Things Long Islanders wouldn't understand

By Ian J. Stark and Rachel Weiss

Sometimes it's hard to envision life outside Suffolk and Nassau counties.

But there are some traditions and terminology from other parts of the country that don't quite sync up to life on Long Island.

What other examples should we have? Email them to

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Sometimes it's hard to envision life outside Suffolk and Nassau counties.

But there are some traditions and terminology from other parts of the country that don't quite sync up to life on Long Island.

What other examples should we have? Email them to

Pork roll, egg and cheese

If you stop in any Long Island bagel shop and ask for a "pork roll, egg and cheese" -- New Jersey's popular breakfast sandwich -- you'll likely be met with a puzzled look.

'Mischief Night'

What do you call the night before Halloween? In some parts of the country -- mainly in New Jersey -- the night before Halloween is informally called "Mischief Night," complete with pranks, mild acts of vandalism and houses getting covered in toilet paper.


On Long Island, you might take a cool drink from a water fountain. But in other areas, particularly Wisconsin, you might refill your water bottle or take a sip from a bubbler.


Going 'down the shore'?

Heading to one of Long Island's beaches for the day? Whether you're heading to the North Shore or South Shore, no one would know what you were talking about if you said you were going "down the shore" -- the popular phrase in New Jersey for heading to a beach.

Soft serve or creemees?

In parts of New England, soft serve ice cream is referred to as "creemees." But if you say that when asking for a chocolate-vanilla swirl cone here, you're bound to get a funny look or two.

Water ices?

Unlike the Italian ices you'll find on Long Island like these at Bonanza's in Oyster Bay, head down the Jersey Turnpike to Philly and the preferred term is the rather bland/redundant-sounding "water ices." Kind of like asking for a steak with meat in it, no?

Fish camps

What's in a name? A whole bunch if you want seafood in the South like the pictured fare at the Southold Fish Market. The preferred name for fish joints below the Mason-Dixon is often fish camps, especially if said establishments are along the Atlantic Coast. Envision a lot of what you would find if you headed to East End seafood restaurants -- with fewer grilled and raw options. Some Southern stereotypes lean truer than others, especially when it comes to frying everything you can get your hands on.

You can't pump your own gas in Huntington?

This one hits close to home: Did you know that every gas station in Huntington is full service? A self-service ban has been in effect in the town since the 1980s. This is the only law of its kind in New York State.

So next time you stop by Book Revue or grab a bite at Munday's, don't expect to fill up your own tank.

What is a 'green onion'?

We're used to eating white onion and red onion, but Long Islanders tend to refer to green onion by another name: scallions. This might be confusing when a person hears "green onions" and wonders why someone pulled them out of the ground too soon.

'I'm sorry... oh, I mean...'

Not saying that Long Islanders are defensive or anything, but when consoling people here compared to some other parts of the country, providing proper context seems essential. Saying "I'm sorry" sans explanation, while OK elsewhere, often can elicit a quizzical response from a Long Islander of "You didn't do anything." Of course they didn't, but around here "I'm sorry that happened" or similar more specific phrasing appears to be preferable.

'A blind bird did what?'

Trust me, we've done the research. Southern colloquialisms are a great way to earn strange looks from native LIers. "Even a blind bird catches a worm sometimes" or "Keep it between the buoys" -- the latter made more famous by a Alan Jackson/Jimmy Buffett collaboration -- are among those proven to draw blank stares.

How am I supposed to wear that?

On Long Island a "toboggan" is a sled people ride when is snows. But did you know that in some parts of the country -- most notably South of the Mason-Dixon -- a toboggan is the knit cap one wears to stay warm when going sledding?

You say 'drywall,' but we say...

In many parts of the country, the terms "wallboard," "drywall" and "plasterboard" are common. But when embarking on a construction project on Long Island, we'll step in to the hardware store and say, "Show me the Sheetrock."


When Long Island native Geraldine Merola moved to the South, she said it took her six months to finally learn what grits are. "They'd tell me it's hominy, as if that was going to clear everything up!" she said. Many Long Islanders would agree: we're not too big on grits here. Polenta? Now that we understand.

Long trips into the city?

Manhattan is magnificent, don't get us wrong, but some of us can't seem to wrap our heads around people who spend long vacations in the city as opposed to somewhere peaceful and quiet.

Have a half and half

OK, as close-knit as LIers are, some crack research has determined that there isn't consensus on the definition of "half and half." When you're ordering this on the island, it depends what establishments you frequent as to whether an Arnold Palmer lemonade/iced tea combo or a glass of coffee creamer is coming your way.

My home 'town'?

"What's your hometown?" This is a common question a traveling Long Islander may get from a friendly convenience store clerk. It should be an easy answer, but Long Islanders may end up offering a convoluted response since they don't really come from towns. They live in towns, like Oyster Bay, but their actual "hometown" may be Hicksville (which is actually a hamlet), or Brookville (which is a village). Get into the second sentence of explanation and the next thing you hear may be the clerk saying, "Next customer please!"

What do you call these kicks?

Here, they're sneakers -- plain and simple. But in some places outside New York, folks more refer to them as "tennis shoes" or "gym shoes."

Dreaming of steak biscuits

We have plenty of excellent steakhouses and barbecue joints, but there is one steak dish you probably won't find in a Long Island eatery: steak biscuits. Fry up a steak and serve it between two fluffy buttermilk biscuits, and you have a popular southern dish Long Islanders can only find in their dreams.

Put it up?

In some parts of the country, asking someone to put something "up" is the same thing as putting something "away." So if someone from outside Long Island asked us to "put that up," we might just raise the roof instead.

Pizza by the pie

Who orders a "large pizza?" Every Long Islander knows pizza comes by the slice or by the pie. Then again, Long Islanders may be hesitant about trying pizza anywhere else, anyway.

Where's the Piano Man?

A Long Islander on a road trip may ask, "Why isn't this convenience store playing Billy Joel on a loop?" Wait a minute ... other states don't do that?

What's a Wawa?

Answer: A 7-Eleven and Subway combined, and then some. Wawa is unexplainable and unattainable to Long Islanders. This chain is so close (in New Jersey and Pennsylvania), yet so far away.

We call it 'soda'

Offer a "pop" to a Long Islander and they'll likely be confused.

'But officer, I'm from Long Island!'

On Long Island, making a right turn on a red traffic light is usually OK, but try that around the country and there's a good chance you'll see flashing blue lights.

Mustard on what?

Long Island eateries usually don't serve mustard on hamburgers. In other parts of the country, if you only want ketchup you better ask!

Walk this way, talk this way...

Why do people tend to walk (and even talk) a bit slower everywhere else? Maybe we just walk and talk too fast? No, that can't be right...

Who could confuse the islands?

Believe it or not, there are people out there who think that our home is one of the five boroughs. Come on, how can you mix up Long Island and Staten Island?

Your bagels don't hold water to ours

Tons of locals have migrated to other parts of the country. Unfortunately, they can't take the water with them, which is thought by some to be the main ingredient that takes LI bagels to the next level.

Hoagies and Heroes and Subs, Oh My!

We know them as heroes, but in other parts of the country, they're subs, hoagies, grinders, wedges, or even Italians. Now that's confusing.

That's 'wicked'

Unless you went to college with someone from Boston, do you know all the ways "wicked" can be used in a sentence? Example: "That's wicked awesome!"


Unless you're friends with someone from Philly, what is a "jawn?" Really, it's a word to describe any place or thing, such as "Were you at that jawn last night?" or "I stopped by the jawn before."

Buttered rolls at 7-Eleven

Did you know that in some 7-Elevens across the country -- Florida, for example -- there are no baskets of buttered kaiser rolls? How else are we supposed to start off the morning?