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Fry Sauce and Powder, What the Heck?

Each region of the United States puts its own unique spin on American English. Go to Texas and you’ll likely be greeted with a hearty, “How y’all doin’?” In Boston you might be advised to “pahk the cah in Havahd Yahd.” What about the friendly Midwestern states, like Minnesota? “Oh ya, you betcha.”

Linguistically, Utah is considered part of the Rocky Mountain Region and our dialect has some distinct characteristics. Let’s consider some examples.

What the heck is fry sauce and why is it so dang good?

There’s a lot of lingo to unpack in this question. Heck is commonly used in place of the word hell (also referred to as “H-E-double-hockey-sticks”) which is considered a curse word and those are frowned upon around here. The cinematic masterpiece Napoleon Dynamite is an excellent tutorial on the accurate usage of these substitute swear words.

Fry sauce is a delicacy available at all respectable local eateries. It’s a combination of ketchup and mayonnaise that’s used mainly for dipping french fries, tots, and hamburgers but feel free to get creative with it. And why is it so dang good? Hard to say.

“I totally biffed it in that sick pow.”

“Sick pow” is shorthand for “perfect powder snow”–one of the state’s greatest claims to fame. The phenomenon known as “the lake effect” occurs thanks to the combined ecology of the mountains and the Great Salt Lake. Skiing or snowboarding in powder is a magical experience but if you’re not accustomed to it, you might just “biff it”, a term similar to “wipe out” in surf lingo.

It’s not uncommon for locals to skip out on their daily responsibilities to enjoy some fresh powder. The word “sluff” means to skip school. But skiing is pretty “spendy”, which is our term for expensive, so it’s not for everyone.

Drop the T

Now that you’re familiar with some of the terminology, let’s dive into the pronunciation. Utahns love a glottal stop, which is when the T sound in the middle of words is omitted. For example, if you’re going to Brighton Ski Resort, you could say, “I’m headed to Brigh’on for a sweet day on the moun’ain.”

The vowel sounds in the words “deal”, “real”, “peel”, are pronounced “dill”, “rill”, “pill”. Really? Yes, “rilly”. Some Utahns pronounce “milk” with an “e”.

Credit: Library of Congress

Getting Around

The handy-dandy grid system makes navigating Salt Lake City pretty slick. Each address is a combination of numeric coordinates based on its distance and direction from a central point (Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City). The numbers get bigger as you go farther from downtown. A street name, such as 400 South, can be read as “four hundred south” but most locals leave the hundreds off and just say “fourth south”.

Venture beyond the capital city and you’ll encounter many places with names which are uniquely Utahn. For example, the community of Tooele (pronounced too-wil-leh) is situated on the foothills of the Oquirrh (oh-ker) Mountains. The towns of Lehi (lee-hi) and Nephi (nee-fi) are about an hour south of Salt Lake. Keep heading south for a few more hours and you may travel through Hurricane (hurr-a-kin) before reaching the most popular of the five national parks in Utah, Zion (zai-uhn, not zai-aan).

Let’s Talk About It!

Don’t be intimidated by our little accent. We’re a nice bunch of folks who welcome newcomers, regardless of how you talk. Get yourself a dirty soda and we’ll explain everything.

Niche Homes is a full-service real estate agency specializing in Wasatch Front neighborhoods and enclaves. Contact us if you are interested in buying or selling a home.

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