What’s in a Name, or Two, or Three?

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By, Pam Teel

Let’s start with one that hits close to home. Do you call it, Pork Roll or Tailored Ham? First, we need to delve into the history of this New Jersey delicacy. Pork roll, also known as Taylor ham, was developed by John Taylor, of Trenton, in 1856. Taylor was a State Senator and a well-known businessman from Hamilton Square, NJ. He invented the cured meat with a mix of spices, salt, a sugar cure, and preservatives, and smoked it before packaging it. He put it on the market as “Taylor’s Prepared Ham,” but later was forced into renaming it as the “Original Taylor Pork Roll,” after he was told by the government that he had to take out the word ham because the cured meat in the tube-like casing did not meet the requirements to be considered “ham.” The definition of ham was, in fact, established by the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, and made John Taylor’s creation merely a “lunch meat.”

The rebranding caused an issue for John Taylor and his company {established as Taylor Provisions in 1939}, as they scrambled to trademark the new name, pork roll, for its cured, smoked creation, thinking that it would prevent other companies from competing with the product, and make Taylor’s ham the only pork roll on the market.

Unfortunately, the trademark didn’t work and soon other versions of Taylor’s creation popped up all over New Jersey. They were, the Case Pork Company, Mercer Meats, Thumanns, and Kohler Provisions, to name a few, but as early as 1870, George Washington Case Pork Company started selling hickory smoked pork rolls from his Bellemead farm. Today, both Taylor’s Provisions and Case Pork Company are headquartered in Trenton, which unofficially makes our state’s capital the center of the pork roll vs. Taylor ham debate.  So, which name do you call it, Taylor ham or pork roll? While most of North Jersey refers to it as Taylor ham, South Jersey and Philadelphia call it pork roll. I would say it’s safe to say from Central Jersey down, we still call it Pork roll. There’s one thing we know for sure, New Jersey is the Taylor ham/pork roll capital of the United States and, probably, the world.

From coast to coast, American English is largely the same, though spoken with different accents, there are a few terms that do cause one some confusion depending on where you live in the U.S.

For instance, you might call athletic shoes with rubber soles one of three different names. You can refer to them as sneakers, tennis shoes, or gym shoes. Interesting to note that the majority of the United Stated refers to them as tennis shoes, but New Englanders and southern Floridians mostly refer to them as sneakers. I think that here in Jersey, most of us call them sneakers. Only a few pockets in the U.S. refer still refer to them as gym shoes. In the U.K. they are called trainers.

Fireflies or lightning bugs- According to census, the western half of the U.S. refers to glowing bugs as fireflies. South Dakota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Texas, Florida, New York, and most of the New England states refers to them as either, while large parts of the south and Midwest prefer the term lightning bug. We always referred to them here in Jersey as lightning bugs. What about you?

Soda, Pop, Tonic, Coke- ah yes, the soft drink, though practically no one really refers to it as the soft drink. Depending on where you were brought up, you might have called it a different name. Most of the northern half of the U.S. calls it pop or soda pop. According to a census, New England states, part of Wisconsin, much of Illinois, Missouri, Florida, California, and yes, even in New Jersey, refer to it as soda. Some people outside of Boston, Massachusetts refer to it as tonic. People in Texas and most of the southern states most times refer to soft drinks as coke.

Hoagie, grinder, sub, hero, spukie– Only people in Pennsylvania and New Jersey know what a hoagie is. Most of the rest of the U.S. refer to this cold cut sandwich as a submarine sandwich or sub. These sandwiches are also known as “heroes” in New York city, a Po Boy in Louisiana, a grinder in Massachusetts, and a wedge in Westchester County and the Bronx. A sub sandwich is simply defined as a sandwich using a long and cylindrical sub bun instead of normal sliced bread. The sub bun originated as the Italian sandwich in Italian-American communities. This sandwich used the long sub bun along with being filled with various kinds of deli meats. As the Italian sandwich grew more popular, other communities began to make different versions of it, which eventually created the generic sub sandwich.

The hoagie originated in Philadelphia around 1953. In times of war, getting food to eat was difficult. A special shipment of meats and bread arrived at the location Hog Island, where people put together these meats and deli buns to produce the first hoagie. People began to refer to it as the Hoggie sandwich, after Hog Island, and eventually it ended up being called the hoagie. Hoagies became huge in Philadelphia until they were known as “the sandwich” of the state.

In New York, the hero sub got popular since its creation in 1937. For a while, the hero remained closely tied to the Italian sandwich as they kept the same flavor profile. Today, you will often find New York sandwich shops to be selling meatball heroes, which is a meatball sub as we know it today.

Grinders- people usually call hot sandwiches grinders, such as the meatball or sausage grinders, but cold sandwiches can also be called grinders. The key thing that makes a grinder is meat, cheese, and other fillings on a long piece of Italian bread. There are many theories surrounding the name of grinders being attributed to the chewiness of the Italian bread making you grind your teeth to the sandwich. Grinder sandwiches are most popular in parts of Philly and New England. However, specific variations of the grinder sandwich are more popular in other regions of the United States. For example, the cheese steak grinder is famously known for its popularity in Philadelphia. Therefore, this type of grinder is also called the Philly cheese steak, and it’s so popular you can find it and most sandwich shops across the United States.

Spukie sandwich- This sub sandwich got its start in the Boston area. It comes from the word spuccadella, an Italian dialect word that means long roll. Simply, this sandwich is Italian meats placed in a long roll that has been horizontally cut. Today, you can still find some spukie sandwiches in some Boston bakeries and deli shops.

Pancakes, flapjacks, or hot cakes- the term pancake has been around since the 14th century. The term hotcakes came around in the late 17th century among early American settlers. In the American west, cowboys came up with the name flapjacks. Flapjacks were usually made with whole grain wheat and oats.

Round abouts, traffic circle, rotary, turnabouts- In Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Maine it’s commonly referred to as rotaries. Most of the rest of the Us calls them roundabouts.  People in Texas, Ohio, Michigan, Southern California and the east coast from Pennsylvania to Georgia call them Traffic circles. How about you?

Some other ones to ponder are: Jimmies vs. sprinkles, supper vs. dinner.

Crayfish, crawdaddies, or crawdads- In the north, most people refer to them as crayfish; in the south they are genuinely called crawfish.

Freeways vs. highway. Most of the us refer to them as highways, while in California it’s known more as a freeway.

Grocery cart, shopping cart, buggy, or carriage- most people in the northeast, Connecticut, and eastern Mass. refer to them as Carriages, while most of the southern states refer to them as buggy. Here in Jersey, I think it fair to say most refer to it as a shopping cart.