12 Different Ways to Say 'Doughnut' Across the U.S.

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iStock

On National Doughnut Day, the holiest of high fat holidays (hole-y, get it?), we celebrate the delicious pastry, from the plain to the just plain crazy. Not only can you get your grubby hands on free doughnuts today, you’re getting a bunch of regional doughnut lingo right here. With the editors of the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE), we explore the different ways people say doughnut across the United States and bring you a dozen to sink your teeth into.

1. CHOKER HOLE

Choker hole is originally a logging term from the Pacific Northwest. It refers to a small hole dug under a log so that a choker—a rope or wire formed in the shape of a noose—can go under the log for hauling. Due to its resemblance, loggers nicknamed the doughnut "choker hole."

2. COOKIE

If you really want to confuse your friends, call a doughnut a cookie. Popular in the Southern and South Midland states, this term probably comes from the Dutch koekje, meaning a “small sweetened cake.”

3. FETTIGLICH

In German communities in Missouri, you might hear doughnuts referred to as fettiglich. The word probably comes from the German fettig, meaning fatty or greasy. According to a quote in DARE, a fall tradition in Missouri involved masked children going door to door, saying, “Fettiglich, fettiglich,” to which people would respond by giving them doughnuts, a practice which should definitely be revived for Doughnut Day.

4. OLYKOEK

Olykoek is an early term for doughnut that hails from the Hudson Valley in New York. One of the earliest recorded usages is from Washington Irving in his 1809 book A History of New York: “The table ... was always sure to boast an enormous dish of balls of sweetened dough, fried in hog’s fat, and called dough nuts, or oly koeks.” Olykoek is a variation on the Dutch oliekoek, which translates as “oil cake.”

5. SUBMARINE

While a submarine is familiar as a sandwich in some parts of the U.S., it has also been a name for a doughnut in states like Kansas, Minnesota, West Virginia, and New York. Alternatively called a sinker, the name submarine comes from the idea of a doughnut being submerged in oil or fat, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

6. FRIED NUT

If you’re ever in New Hampshire and get offered a fried nut, take it! It's an old-fashioned term for a doughnut. The "nut" of fried nut (and of doughnut, for that matter) comes from the idea that earlier doughnuts—which didn’t have holes—looked like nuts.

7. CYMBAL

An old-timey New England term, cymbal refers to a doughnut without a hole, according to a quote in DARE. A doughnut with a hole might have come from a sea captain, at least according to an early 1930s quote from the Linguistic Atlas of New England. Boston native Oliver Wendell Holmes called the cymbal “a kind of genteel doughnut.”

8. COLD SHUT

Ever bite into a tough, day-old doughnut? That might be called a cold shut in the Pacific Northwest. Cold shut was originally a welding term referring to a link that was closed “while cold” and without welding.

9. KOLACKY

A kolacky is a doughnut with a sweet filling, as well as a pastry made of pie dough and topped with something sweet. The term is chiefly used in Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest states, and is a variation on the Czech kolač, which comes from kolo, meaning wheel or circle. DARE’s earliest recorded use of a form of kolacky is from Willa Cather’s novel My Ántonia, which is about a family of “Bohemian” immigrants: “Show him the spiced plums, mother. Americans don’t have those ... Mother uses them to make kolaches.”

10. BERLINER

In Wisconsin and craving a jelly doughnut? Ask for a Berliner. If wreath-shaped pastries are more your thing, you can find the Berliner kranser in Scandinavian settlement areas like Minnesota. Despite its German-sounding name, Berliner kranser is actually Norwegian and translates as "Berlin wreath."

11. TANGLE BREECHES

Tangle breeches is a nickname for the cruller in states like Pennsylvania, Maryland, Nebraska, Kansas, and Alabama. What’s a cruller? Basically a doughnut in a twisty shape. The term cruller, chiefly used in the North Central and Central Atlantic states, comes from the Dutch krulle, a curled cake.

12. MATRIMONY

The matrimony sounds like a delicious union: two crullers joined by another piece of dough. Such a doughnut might be found in Massachusetts and Rhode island.

This story originally ran in 2016.

The One Letter in the Alphabet That Can't Be Silent

Hafiez Razali, iStock via Getty Images
Hafiez Razali, iStock via Getty Images

The English language can be baffling at times—just look to words like phlegm, receipt, and chthonic for proof. Silent letters are unavoidable. Almost every word in the alphabet is occasionally guilty of taking up space without contributing anything, but there is one exception. According to Merriam-Webster, V is the only letter in English that consistently makes itself heard.

No matter where it appears, whether it's in love, voice, or divisive, V plays a vital role. Most letters are phonetic chameleons: That's why the C sounds different in cat and city, and why the g sounds like nothing at all in gnash. V is unique in that it never goes through an identity crisis.

There are a few letters that rival V's special status. Z is only silent in words we borrowed from the French, like chez, laissez-faire, and rendezvous. The one silent J in the entire English language appears in marijuana, a term of Spanish origin. But even accounting for words we've adopted from other tongues, there's not one example of a silent V in the English dictionary.

The prevalence of silent letters is just one frustrating aspect of our language. Here are a few more obstacles foreign speakers must encounter when learning English.

Presidents Day vs. President's Day vs. Presidents' Day: Which One Is It?

welcomia/iStock via Getty Images
welcomia/iStock via Getty Images

Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" implies that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the more than 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.


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Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

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