One of the best things about college is that it brings together people from different areas. While some institutions are more diverse, either in geographic or ethnic representation, each school is a melting pot to some degree.

Students learn about each other’s cultures’ traditions, dialects, and slang terms. And sometimes they’re critical or subtly xenophobic about those differences.

I’ve seen people go wide-eyed when I’ve never heard of mischief night or haven’t been to Carvel. They think it’s weird that I don’t automatically support an NFL, NHL, or MLB team simply based on where I live. I spent the first few months of a friendship confused at my friend’s constant usage of “deadass” and “OD.” I get teased for apparently saying “Halloween” wrong.

There’s also regional differences in what things are called. I’ve always called lightning bugs “fireflies” and roundabouts are “traffic circles.”

And this. What do you call this?

xenophobia 1

I’ve always known it as gimp (although I’ve now been told that “gimp” is an offensive ableist term, so I’m not sure how to feel about that). Matt calls it boondoggle. Amanda calls it lanyard, which seems to be the NYC/Westchester/Northern New Jersey term for it.

Um…excuse me? THIS is a lanyard:

xenophobia 2The gimp/boondoggle/lanyard debate shows I’m not immune to being “xenophobic,” despite living much farther away than nearly everyone else here.

And even though I think a lot of their slang is silly, I’ve started to acquire a few Northeastern/Mid-Atlantic speaking habits, meaning that my friends from home tease me about my “accent” too.

I guess what goes around comes around.

29 thoughts on “Xenophobia

  1. My college friends always did a double-take when I was talking because I’m from South-Central PA where there is ALOT of PA Dutch influence (My great grandmother spoke PA Dutch pretty fluently) – my pronouns and sentence structure basically goes out the door. For instance, when I am downstairs and my mom is upstairs and I need a rag: “Hey mom – throw me down the stairs a rag!” Its quirky…but it’s fun learning how people from all over our HUGE country talk differently and have different names for things.


    • Ooh I’ve heard about PA Dutch and it’s strange to listen to! I imagine you had to learn how to code-switch (speaking at home one way and with your friends another).


    • Interesting!! I wonder if that’s a regional thing, that it’s not as popular in your area. When I came to college here I was asked if I was from the South and if I was from South Jersey…apparently I sounded strange to them, even though I’d argue that the West has the “standard American dialect” (that you hear on TV, etc).


      • What do you do with those things…?

        Interesting! Some people are amazed that I don’t have an accent. Others go “I just love your Southern accent” or whatever. I think it depends more on what they expect a Southern accent to sound like, rather than where they’re from themselves.


  2. AHHH WHAT ARE THOSE CALLED?!?!? I used to make them all the time in elementary school! I would make keychains out of them to give to family/friends as gifts and I can’t for the life of me remember what they were besides “keychains,” though you can make so much out of that… “craft.”


  3. Some good speechie will take that accent out of you. Standard American accent is usually more midwest than west coast, according to the linguists.

    One of the most interesting courses I took in graduate school examined US accents and regional dialects and their development in relation to the history of European settlement. You’re not far enough west in NY for it to be “pop.” And thanks for not using gimp :)


    • In my articulation/phonological disorders class we’re learning about how Spanish-, Cantonese-, Korean-, and Arabic-American English all relate to their languages of origin. It’s interesting!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. You don’t even have to travel very far to find those regional differences. I live a little over 100 miles from where I grew up and so many words are pronounced differently. It’s fun listening to what three years at school in Boston has done to my daughter’s accent. Don’t use gimp. LOL


  5. This is so interesting. I have no clue what a gimp/lanyard/can’t-spell-that-other-word is. It’s very interesting to learn about how people in different ares of one country call things differently. My parents live in the northern part of the Netherlands and there, people say they are “in front of the wheel” when they’re driving. My parents are originally from the western part of the country and my father, who speaks standard Dutch, is quite a language puritan. I laugh about his humor on linguistic “errors” (sitting on the engine cover when driving).


  6. As a Brit, I’m shocked you even have roundabouts in the US, let alone call them by the same name that we do!

    I agree with you on the lanyard – to me it has always been a strap that goes around your neck to hold an ID. What is that gimp/lanyard thing? And how would calling it a gimp be “ableist”?


    • We have fewer roundabouts but we do have them! Gimp/lanyard/boondoggle is a craft that kids make, usually at summer camp. Gimp also refers to a disabled person, usually who walks differently than most people. I didn’t know that until a few months ago though.


      • Never heard that term before to refer to a person with a disability. I’ve heard it used in context that somebody is not very intelligent “idiot”, “moron” for example.

        The only term I have ever heard “gimp” was from Pulp Fiction. I’ll um, let you look it up if you don’t know.


        • I’d never heard of it either. It’s outdated and not used often anymore, which is especially why it’s considered offensive.
          “Idiot” was a word to refer to people with cognitive disabilities (formerly called mental retardation), so it’s in the same category there of ableist terms. A lot of those terms have been integrated into our language so people don’t notice it, but the roots of those words are in discrimination.


          • Oh I know, but I think these words have morphed now that they no longer have that offensive meaning.

            One word that went the other way over here was “spastic”. It was a general term for people with Cerebral Palsy. Even the country’s biggest charity was called “The Spastic Society” but because children were calling each other that name, the charity changed its name and the word passed out of use.


  7. When I was a kid at camp, we used to call it gimp, and never dreamed of it being derogatory. And yes, that is a lanyard! It’s amazing how connotations for words can vary so much between regions.


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