Linguistics 101: Odd driving regionalisms and slang in the USA

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Susan Meyer

Senior Editorial Manager

  • Licensed Insurance Agent — Property and Casualty

Susan is a licensed insurance agent and has worked as a writer and editor for over 10 years across a number of industries. She has worked at The Zebr…

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“Careful, there’s a chughole on that feeder coming off The 101!” Huh? If you’re wondering what on earth that sentence means, you are about to find out! We’ve compiled some of the strangest, most unique slang for everyday driving terms used in the United States.

Starting with Harvard’s 2003 Dialect Study, we scoured the web for the strangest regionalisms we could find related to driving. Using Google Trends — and even the Oxford Dictionary — we’ve put together a collection of the most bizarre synonyms, phrases, and lexicon used across the country.

Get ready to learn all about these odd colloquialisms, then dive deeper into linguistic science to learn how to give — and receive — better directions on your next road trip using these obscure phrases and psychology!


weird driving lingo in the US


To find out just how uncommon this driving lingo is, we compared 2017 U.S. Census Bureau data with the populations in these locations. With some regionalisms stretching across state lines, a few are more common than you might think — for example, more than 3 percent of the country refers to what's commonly known as a pothole as a “chughole,” “chuckhole,” or “chockhole!”

We also included a bit of the history behind each phrase — they need all the explanation they can get! With some slang dating back to the 1800s, these regionalisms are deeply ingrained in local culture.

It’s safe to say some of these driving terms are downright strange, but where in the world did they come from? If you’re planning a road trip, remember these fun phrases when driving through a new city — if you don’t, you could get some funny looks!


driving colloquialisms by state


The next time you take a cross-country road trip, don’t be surprised to hear some of these phrases when you stop to ask for directions or recommendations for nearby restaurants!

Speaking of directions, did you know there is hard linguistic and psychological science behind the act of giving directions? Research published in the Frontiers in Psychology journal found the structural order of sentences spoken when giving directions plays a significant role in the effectiveness of the instructions.

These findings, coupled with some other interesting data points in psychological research, have given us a foolproof formula for providing accurate directions to disoriented travelers! For example, if you find yourself getting lost in your own neighborhood, you can blame your navigational challenges on your brain cells!

Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end, use these science-backed tips the next time you find yourself chatting about directions!


giving directions graphic


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No matter where your next road trip takes you, these regionalisms will help you talk the talk and blend in with locals. If you find yourself face-to-face with a lost out-of-towner, this lingo could help you give them better directions!  

Bring this list of weird slang terms with you on your next cross-country adventure, along with a fresh copy of your insurance paperwork and an emergency kit to keep you safe during your travels!



Akron Beacon Journal BestLife Online | CityLab | Frontiers in Psychology

Harvard Dialect Survey | Jalopnik | Mental Floss | NOLA | Oxford Dictionaries

Reader’s Digest | Texas Monthly | The Odyssey | University of New Hampshire

University of Wisconsin-Madison | US Census Bureau

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