Say What?!

The headline on the front page of today’s San Diego Union Tribune reads, “Digging Out Back East.” After living in California for almost six years, I am still not used to that phrase.  “Back East,” what does that mean anyway?  I get the east part, but what’s back about it?  When I lived in the South we said, “Out West” when referring primarily to California.  Upon further examination, that’s kind of weird too.  Of course this led me to thinking about other colloquialisms that I or others use.

My parents were native New Yorkers, so while I grew up in the South, I was raised by two people who spoke with fairly strong Northern accents.  As a result, I tend to mix what are considered to be traditionally Northern or Southern phrases and words. For example, I don’t say, “Y’all nor do I use the phrase, “You guys;” I blend the two and refer to more than one person as, “You all.” I also use the word, “Soda.” In Atlanta a carbonated beverage is most often called a “Coke,” probably because 99 percent of the time that’s what it is.   In the North, I understand  that the word for it is “Pop,” though no Northerners I know call it that.   When it came to clothing accessories, I was raised using the word, “Pocketbook” while my friends always spoke of their “Handbags.” I have noticed that in California, pocketbook seems to be more popular than handbag.

Not surprisingly, there are words and phrases that seem to be more in vogue depending on which generation you belong to.  I have to admit some of these drive me crazy.  “Anyways,” for example, is not a word.  I see and hear it used often, but last time I checked–not a word.  “Addicting” is another one that bugs me.  Yes, it is a word, but what’s wrong with addictive?  Something about the use (and overuse) of addicting irks me.   My kids, much to my dismay, will say something happened, “On accident, ” instead of, “By accident.”  Where the heck did that come from?!  Both of them say it and both have been corrected (repeatedly) for doing so.   It is not only the younger set who utter odd phrases and words.  I have caught myself using (both in written form and when speaking) “Folks” a lot lately.   That’s old school, no?

In California, “Dude” is the most popular word of all.  I thought that was just a stereotype, but it’s not, and yes, I now say dude too!  Just when I say it, it comes out with a tinge of a Southern accent.

How about you?  What words or phrases do you use that are directly related to where you come from?  Is there something that others say that drives you crazy?  And, if you are wondering what type of American accent you have, here’s a quiz you can take to find out.


23 responses

  1. bwahahaha!!
    Now y’all know there ain’t no way I’m from the Northeast, but this here quiz is fixin’ to tell y’all that I must be kin to some folks from up thataways. Anybody who knows me knows I grew up out yonder where the owls f**k the chickens. Thank you kindly Miss Jennifer, for quite a hoot and a holler, but I got to start fixin some vittles for supper. Y’all be good now!


  2. Nerd Alert! Nerd Alert! I’m a trained linguist so I get off on this stuff.

    “You all” is actually used quite often-so you’re not strange there.

    “Anyways” IS NOT A WORD and it drives me nuts too.

    I grew up calling “soda” “coke” and I’m from Bakersfield, CA. I now call it “soda”. “Pop” isn’t northern, it’s actually mid-western-Michigan, Ohio, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota-people from those states say “pop”.

    “Pocketbook” and “Handbag” are not in my lexicon but “purse” is. If pressed, I would say “handbag” 🙂

    “Dude” is definitely a Californian thing and my husband swore he’d never say it (and teased me all the time about it) and now he says it all the time.

    As for your kids and “on accident” vs. “by accident” BOTH are technically correct. Just as “that” and “which” can be interchanged so can “on” and “by” in that context. So TECHNICALLY they are speaking “correctly”.

    One that gets me is that people from Southern California say “the” before highway and freeway names but Northern Californians do not. I still refer to the “The 5” and “The 405” and “The 99” (all highways/freeways I used in Southern California) but I refer to highways/freeways that I use in Northern California with no “the” so I say “Take 280 to 85 to 101”.

    And then? There’s my husband who is from North Eastern PA. He calls vacuums sweepers and his mom calls rubberbands gumbands. It’s all sorts of messed up!

    I love this stuff, can you tell?

    • On accident is grammatically correct? Really? As in, “I broke the lamp on accident?” Really? Are you sure? I’ll never live it down (not that I’ll tell them!) if I am wrong about this one.

      So funny about your husband and dude! My husband said the same thing and he too uses that word–and often!

      The “the” before highways here is weird!! In the South it’s I-75 or I-20. No “the” there either! 😉

      Vacuums are sweepers?! So you use your Dyson sweeper?! Too funny!

  3. How about when you say thanks to a waiter and they reply “no worries”. Did I look worried? It shouldn’t be a worry for you to do your job and for me to acknowledge it should it?

  4. Being from Georgia and my ancestors from the hills of east Tennessee and western North Carolina, I could ad quite a bit but I’ll stick to the one example that sticks out.

    My grandmother spoke very efficiently, “you young ones” was pronounced “you’uns” as in:

    “You’uns come get something to eat!”

    I loved that woman.

  5. I can’t stand when people, usually mid-westerns, begin their sentence with “anymore”.

    As in “Anymore, men don’t wear top-hats.”

    Verb conjugation is another biggie for me. “I seen that” Some people think “saw” in a noun only.

    As to “pop” and “soda”, it doesn’t take Northerners long to stop asking for “pop” in the South. There are many willing to pop them. 😉

    The greatest of all is “fixin”. It has nothing to do with repairing anything. I have no idea how it got started, but I say it all the time.

    • Funny thing, fixin. As a kid, I never said it. I would say, “about to”. I’m about to do my homework. I’m about to eat dinner. I grew up in the suburbs of ATL, but my parents were from the Baltimore area, perhaps that’s where ‘about to’ originated. When I went to UGA, I was corrected by my friends, and fixin’ became a regular part of my verbage. Chelsea, do you have any insights on ‘about to’?

  6. Love the nuances of language use and misuse. If you haven’t read any of his funny and delightful books, you MUST check out Richard Lederer He is the best!

    On the pocketbook/purse/handbag confusion, when my daughter was about 4, she coined the term “pocket-purse”. She would say, “Mom, I love your new pocket-purse.”

    I grew up using “Coke” as the universal term for carbonated beverage. When I went to school in Annapolis, I confused many as I would often ask, “What kind of Coke do you want?” This was before there were about a dozen kinds of coke like now.

    These aren’t colloquialisms, but, it drives me crazy how many people cannot spell “definitely.” One thing I love to say wrong intentionally is “supposably.” I laugh at myself every time do that. My HS football coach always, always said “irregardless” and only about three of us understood that really means “without without regard” or in other words, “with regard.”

    Last one… why do so many people say “I could care less” when what they mean is that they care so little that it is not possible to care less – i.e. “I couldn’t care less”?

    Fun thread LJJ!

    • With regard to the ass whoopin’, did it happen? Because if you were told that you were fixin’ to get your ass whooped and then it wasn’t, the words meant nothing. 😉 I hope for your sake the words meant nothing! 😉

      The repeated misspelling of definitely drives me nuts too!!! I can’t tell you how many times (especially on the blogs) I want to make spelling corrections!

      Great point about, “I could care less”!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic Hamp!

  7. I used to work with crews of people from all over the country and I can’t tell you how many times we’d discuss this type of thing. FYI to your readers-I grew up in Seattle

    Personally I’m: soda (used to be pop)
    purse (not handbag or pocketbook)
    you all (this drove my Texas friend craaazy)
    folks-yes I’ve fallen into this habit
    dude-can’t get used to that one in grownups
    definitely-I repeatedly misspell this
    anyways & irregardless-makes me cringe
    I could care less-OUCH, I say that
    Thanks to Rex Robinson for his explanation of “back east.”

    Well, anyhoo…I HATE HEARING THAT (anyhoo-ugh!)

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