Soda is “pop” in the Midwest and “tonic” in parts of New England, but it’s “coke” in the Alabama and most of the South. Even if you want Sprite or root beer or Dr. Pepper, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for them by saying you want a “coke.” You’ll then be asked, “What kind of coke do you want?” Come on, Southerners, you know damn well what Coke is!
ARIZONA: “SWAMP COOLER”
What’s a swamp cooler? Well, it’s just another word for an evaporative cooler. OK, great… Follow-up question: What’s an evaporative cooler?
If you live in the drier parts of the west, you’ll probably already know that this is an air conditioner that uses the evaporation of water to both cool the air and add moisture to it. Not only is this more effective in drier climates, but it cools at a lower cost.
This is one of those terms that will catch you off-guard the first time you hear it, and you might momentarily worry that you’ve walked into a Dr. Seuss story. However, caddywonkers/caddywonked (or cattywampus) is just another term for sideways, unconventional, or askew. The easiest way to illustrate its use is by saying, “The term ‘caddywonked’ is a little caddywonked, but it’s acceptable in the South.”
CALIFORNIA: “HELLA” OR “HECKA”
“Hella” is a slang term for “very,” “really,” and “a lot” that originated in the San Francisco region before expanding to the greater Northern California area. Used mostly by the younger crowd, the music industry made it mainstream for a short time in the late ‘90s (as did the 1998 South Park episode “Spookyfish”), but the word mostly fell out of vocabularies outside of the west coast in the 2000s. Even there, it’s not nearly as popular as it was 15 or 20 years ago. Some folks also use or used the term “hecka” in a similar way, but it wasn’t hella popular.