12 Things About Rhode Island Only Locals Will Understand

Rhode Island
by Mary Lee Readyhough Blackwell Sep 28, 2016

1. There are no “R’s” in the middle of words, but there is often one at the end. We do not hear or understand when someone points this out to us.

My daughta goes to the Clock school.

Your daughtER?


Goes where?

The clock school. Ya know ova nea the toh-wahs.

Oh, the ClaRke school over near the Towers, you mean?

Yeah, s’what I said. How come sometimes it seems like you have no idear what I’m talking about?

2. Wicked is good.

The term is an emphasizer: It’s wicked hard to convince a Rhode Islander that they don’t pronounce their R’s.

3. Del’s is a mainstay.

It’s as important as coffee and surf. A Rhode Island staple since 1948, selling the frozen lemon slushy at festivals, the beach or from a mobile lemonade stand is the sought after summer job for long-legged girls in bikinis. Del’s is wicked good mixed with vodka.

4. Meeting at Chair 5.

It is the meeting place in Narragansett for the young crowd. The original Chair 5 is nothing more than a lifeguard chair on Narragansett beach. It’s where the locals hang. Some marketing genius opened a restaurant with the same name.

5. Ocean mist is more than just a dampening spray from the salty sea.

The Ocean Mist bar is a Rhode Island institution. It hangs over the Atlantic Ocean, and features live music. This hangout is popular with surfers and locals.

6. Cabinets, bubblers (bubblahs,) and a honker.

If we order a cabinet, we’ll get a thick and creamy milkshake made with ice cream. It might be ordered as a frappe elsewhere in New England. If we order a milkshake, we’ll get a thin, dairy concoction. A bubblah is a water fountain. If it’s a honker, it is really big. It’s one of the few words in the Rhode Island dictionary in which we accentuate the R. No matter how far away we move or how long ago it was, we will still use the terms cabinet, bubblah and honker. When we do, we need to translate our vernacular into English for the listener.

7. Autocrat. It has nothing to do with cars or rulers with absolute power.

We like coffee — coffee milk, coffee ice cream, and coffee cabinets. The only coffee syrup to dress our dairy is Autocrat coffee syrup. The Lincoln, RI company has been responsible for our coffee fix since 1895.

8. “I know a guy.”

We know somebody for that. Seriously.

9. Vinegar and celery salt.

We invented eating French fries with vinegar. If you think it started elsewhere, you’re wrong. We also eat hot dogs with celery salt; sometimes we steam them with the seasoning, too.

10. Hey, Buddy, there’s always room for redemption in Rhode Island.

What happens when the mayor of the capital who also happens to be an attorney and a prosecutor gets convicted of felony charges — twice? First, he resigns then he gets re-elected. I think he knew a guy. Buddy Cianci was the longest serving mayor of Providence having held the post for 21 (non-consecutive) years. RIP Buddy.

11. The Big Blue Bug.

At one time skimpily-clad women waved banners from the wings of the big blue bug. The scene caused several accidents as drivers along Route 95 got too distracted. The big blue bug remains standing nine feet tall atop the company’s building just as it has since 1980. “Nibbles Woodaway” is the mascot for Big Blue Bug Solutions; a pest control company. Nibbles is the largest fake bug in the US; the termite is over 900 times the size of the real thing. Yeah, we’re proud.

12. Little necks, cherrystones, quahogs or steamers?

They’re all tasty bivalves found in the waters of Rhode Island. The difference between little necks, cherrystones, and quahogs is the size. All of them have hard shells, and the quahog’s is the official shell of Rhode Island. Quahogs (the name comes from the Narragansett Indian tribe) are the honkers. Quahogs are usually chopped up and used in soups, stuffies, or clam cakes. To translate: Stuffies are minced quahogs mixed with bread crumbs, seasonings and butter, then stuffed back into the shell and baked. Clam cakes are deep fried balls of dough with bits of clam in them. Steamers are ‘peel the snout’ soft-shelled clams usually found in clambakes.  We always serve steamers with a side of broth — for rinsing — and melted butter — for dousing. We create clambakes in tall, aluminum buckets by layering with potatoes, sausage, fish, steamers and lobsters, and then steaming for hours. It’s a messy endeavor but an oh-so-tasty Fourth of July tradition.

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