How to Speak Like a "Buckeye" in the State of Ohio

When traveling to a foreign country, it's always best to study some of the key words and phrases in its language so you can understand the locals and they can understand you. To an extent, the same is true when you travel to another state in the U.S., especially if it's far from where you live. Each state has its own "language," so to say, or rather, a set of slang words that are characteristic of that state. Ohio is no different, and there is a set of words and phrases that you'll want to understand if you plan on traveling to the state. Although these words and phrases are not exclusively Ohioan, there are more common in Ohio than some other parts of the country. Read this simple guide, and you should be set to communicate with anyone you meet in the Buckeye State.



To non-Ohioans, a "buckeye" is a round, brown nut that looks like the literal eye of a buck deer. But to Ohio natives, the term "buckeye" can refer to multiple things. Because of the buckeye trees in the area, Ohioans have been referred to as "Buckeyes" for years, and the state itself is also known as the "Buckeye State." This nickname carried over to the state's most popular college sports team, The Ohio State Buckeyes, who are the only team in the country with the buckeye as a mascot.

In addition to serving as a nickname for Ohioans themselves, "buckeye" also refers to a peanut butter and chocolate candy made to resemble the actual nut. These delicious treats can be found at candy shops across the state, and they are much tastier than the real buckeye nut. (FYI...Don't eat those, they're poisonous).

That State Up North

Don...The UpNorth Memories Guy... Harrison/Flickr

Ah, the state that must not be named. If you're in Ohio long enough, you're sure to hear someone use this phrase. Connecting back to the whole "buckeye" thing, many Ohioans are awfully proud of The Ohio State Buckeyes, specifically their football team. At the end of each season the Buckeyes play their main rival, the University of Michigan Wolverines. The rivalry runs so deep that many Ohioans have a deep loathing for their northern neighbors. Because of this, the word "Michigan" is like a swear word in the state, one that people avoid saying at all costs. (I felt naughty just typing it). So whenever you hear an Ohioan refer to "that state up north," that one that looks like a mitten is the one they're talking about.


Mike Mozart/Flickr

This isn't an exclusively Ohio thing, but something that will definitely confuse those who come from other parts of the country such as the South. In Ohio, we refer to the fizzy, carbonated beverages that go great with pizza, hot dogs, or just about everything as "pop." We know, we know, the technical name is "soda pop," but that just makes it sound too fancy. Also, we don't understand why in the world anyone would refer to a Mountain Dew or a Sprite as a "Coke." So to us, all such drinks are labeled as "pop," and you can't make us change our mind!



This is one that I never realized was apparently a regional thing until my boyfriend from that state up north called me out on it. I always grew up referring to what you may call a "vacuum" or "vacuum cleaner" as a "sweeper." I called it that, my mom called it that, and to the best of my knowledge everyone I knew called it that. We would get this said device out and "sweep" the floor, not "vacuum" it. I remember the first time I realized this was apparently a regional thing is when I told my boyfriend I needed to "sweep" the floor and he got all confused wondering why I wanted to use a broom on the carpet! But he is from that state up north, so who knows if I can trust him?


Evan Long/Flickr

This is more common language in southern Ohio, but it still sneaks its way up to the northern part of the state sometimes. Yes, whenever someone says "warsh" they are actually saying "wash," they've just thrown an "R" in there for some extra flair. I grew up in the northwest part of the state, and my grandmother has always said "warsh," and my dad, who was born in that state up north, but grew up in Ohio, also says "warsh." So if you hear someone say this, whether they're in the southern or northern part of the state, now you know what they're trying to say!

The Three C's


Three of Ohio's largest cities all happen to start with the letter "C": Cincinnati, Cleveland, and the capital city of Columbus. Whenever an Ohioan has to refer to all three of these cities collectively, they call them "The Three C's." Another fun fact about these cities is that they all have multiple nicknames. Cincinnati is also known as "Cincy" and "The Queen City," Cleveland is referred to as "The Cleve" and "The Forest City," and Columbus also goes by the names "C-Bus" and "Cowtown."

JCPenney's, Meijer's, Kroger's, etc.

Nicholas Eckhart/Flickr

So this is less of a unique word or phrase and more of an odd grammatical thing. For some reason, Ohioans like to add a possessive to the end of store names such as JCPenney, Kroger, or Meijer. Even though it isn't the correct way to say the store's name, we do it anyway. I can be looking straight at the Kroger sign, and if you ask me to read it to you I guarantee I'll say "Kroger's." Even when I type the name without the possessive it feels weird to me. So if you hear your Ohioan friend or relative adding possessives to the names of stores, don't bother correcting them, it's too late.


Mike Mozart/Flickr

When I want to get some tasty boneless wings and appetizers, I go to "B-Dubs," the place that you likely know as Buffalo Wild Wings. The restaurant was actually founded in Columbus in 1982, so it's kind of an Ohio treasure. Over time, the restaurant has gone by many different names, but its nickname of "B-Dubs" is one that was previously almost exclusive to Ohio. A shortening of the restaurant's name, the "B" refers to "Buffalo" and the "Dubs" refers to the two "W's." The company has since embraced the nickname on a larger scale, and I find I confuse less people when I say "B-Dubs" now than I did in years past. Still, since moving to California I've had to explain myself to many of my friends when I've used the term "B-Dubs" instead of the restaurant's full name.

Also, apparently another Ohio thing is that we like to smother everything we eat in ranch dressing. So if you're visiting someone in Ohio, join them on a trip to B-Dubs and enjoy some chicken wings covered in ranch along with a tall glass of pop. Just make sure you "warsh" up when you're done!

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Miranda Roehler grew up in Northwest Ohio. She studied Creative Writing and History at The University of Findlay and has been published in multiple international journals.