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The Southern Belle's New England Dictionary: 10 New England Words Defined By A Southern Transplant

When my Massachusetts sweetheart and I relocated back to his stomping grounds after we lived in Alabama for five years (I am originally from Florida), I was excited but also had no idea what I would be getting myself into. Since being with Shane, I thought I knew all there was to know about New England life before even moving here; I thought it would be a smooth transition and I would fit right in (mostly).

Move-in day!

Little did I know, I would often feel like a foreign exchange student in need of a pocket dictionary and language guide. I'm sure I often displayed a befuddled expression as I attempted to converse with the locals, as I am sure they also thought my "y'all" and slight drawl (at least as far as Alabamians are concerned!) was otherworldly.

Now that we have successfully relocated and have been enjoying New England life for 10 months, I have picked up some local words and phrases.

Caution: when attempting to understand the meaning of a word or phrase, don't just assume you can figure it out based on context clues. You will discover you are very, very wrong. At the risk of looking dumb, just ask what someone means. You will thank me later. (see #2).

Without further ado, I give you the Southern Belle's New England Dictionary of 10 words or phrases I may have learned the definition of the hard way.

1. Carriage
"Please return carriages here."

Sure, you may be conjuring up visions of Cinderella or a horse-drawn carriage ride around Central Park. Alas, this is not what this means in New England. Here, it is another word for shopping cart, or as we Southerners like to say, buggy.

Bonus: While discussing this term, I asked my husband what he called a baby buggy. He said, "duh, a baby carriage. That makes way more sense than a buggy." Does it though!?

2.  Hot Ticket 
"That Gertrude, she's a real hot ticket!"

Here is the perfect example of why you should never assume you can define a term based on context clues. For years, I have heard my mother and sister-in-love, both Massachusettians (I may have just made that up), describe certain people (usually, if not always, a woman) as a "hot ticket." Based on the story they were telling and the disadvantage I had of not knowing the person about whom they were talking, I assumed this meant they were sexy and/or too big for their britches (a southern term for pretentious) or someone who thinks they are all that and a bag of potato chips. Fast forward SIX YEARS of me thinking that is what it means to two weeks ago when it came up in conversation with my sister-in-love and she informed me that I was wrong. It actually means someone who is really funny and entertaining (and not at all pretentious). 

3. For Four
"I have to be at family dinner for four."

This means AT (or perhaps by?) 4:00.

Bonus: "quarter of" 4 means 3:45. Truthfully, I first typed that as 4:15 because it still confuses me and I had to consult the text my sister-in-love sent me explaining the whole concept. Where would I be without my beloved in-laws to show me the ways of the world?

4. Packie
"Let's run to the packie."

One of the biggest things I have learned about New England lingo is that people tend to shorten everything: people's names, business names, any other noun you can think of... It took me a while to get used to this because in my love of the English language, it doesn't bother me (in fact, it is quite satisfying) to use something's proper name. 

Packie is short for package store, aka: the liquor sto'. 

5. Jimmies
"I'd like a sundae with jimmies."

At our rental house in Rhode Island before we bought our home, there was an amazing ice cream shop right across the street that we frequented more often than I care to admit. This is where I was first introduced to "jimmies" when Shane ordered a "twist in a waffle cone with chocolate jimmies." While I vaguely remember hearing this term in perhaps a black and white film, I have, for the entirety of my life, known the chocolatey goodness to which he was referring as sprinkles. 

6. No-suh
"I met Tom Brady today..." 

Again, this is a term I thought I had successfully defined until I ran this list by Shane and he informed me that I was mistaken. I thought this term was "no sir" to be used as an expression such as "no way," "get out of here," or for my fellow Princess Diaries fans, "shut. up." Shane informed me that it truly is "no suh" as in... honestly, I haven't a clue. I believe my alternate expressions above are still accurate, though! 

7. Pocketbook (usually pronounced "pock-a-book")
"Where did I leave my pocketbook?"

While living in the South, I was under the impression that a pocketbook was a wallet of some sort or a small book that one could fit in their pocket and read anywhere they like. It just wasn't a word used much in the land of teased hair, pearls, and satchels. Here, a pocketbook is defined as any purse or handbag. 

8. Regular/Regulah
"I'd like an iced regulah."

This one is in reference to coffee, although my whole life there were two kinds of each holy grail of beverages: regular coffee and decaf coffee (one you drink, one you throw away) and sweet tea and unsweet tea (again, one you drink, one you throw away).

I have to say, this change in definitions has been one I have gladly accepted because it makes life a lot more simple!

In New England, to order a regular coffee means you want full caffeine with cream and sugar. So when you go to Dunkin (the only coffee shop you need!), you order an "iced regular" and you get a regular iced coffee with cream and sugar! Do you know how much time one can save by eliminating all of these words??

9. Fresh
"The kindergartners this year are so fresh."

As if there isn't enough debate over what the word ornery means, let's add another very similar word to the mix. 

"Fresh" basically describes someone who deliberately does something or acts in a way they know they shouldn't, aka: a brat. Alas, it is not referring to juicy, just picked fruit. It could also be used when someone is teasing you, as in, "stop that! You're being really fresh."

10. Trash Barrel
"Take this bag out to the trash barrel."
Words I used to associate with the word "barrel:" Cracker, crate (Crate & Barrel);  whiskey.

In New England, one must also add "trash" to that list because instead of a trash can, you take your trash out to the trash/garbage barrel.

Well, that's it, friends! My 10 New England words defined by a Southern Belle. 

Which of these words or phrases stumped you? Which did you already know or did I leave some of your favorites out? Bonus: which of my Southern words left you scratching your head?? Let me know in the comments!


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you so much, and thank you for sharing!

  2. Well this was fun to read and discover that western Pennsylvania has five of these in common with the NE folks. Quarter of, jimmies, my mom always carried a pocketbook, she also said not to get fresh with her and yep, we had a trash barrel. Fun to remember these things and learn some new words!

    1. Seems as if a lot of things are similar above or below the Mason/Dixon, but some things are still very different! It is fun that you were able to find so many similarities. Thank you for taking the time to read the post!

  3. This was fun to read! I was saying the words out loud as I was reading through haha I've definitely picked up a thing or two

    1. Haha!! I am so glad you liked it.

  4. Too cute! I've never heard of shopping carts referred to as carriages. I'll have to try one on my husband .. "Sweetie, I'm a hot ticket!" Thanks for making me smile

    1. Aww, thank YOU, Alison! You hot ticket!

  5. fun read and amazing items too, we never know what is available here and also there too. amazing stuff.

  6. Haha Fresh is definitely one that seems to have a lot of connotations. The versions I know is fresh as in 'freshly clean' , fresh as in 'dope', fresh as in new and fresh or freshie refers to 'fresh of the boat'. Now I can add another 'fresh' as in brat lol x

    1. Ahh, now you're teaching me a few things!

  7. This is a very cute list of local idioms. I will have to keep this down if I am ever going to be visiting the area. I, like yourself, would have thought that the hot ticket would have been about the attractiveness of the person and not the sense of humor. I am kind of relieved to know that it's more about who they are than what they look like.

    1. Very true, David! I hope you get to visit this area some day and try out some of these idioms!


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