A South Jersey Vocabulary Lesson
Much has been written and discussed about the divide between North Jersey and South Jersey – not just the literal border between the two regions, but also the cultural differences. And having spent 29 years in the neutral ground of Central Jersey, I’ve been witness to the best and worst of both sides. And one of the worst things about South Jersey is its vernacular, which is unlike anywhere else in Jersey – or the world.
So if you ever find yourself below the belt of the Armpit of America, as in south of Route 195, you will likely hear the following crazy new words:
While the rest of the world would call a long roll filled with various meats and cheeses, smothered in shredded lettuce and dripping with oil and vinegar a sub (or submarine sandwich if you want to get formal), South Jerseyans refer to this item by the totally unappetizing term of “hoagie.” To me, hoagie sounds like something you would call the vomited up remains of a sub, but in South Jersey, that’s what they call dinner.
In either case, they love their hoagies down there, with South Jersey convenience store chain Wawa even having Hoagiefest each year. (Warning: by clicking on that link, you’ll hear a jingle about hoagies that will immediately get stuck in your head.)
If you are dining at a restaurant in New Jersey’s Dixieland and the waiter asks you if you would like a “wooder,” don’t be alarmed; he isn’t offering you his erection. That’s just how the natives say the word “water.”
One of the most perplexing terms you’ll hear in South Jersey is “wooder ice,” or water ice. That is the term they call the frozen dessert that everyone else refers to as Italian ice. Even more confusing, there are places in South Jersey that advertise their “Polish Water Ice,” which sounds like the butt of some joke and not something I’d want to put in my mouth.
Staying on the topic of frozen treats, we move on to “jimmies.” Everywhere else in the world, those brightly colored bits of sugar and wax are called “sprinkles” – but not in South Jersey. South of the border, they call these ice cream staples jimmies for reasons not fully understood.
This word simply means “home,” but in the South Jersey accent it is pronounced with a ridiculously long “O” sound. I know it’s hard to explain, but try stretching the “ho” part of the word, with your lips gradually coming closer together until you get to the “m” part. And that’s how they say “home” – and similar sounding words like “phone” or “alone” – in South Jersey.
[Yes, I know these words and pronunciations are more indicative of the greater Philadelphia area, but it’s just fun to pick on South Jersey. Don’t worry, I’ll be making fun of North Jersey soon enough!]