Posted by Juliana Szucs on July 24, 2014 in Ask Juliana

Dennis ReunionOne of the wondrous thing about traveling to visit family in various parts of the country was hearing the different expressions used by our family. It went beyond the whole soda vs. pop vs. coke debate (although we did have that discussion on a regular basis and for the record, the correct term is “pop”).

Even my Cleveland relatives, while not even a day’s drive away, seemed to have different names for things. Grandma didn’t have a couch; she had a davenport, which to me sounded more “damport.” She didn’t have a purse, she had a pocketbook. And most of her sentences were punctuated with “and all that.”

In the South, things were a little different, too. Aunt Muriel wished everyone a “good mornin’” no matter what time of day it was, and Aunt Chula was always “off to the racetrack,” no matter where we were going. I still love hearing Uncle Jack’s iconic “Lord knows” in that lovely southern drawl. And when we were hungry, we were told to look in the icebox instead of the fridge.

The East Coast cousins were forever “bustin’ my chops” for my Midwestern accent. But of course we didn’t have an accent; it was clear that they were the ones who talked funny. We all know that “car” has an r on the end, and it’s not pronounced “cah.” And who has pie for dinner? Oh wait, they’re talking about pizza.

What about you? What were some of the interesting expressions or names for things your family used? Share them with us, and more importantly, share those memories with your family. And for a cool survey of some of those expressions and names that vary from region to region, check out this map.

Juliana Szucs

Juliana Szucs has been working for for more than 19 years. She began her family history journey trolling through microfilms with her mother at the age of 11. She has written many articles for online and print genealogical publications and wrote the "Computers and Technology" chapter of The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Juliana holds a certificate from Boston University's Online Genealogical Research Program.


  1. Aline K Gray

    I have been working on my family tree for many months. I have a large immediate family and I needed to have space in my descendent tree for 5 generations, including wives and husbands of family members. I downloaded instructions on how to enlarge the descendent tree and I have diligently worked on and have produced a very special tree. When I received the printed tree yesterday, I found errors that were of my own making. I corrected them immediately and sent them back with a request that I get expedited attention as the error had cost days and I need it in Chicago with 7 days. I have been told an emphatic NO by Carissa the website manager. She does not know how to reach the printer. I cannot believe that there is not a way to get this to me in a timely fashion. I have also now requested the file, which I offered to pay for, so that I can get it printed locally, and once again, NO NO NO. I am heartbroken. I am furious. And I do not know what to do. Yes it was my fault but given that today is a holiday in Utah, the printer has Friday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday to print it and then send it out, overnight express on Thursday. For same.

  2. Susan H. Utech

    Re regional expressions. A little background. My dad’s family were from Menominee, Michigan..then on to NYC & north shore LI, my mom’s family were from Rochester, Niagra Falls & Buffalo NY..then on to LI…I grew up on LI & my parents also had a home outside of Pittsburgh PA so I spent many years there & have lived in this area for 40 of my 70 years…I have been working on my family history since 2000; in the 1940s my uncle worked on family history & in the 1890s my great grandad was wotking on family history. My husband has also been working on his history. I can honestlt say in reading what my uncle & 1st great grand wrote (& they were prolific writers) I see little in writing style or words that tells me where they lived. I say soda or sometimes coke…I grew up on LI & I think most people I have been around who are native to western PA say pop…some I think say soda pop….I know when my sister in law was visiting (she is born & bred south..) after dinner one eve she told my 8 year old daughter to” put up ” (the placemats).. my daughter stood & thought, my sister in law getting a bit peeved repeated her request..finally my daughter said, ” put up where aunt jeannie”…I said sweetheart just put them in the drawer. Another southern relative at age 12 flew into the kitchen & said I need a cup, I handedher a cup. She looked at me as though I was really dumb, a cup, I need a cup of water to take my pill. I said, a glass, you need a glass of water, ” no, I need a cup. So regardless I reached in the cupboard and pulled doen a Plastic glass to give her to take her pill. This is what she wanted. A friend who became a teacher in southern florida said she taught basically black & hispanic children & she realized she needed to go back to school to learn new languages. I was in the theatre where we learned “stage speech”…mid atlantic…speech…my parents were grammar nuts….I do remember being in Disney World standing in a line listening to hs age boys chatting away & I turned to them & said, are you boys from Wausau, Wi..yes they were….my dhusband (who has no accent) said, how did you know. I expained if I closed my eyes it sounded just like our nephews… problem is that most people are deeply offended if you say something…I just find it so much fun, here we live in the same country … There was some game on fb about telling where you grew up based on the answers, I think mine was Rochesger (where I have never lived) and Baltimlre area (where I have never lived)…I think it came down to driving & names for turn arounds & trucks etc…have fun..btw, Those relatives who are in California & Arizon…. I don’t have any ” differences” maybe because they lived too manplaces, we can get mixed up.

  3. chris dennis

    Jul, for the record….it’s ‘soda’ 😉
    and that pic is great…what a good looking group!
    Still remember that day….xoxo

    • Juliana Smith

      I love that picture. Still remember that reunion and all the fun too. Did not remember the rabbit though. Where did the bunny come from? Give my love to the family! (And it’s still ‘pop.’) 😉 Hugs!

  4. Larry

    I’m a city boy from Omaha. I was visiting some cousins in rural Nebraska when I was a kid. I asked where the hay barn was and was told that it was “down the road a piece, about yay far.” I wondered for years if they were just kidding me or if they really spoke that way.

  5. Sheila Heinrich

    I’m from Western Canada – born in Saskatchewan, but have lived the last 34 years in Alberta. About two summers ago, three of my second cousins and their spouses from Minnesota came for a visit. The greatest difference in vocabulary that came up was that they call the toilet a “stool”. I don’t know if this is typical for for Minnesota, but I said if they were in Home Depot here and wanted to buy a “stool”, they would not be directed to the plumbing department! 🙂

  6. Tom Ganley

    Well I would like to concede one point to our cousins in the Midwest: the R being pronounced as an H is dead wrong, but that’s a New Yawk thing. The funny thing that always left us Jersey folks scratching our heads was the fact that even the TV shows in Illinois didn’t sound anything like them. Nobody talked the way they did on any TVs we watched either. It was outright baffling how they could even think we were the crazy ones. I don’t remember hearing Clint Eastwood or Al Capone asking for a “pop” to drink. We love them all anyway and it was so much fun being right! Thanks, Julie and Ancestry, for triggering those great memories.

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