13 Regional Insults to Offend People Across the U.S.
By Angela Tung
“I had to take an Ohio shower,” Kimmy Schmidt admitted on a recent episode of her titular series. “Using our disinfectant toilet wipes.” While this Ohioan put-down was most likely made up for the show, Americans certainly don’t lack insults for people in other states or cities. We've teamed up with the editors of the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) to bring you 13 of the most insulting regional slights, snubs, and terms of contempt.
1. ARKANSAS ASPHALT
Like Rodney Dangerfield, Arkansas gets no respect, at least in terms of regional insults. In the 1960s and earlier, Texas oilmen apparently “found conditions in Arkansas particularly primitive,” according to a quote in DARE, and referred to roads made of logs laid side by side as Arkansas asphalt. Another ironic Texas term is Arkansas dew, meaning a sudden heavy rain (check out even more regional idioms for heavy rain here). In Oklahoma, diarrhea might be known as Arkansas travels, while in Southern California, an Arkansas fire extinguisher is a chamberpot.
2. ARIZONA PAINT JOB
Another SoCal term, an Arizona paint job means no paint at all. The term is used to “describe an unpainted, weathered pine building,” according to a 1962 article in Western Folklore, as might be found in the Arizona desert. Back in the day, though, it was thought that the dry weather was good for something—namely, tuberculosis. Hence, the Southwest term Arizona tenor for a coughing TB sufferer.
3. GEORGIA BACON
If you’re in south Georgia and someone offers you Georgia bacon, you might want to think twice: They’re talking about gopher, and when they say gopher, they're talking about tortoise, specifically a burrowing land tortoise of the genus Gopherus polyphemus, common in the southern U.S.
According to the 1952 Handbook of Turtles, the gopher tortoise played a large part “in the lives of the poorer rural people of Florida and south Georgia.” In those parts of Florida, the gopher might be referred to as the Florida chicken due to its chicken-like taste.
Gopher, by the way, is also the nickname for people from Arkansas, Minnesota, and Florida, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).
4. CAPE COD TURKEY
In New England, Cape Cod turkey is a jocular name for the codfish or a fish dinner. In Maine, Alaska turkey is salmon, while in New York, the historical term Albany beef refers to sturgeon, due to “the former abundance of sturgeon near Albany NY," according to DARE.
5. VIRGINIA CAVIAR
You might hear beans or peas referred to as Virginia caviar in Virginia and Georgia. The delicious-sounding Virginia caviar salad is a combination of “black-eyed peas, sweet peppers, red onion, and diced tomatoes with a sweet and sour vinaigrette” and fresh cilantro.
6. KENTUCKY BREAKFAST
The Kentucky breakfast is the most important meal of the day—if you're a pre-enlightened Don Draper, that is. In Arizona, Maryland, and North Carolina, the ironic term refers to a “meal” that includes or consists of liquor, in most cases bourbon. As Stewart Edward White put in the 1907 book Arizona Nights, “A Kentucky breakfast is a three-pound steak, a bottle of whisky, and a setter dog. What’s the dog for? Why, to eat the steak, of course."
7. DALLAS SPECIAL
Got a pocketknife with a blade longer than the legal limit? That’s called a Dallas special in Texas, where the legal limit for a blade length is 5.5 inches. In Tennessee, southern California, and Arkansas, a large bowie knife might be called an Arkansas toothpick, while in West Virginia, a bullet is a Kentucky pill, in reference “to Kentuckians’ reputation as sharpshooters,” according to DARE.
8. TEXAS TIME
Unlike a New York minute, Texas time is leisurely and unhurried. Hawaiian time is a jocular but sometimes derogatory term a flexible system of time or a disregard for punctuality. Alaska time is “an hour or two early or an hour or two late,” at least in Alaska, and “maybe more depending on the weather.”
9. BOSTON SCREWDRIVER
A Boston screwdriver isn’t a Beantown take on vodka and orange juice—it’s a Massachusetts nickname for a hammer. According to a quote from 1969 recorded by DARE, “Big-city workmen in Boston do a quick, cheap job by driving a screw all or most of the way in with a hammer instead of using a screwdriver.”
While Masshole doesn’t appear in DARE, we couldn’t not include it on a list of regional insults. This term of contempt for someone from Massachusetts was added to the OED in June 2015 with its earliest citation from 1989: “The New Hampshire people have a nickname for the refugees from Massachusetts: Massholes.” The word of course is a blend of Massachusetts and a**hole.
While Masshole is a new term, Mainiac or Maine-iac, a resident of Maine, is a relatively old one. Used in New England, DARE’s earliest citation is from a 1837 quote from Nathaniel Hawthorne: “The British have lately imprisoned a man who was sent to take the census; and the Mainiacs are much excited on the subject.”
A now-popular bedroom community outside New York City, Hoboken was once a jocular or derogatory name for a place that was out-of-the-way, insignificant, or imaginary. As H.L. Mencken wrote in the 1936 edition of American Language, “For many years Hoboken was the joke-town of New York.” Hoboken was also used in New York and Massachusetts as a euphemistic stand-in for “Hell.”
13. HOLLER NEW YORK
While you probably know a Bronx cheer is a nickname for a raspberry, you might not know that to holler New York means to vomit. This might be less of a jab at New York and more of a play on york, an idiom used in the Great Lakes region and Pennsylvania meaning to throw up.