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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.

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How Do You Stress the Word: THANKSgiving or ThanksGIVing?
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Here’s something else to stress about for Thanksgiving: where to put the stress in the word Thanksgiving.

If you’re from California, Iowa, or Delaware, you probably say ThanksGIVing, with the primary stress on the second syllable. If you’re from Georgia, Tennessee, or the Texas Panhandle, you probably say THANKSgiving, with the primary stress on the first syllable.

This north-south divide on syllable stress is found for other words like umbrella, guitar, insurance, and pecan. However, those words are borrowed from other languages (Italian, Spanish, French). Sometimes, in the borrowing process, competing stress patterns settle into regional differences. Just as some borrowed words get first syllable stress in the South and second syllable stress in the North, French words like garage and ballet get first syllable stress in the UK and second syllable stress in the U.S.

Thanksgiving, however, is an English word through and through. And if it behaved like a normal English word, it would have stress on the first syllable. Consider other words with the same noun-gerund structure just like it: SEAfaring, BAbysitting, HANDwriting, BULLfighting, BIRDwatching, HOMEcoming, ALMSgiving. The stress is always up front, on the noun. Why, in Thanksgiving alone, would stress shift to the GIVE?

The shift to the ThanksGIVing pronunciation is a bit of a mystery. Linguist John McWhorter has suggested that the loss of the stress on thanks has to do with a change in our concept of the holiday, that we “don’t truly think about Thanksgiving as being about thankfulness anymore.” This kind of thing can happen when a word takes on a new, more abstract sense. When we use outgoing for mail that is literally going out, we are likely to stress the OUT. When we use it as a description of someone’s personality ("She's so outgoing!"), the stress might show up on the GO. Stress can shift with meaning.

But the stress shift might not be solely connected to the entrenchment of our turkey-eating rituals. The thanksGIVing stress pattern seems to have pre-dated the institution of the American holiday, according to an analysis of the meter of English poems by Mark Liberman at Language Log. ThanksGIVing has been around at least since the 17th century. However you say it, there is precedent to back you up. And room enough to focus on both the thanks and the giving.

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Why Do We Call People Blamed for Things 'Scapegoats'?
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From Marie Antoinette to the cow that reportedly caused the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, history is filled with figures who were single-handedly—yet often undeservedly—held responsible for epic societal failures or misdeeds. In other words, they became scapegoats. But what did goats (who are actually pretty awesome creatures) do to deserve association with this blameworthy bunch?

The word scapegoat was first coined by English Protestant scholar William Tyndale in his 1530 English translation of the Bible, according to David Dawson’s 2013 book Flesh Becomes Word: A Lexicography of the Scapegoat Or, the History of an Idea. Tyndale, who was deciphering Hebrew descriptions of Yom Kippur rituals from the Book of Leviticus, recounted a ceremony in which one of two goats was selected by lot. A high priest would place his hands on the goat’s head and confess his people's sins— thus transferring them to the animal—before casting it out into the wilderness to rid Israel of its transgressions. As for the other goat, it would be sacrificed to the Lord.

Tyndale coined the word scapegoat to describe the sin-bearing creature, interpreting the Hebrew word azazel or Azazel as ez ozel, or "the goat that departs or escapes." That said, some scholars have disagreed with his interpretation, claiming that Azazel actually stands for the name of a goat-like wilderness demon, whom the offering was meant for, or a specific location in the desert to where sins were banished, often thought to be a mountainous cliff from which the scapegoat was cast off and killed.

Over the centuries, the word scapegoat became disassociated with its Biblical meaning, and it eventually became used as a metaphor to describe a person who shoulders the blame of any wrongdoing. Now that you know the word's etymology, remember the poor animals that inspired it, and maybe resolve to go a little easier on the next person who ends up having to take the fall for everyone else's mistakes.

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

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