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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

13 Differences in Regional Food Names You’ll Argue About Forever

A soda by any other name will still taste just as sweet.

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What do you call a long sandwich?

Pile cold cuts and cheese into a long Italian roll, and what do you get? In most of the country, you’ll order a submarine sandwich, or sub for short. But in Philadelphia, you’ll see it listed as a hoagie, while New Yorkers call it a hero, and farther north, New Englanders munch on grinders. Other regional names exist too: zeppelins or zeps in eastern Pennsylvania, spuckies (short for spucadella, an Italian roll) in Boston, blimpies in parts of New Jersey, Dagwoods in the upper Midwest, and a wedge in Westchester, New York.

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What do you call green peppers?

Ask for mangos in a Midwestern supermarket, and you might think the grocer made a mistake by walking you over to green bell peppers. Why the confusion? The first mangoes (the tropical fruit) that came to America were pickled to keep them fresh, so colonists started calling any pickled food a mango. One of the most popular pickled foods was a stuffed green pepper. Kind of like how a pickled cucumber is just a pickle, a mangoed pepper just became a mango, and the name stuck around. Here are 10 foods you won’t believe are American.

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What do you call these Ice cream toppers?

The name for those rainbow-colored candies could cause quite a fierce debate during a friendly ice cream outing. Most of the country calls them sprinkles, but around Boston and in some other areas of the Northeast, residents refer to them as jimmies.

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What do you call ice cream swirls?

Pretty much everywhere in the country, you’ll order a smooth ice cream swirl as a cone of soft serve. But in Vermont, that dessert is called a creemee. Pulling in their famous syrup, a maple creemee is a classic treat for locals. Don’t miss these other 9 food names you always confuse.

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What do you call a fizzy drink?

“I’ll take a small Coke.” “OK, what kind?” In the Southeast, you’ll hear people asking for a Coke, whether it’s Coca-Cola or a different fizzy drink. In the Northeast and Southwest, customers will order a soda, while in the upper West and Midwest, you’ll find people sipping on pop.

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What do you call soda shop treats?

Order a milkshake in New England, and you might be disappointed when you get an ice cream-free treat, made just with blended frothed milk and syrup. To get the thick dessert drink you crave, you’ll have to order a frappe, or a cabinet if you’re in certain areas of Rhode Island.

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What do you call one-pan baked meals?

Nothing says “comfort food” like a creamy pan of veggies, starch, and meat scooped out in a plate. But your family could have a different name depending on where you’re from. Most of the United States calls the entrée a casserole, but some upper Midwestern states call it a hotdish. These are the 12 foods you never knew were illegal in the U.S.

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What do you call flat breakfast cakes?

You might get confused looking for your favorite breakfast food on certain regional menus. Pancakes are known as hot cakes in some areas of the North, and you might see them named flapjacks in the West. Just add syrup and enjoy.

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What do you call jelly-filled confectionery?

In most places, a jam-filled fried cake has a literal name: a jelly doughnut. But in some Midwestern bakeries, you’ll see these treats marketed as a Bismarck. Now for another polarizing question: grape or strawberry jelly?

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What do you call the ends of bread?

Though there isn’t a strong regional pattern to the name, Americans disagree on what to call the end pieces of bread. Some just call it the end, but most call it the heel. Talk to others, and you’ll hear it referred to as the crust or the butt. Despite all the arguing, we can all agree that they’re the two most rejected slices in the loaf. Here are the strangest food laws you’ll find in every state.

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What do you call Italian noodles?

When a friend says he’s serving macaroni, you might expect a pot full of elbow-shaped noodles. But if the chef is Italian American, don’t be surprised if you get a plate of spaghetti—some Italians call all pasta macaroni, regardless of shape.

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What do you call pasta sauce?

That same friend might freak you out by talking about the gravy for that macaroni. But don’t worry, he isn’t giving you leftovers from last night’s turkey dinner—some Italian Americans call tomato sauce gravy. Other families call it ragu, without necessarily meaning the brand name.

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What do you call candy on a stick?

Hard candy on a stick is most commonly called a lollipop. In some areas of the South and Midwest, though, you’ll hear them referred to as suckers. But we think the only suckers are the people who would pick a lolly over chocolate for dessert. Next, check out these 13 foods that were invented by accident.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.