Fall foliage at Vermont

Words Only New Englanders Will Understand

From Word Genius

Do you know what your friends from Maine mean when they talk about the horrors of mud season? Or why on earth people from Rhode Island love to eat cabinets? Look below for 10 New England slang words and in no time you’ll be telling people how wicked it is to go leaf peeping.


In the rest of the country, you quench your thirst at a water fountain or a water cooler. In New England (particularly Massachusetts), it’s a “bubbler,” most likely because of the bubbling and babbling sound. Props to you if you say it with a broad Boston accent, turning the “r” into a broad “ah” sound. 


“Grocery cart” is the self-explanatory term in most of the country, but in New England, they’re known as “carriages.” And if you hear “buggy,” you’re talking to someone from the South.  


While other states know this as the TV remote, New Englanders refer to this device as the “clicker.” Again, getting the name from the sound — the clicking noise of the buttons as you push them to change the channel.


In most of the United States, milkshakes are made with ice cream, milk, and syrup, or flavoring. In New England, a “milkshake” is only milk and syrup (but it’s not just chocolate milk — it’s shaken and frothed until light and foamy). A “frappe” (pronounced “frap”) is the thicker version that includes ice cream. 

New England bonus: Cabinets are the Rhode Island-specific name for a frappe. Why? Well, you keep your blender in the cabinet, of course.


The special sandwich that has meat, veggies, and cheese on a long roll is traditionally known as a “sub” (unless you’re eating a “hoagie” in Pennsylvania). In New England, it’s called a grinder for unknown reasons. Just be sure to ask for a grinder in the deli and you’ll get the sandwich you crave.

Leaf Peepers

“Leaf peeper” refers to tourists who come to New England to drive slow, eat doughnuts, and look at the changing leaves throughout the fall season. New England has a lot of pride in its beautiful fall foliage and leaf peepers are a welcome tradition. The nickname is said with affection.

Mud Season

Any New Englander will tell you it’s “mud season” with a groan of pain. Existing after the dead of winter but before spring, “mud season” is cold and gray, but that’s just warm enough that the ground turns to mud. The mud gets everywhere — in the car, in every establishment or home you walk into, on your clothes — and it’s just cold enough so the mud sometimes freezes, only to melt again and get everywhere. Plan your visit for another time.


Instead of a roundabout (the traffic control where you drive in a circle, exiting and entering on a curve), New Englanders call it a rotary. And there are a lot of them.

Tag Sale

In most of the country, people hold yard or garage sales: a weekend event where you put items for sale on your front lawn and sell them to people walking by. In New England, they’re called “tag sales,” most likely because of the tags you attach to the items you want to sell.


If you’ve ever mocked, or admired, a Boston accent, you already know this one. “Wicked,” particularly around Massachusetts, is an intensifier of very, such as “wicked hard” or “wicked beautiful.” It’s a useful catch all, and it’s a wicked easy way to tell if someone’s from the area.


1 thought on “Words Only New Englanders Will Understand”

  1. My Monday morning coffee is extra special because the Hallard Press is there with its wonderful use of words. Displayed through the years in all the colors that only words can convey. I never know what delight they might bring to my In Box. Thanks for starting my week off with a smile.

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