Wrote Michael: “They tell me that I am wrong and ‘correct’ me and tell me that this is the ‘treelawn,’ which in fact may or may not have trees planted on it.”
Wait a minute? Treelawn?
Yes, said Barbara Zigli, who now lives in Arlington. Wrote Barbara: “I’m originally from Cleveland, and I was talking with some neighbors here in Arlington about ownership of the treelawn. They didn’t know what I was talking about. I said that it’s the small area between the sidewalk and the street, and I asked them what they called it, and they shrugged.”
Just think: Akron and Cleveland are a mere 40 miles apart, yet each birthed entirely different words for . . . well, what do you call it?
I asked Arlington County officials about the strip of land between the sidewalk and the street. “In Arlington, we just call it a median — nothing special,” wrote Katie O’Brien of the Department of Environmental Services in an email.
Dave Dishneau insists that in the part of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where he grew up, sloppy joes were called “hot’chas,” pronounced Jimmy Durante-style. He even wrote a song about the many regional names for a sloppy joe, from a “yip-yip” in southern Illinois to a “yum-yum” in Nebraska.
Dave lives in Hagerstown, Md., now, where a sloppy joe is called a “steamer.”
Speaking of the Upper Peninsula, Bob Kellas said UP natives — “fondly known as Yoopers,” he wrote — have a special verb for tamping down snow. It’s “pank,” as in, “We used our mittens to pank the snow,” or, “The snow on the road was really panked down.”
Bob said that in the late 1800s, some roads in the UP weren’t plowed or shoveled but panked. Wrote Bob: “Teams of horses would pull a wagon with a huge roller trailing behind. That roller was called a ‘panker.’ The weight of the panker would push the snow down into a hard passable surface on the actual road.”
More than 200 inches of snow was not uncommon in some parts of the Upper Peninsula, and the road through a town could be raised up by a foot or more by all the hard panked snow.
“In the spring, some of the panked snow would melt and refreeze again, resulting in large chunks of ice and hardened snow all along the road, making it extremely difficult to traverse,” wrote Bob, who now lives in Fredericksburg, Va. “Now, of course, plows and snowblowers do all the clearing in the UP, but back in the day, ‘panking’ was the way to go!”
Fairfax City’s Jack French grew up in a state that’s practically tropical compared to the Upper Peninsula: Wisconsin. He said that in the Dairy State a drinking fountain is known as a “bubbler.”
That’s what Alexandria’s Leah Dymek learned to call it, too, and she grew up outside Worcester, Mass. “To me, a water fountain was a concrete structure located in a park and used by pigeons as a rest stop,” she wrote.
Colleen Mason says her adult children nearly fell on the floor laughing when she called the upper part of a barn where the hay is stored a “haymow.” Wrote Colleen, who lives in Burke, Va.: “I didn’t live on a farm as a child, but I had friends who did, and I played in their barns. ‘Haymow’ was in common use.”
And here’s something weird: I just checked the dictionary and the “mow” part of that word is pronounced to rhyme with “cow.”
Finally, back to Ohio, where Marsha Way grew up on a dairy farm near the West Virginia and Pennsylvania borders.
“We all knew what it meant when we were told it was time to ‘red up,’ ” Marsha wrote. “After teaching/coaching in a private school in Northern Virginia for 39 years, my students/athletes also came to learn what it meant, albeit with some confusion. ‘Red up’ meant to clean things up, like ‘Red up the table’ after a meal or ‘Red up your room.’ I guess it was a take off on ‘ready up’ or something like that.
“Even after living in Alexandria for over forty years, it is a phrase I still use quite often. Old habits are hard to break.”
For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/john-kelly.