Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Bubbla

During once-a-month science lab on Tuesday, the science teacher explained the upcoming experiment to my class.  I had a case of deja vu when one of the directions included, “We’ll go to the bubbler…”  “The bubbla?” I interrupted.  “Where are you from?”  You see, being from California which is such a melting pot of the 50 states, regional terms tend to cross pollinate.  For example, a carbonated beverage that comes in a can or bottle has varying names depending on where you live.  Generally, “soda” comes from the East Coast, “pop” from the Mid and North West, “coke” from the South, and “soft drink” from the South-East.  Here in California, I have heard and used all 4 terms equally, and have even combined soda and pop for soda pop. I now use soda almost exclusively, but that wasn’t until living in New England for eight years.  Anyhow, my point being that there aren’t too many terms heard while out and about in California that are terribly new or surprising.  “Bubbla” is one such word. 

Bubbler or bubbla (said with the Boston “r” that sounds like “ah”) is the term used by some for the drinking fountain/water fountain.  I’ve never heard it used except when living across the country, and not even very often there.  I dated a guy from Rhode Island that used it exclusively and then a smattering of others from New England who used it interchangeably with water fountain.  If I had not lived there, I wouldn’t have had a clue as to what she was talking about and therefore had to clarify for the kids that she meant the school drinking fountain. 

The science teacher, who has lived here for about 20 years, and I had a good laugh over the word and enjoyed reminiscing about other words that haven’t yet infiltrated their way into SoCal speak.  Some of my other favorite East Coast terms and their everywhere else equivalents…
highway – freeway
clicker – remote (control)
carriage – cart (grocery)
bureau – dresser
packie (packaged store) – liquor store
cellar – basement
rotary – traffic circle
grinder – sub(marine) sandwich
jimmies – sprinkles (candies for ice cream)
pocketbook – purse/bag
gravy – spaghetti sauce
quahogs – clams

It’s kind of fascinating that in the same country there’s such a diverse use of language for the same words.  In some cases, the words are as if we are speaking a completely different language. 


  1. Who uses Grinder for bread. It is used in the South coast of Ireland and I believe Devon and Cornwall, and rarely. It was used to describe a particular style of loaf. It's the third or forth down. And I've not one clue why it's called that, nor can I even have a stab at making a one up. So I'm fascinated how it ended up over with you.
    Spout, that I've heard US cousins use to name a water fountain. They're from Chicago. As to what we call them again I'm sorta stumped, beyond water fountain. I don't even know what the office water bottle is called. There's not all that much call for public provision, nowadays. I'll photograph a thing called a Judy for you.

    1. In New England, the grinder is a sandwich on an oblong-shaped roll.
      Although, I wouldn't be surprised if it were a derivative of Ireland. The wiki link suggests an Italian origin, but the Irish have also been a big influence in New England.
      I know that you have your own terms for things over there, but do you find that they are also regional? We'll often hear about British slang, or Irish slang, or Scottish slang, but I wonder if those are just a generalization.
      I'm looking forward to the "Judy" as I tried to find it online with no luck.
      And, did I finally grasp your "white page" comments below or did you just give up? :)

    2. Ya think, about the Irish in Boston. But I think it may well be more specific. The very early Irish connection with New England was with the fisheries. And they came from this region where I'm from. Even today, the only remnant of Gaelic from this region is spoken on Newfoundland.
      I've a feeling what the are calling a grinder isn't so much the shape of it, that submarine. And it isn't the diesel sub like a U-boat, but the nuclear sub of the 1950 that the bread looks like. But to return to the grinder. Fishermen would go to sea with a hard crust bread. And especially the way fishing was done off the Banks in tiny boats. The dory would pull up to the mother boat where a huge pot of stew would be bobbling away. The fisherman would pull out the soft inner dough from the loaf and presto a ready-made container. Then they would soak up the liquid with the soft dough and eat. The crust on the loaf is like rock once it goes even a bit stale.
      On the regional differences. These 'were' profound. But you are as if not more likely to hear Valley Girl speak as anything regional now. When I was growing up I could hear which parish people came from, nevermind the county or region.
      In the UK there was and is a huge backlash against BBC or Estuary English where a Devonian or Northumbrian kid are peppering their speech with Londonisms, even Cockneyisms. Think Artful Dodger.
      Oh, if you've seen you will hear the reason why. The foxes with regional accents were the baddies.

    3. I would think as people move around more it's difficult to keep regional dialects or terms from crossing over. Just in my own limited experience with it - I have blended some of the terms above into my regular vocabulary, and when I speak with friends from NE I find I revert back to dropping my Rs.
      I read The Animals of Farthing Wood years ago, and a couple of the ones that followed. I don't think I've ever seen the show. Of course, that was so long ago, I don't remember the language that was used.

  2. Ha.. never heard the word before.

    1. Other than driving through on my way to and from CA I haven't spent much time in New Jersey. My only knowledge of its vernacular is what we see/hear on TV. You guys all talk like a cross between The Sopranos and The Real Housewives of New Jersey right? ;)

  3. I find that I at least recognize some of the regional differences, so that I don't have to look things up. I lived in the South, the north/east, mid-west and CA. I have some bloggy friends from across the pond and sometimes I have to look up some of their expressions.

    1. Yes, it's good to have that diversity in our vocabulary isn't it. Most have the ability to figure it out in context also, but my poor English language learners don't yet have that ability so they looked at us with confusion.

  4. I always crack up when a kid from England or India asks for a rubber in eraser of course!

    1. Ha ha! That's funny. Thankfully, you've only had that word used in primary grades. I would imagine in junior high and high school the rest of the kids would be ROLLING. :)