Atlantic City Slang

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Atlantic City Slang

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The local language of Atlantic City, N.J., tells of its history. Here's some Atlantic City slang that shares its history one word at a time.

1. "Hoagie"


As anyone from New Jersey and Philadelphia can attest, a "hoagie" is another name for a submarine sandwich. Local wisdom attributes the origin of the term "hoagie" to the Hog Island area of Philadelphia. William Woys Weaver, however, disputes this theory. Weaver is a food historian who explains that the term "hoagie" can be traced to the slang term given to Philadelphia street food vendors in the late 19th century: "Hokey Pokey" men (See Reference1).


2. "Benny"


A consensus may never be reached on the true meaning or definitive origin of the Atlantic City slang word "Benny." However, it's unanimously agreed that "Benny" is used derisively to describe non-native visitors to Atlantic City who descend upon the beaches and attractions. According to Reference.com, while some insist that the reference is derived from "beneficial air," something that growing numbers of visitors sought in Atlantic City in the late 19th century, others explain it simply refers to the $100 bills, or "Benjamins" which tourists frequently used (See Reference 2). The final explanation of "Benny" is that it contains references to the New Jersey towns of Bayonne, Elizabeth, Newark and to New York.


3. "Shoobie"


Two legends exist for the origin of the term "Shoobie", which is also used by natives of Atlantic City and some other New Jersey Shore towns to describe non-local visitors. One explanation is that "Shoobie" referred to Philadelphians in years past, who would travel to the beach with purchased lunches that came in shoe boxes. Another explanation is that "Shoobie" refers to non-native visitors who were in the habit of wearing their shoes on the beach. You decide!


4. "Jitney"


A "Jitney" refers to an Atlantic City taxi cab. Jitneys are a fleet of minibuses which service most, if not all of Atlantic City. The term "jitney" originates from an old five cent piece of the same name. According to its website, the Atlantic City Jitney Association is the "longest-running non-subsidized transit company in America" (See Reference 3).


5. "Down the shore"


You would probably have to consult an expert in linguistics to understand exactly why Atlantic City locals refer to their town being "down the shore" and not "at the shore", or "by the shore". If you want to sound like a local, though, the only thing to say is "Down the shore", or you'll definitely give yourself away for being a "Benny" or "Shoobie".


6. "Wooder" vs. "Water"


Natives of Southern New Jersey possess a very distinct dialect that is nearly impossible to mimic. As with the aforementioned "Down the shore", who can really say why? Still, the enigmatic nature of the distinction doesn't detract from its validity or significance. To sound like a real local, you simply must train the tongue to narrow certain vowels and run them together. In this case, the "ah" sound of the vowel "a" in "water" sounds just like "oo" in "wood". Go figure!


7. Boardwalk


What would Atlantic City be without its Boardwalk? America's original Boardwalk was built in the late 19th century in response to the problem of people tracking sand from the beach into local hotels. The name "Boardwalk" aptly describes its substance and function and is always capitalized in Atlantic City.


8. Jimmies


Everyone knows what these are, right? The tiny, sugary, rainbow-colored or chocolate cylindrical confections that you put on top of ice cream, of course! They may be called "sprinkles" in other parts of the country, but they are definitely "jimmies" in Atlantic City. If you want them on the frozen yogurt you've just bought on the Boardwalk, you had better remember the right word.


9. Bureau


You know that piece of furniture that you use to store your clothes? It's a dresser if you live in Central or Northern New Jersey, but don't expect to find one in your Atlantic City digs: you will only have a "bureau".


10. "Crown" vs. "Crayon"


If you have been practicing making your vowels flow together since learning about "wooter", it is time to try another: "crown". If you find yourself in an Atlantic City eatery with the kids in tow and they are nearing a meltdown while waiting for their food to arrive, you had better know not to ask for "cray-ons" and paper. Although it might feel embarrassing to try the accent, a public tantrum is worse. Do yourself a favor and call them "crowns"!


References


1. Mary Alice Hines, Mary Anne Hines, Gordon M. Marshall, William Woys Weaver; "The Larder Invaded"; The Historical Society of PA, 1987
2. Reference.com: Benny; http://www.reference.com/browse/Benny_(slang)
3. jitneys.net: Atlantic City Jitney Association; http://www.jitneys.net/552.html
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