Words Native to New York City

Posted on: April 25th, 2011 at 6:28 am by

Back in November, we published an article about the oft-overlooked, yet no less significant, contributions of the Bowery to our collective lexicon. The infamous Bowery Boys (nay, B’hoys) of the nineteenth century pioneered a unique way of slang-speak that is still quite prevalent in today’s discourse. Words and phrases like chum, pal, or going on a bender, were all birthed on our beloved thoroughfare long before the luxury.

Which brings us to this little item that cire_e unearthed over on Nonetheless. Apparently there’s a Dictionary of American Regional English (and Wikipedia) mapping out geographical dialects, and the New York City-specific vocabulary section is rather extensive. Herewith, a sampling of words and phrases native to the city:

  • Kill – a small river or strait, in the name of specific watercourses; e.g. Beaver Kill, Fresh Kills, Kill Van Kull, Arthur Kill (from Dutch)
  • Scallion – spring onion
  • Stoop – a small porch or steps in front of a building, originally from Dutch
  • Rent Party – a party concept whereby tenants hire entertainment to raise money for rent.  The idea originated in Harlem during the Jazz age of the 1920s.  The word Boogie was sometimes used as a noun to describe such parties.
  • Catty corner – on an angle to a corner
  • Dungarees (archaic) – jeans
  • Egg cream – a mixture of cold milk, chocolate syrup, and seltzer
  • Hero – submarine sandwich
  • Potsy – hopscotch
  • Punchball – a baseball-like game suitable for smaller areas, in which a fist substitutes for the bat and a “spaldeen” is the ball

What are some of your favorites?

And speaking of native to New Yawk…


Recent Stories

‘Sixty LES’ Hotel Adds Spotlights for Better Hell Square Exposure

When it comes to Hell Square development, the Sixty LES hotel (née Thompson LES) on Allen Street is old guard. Maintaining the spotlight after seven years, and in the face of such competition, apparently requires just that. Lights. The lodge installed tacky accent lighting on its north face to help differentiate itself from the beast […]

‘Upstairs on Rivington’ is the Latest Nightlife Entrant at the Hotel on Rivington

Upstairs on Rivington is the newly renovated lobby lounge at the Hotel on Rivington. It’s a Thursday-through-Saturday joint that joins Cafe Medi on the ground level and the upscale Jia Lounge next door. The second-floor hangout opened a couple weeks ago with a launch party featuring its “artist in residence,” Domingo Zapata. The stunt – […]

‘Lanzhou Ramen’ Opens on East Broadway in Time for the Cold Season

Ramen season is definitely upon us. And here’s another Chinatown establishment to test. Lanzhou Ramen debuted last week at 107 East Broadway, thus concluding the tenant drought here. The requisite grand opening flags dangle from the entryway. This wasn’t the original plan for the ground level of 107 East Broadway, though. Last December, a gaggle […]

‘LES Popped’ Finds a New Home with Wendy Mink Jewelry on Orchard Street

Two Lower East Side retailers are coming together at 72 Orchard Street. One, a veteran; the other, more freshman. The Wendy Mink boutique just welcomed a co-tenant after more than eight years selling jewelry on the block. Brand of choice is LES Popped, the local artisan market that briefly occupied 365 Grand Street for several […]

Dylan Rieder, Skater and Owner of ‘The Hunt,’ Memorialized with Skateboard Tribute on Canal Street

Dylan Rieder, a professional skateboarder and model out of California, died two weeks ago after a two-year battle with Leukemia. He was 28. Rieder also co-owned the eclectic oddities shop at 27 Canal Street called The Hunt with fellow skateboarders Jake Lamagno and Steven Ditchkus. Which explains the brief closure and makeshift memorial that now sits outside the gate. […]

  • Tenement

    tenement tenement tenement

  • Babyphat523

    You killed me with Spaldeen!!

    My favorite is – “Saloogie” or “Salugi” – The game of “Keep Away”. Example, snatching someone’s baseball cap off their head and tossing it back and forth between you and another friend, while the said snatchee tries unsuccessfully to retrieve it.


  • sir Hoot the benevolent owlkin

    How about the more modern inventions? For example, as a native Angelino, I’m taken aback every time I hear someone talking about how long they waited ‘on line’ for something. And here I thought the internet was all about speeding up our lives!