Tonight we celebrate the night before Halloween. Well, we don’t. We have no word for such a concept. But if you find yourself in Michigan (Devil’s Night) or northern Vermont (Cabbage Night), or parts of New Jersey (Mischief Night), or other parts of New Jersey (Goosey Night), or even other parts of New Jersey (Gate Night), they are celebrating something, most likely by doing something they shouldn’t, and you’ll need to know what to call it. Josh Katz’s new book, Speaking American is here to help sort that all out for you.
You might remember Katz’s New York Times quiz that could predict where you grew up by asking what you would call a certain concept or how you would pronounce a specific word. In this book, he has compiled a great collection of words and phrases, along with their meanings to illustrate these differences—far beyond the twenty-five in the quiz. Map the “trash can vs. garbage can” divide. Find out how many ways Americans pronounce crayon? And if you need another reason to look down your nose at Cleveland, they are the only ones who call the strip between the sidewalk and the road a tree lawn. If you love language and maps (and charts and graphs), you’ll love this book too. If anything, it is guaranteed to spark conversation.
So, what do you call “a sale of assorted household items?”
A tag sale.
[Yes, it is too a tag sale.]