“You Say Creek; I Say Brook”


The little stream that ran along the bottom of our property was called a brook by my mother, but a creek by some of my friends. Some people in Oregon even pronounced it “crick.” Writing about this spot yesterday made me think about the regional differences in words that still seem to persist, despite our national mobility.

I took a quiz a few months ago that gave me a series of noun groups and asked me to choose the one I was most likely to use. The groups included things such as “purse, handbag and pocket book.” I had fun completing the quiz and was interested to learn what part of the country my word usage represented. I had, remember, spent 50 years living in Oregon. Amusingly enough, my vocabulary positioned me in Buffalo, New York.  It is true that my mother grew up in Buffalo and my grandparents lived there for most of their lives, but I had only spent occasional visits there. Apparently, my mother’s vocabulary had the greatest influence on my word choices. No wonder I preferred “brook”  over the more  Western “creek.”

Now that I live in New England, I have had to adjust my vocabulary sometimes to be understood. “Pop” is called “soda” here. “Dark coffee” means “light cream,” not “dark roast.” When I say I don’t need a “sack” at the store, I have had clerks look at me with puzzlement. I have better luck with “bag.”

It’s time to put on my “sneakers” and take a walk. Let me know about your word choices.


7 thoughts on ““You Say Creek; I Say Brook”

  1. Here we call your picture a brook, especially if it is running pretty quickly making small noises over rocks etc. A creek here to us is anything about 4+ feet wide and a depth of 3-5 feet.


  2. This is interesting. Before visiting the States, I thought the American usage of English was homogenous. I was totally wrong. When New Yorkers say “What’s good?”, they are not asking you any question.They are basically saying “Hello”. That does not fly with North Carolinians. When New Mexican school kids are asking one another for rubber, they are merely asking for eraser. In New Jersey, asking a girl for rubber could be deemed sexual harassment.
    Back in my home country, we call offices to “book” appointments. When I called a doctor”s office to book an appointment in Connecticut, I had a hard time explaining to the receptionist that what I wanted was to make a reservation to see a doctor. She took the liberty to educate me after a few minutes that the right thing to say was that I needed to “make” an appointment.
    I enjoyed reading your post.


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