Bizarre slang words and phrases from every state
The United States is a vast and diverse nation with a huge assortment of languages and dialects. It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that in a country with at least 350 languages, you find a great deal of variation in the slang terms—some of which are downright strange.
These bizarre phrases come in all types, some of the most common of which are place descriptions—highways, intersections, concert halls, mountain ranges, etc. In Colorado, for example, they use the term “Mouse Trap” to describe the junction of Interstate 70 and 25 in Denver. Everyone knows what this is even though it might baffle outsiders. Similarly, in Kansas, the word “kaw” is synonymous with the Kansas River. In Atlanta, they use “OTP” or “ITP” to describe one’s proximity to Interstate 285 (“OTP” is “outside the perimeter” while “ITP” means “inside the perimeter.”) Out-of-towners have no idea what the natives are talking about.
Another common source of regional slang team is local sports—nicknames for teams, stadiums, fans, rivals, and everything in between. Tennesseans refer to the “Preds” in “Smashville” (it’s code for their hockey team and the city of Nashville), and Oklahomans use the phrase “thunder up” (a reference to their basketball team). Food is another major source of local jargon. “Hot brown” in Kentucky, for instance, is a regular lunch staple, even though most non-locals don’t know what it is (an open-faced sandwich). Muffuletta is something they eat in Louisiana and any local will recognize the nickname (a popular Italian lunch item). Montanans know that “Hoot Wine” is an alcoholic beverage brewed by the Hutterites.
Nicknames for non-locals are another source of slang in many states. Alaskans like to call non-Alaskans or newcomers “cheechako,” for example, while they call themselves “sourdough.” North Carolinians call tourists who arrive in autumn “leafers” since they come to see the fall foliage when the leaves turn colors. Then there are examples of regular words that have different meanings in certain parts of the country. The word “poke,” for example, normally means to jab someone with a long object. In West Virginia, however, it’s a term for a grocery bag. A whale is usually a large marine mammal but in Nevada, it refers to a high-rolling casino gambler.
To give a shoutout to some of the country’s most bizarrely endearing slang, Stacker has put together a slideshow featuring the weirdest phrases from each state. Take a look to see how many you recognize.
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In Alabama, the "houndstooth," refers specifically to the black-and-white checkered pattern associated with University of Alabama football—aka the Crimson Tide. The pattern's association with the university's football team can be traced back to Coach Bear Bryant who led the team from 1958 to 1982 and was known to wear a hat that showcased the pattern. Today, it can be seen on hats, T-shirts, scarves, sashes, and all manner of fan gear at football games.
Alaska: “going Outside”
In other states, “going Outside” means leaving the house or going into an outdoor setting. In Alaska, however, it’s something people say, often jokingly, when they have to leave the state for some reason. The term is so widely used that it’s even been cited in newspaper articles and other prominent places.
Arizona: “Big Ditch”
When you live in a state that’s home to something as impressive as the Grand Canyon, you’re likely to come up with a few nicknames for it. That’s the case for the people of Arizona who lovingly refer to the giant geological wonder as the “Big Ditch.”
Arkansas: “Arkansas toothpick”
An “Arkansas toothpick” isn’t something you use to clean your teeth. Instead, it’s a thick, single-edged hunting dagger also referred to as a bowie knife. When describing the knives in the 1840s in the Foreign Quarterly Review, geographer George William Featherstonhaugh said: “These formidable instruments...are the pride of an Arkansas blood, and got their name of Bowie knives from a conspicuous person of this fiery climate.”
Although the phrase sounds like a made-up word to out-of-towners, a “sigalert” (SigAlert) is actually something that the California Highway Patrol puts out when there are lanes closures or other traffic-related delays. The word is thrown around with particular frequency in places like Los Angeles and San Francisco, where traffic is notorious for being atrocious.
The term “14ers,” which is also used in mountain climbing circles, originated in Colorado and is universally recognized throughout the state. It refers to any mountain peak more than 14,000 feet high. Among Colorado’s mountaineers, it’s common to hear someone declare they “bagged a 14er,” meaning they made it to the top. The phrase is a point of pride given that Colorado boasts 58 of the nation’s 14,000-foot mountains—more than any other state.
If you order “apizza” in Connecticut, you’re not asking for pizza with a funny accent. “Apizza” is actually the name of a New Haven-style thin-crusted pie. It’s so popular throughout the Green Mountain State, in fact, that lots of locals refer to all pizza as “apizza.”
Delaware: “baggin' up”
In Delaware, people don’t say they are cracking up, they say they are “baggin’ up.” It means they are laughing hard—a synonym for cackling, howling, or roaring with laughter. Although the term is strongly associated with the state of Delaware, it is not clear where it originated.
In parts of Florida, “bobo” is a term used to mean bad, crazy, or weird. It may be a loanword from the Spanish “bobo” (meaning silly or foolish) that originated in Cuban-influenced parts of Florida and spread to surrounding states like Georgia and North Carolina. However, there are also theories that it comes from the Korean word “pabo” (idiot) or from a brand of cheap shoes made in the ‘80s or '90s.
“Mama’nem” is a phrase that’s popular in Georgia and other parts of the South, which is essentially a contraction of “mama and them.” It’s widely used as a greeting to inquire about your family (“How’s your mama’nem?") or as a descriptor (“I’m heading over to mama’nem’s house”). In 2011, rapper Tech N9ne released a single called "Mama Nem" on his album “All 6's and 7's.”2018 All rights reserved.