Words That Have A Different Meaning Depending on Where You’re From

If you have ever traveled across North America, you’ve undoubtedly encountered some strange, and perhaps even foreign words and phrases. 

It’s safe to say that the English language is incredibly diverse, but, well, you already knew that!

From the East Coast to the West Coast, from the North to the South.
Let’s talk about some funny words and phrases that have different meanings depending on where you’re from or where you are.

New Yorkers

Ay… I’m walkin’ heya!

We’re kicking it off with one of the most legendary dialects in North America, the New York dialect.

More specifically, the New York City dialect, because yes, there is a huge difference, (don’t worry, upstaters, we’ve got your back).

While we all have our own vision of the classic ‘New Yorker,’ some of the most well-known voices consist of Al Pacino of the Godfather, Barbara Streisand, and Fran Drescher. But it’s more than just a few ‘fuggedaboutits’ and ‘you’s guys’ that distinguish New York English.

Merry, Marry & Mary

Merry Christmas!

Marry that Girl!

Hey Mary, what’s good?

Which one is it!?

For a non-native, things can get a bit hairy when it comes to these three. Why? You guessed it, New Yorkers all tend to pronounce them the same. 

But we’re not just here to talk about dialects! New Yorkers have tons of different meanings for different words and phrases as well. 

That bagel was mad good!

Mad:

What most people think it means: angry, upset, unhappy.

What New Yorkers think it it means: very, a lot, super. 

It’s almost guaranteed that you’ll hear this phrase at least once whether you’re visiting New York City, or anywhere along the Hudson River. 

Pie

Mmm, get me a slice of that pie!

What do you immediately think of when you hear the word pie? Most likely, you’ll think of a decadent, fruity dessert! 

But ask any New Yorker, and they’ll probably tell you a pizza pie!

Yeah, lemme get 2 large pepperoni pies. 

Ontarians

Allow us to take a quick trip Northward up to one of the most beautiful places in North America, Ontario, Canada.

That’s right, Newfoundland isn’t the only province with a unique vocabulary!

Mickey

While the rest of the world will most likely think about Disney’s famed mouse, you might hear Ontarians referring to a 375 ml bottle of liquor.

Would you mind picking me up a mickey of Canadian Club?

Hydro

What do you mean, hydro?

A hydro-flask?

You’ve hydro-planed?


None of the above!

In Ontario and a few other provinces throughout Canada, ‘hydro’ is actually short for ‘hydroelectricity.‘ Ontario gets over a third of its electricity from water sources such as the great Niagara Falls.

Hey, we get it. Who wants to go around saying hydroelectricity all the time?

Klicks

Hmm, this is a tough one. We know what clicks are… ‘Click’ here with your mouse when referencing a computer, some people even call a TV remote a clicker…but klicks with a ‘K’? 

She told me it was just a couple of klicks up the road; what does she think a couple klicks means?

Well, she probably has no idea what it means!

In Ontario, a “klick” is a slang term for a kilometer. This apparently originated in the US military. Ok, so not computer clicks, duly noted.

Californians

As the home of Hollywood, it should come as no surprise that Californians have their fair share of unique language. 

The Industry

What is this Hollywood of which you speak?

Speaking of Hollywood, true Californians never actually do. In California, it’s ‘The Industry.’

Tight

While the word ‘tight’ is usually used to describe the way a piece of clothing fits, or perhaps an uncomfortably narrow road or small parking spot, you may hear a native California say, “That’s tight,” when referring to something they’re really excited about.

Tennis Shoes

In California, you don’t wear sneakers; you wear tennis shoes, even if you’re not planning on playing tennis.

Floridians

Ah yes, just another day in paradise.

Paradise

What it means for everyone: a faraway beach haven where you can relax for a week or two before going back to reality. 

What it means for Floridians:  My backyard. 

Keys

Ok, are we talking house keys, car keys, or piano keys?

None of the above! We’re talking the Florida Keys! You know, the series of islands off the coast the Beach Boys loved to jam about...and for good reason. 

Lovebugs

You may think of an adorable couple, your sweetheart, a Volkswagen Beetle, or maybe even the Jonas Brothers’ hit song from 2008.

In Florida, these are actually real bugs. Though they are eerily similar to the lightning bug, they are, in fact, different. The lovebug is technically a fly, while lightning bugs are beetles.

Lovebugs tend to come alive in the daytime, as opposed to lightning bugs, who most definitely prefer the night. 

Texans

Alright y’all, we’re headin’ south. 

When we think of Texas, it’s probably fair to assume that one of the first sayings we think of is ‘y’all’, with ‘howdy’ and ‘bless your heart’ coming in at a close second and third, are we right?

The Season

If you happen to visit Texas, you’ll probably hear people talking about ‘The Season,’

And they’re not talking about winter, spring, summer, or fall. They’re talking about Football season, baby!

Fixin'

In Texas, if you’re fixin,’ you’re not repairing anything, you’re preparing something.

You could be fixin’ up a quick casserole for supper or maybe you’re fixin’ to buy some new sneakers!

Coke

Not Pepsi, not Sprite, not soda, not pop….it’s Coke y’all….all of it.

Any kind of carbonated, sugary-sweet drink you can think of…yes even Mountain Dew; just pass the Coke! 

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