14 Different Ways to Call 'Dibs' Across the United States

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Want to lay claim to that last chocolate donut? You know to say, “I’ve got dibs!” But what if someone else says, “I wackie that donut,” or “Let's go snacks on it”? You might lose out on some chocolatey goodness. Be prepared by bulking up your dibs vocabulary. Here are 14 ways to lay claim to something all over the United States, brought to you in part by our friends at the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE).

1. DUBS

Originally a marbles term, dubs is short for doubles, which refers to winning two or more of the marbles knocked out of the ring by one shot. While you’d call dubs on something to claim it, you’d call, “No dubs!” to say hands off. The similar-sounding dibs might be a variant on dubs, according to DARE, or else an abbreviation of dibstones, a 17th-century game similar to jacks.

2. DUCKS

This dubs spinoff might also be influenced by the marbles term ducks, which are the target marbles in the ring, according to DARE. A South Carolina resident suggests you might declare ducks on “the use of an article after the owner is through.” Someone from northwest Virginia says that while “children in the North” call dibs on something, children in Virginia may call “ducks on it” instead.

3. WACKIE

This staking-a-claim Northeast term is also spelled wackers, wackies, whackie, and whacky, and is related to the English dialect word whack, which means to divide or share. One responder says his wife remembers hearing, “I wackies!” and “No wackies!” in New Jersey, while a Concord, Massachusetts resident offers, “I wackie that” and “Fin whackie on my pie,” which means, “No whackie on my pie.” The saying also has a home in the lexicon of Pennsylvania and New York.

4. AIKIE(S)

This exclamation for laying claim or equal division is from New York City, and might also be spelled akey(s) or achies. If you want to keep something all for yourself, you'd say, “No aikies!” but in Virginia you might say, “Achins!” While the origin of aikie(s) is uncertain, it might come from an English dialect pronunciation of “equal,” or hake, “to hanker or gape after.”

5. YAKERS

“Yakers on it!” you could say of the final french fry. Whether yakers, yackers, yackies, yack(s), or yakes, this Pennsylvania expression is probably a variant of aikie(s).

6. AND 7. DIGSIES AND HALVSIES

If you want in on something someone else found first, you can call digsies or halvsies. While halvsies obviously comes from “half,” the origin of digsies is less clear. We did our own digging and found that according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), dig is an obsolete term for duck, which in addition to being a water fowl, is another way of saying dubs or dibs.

8. SNACKS

To go snacks on something means to share it equally, at least in the South and New England. The saying is quite old, with DARE’s earliest quote from 1769: “They ... whipped the Magistrates Who went Snacks with them in their Plunder.” The earliest citation in the OED is from 1693: “If one piece thou take, That must be cantled, and the Judge go snack.”

What do snacks have to do with halvsies? An early meaning of snack is a share or portion, according to the OED, which comes from an even earlier meaning, a snatch or snap, especially from a dog, perhaps with the idea of Fido snatching or snapping his share of food. A variation in the Southeast and Northeast is to go snooks. Meanwhile, snooksies is used to claim first choice, as in “Snooksies on the comfy chair!”

9. BALLOW

The eastern Massachusetts ballow is a verb meaning to lay claim, as in “I ballow the last chicken wing!” The word comes from the English dialect word of the same meaning.

10. AND 11. BONEY AND BONERS

Want to call dibs on something in Wisconsin? You can say, “I boney it!” or “I boney-eye it!” Boners is similar, meaning to lay claim or divide with someone, and may also be spelled bonas, perhaps a variant of bonus. DARE’s earliest recorded usage is from 1895 in eastern Massachusetts: “I bonas it.” Those in New Mexico might say, “Let’s boners it” (presumably with a straight face). Bonas or boners probably comes from the English dialect word bunce, a share or profit. “Bunce!” was also used to claim possession.

12. FINNIE

To finnie something not only means to lay claim, according to one DARE respondent, but to “take something that nobody seems to own.” Massachusetts and Ohio are two states where you might hear this term, which is a variant of fen, marbles lingo used as a call to give an advantage to one player or to deny it to another. Fen is a corruption of defend or fend.

13. AND 14. HOSEY AND HONEY

Hosey (also spelled hozey and hozy) is a way of staking claim in Massachusetts and Maine. The word might be a corruption of holds plus the diminutive -ie—in other words, holdsie—or it may be a blend of "Holds I." A 1971 letter writer to the Today Show said, “Another Bostonianism which I have had to put up with over the years is the expression ‘I hosey (pronounced ‘hoe-zee’) that’ chair or what have you.” According to John Gould’s Maine Lingo: A Wicked-Good Guide to Yankee Vernacular, “Mainers generally recognize that the first to cry hoseys has established a claim.” The old-timey New York expression honey, pronounced “hoaney,” has a similar meaning to hozey.

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Why Did Noon Used to Mean 3 p.m.?

3 p.m. is basically noon for people who wake up at 12 p.m.
3 p.m. is basically noon for people who wake up at 12 p.m.
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If you’re a late sleeper, you might find yourself thinking 12 p.m. seems way too early to be considered midday, and the word noon would much better describe, say, 3 p.m. It turns out that ancient Romans would have agreed with you, if only for etymological reasons.

As Reader’s Digest explains, the days in ancient Rome were split into four periods of three hours each. The first hour was at sunrise around 6 a.m.—called prime, for first—followed by 9 a.m. (terce, denoting the third hour), 12 p.m. (sext, for sixth), and 3 p.m. (none, for ninth).

According to Merriam-Webster, Middle and Old English borrowed the time-keeping tradition, along with the Latin word for ninth, which was changed to nōn and eventually noon. Though we’re not sure exactly when or why noon started referring to 12 p.m. instead of 3 p.m., it could have something to do with Christian prayer traditions. In the Bible, Jesus’s crucifixion is said to have taken place at the ninth hour, and that’s when worshippers partook in their second of three daily prayers; the others were in the morning and evening. It’s possible that hungry monks were behind noon’s gradual shift from 3 p.m. to 12 p.m.—since their daily fast didn’t end until after the midday prayer, they had a built-in motive for moving it earlier.

While we didn’t exactly stay true to the original Latin meaning of noon, there’s another important remnant of ancient Rome hiding in the way we tell time today. Romans referred to 12 p.m. as meridiem, for midday, and so do we. A.M. is an abbreviation for ante meridiem, or before midday, and P.M. means post meridiem, or after midday.

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