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

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iStock

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.

What Are The Most Popular Baby Names In Your State? An Interactive Tool Will Tell You

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iStock/PeopleImages

Baby names can be just as in vogue, as unpopular, and occasionally as controversial as any fashion trend. If you were ever curious to see which names were the most popular in your home state, now you can.

The Social Security Administration has an interactive tool on its website that allows users to see the top 100 names that made it onto birth certificates by both birth year and state. There’s also an option for seeing what the top five names were by year, plus links to the most popular baby names by territory and decade as well as background info that explains the data itself.

Maine, for example, saw a high number of Olivers and Charlottes born in 2018 while Brysons and Viviennes rolled in last. If one were to turn the Census clock back to 1960 (the earliest year the tool can take you to), they would find that Pine Tree State folks were most partial to the names David and Susan. The names at the bottom for that year? Darryl and Lynne.

Baby names can offer telling insight into an era—they often reflect significant cultural happenings of the time. In 2009, for example, it was reported that there was a significant increase in Twilight-related names like Bella, Cullen, Jasper, Alice, and Emmett, whereas 2019 saw a spike in children’s names more appropriately found in Westeros, with Arya and Khaleesi topping the list (though one mom came to regret naming her daughter the latter).

Each of the names on the website were taken from Social Security applications. There are certain credentials by which names are listed, including the name being at least two characters long. Although it is not provided by the tool, records kept by the administration list the most popular names as far back as the 1880s.

10 Words & Phrases Coined in Comic Strips

iStock/crisserbug
iStock/crisserbug

Cartoons, comics, and newspaper comic strips might seem like an unusual source of new words and phrases, but English is such an eclectic language—and comic strips have always had daily access to such a vast number of people—that a few of their coinages have slipped into everyday use. Here are the etymological stories behind 10 examples of precisely that.

1. Brainiac

The most famous brainiac is a cold-hearted, hyper-intelligent adversary of Superman who first appeared as an alien in DC Comics’ Action Comic #242, “The Super-Duel In Space,” in 1958. But after releasing his first adventure, DC Comics discovered that the name was already in use for a do-it-yourself computer kit. In deference to the kit, Brainiac was turned into a “computer personality” and became the great villain. As a nickname for an expert or intellectual, his (and the kit’s) name slipped into more general use in English by the early 1970s.

2. Curate’s Egg

Like the curate’s egg is a 19th century English expression that has come to mean something comprised of both good and bad parts. It comes from a one-off cartoon entitled “True Humility” that appeared in the British satirical magazine Punch in November 1895. Drawn by the artist George du Maurier (grandfather of the novelist Daphne du Maurier), the cartoon depicted a stern-looking bishop sharing breakfast with a young curate, who has unluckily been served a bad egg. Not wanting to make a scene in front of the bishop, the curate is shown eating the egg anyway, alongside the caption “Oh no, my Lord, I assure you, parts of it are excellent.”

3. Goon

Goon is thought to originally derive from gony, an old English dialect word once used by sailors to describe cumbersome-looking seabirds like albatrosses and pelicans. Based on this initial meaning, in the early 1900s, goon came to be used as another word for an equally dull-looking or slow-witted person, and it was this that presumably inspired Popeye cartoonist EC Segar to create the character of Alice the Goon for his Thimble Theater series of comics in 1933. But it’s Segar’s portrayal of Alice—as a dutiful but impossibly strong 8-foot giantess—that went on to inspire the use of goon as a nickname for a hired heavy or thug, paid to intimidate or terrorize someone without asking questions, in 1930s slang.

4. Jeep

Jeep is popularly said to derive from an approximate pronunciation of the letters “GP,” which are in turn taken as an abbreviation of “general purpose” vehicle. If so, then jeep belongs alongside only a handful other examples (like deejay, okay, veep and emcee) in an unusual class of words that begin their life as a phrase, then become an abbreviation, and then a whole new word based on the abbreviation—but in the case of jeep, that’s probably not the entire story. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the spelling jeep was likely influenced by the character Eugene the Jeep, a yellow cat-like animal (that only ever made a jeep! jeep! noise) that also first appeared alongside Popeye in EC Segar’s Thimble Theater in 1936. Jeep was then adopted into military slang during the Second World War as a nickname for an inexperienced or enthusiastic new recruit, but eventually somehow came to establish itself as another name for a specialized military vehicle in the early 1940s and it’s this meaning that remains in place today.

5. Keeping Up With The Joneses

A Keeping Up With the Joneses strip from 1921
A "Keeping up with the Joneses" comic strip from 1921
Pop Momand, Wikimedia // Public Domain

Synonymous with the quiet rivalries between neighbors and friends, the idiom keeping up with the Joneses comes from the title of a comic strip created by the cartoonist Arthur “Pop” Momand in 1913. Based partly on Momand’s own experiences in one of the wealthiest parts of New York, the strip ran for almost 30 years in the American press and even inspired a cartoon series during the height of its popularity in the 1920s. The eponymous Joneses—whom Momand wanted originally to call “The Smiths,” before deciding that “Joneses” sounded better—were the next-door neighbors of the cartoon’s central characters, but were never actually depicted in the series.

6. Malarkey

Etymologically, malarkey is said to somehow derive from the old Irish surname Mullarkey, but precisely how or why is unclear. As a nickname for rubbish or nonsense talk, however, its use in English is often credited to the American cartoonist Thomas Aloysius Dorgan—better known as “TAD”—who first used it in this context in several of his Indoor Sports cartoon series in the early 1920s. But the spelling hadn’t been standardized yet. Once he spelled it Milarkey referring to a place, and in one famous example, depicting a courtroom scene, one of Dorgan’s characters exclaims, “Malachy! You said it: I wouldn’t trust a lawyer no further than I could throw a case of Scotch!” (Dorgan, incidentally, is also credited with giving the English language the phrases cat’s pajamas and drugstore cowboy.)

7. Milquetoast

Taking his name from the similarly bland breakfast snack “milk toast,” the character Caspar Milquetoast was created by the American cartoonist Harold T. Webster in 1924. The star of Webster’s Timid Soul comic strip, Caspar was portrayed as a quiet, submissive, bespectacled old man, whom Webster himself once described as the kind of man who “speaks softly and gets hit with a big stick.” His name has been used as a byword for any equally submissive or ineffectual person since the mid-1930s.

8. Poindexter

When Otto Messmer’s Felix the Cat comic strip was adapted for television in the late 1950s, a whole host of new supporting characters was added to the cast, including a super-intelligent, labcoat-wearing schoolboy named Poindexter, who was the nephew of Felix’s nemesis, The Professor. Created by the cartoonist Joe Oriolo, Poindexter’s name—which was apparently taken from that of Oriolo’s attorney—had become a byword for a nerdish or intellectual person in English slang by the early 1980s.

9. Shazam

Shazam was coined in Whiz Comics #2 in February 1940, as the name of an old wizard who grants 12-year-old Billy Batson the ability to transform into Captain Marvel. The wizard’s name, Shazam, was henceforth also Captain Marvel’s magic word, with which he was able to call on the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles and the speed of Mercury.

10. Zilch

As another word for “zero,” zilch has been used in English since the early '60s. But before then, from the 1930s onward, it was predominantly used as a nickname for any useless and hopeless character or non-entity or someone who didn't exist. In this context it was probably coined in and popularized by a series of cartoons that first appeared in Ballyhoo humor magazine in 1931, and which featured a hapless unseen businessman character named “President Henry P. Zilch.” Although it’s possible the writers of Ballyhoo created the name from scratch, it’s likely that they were at least partly inspired by an old student slang expression, Joe Zilsch, which was used in the 1920s in the same way as John Doe or Joe Sixpack would be today.

This list first ran in 2015 and was republished in 2019.

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