CLOSE
iStock
iStock

12 Different Ways to Say 'Doughnut' Across the U.S.

iStock
iStock

On National Doughnut Day, the holiest of high fat holidays (hole-y, get it?), we celebrate the delicious pastry, from the plain to the just plain crazy. Not only can you get your grubby hands on free doughnuts today, you’re getting a bunch of regional doughnut lingo right here. With the editors of the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE), we explore the different ways people say doughnut across the United States and bring you a dozen to sink your teeth into.

1. CHOKER HOLE

Choker hole is originally a logging term from the Pacific Northwest. It refers to a small hole dug under a log so that a choker—a rope or wire formed in the shape of a noose—can go under the log for hauling. Due to its resemblance, loggers nicknamed the doughnut "choker hole."

2. COOKIE

If you really want to confuse your friends, call a doughnut a cookie. Popular in the Southern and South Midland states, this term probably comes from the Dutch koekje, meaning a “small sweetened cake.”

3. FETTIGLICH

In German communities in Missouri, you might hear doughnuts referred to as fettiglich. The word probably comes from the German fettig, meaning fatty or greasy. According to a quote in DARE, a fall tradition in Missouri involved masked children going door to door, saying, “Fettiglich, fettiglich,” to which people would respond by giving them doughnuts, a practice which should definitely be revived for Doughnut Day.

4. OLYKOEK

Olykoek is an early term for doughnut that hails from the Hudson Valley in New York. One of the earliest recorded usages is from Washington Irving in his 1809 book A History of New York: “The table ... was always sure to boast an enormous dish of balls of sweetened dough, fried in hog’s fat, and called dough nuts, or oly koeks.” Olykoek is a variation on the Dutch oliekoek, which translates as “oil cake.”

5. SUBMARINE

While a submarine is familiar as a sandwich in some parts of the U.S., it has also been a name for a doughnut in states like Kansas, Minnesota, West Virginia, and New York. Alternatively called a sinker, the name submarine comes from the idea of a doughnut being submerged in oil or fat, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

6. FRIED NUT

If you’re ever in New Hampshire and get offered a fried nut, take it! It's an old-fashioned term for a doughnut. The "nut" of fried nut (and of doughnut, for that matter) comes from the idea that earlier doughnuts—which didn’t have holes—looked like nuts.

7. CYMBAL

An old-timey New England term, cymbal refers to a doughnut without a hole, according to a quote in DARE. A doughnut with a hole might have come from a sea captain, at least according to an early 1930s quote from the Linguistic Atlas of New England. Boston native Oliver Wendell Holmes called the cymbal “a kind of genteel doughnut.”

8. COLD SHUT

Ever bite into a tough, day-old doughnut? That might be called a cold shut in the Pacific Northwest. Cold shut was originally a welding term referring to a link that was closed “while cold” and without welding.

9. KOLACKY

A kolacky is a doughnut with a sweet filling, as well as a pastry made of pie dough and topped with something sweet. The term is chiefly used in Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest states, and is a variation on the Czech kolač, which comes from kolo, meaning wheel or circle. DARE’s earliest recorded use of a form of kolacky is from Willa Cather’s novel My Ántonia, which is about a family of “Bohemian” immigrants: “Show him the spiced plums, mother. Americans don’t have those ... Mother uses them to make kolaches.”

10. BERLINER

In Wisconsin and craving a jelly doughnut? Ask for a Berliner. If wreath-shaped pastries are more your thing, you can find the Berliner kranser in Scandinavian settlement areas like Minnesota. Despite its German-sounding name, Berliner kranser is actually Norwegian and translates as "Berlin wreath."

11. TANGLE BREECHES

Tangle breeches is a nickname for the cruller in states like Pennsylvania, Maryland, Nebraska, Kansas, and Alabama. What’s a cruller? Basically a doughnut in a twisty shape. The term cruller, chiefly used in the North Central and Central Atlantic states, comes from the Dutch krulle, a curled cake.

12. MATRIMONY

The matrimony sounds like a delicious union: two crullers joined by another piece of dough. Such a doughnut might be found in Massachusetts and Rhode island.

This story originally ran in 2016.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Words
15 Wintry Words for Snowy Weather Across the United States
iStock
iStock

While the “Eskimos have 100 words for snow” debate remains up in the (cold, cold) air, we do know—thanks in large part to the folks at the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE)—that Americans have no lack of idioms for the chilly white stuff. Here are 15 of them from all over the United States.

1. CAT’S TRACK

A long-haired tabby cat playing in the snow.
iStock

When there’s a light fall of snow, you can call it cat’s track, a term used in Maine, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Wisconsin. A resident from the Badger State says, “If there is enough snow to track a cat, there has been a snowfall.” Conversely, not much snow can be described as “not enough snow to track a cat.”

2. SKIFT

A little girl rubbing her nose on the carrot nose of a snowman while snow falls.
iStock

Skift refers to a light fall of snow, according to DARE, as well as a “thin layer of snow or frost on the ground, or of ice on water.” The use of the term is widespread across the U.S. except in the Northeast, South, and Southwest.

3. SKIMP

A pond covered in a thin layer of ice and snow.
iStock

If someone in Iowa, Kentucky, Indiana, or north-central Arkansas says, “Watch out for that skimp,” better take heed. They’re talking about a thin layer of ice or snow. Skimp can also be a verb meaning to freeze in a thin coating.

4. GOOSE DOWN

Two Canadian geese on a frozen pond.
iStock

Get a light snow in Alabama? You can call it goose down.

5. GOOSEFEATHERS

A white feather on a black background.
iStock

In Vermont, large, soft flakes of snow might be referred to as goosefeathers.

6. THE OLD WOMAN IS PICKING HER GEESE

Five Canadian geese in a snow storm.
iStock

This colorful idiom for “It’s snowing” is especially used in the Appalachians, along with “The old woman’s a-losin’ her feathers.” Meanwhile, in Kentucky, you might hear Aunt Dinah’s picking her geese.

7. SCUTCH

A forest in a flurry of snow.
iStock

Another term for a light dusting or flurry of snow, this time in Delaware. Scutch might come from scuds, a word of Scottish origin meaning ale or beer.

8. SNOW SQUALL

Pedestrians and cars in the snow.
iStock

Why say snow shower when you can say snow squall? This chiefly Northeast saying refers to “a sudden snowstorm of short duration.” Its earliest recorded usage in American English is from 1775.

9. FLOUR-SIFTER SNOW

Flour being sifted in front of a black background.
iStock

The next time you’re in Montana surrounded by small-flaked snow, you can say, “We’ve got some flour-sifter snow!”

10. CORN SNOW

Brown stalks of corn in the snow.
iStock

You know it and you hate it: that granular, kernel-like snow that’s the result of repeated thawing and freezing. The term corn snow is used in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Oregon.

11. HOMINY SNOW

Three snowmen wearing bright scarves and hats.
iStock

If grits are more up your alley, there’s hominy snow, a saying native to the South Midland states. The word hominy, referring to a kind of boiled ground corn, is Native American in origin, possibly coming from the Algonquian uskatahomen, “parched corn.”

12. GRAMPEL

Snow and hail on wood.
iStock

This term in northeast Washington and southwest Oregon for a snow pellet that’s “somewhat like hail” is probably a variant on graupel, “soft hail.” Graupel is German in origin and comes from graupel wetter, which translates literally as “sleet weather.”

13. SNIRT

Dirty snow marked with tire tracks.
iStock

While it might sound like a cross between a snort and a snicker, this Upper Midwest term actually refers to a mix of windblown snow and dirt. The moniker itself is a blend too, namely of the words—you guessed it—snow and dirt.

14. SPOSH

A man shoveling slushy snow in a driveway.
iStock

Back in the day, New Englanders called slush sposh, which also referred to mud. The word is probably imitative in origin and might be influenced by words like slush, slosh, and splash.

15. POST-HOLING

A close-up of a person's legs, feet covered in snow.
iStock

Ever walk in snow so deep you sink with every step? That’s post-holing or post-holing it, a saying in Colorado, Arkansas, Montana, and northwest Massachusetts. The post here refers to a fence post and hole to the hole created to secure it in the ground. Now we just need a word for sinking up to your knee when you step off a curb into slush that you’ve mistaken for ice.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Big Questions
Where Does the Phrase '… And the Horse You Rode In On' Come From?
iStock
iStock

Horses may no longer be the dominant form of transportation in the U.S., but the legacy of our horseback-riding history lives on in language. When telling people off, we still use the phrase “... and the horse you rode in on.” These days, it’s rare for anyone you're telling to go screw themselves to actually be an equestrian, so where did “and the horse you rode in on” come from, anyway?

Well, let’s start with the basics. The phrase is, essentially, an intensifier, one typically appended to the phrase “F*** you.” As the public radio show "A Way With Words" puts it, it’s usually aimed at “someone who’s full of himself and unwelcome to boot.” As co-host and lexicographer Grant Barrett explains, “instead of just insulting you, they want to insult your whole circumstance.”

The phrase can be traced back to at least the 1950s, but it may be even older than that, since, as Barrett notes, plenty of crude language didn’t make it into print in the early 20th century. He suggests that it could have been in wide use even prior to World War II.

In 1998, William Safire of The New York Times tracked down several novels that employed the term, including The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1972) and No Bugles, No Drums (1976). The literary editor of the latter book, Michael Seidman, told Safire that he heard the term growing up in the Bronx just after the Korean War, leading the journalist to peg the origin of the phrase to at least the late 1950s.

The phrase has had some pretty die-hard fans over the years, too. Donald Regan, who was Secretary of the Treasury under Ronald Reagan from 1981 through 1984, worked it into his official Treasury Department portrait. You can see a title along the spine of a book in the background of the painting. It reads: “And the Horse You Rode In On,” apparently one of Regan’s favorite sayings. (The book in the painting didn't refer to a real book, but there have since been a few published that bear similar names, like Clinton strategist James Carville’s book …and the Horse He Rode In On: The People V. Kenneth Starr and Dakota McFadzean’s 2013 book of comics Other Stories And the Horse You Rode In On.)

It seems that even in a world where almost no one rides in on a horse, insulting a man’s steed is a timeless burn.

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

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios