Something to Say

Regional Peculiarities of Speech


I’m a California native now living in Pennsylvania for many years, and it is endlessly fascinating (and amusing) to me to observe the linguistic differences between those two regions of the country. Here’s a small sampling for your entertainment.

To Be or Not To Be

“My car needs to be washed,” says the Californian.

“My car needs washed,” says the Pennsylvanian.

“WTF?!” say my ears. It feels like absolute madness to leave “to be” out of that sentence, and yet it is common and widely accepted in Pennsylvania and parts of Ohio.

Sweeping with Sweepers

“Are you going to vacuum the rug with your vacuum cleaner?” asks the Californian.

“No,” answers the Pennsylvanian. “I’m going to sweep it with my sweeper.”

Huh? Vacuums do not sweep. They, uh, vacuum. A sweeper sounds like some sort of space-age mechanical broom used by Rosy on the Jetsons. You could, perhaps, say that you’re going to suck with your sucker, but I think we’re all better off sticking with “vacuum”.

When is a Mac not a Mac?

“I need to withdraw some cash with my ATM card,” says the Californian. (ATM cards may alternatively be referred to as a debit card.)

“I’m going to withdraw some cash with my mac card,” says the Pennsylvanian, apparently not referring to a line of personal computers. In fact, it’s a name that was used for ATMs by a Pennsylvania-based bank in the 1980s that has just stuck. “Mac” was shorthand for “Money Access”. Another regional bank here apparently called their ATM cards “George”. Imagine if we all went around saying that we need to use George to get some cash! ๐Ÿ˜ฑ

This One or That One?

“Is it this one or that one?” asks the Californian.

“Is it this’n or that’n?” asks the Pennsylvanian.

This one (this’n?) threw me for a loop the first time I heard someone say it. It sounded so alien to my ears that I really grappled with understanding what was being asked.


“Perhaps, but probably not,” says the Californian.

“Perhaps, but prolly not,” says the Pennsylvanian.

“Prolly” (rhymes with “trolly) amuses me a great deal when my wife, a native Pennsylvanian, uses it. It’s like saying, “Mehโ€ฆwe don’t need 37.5% of that word. Let’s just throw it out!”