The Ultimate Regional Vocabulary Throwdown

“Pop vs. Soda” is only the tip of the iceberg. These maps break down the most debated terms so you can see the truth for yourself. posted on

What would you call these?

Lollipops or suckers, the answer probably depends on where you are from. A dialect survey by linguist Bert Vaux and colleagues at Harvard University helps visualize the breakdown of varying vocabulary in the United States.

1. Soda or Pop?

The term “soda” refers to carbonated water and was first recorded in 1834, a shortening of “soda water”. The first record of “soda pop” wasn’t until 1873. Both terms are fiercely defended by either side, but I think we can all agree that ‘coke’ is just wrong.

The Regional Breakdown:

2. Sub, Grinder, or Hoagie?

The sandwich has no standardized name, and many U.S. regions have their own names for it. One study found 13 different names for the sandwich in the United States. Although the names vary wildly from region to region, there doesn’t seem to be any one right answer.

The Regional Breakdown:

3. Tennis Shoes or Sneakers?

The term “sneakers” usually refers to a rubber-soled shoe and originated around 1895. People could “sneak” around in them because they were virtually noiseless. There is no clear history of how the term “tennis shoes” came about, but it’s clear that on the east coast “sneakers” rule supreme.

The Regional Breakdown:

4. Hair Thing or Hair Tie?

The biggest debate to hit hair since deciding whether it was worth it to “rinse and repeat”. Other common terms include: Hair elastic, hair binder, ponytail holder, and elastic hairbands.

The Regional Breakdown:

5. Dinner or Supper?

The term “supper” originated in the late 13th century to mean “the last meal of the day”. Dinner on the other hand, originally referred to the first meal of a two-meal day, a heavy meal occurring about noon, which broke the night’s fast in the new day. Strangely enough, the word is derived from the Old French “disner”, meaning “breakfast”.

The Regional Breakdown:

6. TPing or Rolling?

No matter what you call it, the act of throwing toilet paper all over someone’s house was both an artform and a childhood MUST.

The Regional Breakdown:

7. Bubbler or Water Fountain?

When Halsey Taylor and Luther Haws invented the first of these new fountains in the early 1900s, the name came naturally. The term “bubbler” was coined and trademarked by the Kohler Water Works (now Kohler Company) in 1888 because of the bubbling action of the water, particularly in a vertical stream.

The Regional Breakdown:

8. “On accident” or “By accident”?

Bumping into someone is usually so flustering you just blurt out anything. According to one study, use of the two different versions appears to be distributed by age. Whereas “on accident” is common in people under 35, almost no one over 40 says “on accident”. Most older people say “by accident”.

The Regional Breakdown:

9. Take Out vs Carry Out

As Justin Timberlake once said, “Take my order ‘cause your body like a carry out.” No matter what you call it…it’s delicious and wonderful.

The Regional Breakdown:

10. Lightning Bug or Firefly?

Everyone should really be calling these winged beetles by their actual name, Lampyridae, but that isn’t much fun. On the east coast these terms seem interchangable, but on the west coast you should probably stick with “firefly”.

The Regional Breakdown:

11. On line or In line?

Either way people are cutting and it really isn’t cool!

The Regional Breakdown:

12. Crust, end, or heel?

Also known as the piece that won’t fit inside the toaster. After you debate over what to call it, you can start arguing over wether or not to eat it.

The Regional Breakdown:


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