The United Slang of America


If every state had an official slang word or phrase, what would it be? (Slate)

Use our outline map to make your own slang map!

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit.

We used our 1-Page Map of the U.S. to plot Slate’s “United Slang of America.” What would your’s look like?
We used our 1-Page Map of the U.S. to plot Slate’s “United Slang of America.” What would your’s look like?

Discussion Ideas

  • Do you agree with Slate’s choice for your state’s “official” slang word? Why or why not? What others would you suggest?
    • Slate readers and editors have some suggestions:
      • Utah: “sluff”—to skip school
      • California: “dude”
      • Hawaii: “auntie”—respected older woman
      • Kentucky: “holler”—valley
      • Virginia: “squid”—newly enlisted U.S. sailor


  • The Slate editors explain pretty clearly how they gathered data for their map. You can do the same thing in your classroom or school!
    • 1. Consult linguists to get some ideas! The Dictionary of American Regional English is a great resource that lets you browse by region (such as “central California” or “Appalachia”) as well as by state. Warning: You get a limited free trial, but this service will cost. The Slate article, this state-based list of colloquialisms, or these lists of words are other great sources of regional slang.
    • 2. Go online! Do you have classroom pen pals? Do you read or participate in online discussions with classes outside your school or district? Conduct a poll with these online communities. A great way to understand regional slang is to ask questions like the ones you see here—and be sure to have a “I do not have a word for that” option:
      • What is your generic term for a sweetened carbonated beverage? (that’s a classic!)
      • Do you “pass in” homework or “hand in” homework?
      • Do you say “expecially” or “especially”?
      • What do you call the end of a loaf of bread?
      • What is the difference between dinner and supper?
      • What do you call the miniature lobster that you find in lakes and streams?
      • What do you call the long sandwich that contains cold cuts, lettuce, and so on?
      • Do you say “frosting” or “icing” for the sweet spread you put on a cake?
      • What do you call the paper or plastic container in which you might bring home items you bought at the store?
      • What do you call the gooey or dry matter that collects in the corners of your eyes, especially while you are sleeping?
      • What is your general term for the rubber-soled shoes worn in gym class or for athletic activities?
      • What is the thing that people use to tie their hair?
    • 3. Talk to people! Do you have friends or family that go to different schools? Have you noticed anything funny about the way they talk? Have they noticed anything funny about the way you talk? Conduct your poll in person!
    • 4. Map your data! Use our 1-Page Map of your state, or a map of your county, or a map of your school district or system. (Your state Department of Education will have maps.) Share your map with us!



Slate: The United Slang of America

Nat Geo: MapMaker 1-Page Maps

NPR: Do We Talk Funny?

Mental Floss: 19 Regional Words All Americans Should Adopt Immediately

Thrillist: The Best Regional Slang Words From Around the Country


Harvard Dialect Survey: Dialect Survey Maps and Results

Beyond ‘Soda, Pop, or Coke’

U.S. Census: State-based County Outline Maps

State & Local Government: State Education Departments and Boards

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