Tampa Slang

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Tampa Slang

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After nearly 30 years in Florida, I am finally well-versed in Tampa slang. Being from the North, I had to acclimate myself to the Tampa local language. At first, there were a lot of colloquialisms that I had to tune in to in order to communicate with true Gulf of Mexico dwellers, those who are southern to the core and proud Gator fans. Here's ten you better not forget, y'hear?


1. "Pinellas County"


If you are not from Tampa, you probably would pronounce this Pin-ellas County (pin, as in safety pin). Locals call it Pine-ellas (pine, as in pine tree). Who's right and who's wrong? Who's to say!


2. "Chimley"


This is apparently Tampa local lingo for chimney. Being that we are in tropical Florida, there are not a lot of chimneys down here, so it took me a while to get that one.


3. "We had a good turn out."


Turn out is a common phrase describing how many people attend an event. A good turn out is always the greatest hope of the host. I have been thrilled and disappointed in the turn outs at my events. I thought "turn out" was a universally accepted phrase, but on the west coast of Florida, some call it a "turn around." "We had a good turn around." What does that even mean? Tons of people show up at your holiday gala, and they all spin the evening away?

4. One of my favorite Tampa slang phrases is "chester drawers."


Being a Yankee, I grew up thinking that it was a chest of drawers. You know, that tall thing that looks like a chest with drawers in it? Not in Tampa. We have the infamous "chester drawers." Maybe funny looking ones could be "jester drawers?" Perhaps only guys named Chester should have this kind of dresser.


5. Another of the most well-known Tampa slang terms is candleopera.


That is the ostentatious thing that Liberace used to have on his piano. You probably know it as a candelabrum. It's a large decorative candleholder that holds numerous candles. Maybe only the ones hung in theaters should be called candleoperas.


6. A whelp is a young animal, usually carnivorous, like a wolf or a lion.


I was really confused when someone told me he had "whelps" all over his arm. The mental picture was terrifying. When I got to the bottom of this, I discovered that what he actually had were welts all over his arm. What a relief-just to me, of course.


7. "The sun don't shine on the same dog's butt every day."


Now that says it all. Tampa slang doesn't get any better than this. Sometimes I feel like the dog whose butt is in the shade, and it is great to know that I'll soon be on the sunny side of that one.


8. "I'm sick in the bed"


Is a phrase usually meant to describe just how sick you are. I guess you are really down and out if you have to be sick in the bed. It sure beats being sick in the car or sick on the bus. Just think of all the places you could be sick: at work, at school, in the theater. Being sick on a first date would be devastating. So, sick in the bed might not be that bad after all. "Sick on my stomach," is another one that goes along with sick in the bed. Could you be sick off of your stomach? If you were sick on your head, would you be upside down?


9. "I'm just as fine as frog's hair."


I had to do a little research on this Tampa slang term. I have never really pictured a frog having hair. Perhaps that's the whole idea. Their hair is so fine that you can't even find it. I guess you can't get finer than that.


10. Florida is a melting pot, and there are slang terms and slang phrases in Tampa from all over.


One of my friends, a transplant from England, gave me a great phrase: "bugger all." I tried my best to figure out what he meant when he said, "She is doing bugger all." I imagined all sorts of things. I decided that it meant everything, a jack of all trades. Boy, was I wrong! Just for the record, it means doing absolutely nothing. Don't get it confused with "Bugger off." That is a whole different matter.

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