Do you drive your car on the highway or the freeway? If you’re thirsty, do you take a drink at a water fountain or a bubbler? Learning all the specific vocabulary in different dialects has got to be one of the hardest things about learning a language — for beginners and experts alike!
Especially in American English, many of the same things have different names depending on where you are. However, knowing your regional vocabulary is one of the best ways to impress your English-speaking friends with your American English skills!
Learn some of the most common regional vocabulary in American English, and you’ll be well on your way to speaking like a local.
highway & freeway
A big road that you drive fast on is called a highway on the east coast, but is called a freeway on the west coast.
shopping cart & buggy
In the north, you carry your groceries in a shopping cart, whereas in the south, you carry your groceries in a buggy.
drinking fountain, water fountain, & bubbler
When they’re thirsty, people on the east coast drink from a water fountain, whereas people on the west coast drink from a drinking fountain. People in the state of Michigan quench their thirst with a bubbler.
tennis shoes & sneakers
Athletic shoes with rubber soles are tennis shoes to most Americans. However, in New England, everyone calls them sneakers.
traffic circle, roundabout, & rotary
For most of the United States, a traffic circle is a type of intersection where two roads meet in a circular formation. However, in New England (the northeastern United States), it is called a rotary, and in the Midwest, it’s called a roundabout.
rubber band, hair tie, & scrunchie
The thing that women tie their hair with is called a scrunchie in the northeast, a hair tie in the midwest, and a rubber band in the rest of the country.
soda, pop, & coke
Carbonated beverages are a classic example of American dialectical differences. On the east and west coast, they’re called soda. In the Midwest, they’re called pop. In the south, people use the word coke to refer to any soda, not just Coca-Cola!
Now that you’ve learned these popular words, you’ll know the correct term to use no matter where you are in the United States!
Paul writes for Language Trainers, a language teaching service for individuals and professionals. He’s lived in New York, Massachusetts, California, and Minnesota (among other places), so he’s had plenty of time to learn the various ways that people say things in American English!