Dust kittens, woofinpoofs or frog hair?

May 26, 2013

On this week’s edition of “That’s What They Say,” host Rina Miller and University of Michigan Professor Anne Curzan revisit regional variations in spoken English and offer up even more fun and often puzzling expressions. 

“For people who are from parts of New York or New Jersey, they will stand on line rather than in line...and for the people who say that makes no sense, the answer is that prepositions don’t always make sense and this is just regional variation," says Curzan.

Another expression that may not make sense to most of us is: drinking a cabinet.

“If you’re from Rhode Island you can drink a cabinet…in Rhode Island, a cabinet is a milkshake," Curzan explains.

Okay, so what to you call those balls of dust hiding underneath the bed? Dust bunnies or woofinpoofs?

The Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE)  has documented over 170 different variations for those balls of lint. And, some variations take on hilarious names.

“I was once giving a lecture about this and I mentioned some of these variants,” says Curzan, “and someone wrote to me afterward and said, ‘When I was in the Marines we called them ghost turds.’”

Although the history behind these terms are often unknown, one fact remains - regional variations are as humorous and unique as the people around the country who create them.

- Austin Davis, Michigan Radio Newsroom