35 Things True New Englanders Know

By: Torrance Grey
Image: shunyufan / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

bNew England. It's generally defined as the six states above New York: Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Connecticut. In addition, it's often thought of as where the modern United States was born; even its name recalls England, the nation we battled to become an independent country. To this day, if you want to see important Revolutionary War sites and artifacts, New England is the place to go. 

So, New England has had a bit of a head start on the rest of the nation in terms of developing its own way of speaking, cooking, and viewing the world. In other parts of America, if you ask what a New Englander is like, there are certain things you're likely to hear: Plain-spoken. Hard-working. Traditional. And, of course, that we're defiant supporters of the Upper Northeast's marquee sports teams, most notably the New England Patriots and the Boston Red Sox. 

Are those things true across the board? Of course not. New England has large cities that are on the cutting edge of change and cultural diversity. Boston, of course, comes to mind here. But there are large stretches of New England that are rural, where the accents are thick as maple syrup in February, and the figures of speech they use are the same ones you'd have heard a hundred years earlier. (Exhibit No. 1: "Ayuh.")

How solid is your New England cred? We've created a quiz to help you find out -- or, if you're not from Yankee territory, to learn a thing or two. Enjoy!

Some foods should never come out of a can. Which of these is one?

Bread from a CAN?! We hear you. But you've clearly never had B&M Brown Bread from a can, a New England tradition. We also bake things in cans, too. Cans feature prominently in Yankee cuisine; the sooner you get used to it, the happier you'll be.

In which state is Portland?

No, it's not Oregon! We ignore Oregon; it's too far away from the Red Sox and lobster and most of the things that make life worth living. Besides, the Portland in Oregon stole its name from the one in Maine. Plus, we're still annoyed that a screenwriter accidentally made Oregon the setting of the Stephen-King-based "Stand By Me" after assuming that the "Portland" in the novella was the one out West.

Okay, okay, Portland's in Maine! But which of these is one of its biggest claims to fame?

Portland has New England's largest seaport, as measured by the mass of cargo going in and out. Its symbol is also the phoenix, the bird that rises anew from the ashes of its former body, due to devastating fires that threatened the city's survival.

Where's the best place to get your winter clothing and gear?

REI and Patagonia make decent winter gear, it's true. But in New England, Bean reigns supreme. Tug on one of Bean's rain or snow boots, and water isn't getting in unless it has cables, grappling hooks and super-spy infiltration techniques.

Where is L.L. Bean's flagship store?

L.L. Bean is associated most of all with Maine, and that's where the flagship store is. By the way, we try to ignore that fact that founder Leon Leonwood Bean died in Pompano Beach, Florida. (Florida!)

Time for coffee! Pull over at that _________.

New Englanders love their Dunkin' Donuts coffee. Order a "regular" and you'll get one with three sugars and three creams. Do we sometimes drink Starbucks? Of course we do; Starbucks is everywhere, and expanding by the day. We heard a rumor that they're opening a kiosk in our spare bedroom ... will you excuse us for a moment while we go check?

Hey, which way to the bubbler?

"Bubbler" is Yankee-speak for "water fountain," and often it's pronounced "bubblah." Maybe Southerners and Westerners have time for all the syllables in "water fountain," but we don't. We save time on talk and get more done!

What are "Fluffernutters"?

"Fluffernutters" are sandwiches made with Marshmallow Fluff and peanut butter, a staple of our homemade school lunches. They might also be -- this hurts to admit -- our contribution to America's blood-sugar woes. There isn't enough peanut butter in the world to balance out the simple carbs in the white bread and lashings of Fluff a lot of people make these treats with.

Where was the chow mein sandwich born?

Though it might remind you of the "spaghetti tacos" invented by a teen show in the 1990s, chow mein sandwiches are a real thing: the Chinese-style shredded meat, noodles and a bit of veg stuffed into a bun. This is really not helping us on the glycemic-index front, is it?

Which of these infamous crimes lived in Fall River, Massachusetts?

We have to call this one the Lizzie Borden "case," not "murders," because Lizzie was acquitted at trial. She went on to buy a house with her inheritance from her murdered father and stepmother, and became an animal-rights activist. By the way, the Waco massacre was in Waco. If you chose that, stay in school, sweetie!

Pick the sandwich that is NOT a New England tradition.

Of course, it's the Cuban press. But if you imagine that the Cuban press was born in Cuba, that's not exactly true. Though variants of it might be made there, it really took off in Cuban-influenced South Florida. Tampa is especially known for them.

What day is Prince Spaghetti day?

We're referring to a TV commercial that ran for, incredibly, more than a decade. In it, a woman yells, "Anthony! Anthony!" out the window, and young Anthony sprints home for dinner, because "Wednesday is Prince Spaghetti day." The commercial stopped running in the early 80s, but Prince noodles live on in New England grocery stores.

Who is Sally Lunn?

"Sally Lunn" is a type of bread, or mildly-sweet cake. The name is believed to come from the French words for "sun and moon," that is, "sol et lune." Over time, casual American speech made this "Sally Lunn."

When New Englanders use the word "wicked," it's most often what part of speech?

An adverb isn't just applied to verbs, though that's what we're first taught in schools. It can also clarify, amplify or limit an adjective ... and that's how Yankees use it. If you're proud of your kid's grades, he or she isn't just smart, they're "wicked smaht!"

In Boston, you don't "make" a U-turn, you _____ one.

"Execute" a U-turn? Don't be silly. Nobody talks that formally on the streets of Boston. The ability to deftly "bang" a U-turn is a skill that will serve you well in traffic around "the Hub." For maximum effect, say "Bang a U-ey," not "U-turn."

In which part of New England would you frequently hear "Oh my heck"?

"Oh my heck" isn't a New England thing; it's a Mormon thing. To hear it, you probably have to travel about 2000 miles west, to the state of Utah. Then again, you might find a large enclave of Mormons in New England, we suppose.

How many of the Ivy League's eight colleges are in New England?

New Englanders are justifiably proud of this bit of academic trivia. Harvard, Yale, Brown and Dartmouth fall within the six states that make up Yankee territory. Here's how the other four shake out: Columbia and Cornell are both in New York, Princeton is in New Jersey, and University of Pennsylvania -- well, that's self-explanatory.

Which of these horror writers were from the Upper Northeast?

H.P. Lovecraft lived nearly all his life in Providence, Rhode Island. Stephen King is from Maine and still lives in Bangor. He's a good example of how thoroughly New England gets into residents' blood. King could easily have a beachfront mansion in Malibu or a New York City penthouse, but you just can't get this Maine boy out of Maine.

Speaking of horror writers, H.P. Lovecraft created a famous fictitious school, Miskatonic University. In what state was it located?

Surprisingly, although Lovecraft was a homebody who rarely strayed outside his hometown of Providence, he chose Massachusetts, not Rhode Island, as the location of Miskatonic University. The school is so beloved by readers of fantastic fiction that you will occasionally see a car with a rear-window sticker reading "Miskatonic University" in varsity lettering.

True or false: New England has a NASCAR raceway.

This one just feels like it should be false, doesn't it? NASCAR, in the onetime heart of Puritan civilization? But there is one, and it's called the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Which type of fashion has its roots in the upper Northeast?

Preppy style waxes and wanes on the American fashion scene, never really going away. It had a heyday in the 80s and 90s. Staples of preppy fashion include chinos and polo shirts for guys, cardigans and pearls for girls, and "topsider" shoes, designed for boating.

Which is worse: Getting "turned around some" or getting "some turned around"?

As we learned in another question, "turned around" means "lost." If you need to clarify how lost you were, "turned around some" means to a mild degree. "Some turned around" is worse; you might have been in the woods all night.

Which of these is a New Englandism for "lost"?

Out in the Maine or Vermont woods, you don't get lost, you get "turned around." Sounds a little less scary, doesn't it? Fun fact: "Crossed up" is a baseball term, meaning the pitcher and catcher weren't on the same page about which pitch was going to be thrown.

If something is "elegant," what is it?

This one's starting to fade out of everyday use, but sometimes you'll still hear this one as a general marker of approval. "Want to go down to the diner and get some blueberry flapjacks?" "Elegant!"

Which state has the "Down East" region?

Though "Down East" is sometimes used to refer to all of Maine -- "a Down East accent" -- the term actually refers to the coast of Maine between Penobscot Bay and the Canadian border. It was commonly used by navigating sailors and fishermen.

If someone is "cunning," what are they?

"Cunning" is a Yankee term for cute. You'll hear this one applied to babies, puppies, kids, maybe articles of clothing ... it's pretty flexible. It can also be used in its traditional sense of "sly," but context should tell you when that's the case.

If you grew up in an affluent part of Boston, you were from a _______ home.

This term is derived from a class division among Irish immigrants. There were the "lace-curtain Irish" (those who had attained middle-class status) and the "shanty Irish" (the poor ones). It's a distinction you'll still hear in Boston today.

Which of these is the classic Yankee way to agree with someone?

Maine humorist Tim Sample warns outsiders NOT to try this until they've lived in New England several years and have really gone native. We'd suggests maybe never! Think of it like "Da kine" in Hawaii; you almost have to grow up there to say it properly and without any sense of irony.

Where would you find the city of Mystic?

Mystic is a seaport and fishing town in Connecticut. It had a moment in the 1980s with the movie "Mystic Pizza," which helped launch the career of a then little-known Julia Roberts, as well as Vincent D'Onofrio, who played a likable lunk of a fisherman.

A "boiled dinner" is a classic of the region. Which of these does not, generally, belong in it?

The meat for a boiled dinner is almost always a form of beef, either brisket or corned beef. This is supplemented with root vegetables and cabbage, and spiced with cloves and bay leaf. If you've got lamb to cook up, try a traditional lamb stew.

Which state refers to out-of-staters as "flatlanders"?

Vermont hasn't figured very prominently in this quiz so far, so we'll remedy that now! Vermont literally means "Green Mountain," and, as you might expect, is rather mountainous. Hence the nickname for people from elsewhere.

What doesn't belong in clam chowder?

Traditional New England clam chowder is creamy and salty, enriched with onion and celery. And of course is has clams! But tomatoes are typical of clam chowder from further south, often called "Manhattan Clam Chowder."

New Haven, Connecticut, is (oddly enough) associated with which of these ethnic foods?

This comes as a reminder that pizza is an American creation, not Italian. That's why Chicago is known for its deep-dish pizza, and New Haven for its thin-crust pies made in a coal oven. To be really traditional, ask for clams as a topping.

Scores of "peepers" have come to your town. What should you do?

"Peepers" is short for "leaf peepers." If that doesn't clear it up: We mean tourists who have come just for the autumn season to see the leaves turn. Sell them souvenirs, rent them rooms, or just ignore them ... they'll leave when winter rolls around.

What's the capital of Vermont?

Okay, the capital of Vermont is Montpelier. We left it out of the answer options in order not to have a conflict with the small joke we're making at Montpelier's expense. It's the smallest capital city (by population) in the United States, and the one of the most likely for students to blank out on during a state capitals quiz.

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