By Melinda Crow
Actually, it’s only 49 funny sayings, from where I sit. Probably from where you sit as well. Let me start by saying that I am from Texas, and the rest of y’all talk funny. Now don’t get riled up — we all sound funny to outsiders. I’m going to ask the grammar police to take a day off and allow us to have a little fun with the language of all 50 states: what we say, how we say it, and what the heck it means.
If you’re in Alabama and you hear someone mention “butter” and “biscuit,” don’t expect fresh baked goods. (Photo: Getty Images)
“Butter my butt and call me a biscuit” is a way of expressing delight and surprise in a state where the locals speak slowly, clearly, and colorfully. And they would probably tell the rest of us, “Don’t be ugly” if we make fun of them.
“Sourdough” may be a bread in California, but in Alaska it refers to a longtime resident of the state. And “combat fishing” doesn’t usually involve weapons; it refers to the crowded opening day of salmon-fishing season.
In the desert heat, you need a “swamp cooler.” Let that sink in. It happens to be an evaporative air conditioner, sometimes mounted on the roof but often in a window.
“Fit to be tied” usually refers to someone who is really angry. Like if his football team just lost or the car parked next to her at Walmart is “cattywampus.” (That’s “crooked” for the rest of you.)
Californians may have the least accent of all of us, but they can twist the language in the strangest ways. “Gotta get flat” means you need to lie down. Where I’m from, “flat” refers to either a tire with a nail in it or your hair when you run out of hairspray.
Spend too long soaking in that mountain view and you might hear locals calling you a “gaper.” (Photo: Corbis)
In a state filled with nonnatives, a “gaper” is a tourist gaping at the snow and mountains. Coloradoans, both the natives and the trespassers (I mean transplants), are also known to shorten the name of every town and landmark in the state. Fort Collins becomes “The Fort,” Colorado Springs becomes “The Springs,” Breckenridge becomes “Breck,” and the Poudre River is just “The Poudre” (pronounced “POO-der”).
A “tag sale” is apparently what you hold to get rid of your junk. The rest of us call it a “garage sale” or a “yard sale.” And after the tag sale is over, someone needs to make a “packie run” for some beer at the package store.
This state is scrunched up between New Jersey and Maryland. In the north, it’s all about giving the New Jersey tourists the “side-eye.” In the “slower lower” half of the state, the dialect borders on downright Southern, where they say things like “Hi hon” to greet you and “colley flare” to describe a white vegetable similar to broccoli.
The first time I visited this state I was quite surprised to discover that they speak fluent Southern. Even the transplants from up North learn to slow down and say things like “On her wedding day she was happier than a seagull with a french fry.”
In other parts of the country, saying “That dog won’t hunt” means that you have a defective dog. Down here, it means that the speaker is highly suspicious of what he or she has just been told. As in, “something about that smells a little fishy.”
Hawaiians use a lot of extra vowel sounds, but all of those long vowels are about as clear as mud to someone who speaks with extra ahs and uhs. I do love how they use “Auntie” as a respectful way to refer to any woman of your parents’ generation.
Welcome to Boy-see! (Photo: Thinkstock)
Even people I know who have lived in Idaho can’t find much original about the language there. But if you want to fit in, the capital city is pronounced “boy-see.” There is no “z.”
A “sawbuck” refers to $10 in this state, and “brewskies” are what you spend your sawbuck on down at the local bar.
“Hoosiers” may be the team name for the state university here, but it’s best not to call a resident of the state a “hoosier” because it’s the equivalent of calling them a redneck. Which by the way is an insult in only some cases. In others, it’s a badge of honor.
What the rest of us call a “wedgie” seems to have a softer-sounding version in Iowa, where they call it a “snuggie.” Yup, like the diapers.
Mmmm…that bucket of fried yardbird looks finger lickin’ good! (Photo: Getty Images)
So let me get this straight — y’all walk into KFC and order a bucket of “yardbird”? As in, “Please pass the mashed potatoes and yardbird”? All righty then.
I know that there are “hollers” in other states, but most folks call them “valleys.” After six seasons of Justified, I kind of prefer “holler” myself. They also have funny sayings like “I think your wig’s a little loose.” Translation: “What kind of nut job are you, anyway?”
They say quite a few things in Louisiana that I don’t understand, mostly because of the accent and the speed of the conversation. The one that perplexes me most is, “I’m going by your house later.” Well, why just go by when you could stop on in?
Don’t you just love the sound of the phrase “leaf peepahs”? It refers to all of us non-Mainers who go there to see the fall foliage.
A “chicken necker” is a tourist trying to catch crabs. Unless, of course, said tourist is from Kansas, which would make him a “yardbird necker.”
Our Boston friends think this musical is wicked good. (Photo: AugustSnow / Alamy)
I dearly love any state that attaches the word “wicked” to everything they love. It’s wicked good.
“Geez-o-Pete!” is an expletive involving Jesus and St. Peter. Y’all Midwesterners are more polite about your cussing than we are in Texas.
Where do you even begin with Minnesota? They say some weird stuff up there. The rest of us add “ish” to a word to mean “sort of.” Up there they use it as a stand-alone word meaning “yuck” or “eew.” Probably has something to do with the fact that their lips are frozen solid for half the year. And what the heck does “uff da” mean?
When your mama doesn’t like your friends, she will tell you that they don’t have a “lick of sense.” Then she’ll tell you that if she catches you with them again, she’s going to “slap you naked and hide your clothes.”
Having to spend an entire year telling people you’re “farty” seems like a totally valid reason to lie about your age. (Photo: Getty Images)
I have never been quite sure if the way Missourians say the names of the two St. Louis interstate highways is an accent thing or a commentary on the aroma. Either way, it’s hard to keep a straight face when they give directions that involve “Farty” and “Farty-Far.”
Idahoans may not have their own funny phrases, but the neighbors have got them covered. A “spud muncher” is what Montanans call someone from Idaho.
Nebraskans love football and lovingly call their Cornhuskers the “‘skers.” Gotta wonder if the “Oracle of Omaha,” Warren Buffett, is included in that group. Locals also lovingly refer to Omaha as their “homeaha.”
I am not sure that Nevada’s transient population can claim any long-term language oddities, but they surely are responsible for some relatively new descriptive terms that would make their neighbors in Utah blush. “Pornslappers” are those annoying people on street corners handing out little invitations to strip shows.
“Dang it, Fluffy! Get out of the sock draw!”(Photo:Juco/Flickr)
Pronunciation can drastically alter the meaning of a word. Most of us use the word “draw” as a verb meaning to sketch or take another card. In New Hampshire, it’s where they store the silverware, as in, “The spoons are in the draw.” They sometimes also have an odd way of putting things. When it’s nap time, they say, “Put down the baby.” In Texas, we “put down” our animals to end their lives humanely.
Sometimes extra words are thrown in, as in “Not for nuthin’ but” at the beginning of almost any sentence. Other times New Jerseyans seem to randomly leave out words, like when they say “down the shore” instead of “down to the shore.”
Quite a bit of Western slang is used in New Mexico but with almost no trace of the twang that usually goes with it. They also have an interesting blend of English and Spanish that’s acceptable for both languages. “Carrucha” is Spanglish for a low-rider car. There’s no Spanish definition for the word, but it sure is fun to say.
New Yorkers like to be different, so they tend to say they are standing “on line,” not “in line.” They also pronounce the popular street Houston as “Hows-ton,” not “Hews-ton” as they say in Texas.
While most of us turn lights off, in North Carolina they “cut the lights out.” They also “might could” use a “buggy” at the grocery store (a grocery cart to everyone else).
Phrases with double meanings can make it hard for outsiders to get the subtleties of a conversation. When someone from North Dakota says “Yah y’betcha yah,” either he or she understands and agrees with you or thinks you are an idiot.
Grab some beanbags, some friends, and some beers…it’s cornhole time! (Photo: Mike Beachy/Flickr)
Regardless of the meaning in other states, in Ohio, “cornhole” refers to a beanbag toss game. And the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street is called the “devil’s strip.” The obvious question is whether they play cornhole in the devil’s strip. Get your mind out of the gutter.
Since they mostly talk just like Texans, I don’t think Okies sound funny at all. The rest of you probably think it’s odd that they say “gonna run into town” even when they live in town.
People we used to call “tree huggers” are now described with the adjective “granola” in Oregon. “Stop being so granola and eat your hamburger.”
This is a state that has its own official dialect. So it’s OK when they say that sub sandwiches are “hoagies.” Ice cream sprinkles are “jimmies.” And if you need to tidy up a mess, you “red it up.”
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think Rhode Island is the only state to call a hot dog a “hot weiner.” They also say, “bang a u-ey” when they mean “make a U-turn.”
Language is so endearing in this state. They have a nice way to say almost anything. “Bless her li’l ol’ heart” can mean they empathize with someone or they despise that person. “Bow head” is a not-so-polite way to describe a sorority girl.
If you’re making a hotdish for dinner, you better not forget the all-important tot crust. (Photo: Thinkstock)
There are lots of crossover words between the Dakotas and Minnesota. “Hotdish” is a casserole, “get a wiggle on” means “hurry up,” and “tots” are not children but frozen potatoes that they most likely just added to the hotdish.
The city we all call Nashville is becoming “Nashvegas,” and there ain’t no sense in “bawling and squallin” about it.
I admit that we have a colorful way of saying things in my home state. Sometimes we drag things out, and sometimes we speak in our own shorthand. I am going to trust you with one of those secret short versions. When a female in this state says, “Ah HELL no,” it could mean anything from “the horse busted out of the barn” to “that hussy better not be talking to my man.” It could also mean that she’s got a flat (either her tire or her hair). Whatever she means, it’s better to just get out of her way.
If you hear about a student “sluffing,” don’t be too alarmed. He isn’t shedding skin, he’s just cutting class. Utah is also one of those polite swearing states. They say, “Oh my heck!” when their kids are caught sluffing.
If you’re in Vermont and hear someone mentioning “kittens in ovens,” don’t freak out and call the ASPCA thinking they’re eating Mittens for dinner. (Photo: Thinkstock)
They are proud of their heritage up there in Vermont. They have a saying about transplants who claim to be Vermonters. “Just because a cat has her kittens in the oven don’t make them biscuits.”
“Squids” are not cousins to octopi along the Virginia coast; they’re newly enlisted sailors. And in the hills, “et up” means “eaten up,” as in “I got et up by them skeeters last night.”
Is it being “granola” of people in Washington to insert the word “blip” in place of a curse word? Or are they just polite? And what do Seattle natives think of being called “web-footers”?
Nothing like a nice refreshing co-cola on a hot summer day. (Photo: Beverley Goodwin/Flickr)
There are “hollers” here, just like in Kentucky, and they “pert near” (“pretty near”) have their own language, including a drink called “co-cola.”
Sentences ending in prepositions and odd sayings like “upside right” are common in America’s dairyland. They probably think the rest of us are “dumber than a sack of hammers” for speaking any other way. And if you want to grab a drink, go to the “bubbler,” also known as the “drinking fountain.”
Someone who “looks like 10 miles of dirt road” is more than a little disheveled. And you’d never catch a “buckle bunny” chasing a pro-rodeo cowboy looking like that!
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