14 Different Ways to Call 'Dibs' Across the United States

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Want to lay claim to that last chocolate donut? You know to say, “I’ve got dibs!” But what if someone else says, “I wackie that donut,” or “Let's go snacks on it”? You might lose out on some chocolatey goodness. Be prepared by bulking up your dibs vocabulary. Here are 14 ways to lay claim to something all over the United States, brought to you in part by our friends at the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE).

1. DUBS

Originally a marbles term, dubs is short for doubles, which refers to winning two or more of the marbles knocked out of the ring by one shot. While you’d call dubs on something to claim it, you’d call, “No dubs!” to say hands off. The similar-sounding dibs might be a variant on dubs, according to DARE, or else an abbreviation of dibstones, a 17th-century game similar to jacks.

2. DUCKS

This dubs spinoff might also be influenced by the marbles term ducks, which are the target marbles in the ring, according to DARE. A South Carolina resident suggests you might declare ducks on “the use of an article after the owner is through.” Someone from northwest Virginia says that while “children in the North” call dibs on something, children in Virginia may call “ducks on it” instead.

3. WACKIE

This staking-a-claim Northeast term is also spelled wackers, wackies, whackie, and whacky, and is related to the English dialect word whack, which means to divide or share. One responder says his wife remembers hearing, “I wackies!” and “No wackies!” in New Jersey, while a Concord, Massachusetts resident offers, “I wackie that” and “Fin whackie on my pie,” which means, “No whackie on my pie.” The saying also has a home in the lexicon of Pennsylvania and New York.

4. AIKIE(S)

This exclamation for laying claim or equal division is from New York City, and might also be spelled akey(s) or achies. If you want to keep something all for yourself, you'd say, “No aikies!” but in Virginia you might say, “Achins!” While the origin of aikie(s) is uncertain, it might come from an English dialect pronunciation of “equal,” or hake, “to hanker or gape after.”

5. YAKERS

“Yakers on it!” you could say of the final french fry. Whether yakers, yackers, yackies, yack(s), or yakes, this Pennsylvania expression is probably a variant of aikie(s).

6. AND 7. DIGSIES AND HALVSIES

If you want in on something someone else found first, you can call digsies or halvsies. While halvsies obviously comes from “half,” the origin of digsies is less clear. We did our own digging and found that according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), dig is an obsolete term for duck, which in addition to being a water fowl, is another way of saying dubs or dibs.

8. SNACKS

To go snacks on something means to share it equally, at least in the South and New England. The saying is quite old, with DARE’s earliest quote from 1769: “They ... whipped the Magistrates Who went Snacks with them in their Plunder.” The earliest citation in the OED is from 1693: “If one piece thou take, That must be cantled, and the Judge go snack.”

What do snacks have to do with halvsies? An early meaning of snack is a share or portion, according to the OED, which comes from an even earlier meaning, a snatch or snap, especially from a dog, perhaps with the idea of Fido snatching or snapping his share of food. A variation in the Southeast and Northeast is to go snooks. Meanwhile, snooksies is used to claim first choice, as in “Snooksies on the comfy chair!”

9. BALLOW

The eastern Massachusetts ballow is a verb meaning to lay claim, as in “I ballow the last chicken wing!” The word comes from the English dialect word of the same meaning.

10. AND 11. BONEY AND BONERS

Want to call dibs on something in Wisconsin? You can say, “I boney it!” or “I boney-eye it!” Boners is similar, meaning to lay claim or divide with someone, and may also be spelled bonas, perhaps a variant of bonus. DARE’s earliest recorded usage is from 1895 in eastern Massachusetts: “I bonas it.” Those in New Mexico might say, “Let’s boners it” (presumably with a straight face). Bonas or boners probably comes from the English dialect word bunce, a share or profit. “Bunce!” was also used to claim possession.

12. FINNIE

To finnie something not only means to lay claim, according to one DARE respondent, but to “take something that nobody seems to own.” Massachusetts and Ohio are two states where you might hear this term, which is a variant of fen, marbles lingo used as a call to give an advantage to one player or to deny it to another. Fen is a corruption of defend or fend.

13. AND 14. HOSEY AND HONEY

Hosey (also spelled hozey and hozy) is a way of staking claim in Massachusetts and Maine. The word might be a corruption of holds plus the diminutive -ie—in other words, holdsie—or it may be a blend of "Holds I." A 1971 letter writer to the Today Show said, “Another Bostonianism which I have had to put up with over the years is the expression ‘I hosey (pronounced ‘hoe-zee’) that’ chair or what have you.” According to John Gould’s Maine Lingo: A Wicked-Good Guide to Yankee Vernacular, “Mainers generally recognize that the first to cry hoseys has established a claim.” The old-timey New York expression honey, pronounced “hoaney,” has a similar meaning to hozey.

Are There Any Synonyms for the Word Synonym?

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iStock.com/netopaek

Some of the most frequently used words in the English language must have been created by someone with a devilish sense of humor. The word monosyllabic isn’t one syllable, long is only four letters, lisp is difficult to pronounce if you have a lisp, and synonym doesn’t have any synonyms. Or does it?

The answer to that last question is a bit complicated. Thesaurus.com lists metonym as a synonym of synonym, but their meanings aren’t exactly the same. The Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar defines synonym as “a word or phrase that means the same, or almost the same, as another in the same language.” Metonym, on the other hand, is defined as “a word or expression which is used as a substitute for another word or expression with which it is in a close semantic relationship.” For example, the crown can be used to refer to the queen, and Washington sometimes refers to the U.S. government.

There is another possibility, though: poecilonym. This is probably the closest synonym of synonym, although it’s antiquated and rarely used. David Grambs, a lexicographer for American Heritage and Random House, included it in his 1997 book The Endangered English Dictionary: Bodacious Words Your Dictionary Forgot. The word is pronounced PEE-si-lo-nim, according to Grambs, who pays homage to its obscurity. “Maybe we could all use a few spanking old poecilonyms,” Grambs writes. “Poecilonym? It's an old synonym for synonym that you'll find in these pages. But many words in this dictionary have no real counterparts in today's English.”

Allen’s Synonyms and Antonyms from 1920 also lists poecilonym and another word—polyonym—as synonyms of synonym. However, it says both of these terms are rare. So technically, there are two other words that have the same meaning as synonym, but it’s a tough position to argue when those words are no longer in modern usage.

To add another dimension to this question, some have argued that there are no true synonyms at all, as every single word carries a different shade of meaning. “Even though the meanings of two words may be the same or nearly the same, they almost never are the same in connotation, distribution, and frequency,” according to Dictionary.com. “House and home may be offered as synonyms for each other, but we all know that they are not the same.”

So if you want to start using poecilonym or polyonym in place of synonym, you’d technically be correct—but don’t expect anyone else to know what you’re talking about.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

15 Long-Lost Words To Revive This Christmas

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Nog. Tidings. Wassail. Every time Christmas rolls around it brings with it its own vocabulary of words you barely hear the rest of the year. But while words derived from ancient English ales (like the nog in eggnog) and Middle English greetings (wassail is thought to derive from a Germanic phrase meaning “good health!”) are one thing, some choice festive words haven’t stood the test of time, and are basically unknown outside of the dustiest corners of the dictionary.

Here are 15 long-lost and long-forgotten words to get you through the holiday season.

1. Ninguid

Derived from Latin, a landscape that is ninguid is snow-covered. And if that’s what your walk to work looks like over the festive period, you might also need to know that to meggle is to trudge laboriously through snow. (A peck-of-apples, meanwhile, is a fall on ice.)

2. Crump

That crunching sound you make walking on partially frozen snow is called crumping.

3. Hiemate

Hibernate is sleeping throughout the entire winter; hiemate is to spend winter somewhere.

4. Yuleshard

As another word for the festive period, Yule comes via Old English from jol, an ancient Scandinavian word for a series of end-of-year festivities. A yuleshard—also called a yule-jade (jade being an insult once upon a time)—is someone who leaves a lot of work still to be done on Christmas Eve night.

5. Yule-Hole

And the yule-hole is the (usually makeshift) hole you need to move your belt to after you’ve eaten a massive meal.

6. Belly-Cheer

Dating from the 1500s, belly-cheer or belly-timber is a brilliantly evocative word for fine food or gluttonous eating.

7. Doniferous

If you’re doniferous then you’re carrying a present. The act of offering a present is called oblation, which originally was (and, in some contexts, still is) a religious term referring specifically to the presentation of money or donation of goods to the church. But since the 15th century it’s been used more loosely to refer to the action of offering or presenting any gift or donation, or, in particular, a gratuity.

8. Pourboire

Speaking of gratuities, a tip or donation of cash intended to be spent on drink is a pourboire—French, literally, for “for drink.” Money given in lieu of a gift, meanwhile, has been known as present-silver since the 1500s.

9. Toe-Cover

A cheap and totally useless present? In 1940s slang, that was a toe-cover.

10. Xenium

A gift given to a houseguest, or a gift given by a guest to their host, is called a xenium.

11. Scurryfunge

Probably distantly related to words like scour or scourge, scurryfunge first appeared in the late 18th century, with meanings of “to lash” or, depending on region, “to scour.” By the mid-1900s, however, things had changed: perhaps in allusion to scrubbing or working hard enough to abrade a surface, scurryfunge came to mean “to hastily tidy a house” before unexpected company arrive.

12. Quaaltagh

Quaaltagh was actually borrowed into English in the 1800s from Manx, the Celtic-origin language spoken on the Isle of Man—a tiny island located halfway between Britain and Ireland in the Irish Sea. It was on the Isle of Man that festive tradition dictates that the identity of the first person you see (or the first to enter your house) on Christmas or New Year morning will have some bearing on the events of the year to come. And in Manx culture, the person you meet on that early-morning encounter is called the quaaltagh.

13. Lucky-Bird

We’re more likely to call them a first-footer these days, but according to old Yorkshire folklore the first person across the threshold of your home on New Year’s morning is the lucky-bird. And just like the quaaltagh, tradition dictates that the identity of the lucky-bird has an important bearing on the success of the year to come: Men are the most fortuitous lucky-birds; depending on region, either dark-haired or light-haired men might be favored (but dark-haired is more common). Other regional variations claimed the man had to be a bachelor, had to bring a gift of coal (though by the 1880s whisky was increasingly popular), and/or had to have a high arch on the foot. People with a suitable combination for their region could “become almost professional,” according to the Leeds Mercury Weekly Supplement.

14. Apolausticism

Derived from the Greek word for “to enjoy,” apolausticism is a long-lost 19th-century word for a total devotion to enjoying yourself.

15. Crapulence

Once all the festive dust and New Year confetti has settled, here’s a word for the morning after the night before: crapulence, as the Oxford English Dictionary puts it, is an 18th-century word for “sickness or indisposition resulting from excess in drinking or eating.”

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