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13 Regional Insults to Offend People Across the U.S.

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“I had to take an Ohio shower,” Kimmy Schmidt admitted on a recent episode of her titular series. “Using our disinfectant toilet wipes.” While this Ohioan put-down was most likely made up for the show, Americans certainly don’t lack insults for people in other states or cities. We've teamed up with the editors of the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) to bring you 13 of the most insulting regional slights, snubs, and terms of contempt.

1. ARKANSAS ASPHALT

Like Rodney Dangerfield, Arkansas gets no respect, at least in terms of regional insults. In the 1960s and earlier, Texas oilmen apparently “found conditions in Arkansas particularly primitive,” according to a quote in DARE, and referred to roads made of logs laid side by side as Arkansas asphalt. Another ironic Texas term is Arkansas dew, meaning a sudden heavy rain (check out even more regional idioms for heavy rain here). In Oklahoma, diarrhea might be known as Arkansas travels, while in Southern California, an Arkansas fire extinguisher is a chamberpot.

2. ARIZONA PAINT JOB

Another SoCal term, an Arizona paint job means no paint at all. The term is used to “describe an unpainted, weathered pine building,” according to a 1962 article in Western Folklore, as might be found in the Arizona desert. Back in the day, though, it was thought that the dry weather was good for something—namely, tuberculosis. Hence, the Southwest term Arizona tenor for a coughing TB sufferer.

3. GEORGIA BACON

If you’re in south Georgia and someone offers you Georgia bacon, you might want to think twice: They’re talking about gopher, and when they say gopher, they're talking about tortoise, specifically a burrowing land tortoise of the genus Gopherus polyphemus, common in the southern U.S.

According to the 1952 Handbook of Turtles, the gopher tortoise played a large part “in the lives of the poorer rural people of Florida and south Georgia.” In those parts of Florida, the gopher might be referred to as the Florida chicken due to its chicken-like taste.

Gopher, by the way, is also the nickname for people from Arkansas, Minnesota, and Florida, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

4. CAPE COD TURKEY

In New England, Cape Cod turkey is a jocular name for the codfish or a fish dinner. In Maine, Alaska turkey is salmon, while in New York, the historical term Albany beef refers to sturgeon, due to “the former abundance of sturgeon near Albany NY," according to DARE.

5. VIRGINIA CAVIAR

You might hear beans or peas referred to as Virginia caviar in Virginia and Georgia. The delicious-sounding Virginia caviar salad is a combination of “black-eyed peas, sweet peppers, red onion, and diced tomatoes with a sweet and sour vinaigrette” and fresh cilantro.

6. KENTUCKY BREAKFAST

The Kentucky breakfast is the most important meal of the day—if you're a pre-enlightened Don Draper, that is. In Arizona, Maryland, and North Carolina, the ironic term refers to a “meal” that includes or consists of liquor, in most cases bourbon. As Stewart Edward White put in the 1907 book Arizona Nights, “A Kentucky breakfast is a three-pound steak, a bottle of whisky, and a setter dog. What’s the dog for? Why, to eat the steak, of course."

7. DALLAS SPECIAL

Got a pocketknife with a blade longer than the legal limit? That’s called a Dallas special in Texas, where the legal limit for a blade length is 5.5 inches. In Tennessee, southern California, and Arkansas, a large bowie knife might be called an Arkansas toothpick, while in West Virginia, a bullet is a Kentucky pill, in reference “to Kentuckians’ reputation as sharpshooters,” according to DARE.

8. TEXAS TIME

Unlike a New York minute, Texas time is leisurely and unhurried. Hawaiian time is a jocular but sometimes derogatory term a flexible system of time or a disregard for punctuality. Alaska time is “an hour or two early or an hour or two late,” at least in Alaska, and “maybe more depending on the weather.”

9. BOSTON SCREWDRIVER

A Boston screwdriver isn’t a Beantown take on vodka and orange juice—it’s a Massachusetts nickname for a hammer. According to a quote from 1969 recorded by DARE, “Big-city workmen in Boston do a quick, cheap job by driving a screw all or most of the way in with a hammer instead of using a screwdriver.”

10. MASSHOLE

While Masshole doesn’t appear in DARE, we couldn’t not include it on a list of regional insults. This term of contempt for someone from Massachusetts was added to the OED in June 2015 with its earliest citation from 1989: “The New Hampshire people have a nickname for the refugees from Massachusetts: Massholes.” The word of course is a blend of Massachusetts and a**hole.

11. MAINIAC

While Masshole is a new term, Mainiac or Maine-iac, a resident of Maine, is a relatively old one. Used in New England, DARE’s earliest citation is from a 1837 quote from Nathaniel Hawthorne: “The British have lately imprisoned a man who was sent to take the census; and the Mainiacs are much excited on the subject.”

12. HOBOKEN

A now-popular bedroom community outside New York City, Hoboken was once a jocular or derogatory name for a place that was out-of-the-way, insignificant, or imaginary. As H.L. Mencken wrote in the 1936 edition of American Language, “For many years Hoboken was the joke-town of New York.” Hoboken was also used in New York and Massachusetts as a euphemistic stand-in for “Hell.”

13. HOLLER NEW YORK

While you probably know a Bronx cheer is a nickname for a raspberry, you might not know that to holler New York means to vomit. This might be less of a jab at New York and more of a play on york, an idiom used in the Great Lakes region and Pennsylvania meaning to throw up.

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Zach Hyman, HBO
10 Bizarre Sesame Street Fan Theories
Zach Hyman, HBO
Zach Hyman, HBO

Sesame Street has been on the air for almost 50 years, but there’s still so much we don’t know about this beloved children’s show. What kind of bird is Big Bird? What’s the deal with Mr. Noodle? And how do you actually get to Sesame Street? Fans have filled in these gaps with frequently amusing—and sometimes bizarre—theories about how the cheerful neighborhood ticks. Read them at your own risk, because they’ll probably ruin the Count for you.

1. THE THEME SONG CONTAINS SECRET INSTRUCTIONS.

According to a Reddit theory, the Sesame Street theme song isn’t just catchy—it’s code. The lyrics spell out how to get to Sesame Street quite literally, giving listeners clues on how to access this fantasy land. It must be a sunny day (as the repeated line goes), you must bring a broom (“sweeping the clouds away”), and you have to give Oscar the Grouch the password (“everything’s a-ok”) to gain entrance. Make sure to memorize all the steps before you attempt.

2. SESAME STREET IS A REHAB CENTER FOR MONSTERS.

Sesame Street is populated with the stuff of nightmares. There’s a gigantic bird, a mean green guy who hides in the trash, and an actual vampire. These things should be scary, and some fans contend that they used to be. But then the creatures moved to Sesame Street, a rehabilitation area for formerly frightening monsters. In this community, monsters can’t roam outside the perimeters (“neighborhood”) as they recover. They must learn to educate children instead of eating them—and find a more harmless snack to fuel their hunger. Hence Cookie Monster’s fixation with baked goods.

3. BIG BIRD IS AN EXTINCT MOA.

Big Bird is a rare breed. He’s eight feet tall and while he can’t really fly, he can rollerskate. So what kind of bird is he? Big Bird’s species has been a matter of contention since Sesame Street began: Big Bird insists he’s a lark, while Oscar thinks he’s more of a homing pigeon. But there’s convincing evidence that Big Bird is an extinct moa. The moa were 10 species of flightless birds who lived in New Zealand. They had long necks and stout torsos, and reached up to 12 feet in height. Scientists claim they died off hundreds of years ago, but could one be living on Sesame Street? It makes sense, especially considering his best friend looks a lot like a woolly mammoth.

4. OSCAR’S TRASH CAN IS A TARDIS.

Oscar’s home doesn’t seem very big. But as The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland revealed, his trash can holds much more than moldy banana peels. The Grouch has chandeliers and even an interdimensional portal down there! There’s only one logical explanation for this outrageously spacious trash can: It’s a Doctor Who-style TARDIS.

5. IT’S ALL A RIFF ON PLATO.

Dust off your copy of The Republic, because this is about to get philosophical. Plato has a famous allegory about a cave, one that explains enlightenment through actual sunlight. He describes a prisoner who steps out of the cave and into the sun, realizing his entire understanding of the world is wrong. When he returns to the cave to educate his fellow prisoners, they don’t believe him, because the information is too overwhelming and contradictory to what they know. The lesson is that education is a gradual learning process, one where pupils must move through the cave themselves, putting pieces together along the way. And what better guide is there than a merry kids’ show?

According to one Reddit theory, Sesame Street builds on Plato’s teachings by presenting a utopia where all kinds of creatures live together in harmony. There’s no racism or suffocating gender roles, just another sunny (see what they did there?) day in the neighborhood. Sesame Street shows the audience what an enlightened society looks like through simple songs and silly jokes, spoon-feeding Plato’s “cave dwellers” knowledge at an early age.

6. MR. NOODLE IS IN HELL.

Can a grown man really enjoy taking orders from a squeaky red puppet? And why does Mr. Noodle live outside a window in Elmo’s house anyway? According to this hilariously bleak theory, no, Mr. Noodle does not like dancing for Elmo, but he has to, because he’s in hell. Think about it: He’s seemingly trapped in a surreal place where he can’t talk, but he has to do whatever a fuzzy monster named Elmo says. Definitely sounds like hell.

7. ELMO IS ANIMAL’S SON.

Okay, so remember when Animal chases a shrieking woman out of the college auditorium in The Muppets Take Manhattan? (If you don't, see above.) One fan thinks Animal had a fling with this lady, which produced Elmo. While the two might have similar coloring, this theory completely ignores Elmo’s dad Louie, who appears in many Sesame Street episodes. But maybe Animal is a distant cousin.

8. COOKIE MONSTER HAS AN EATING DISORDER.

Cookie Monster loves to cram chocolate chip treats into his mouth. But as eagle-eyed viewers have observed, he doesn’t really eat the cookies so much as chew them into messy crumbs that fly in every direction. This could indicate Cookie Monster has a chewing and spitting eating disorder, meaning he doesn’t actually consume food—he just chews and spits it out. There’s a more detailed (and dark) diagnosis of Cookie Monster’s symptoms here.

9. THE COUNT EATS CHILDREN.

Can a vampire really get his kicks from counting to five? One of the craziest Sesame Street fan theories posits that the Count lures kids to their death with his number games. That’s why the cast of children on Sesame Street changes so frequently—the Count eats them all after teaching them to add. The adult cast, meanwhile, stays pretty much the same, implying the grown-ups are either under a vampiric spell or looking the other way as the Count does his thing.

10. THE COUNT IS ALSO A PIMP.

Alright, this is just a Dave Chappelle joke. But the Count does have a cape.

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A New App Interprets Sign Language for the Amazon Echo
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The convenience of the Amazon Echo smart speaker only goes so far. Without any sort of visual interface, the voice-activated home assistant isn't very useful for deaf people—Alexa only understands three languages, none of which are American Sign Language. But Fast Company reports that one programmer has invented an ingenious system that allows the Echo to communicate visually.

Abhishek Singh's new artificial intelligence app acts as an interpreter between deaf people and Alexa. For it to work, users must sign at a web cam that's connected to a computer. The app translates the ASL signs from the webcam into text and reads it aloud for Alexa to hear. When Alexa talks back, the app generates a text version of the response for the user to read.

Singh had to teach his system ASL himself by signing various words at his web cam repeatedly. Working within the machine-learning platform Tensorflow, the AI program eventually collected enough data to recognize the meaning of certain gestures automatically.

While Amazon does have two smart home devices with screens—the Echo Show and Echo Spot—for now, Singh's app is one of the best options out there for signers using voice assistants that don't have visual components. He plans to make the code open-source and share his full methodology in order to make it accessible to as many people as possible.

Watch his demo in the video below.

[h/t Fast Company]

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