State Slang Can Be Confusing in the USA

Written By Alla Levin
June 27, 2018
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State Slang Can Be Confusing in the USA

Almost 50% of Americans have had trouble understanding someone from a different state because of the local slang they use. Different ways of saying things in different regions are nothing new, of course.

But you might be surprised by the number of phrases and words that have no particular meaning outside of Alaska, Texas or even New York. Now a new interactive map from gives you the chance to explore all these verbal idiosyncrasies. 

  • In New Jersey, you’ll often hear the word ‘ripper’ which many people think means having a good time. In fact, it refers to the humble hot dog. So, if it’s ripper time, you need to get the ketchup and mustard ready.
  • If you’re heading for Colorado and you’ve never been on skis before, prepare yourself to be called a ‘gaper’ without getting too offended. It just means you’re a novice.
  • Find yourself in Wisconsin and you can expect to hear a few local slang words. Cripes is a cry of exclamation while a ‘yooper’ is anyone from north of Michigan.
  • If you hear someone in Louisiana say ‘pinch the tail and suck the head’, don’t worry. It’s just their instructions for eating crawfish.
  • Alaska definitely has some quirky turns of phrase. ‘Outside’ means anywhere other than Alaska and ‘termination dust’ is not, in fact, dangerous but the first snow of the season.
  • If you hear ‘bazz on’ in Maine, it refers to someone who is a little worse for a drink.
  • ‘Buckeye’ in Ohio can be a little confusing. It often refers to someone from the state but it can also mean a peanut butter and candy treat.
  • If you want to avoid something or ditch a job in Utah you can use the word ‘sluff’ and if you embarrass yourself or fall over you can say that you’ve been ‘biffed’.
  • In South Carolina, when you’re over the moon, you say you’re ‘happier than a pig in mud’ while in North Carolina ‘late’ refers to any time over six in the evening.
  • If you’re invited to an event in Washington, you might want to do some ‘pre-funk’ which means having a drink beforehand to warm yourself up. PlayNJ website here

Of course, there are plenty of words that are used across different states. Awesome means much the same in California as it does in Mississippi but it’s used most often in Washington DC and a lot less in North Dakota.

When it comes to understanding individual state slang, traveling is the best antidote. Alaskans come out top when it comes to this, according to the PlayNJ survey, closely followed by Rhode Island and Vermont.

If you’re heading out of state any time soon, it’s well worth getting yourself used to the different slang you’re likely to hear. You can start using the interactive tool on the PlayNJ website here as well as testing yourself with their fun quiz.

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