Being a writer, I’m always interested in how words are used. Yesterday, as I was heading for a ‘girlfriend lunch’ with one of my girlfriends, Marie, we discussed this very thing. She was surprised the day before when her three-year-old granddaughter became word confused when shown Grandma’s new pocketbook. She turned to ask Mom what Grandma meant and Mom said ‘purse.’ It made me chuckle. My mother-in-law called her purse a pocketbook and when I first heard it I was confused, too. Especially since she’d left the ‘t’ back in the Bronx from whence she hailed pronouncing it ‘pock –a – book.’ To me a pocketbook was a paperback book with a little kangaroo logo on the spine. To her a purse was the amount of money up for grabs at the race track. Nowadays the trend is to say handbag. Much better.
During our brief stint in New Jersey we loved to order subs from our favorite deli. Sub is short for submarine sandwich and the term makes sense because that’s what they look like. You've seen lots of Navy submarines with lettuce hanging out the sides, haven't you? Anyway, I've subsequently learned what these long sandwiches are called in other parts of the Northeast; torpedoes, hoagies and grinders. I'm told there's something similar out Binghamton way called 'speedies.' Marie told me that. I think it's a po' boy in the South and who knows what they're called in Montana or Florida?
In Northern Minnesota, where I was born, Coke, Pepsi, Orange Crush etc. is called ‘pop.’ When Dad hauled us all out to live in Southern California we carried that term with us and had no problems. However, years later when my husband hauled us back to New York, I learned to call these carbonated beverages ‘soda.’ Once, on a return visit – with husband and kiddies – to Minnesota, I asked our picnic hostess for a soda. She thought I had an upset stomach thinking I meant bicarbonate of soda. Smack on the forehead – “Oh, I mean pop,” I said. She handed me a root beer.
Here are a few other words that sound different but mean the same.
Dungarees – jeans. My husband still calls them dungarees.
Sneakers – tennis shoes, Keds.
Capri’s – cropped pants.
Valise – suitcase or luggage. My father-in-law always carried a valise.
Victrola – i-pod. Okay, I skipped a couple of incarnations here for what we call our music delivery system. Think record player, cassette player, tape player and CD player. They all came first.
It occurs to me that brand names were once used to describe commonly used items like Kleenex and Vaseline. That was long ago and far away, though, and we tend to use generic terms like ‘tissue’ and ‘petroleum jelly’ now that there are gazillions of brands to choose from.
I've barely scratched the surface here but would love to know some other regional names for the things we use in common all over the country. Any come to mind?
Image: John Kasawa Free Digital Photos