What would you call it?

Every once in a while an editor will ask an author to change a word that is not commonly used in the US, at least not to their knowledge. This has happened to me a few times.

Recently a fellow Canadian author was asked what “squares” are, as in the woman put cookies and squares out on the table. The author’s NY editor had never heard the term, and I was amazed how many other American authors hadn’t either.

So… I thought it would be fun to find out what each of you call things in your neck of the woods. I hope you’ll chime in in the comments and be sure to let us know what state or province or country you’re from.

1)  Squares_Cookbook

Here in most parts of Canada that I’m aware of, we typically call goodies that are baked in a 8 by 8 or 9 by 13 inch pan and cut into squares “squares”, unless of course it’s cake. How about you?

2) glass of popImage courtesy of chayathonwong2000 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Where I live (Ontario) we call flavored carbonated drinks as pictured above “pop”. My editor asks me to change it to soda or soda pop. To me soda is plain carbonated water. Ick! Unless of course it’s cream soda…the pink pop. Mmm. I hear that Southerners call it all coke whether it’s coke or not. What do you call it?

3)  runnersIn one of my manuscripts I called the shoes pictured above running shoes. My editor wasn’t familiar with the term and suggested tennis shoes as an alternative. To me, tennis shoes are those flat canvas shoes with no arch support that no runner would ever wear. At the time, the other word we commonly call them–runners–escaped me. I think I changed it to sneakers, which I’d never call decent running shoes. What do you call them?

4) girl_with_backpackImage courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ve never used this in a story, but here we’d call it a knapsack or backpack. My British parents would call it a rucksack. I’ve run across other names for bags women use in books that I have no idea what they are. What would you call this bag? Are there other “bags” that heroines in your area would more commonly carry?

5)  couchI’d call this a couch, although in my novels I call it a sofa, because I thought that’s what my editor would prefer. Except I just thumbed through a book written by an author from Colorado and she calls it a couch. So…now I’m really curious. My grandma would call it a settee (at least the old fashioned, fancier kinds). In shows, I’ve also heard them called chesterfields and davenports, which I suspect were earlier manufacturers…haven’t taken the time to google it. 😉 What do you call it?

6) Person_leapingImage courtesy of sattva at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Lastly, how would you say the past tense of leap and of dive. Her heart leapt, or her heart leaped? I’d say leapt. Interestingly, it isn’t in the US dictionary on Word, however, it is in the British dictionary on Word. Likewise, would you say “He dove into a pool” or “He dived into a pool”? I’d say “dove”. But my most recent copy editor changed them to “dived”.

Your Turn: Please let us know where you’re from and what you’d call items 1 to 6. Feel free to share other things that you call something differently than you commonly see in American published books.


  • Oh, this is so good, Sandra. Amazing how different areas use different terms. I live in NE Georgia, U.S. Although, some of the words may be used in more than one way, I think this is the most popular for my area:
    1. Sheet cake…once it is cut, I think we say squares
    2. Soda
    3. Athletic shoe (and clerks usually recommend a running shoe)
    4. Backpack
    5. Sofa
    6. Leaped; dived

  • You are definitely having a bit of fun with this, I think…lol
    1. goodies
    2. pop or soda
    3. sneakers
    4. backpack
    5. couch
    6. leapt and dove

    My spell check does not like leapt, however…lol. I guess we have more British influence than we think 🙂

  • Very interesting post, Sandra.

    1 I didn’t know what “squares” were either, but would have looked it up.
    2 I guess I’m up north enough – I call it “pop”
    3 Running shoes here or cross trainers.
    4 It’s a knapsack or backpack here. Leaning more toward the “backpack”.
    Number 5 is a couch. My Nana called it a Davenport.
    6 Both hubby and I say, “dove”. Hubby looked up and the traditional past tense of dive is “dived”, although “dove is commonly used in speech. Interesting.

    Great thinking post.

  • Virginia, USA
    1. Squares or bars – lemon are most popular
    2. Shortened versions of specific names (Pepper, Dew)
    3. Tennis shoes (though we say it tenashoes)
    4. Backpack or bookbag
    5. Couch or sofa
    6. Lept and dove

  • Ah, we found the locale for tennis shoes! 🙂 Thanks for the comments so far. Soooo sorry it’s taken me so long to moderate the new visitors. I was out of town and couldn’t get my laptop to work with the hotel’s internet.

  • What a fun post and interesting how you decide to put these names in your book, good stuff to consider 🙂
    South Florida, USA
    1. baked goods, goodies, pastries
    2. soda
    3. running shoes or sneakers
    4. bookbag or backpack; other bags for heroines to use, shoulder-bag
    5. couch or sofa
    6. for a heart beat/pulse: leaped
    for someone jumping: dove

  • Fun post, Sandra! I’m a native southerner (Atlanta, Georgia) and this is what I’d call these items: 1. Cake squares
    2. Coke (or Coca-cola)
    3. Tennis shoes
    4. Backpack
    5. Sofa
    6. Leaped, dived

    But I do want to add on #2, sometimes we say “soft drink” but often it’s just Coke! 😉

Great to "see" you here today! I look forward to reading your comment.