Top Slang Terms from Every US State
When you have a country that stretches the size of a continent, you are bound to find some differences across its states. In the U.S., every state and region has not only its own way of doing things, but it's own way of saying things.
Here, we take a look at the slang words and phrases that are most popular in each state, so you'll know what they mean the first time you hear them.
It's time to get to gettin, dontcha know? Ayuh.
Although some would think a "hot minute" would mean a short period of time, like how fast you would want to be rid of something hot, in Alabama it actually means a relatively long time.
At a 10-year class reunion, for example, you would say, "I haven't seen you in a hot minute!" when seeing an old friend.
The term first became popular in the 1990s.
This word, which was originally used during the Gold Rush, describes a newcomer to Alaska who doesn't know anything about living there. Also popular is saying "Lower 48" to refer to someone who lives in the continental U.S.
These terms are not used as compliments. If someone in Alaska says "You're just a cheechako from the lower 48," it means they don't think you know anything yet.
"Snowbirds" are northerners who head somewhere warm for the winter to escape the snow, like a bird that flies south for the winter.
The term was originally used in the 1920s to describe seasonal workers who moved to the South to work during the winter months and then headed back north when summer arrived. By the 1970s, it became a term for retirees who did the same.
The term isn't just popular in Arizona; Floridians, among others, use it as well.
You know how a snake bows up its head before striking? In Arkansas, a person who displays impatience or ill humor is therefore referred to as being "bowed up."
This is another term that's not generally used favorably!
When Californians drop the "bomb" word, it doesn't mean something is bad. Quite the opposite: It means something is really, really good.
"Did you see the Oscars last night? It was the bomb!"
The word became slang in the 1960s and was often used in the British theater scene to signal that a show was a success.
Colorado is ski country and if you're just visiting and starting out, you may hear someone refer to you as a "gaper."
This isn't a kind term. This means you're a new skier and often get in the way on the slope.
The word likely comes from the look of shock and fear newbies have when they ski for the first time ("to gape" means to open the mouth wide). The dreaded "gaper gap" is the space found between a beginner's helmet and goggles.
New Haven-style pizza is huge in Connecticut, and it comes from the Neapolitan-style pizza of Italy that uses a thin crust that is crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside.
Taking the Italian phrase for "e pizza," the folks in Connecticut morphed it into "apizza." It's not pronounced "a pizza" though; here they pronounce it "ah-beets."
You'll find it is so common that pizza joints in the state are called Apizzas.
In Delaware, if someone tells you a story and says they were "bagging up" (or, more colloquially, "baggin' up") it means they were laughing so hard they were getting a stitch in their side.
The word stems from the London drug term "bagging up." As you "crack up" when you laugh, the term morphed into "bagging up."
These tiny bugs bite, and while you'll feel them when you do, you won't see them when you swipe at the pain.
Officially a biting midge known as Ceratopogonidae, the no-see-ums are attracted to humans and are quite annoying, especially when you're sitting on a beach.
Sure, you could say "It's time to go." But in our opinion, the Georgia way of saying this is way more interesting.
In Hawaii, tourists who arrive pale and enter the ocean are considered shark bait because they gleam so brightly they could attract sharks. It's not true, of course; just a term!
Instead of dropping a ball on New Year's Eve, the state known for growing potatoes drops — you guessed it — a potato.
This is a relatively new term and event, beginning in 2012 in downtown Boise. The giant potato isn't real; the "GlowTato" is completely fabricated to look like a potato and features LED lights to make it glow, flash and sparkle during the event.
A Hoosier is someone who lives, breaths and adores all things Indiana, and also refers to the people of Indiana in general. The state nickname is even the Hoosier State.
The term originated in 1833 when a poem called "The Hoosier's Nest" was written by Indiana poet John Finley. The term stuck and endures to this day.
Some neighboring states, however, have transformed the word to mean someone less cultured and straight from the farm.
Iowa's farmers and residents love the Iowa State Fair, and one of its most beloved traditions is the crowning of a Pork Queen and Pork Princess to promote the state's pork-producing abilities. (This year's Pork Queen helped deliver a piglet at the fair.)
As a slang term, a pork queen is a beauty pageant winner or, simply, someone beautiful.
While it may have spread beyond the borders of Kansas, this is the state that most often uses "get loaded" as a stand-in for "get drunk."
The term "loaded" can be defined as unbalanced, such as with a pair of "loaded" dice — and drunk people, too, are often unbalanced.
A hot brown is an open-faced sandwich that was introduced to the state of Kentucky in 1926 at the Brown Hotel in Louisville. The toasted sandwich features a slice of bread topped with turkey and bacon and a Mornay sauce of grated Gruyere.
Some variations include ham instead of turkey, and adding tomatoes and/or pimentos.
In New Orleans, locals love to let loose, so it makes sense that the Cajun slang "pass a good time" is often shouted along Bourbon Street. Stealing from the French word passer, for pass, to "pass a good time" means it's time to start having some fun.
It's similar to laissez les bons temps rouler —let the good times roll— another saying associated with partying. It's just NOLA's joie de vivre.
You'll find it all across New England, but the people of Maine use it the most: ayuh. It means "yes."
This slang actually comes from the Old English "yie," which became "aye" and was commonly used in the nautical world. Maine's vast coastline has many fishermen and sailors, and aye carried over into landlubber life and became ayuh.
A true Mainer will use ayuh as more than a yes, often inserting it at the end of every sentence, ensuring you understood what was said.
If there is a distance that is farther than you would like to travel or walk, it's called a "bop" in Maryland.
It's mainly used to suggest laziness; if you don't really want to go somewhere, you say it would be a bop.
In Massachusetts, place the word wicked in front of anything to make your description mean something much more (very). If it's extremely cold outside you would say "it's wicked cold outside." Feeling extra hungry? You'd be "wicked hungry."
You could even say "It's very wicked cold outside" or "I'm very wicked hungry," for extra impact.
The word was used as a pseudo-curse word during the Salem witch trials, and has evolved from there to become, well, wicked common in Massachusetts.
Michigan is an unusual state in that the majority of it lies above Indiana, but a portion, its upper peninsula, is just above Wisconsin and across Lake Michigan.
Yoopers are natives of the U.P., and damn proud of it. Yoopers are defined in the Urban Dictionary as extremely friendly and welcoming. Totally different from the rest of Michigan, eh?
When the movie "Fargo" was released in 1996, it introduced the world to the phrases of Minnesota, especially "dontcha know." One says this at the end of a sentence to make sure they've been understood. As you would have thought, it is the shortened and far more charming form of "don't you know?"
"You betcha" is another Minnesota staple, and is often used along with dontcha know. It's a form of agreement, like "you bet!"
You betcha they say these phrases in Minnesota dontcha know?
When you are about to do something — or getting ready to do something — in the south, especially in Mississippi, you're "fixin'" to do it.
There is actual reason for this. In the 14th century, "fix" was a word for when you set your eye on something; for example, "He fixed his eye on her."
By the 18th century, fix became a common phrase and evolved into fixin.
If you are angered or upset at someone in Missouri, you are "put out." (This is not to be confused with the other way this phrase is used in slang!)
No, the Red Sox did not come up with this phrase back in 2003. It's been around a lot longer and is most prominently used in Montana, home to real-life cowboys.
In more polite terms, this is used to tell someone to deal with something in a mature way. In less polite terms, it means to shut up and take it like a man, or, as the other saying goes, to "man up."
It actually began as a rodeo term. Telling a rider to cowboy up meant to get on your bull or horse to be ready for the start of your event. As climbing up on the back of a bull requires some real guts, the phrase morphed into its current-day usage.
Also known as a Red Eye, a Bloody Beer, a Red Rooster and a Montana Mary across the Midwest, in Nebraska it's called a Red Beer: beer with a shot of tomato juice or hot sauce.
According to legend, this drink is a hangover cure, similar to a Bloody Mary, brought from Mexico in the 1960s. The main ingredient is actually called Clamato, a mixture of tomato juice, bouillon powder and Chamoy chili-pepper sauce.
In the gambling world, a "pigeon" is a gambler who doesn't know when to quit, betting again and again in a desperate attempt to win even after losing repeatedly. Doesn't sound smart, does it? It is this lack of intelligence that likens these gamblers to pigeons that just keep pecking.
Oddly, researchers have even discovered that pigeons like to gamble the way humans do. They will also go for the bigger prize rather than the certain win.
If someone says "XYZ" to you in New Hampshire, they are letting you know your fly is down. XYZ stands for eXamine Your Zipper, a term that has been in play since the 1960s.
If someone adds a PDQ to that XYZ, that adds a level of urgency: pretty darn quick!
If you are from the New York-Newark area and descend upon the Jersey Shore every summer, you are known as a "Benny." It's not a term of endearment.
No one knows for sure how what the term's origins are, but a prevailing theory is that, in the early 1900s, train transportation and cars allowed the wealthy to get away for a "beneficial" trip to cure what ailed them. This beach vacation "down the Shore" (another New Jersey phrase) began to be known as a "benny."
If you are called a benny today, it means you are an arrogant tourist who doesn't belong.
Chili is a staple to the residents of New Mexico. You can have green pepper chili, red pepper chili or even make it Christmas chili — chili with both red and green peppers.
It's really is as simple as using the traditional colors of Christmas.
Christmas colors have been reflected as red and green for centuries, based on holly that stays evergreen during the winter with bright red berries.
This slang comes from the United Kingdom, where "deadass" means "seriously." Can't think of how you would use this in a sentence? Well, trust me, I'm deadass telling you the truth.
The slang is a city term adopted by New Yorkers in the late 1990s and early 2000s, after the word spread across the pond.
It can be a confirmation, a question and a reaction when used in the Empire State.
If someone is very attractive, they are considered a "dime" in North Carolina. The term, mostly used for women but appropriated to describe men as well, has a couple meanings.
A dime is someone you would be willing to give a diamond to (marry), and who is a 10 out of 10 because a dime is worth 10 cents. (Get it?)
When you are exasperated, surprised or upset, you may let out an "uff da!" in North Dakota. The phrase was brought over from Norwegians who settled in the Upper Midwest in the 1800s.
Just as the Yiddish may use "oy vey" or the Spanish may say "ay carumba," uff da (or "oof da") can be found in other states that are home to Norwegian Americans as well.
This insult in Ohio originated in Cleveland and means someone is talking trash that they can't back up.
To "holler" means to "yell." Hollin' took it an extra step.
Some slang is simply a shortening of a phrase. In Oklahoma, as well as Texas, "did you eat?" said quickly is "j'eet?"
Typically asked of a guest who has come to visit, it's somewhat of a greeting in the OK state.
This word of the 2000s is found across the U.S., but especially in Oregon. According to Grammaphobia, "spendy" has more than 800,000 hits on Google.
The more commonly used phrase is expensive, and that is just what spendy means — you'll be spending a lot on something spendy.
Why say "you guys" when you can just make "you" plural, as they do in Philadelphia?
"Youse" is actually born from Irish immigrants in the U.S. In cities such as Boston, New York, Chicago and Philadelphia, "you ones" was used in what was considered "uneducated speech." You ones became you-uns and then transformed into youse, which is still commonly used across Philadelphia, and not just by the Irish anymore.
A term found throughout New England is a "package store," lovingly referred to as a "packy."
In New England, liquor is only allowed to be sold for off-premise use in sealed containers, or packages, thus a "Package Store" is a liquor store.
In Rhode Island and Massachusetts, especially, making a "packy run" means you are off to pick up some drinks at the liquor store.
As "might" means you could possibly do something, you might think that saying "I might could be able to do that" is redundant. A Southerner will argue that could suggests it's something they know they can do, which is different from something they simply might do.
Upon further research you will find that many Germanic languages once stacked words, including the Scottish who used the term "micht cud." Many Scots immigrated to the American South, where the phrase is a bit old-fashioned but still used, especially in the Carolinas and Georgia.
This is a fun word that means "askew" or "crooked." It's a word also brought to the States by the Scottish, who used "wampish" to mean "twist" and "swerve."
Spoken for more than a century, the word is enshrined in the Merrian-Webster dictionary under its alternate spelling, "cattywampus." Yet most people outside of South Dakota have never once heard it.
One of the best definitions of the word is a "kattywampus are the positions of the items on the top of a coffee table after a 2-year-old has been playing with them."
Another term for those in the South is a "meat and three." When you stop at a "meat and three" restaurant or attend a party with a buffet in Tennessee, you'll find one selection of meat, such as fried chicken, country-fried steak or meatloaf, served with three side dishes, such as mac and cheese, green beans and mashed potatoes.
These hearty meals were often served up to farmworkers; as cities grew in the South, the comfort food grew in popularity and began appearing at specialty restaurants.
The real kicker is how "kicker" became a slang term for the most surprising or unexpected revelation. Of course it is found in sports lingo, considering it does involve a physical motion, but the term actually has its roots in journalism.
In newspaper print, a "kicker" is the line above a headline that is meant to provoke interest in what's to follow. Over time, that interest-provoking lead-in became an actual word used to describe the most persuasive argument in a sentence (as in, "And here's the real kicker").
In Texas, the word has some alternative meanings as well. It's used to describe a Texan associated with Country Western apparel or attitude, or less benevolently, a redneck. And it's a popular radio station in the state as well.
"Sluff," or "slough," literally means to shed, scrape or peel off a layer, such as a snake shedding its skin. If you "sluff" in Utah, you are ditching or skipping out on something, like a party or class.
In other states, this meaning is more often conveyed with the word "ditch."
Don't call someone a "dink" in Vermont unless you mean it. This is a putdown and when you use it, you're calling someone an idiot.
The term became popular in the 1970s, although in other areas of the country a D.I.N.K. stands for a couple that has Double Income, but No Kids.
Probably best not to use the term at all to avoid any confusion!
What some call "pre-gaming," Washingtonians call "pre-funking." Just as a pre-game means a party before a game, such as a tailgate, a pre-funk is the party before a function or event.
But of course, pre-funking and pre-gaming always include drinks.
If you ever heard the phrase a bushel and a peck, you may be familiar with the meaning of "peck." The term is an actual means of dry-measuring food like apples, oysters or peppers. "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers!"
A peck is another Middle English word from the 1300s, and four pecks equal a bushel.
In West Virginia, the word is used more generally, to suggest a considerable amount of something.
This exclamation of surprise or disgust (it can be used for either) became a thing in the early 1900s. Rather than swearing by crying out "Christ!" people used "cripes!" instead. (According to at least one source, it's particularly popular among grandparents.)
Another fun alteration is "crikey!" as well as "balderdash!"
Say it quickly like "a coupla-three" in Wyoming and you mean "a few." Somewhere between two and three is a coupla-three.
And that's all there is to it!