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New Dictionary Defines Bubbler, Sheepshead and Other Wisconsin Terms


If you’ve celebrated a golden birthday, played Sheepshead or directed a thirsty friend to the bubbler … you are probably a cheesehead. The Dictionary of American Regional English chronicles these Badger-state terms – as well as colloquialisms from the rest of the country.

"Language is very much a reflection of who we are. It tells about where our families have come from, what people have created our communities, what affects we’ve endured in out living" says Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) chief editor Joan Houston Hall.

It might seem strange to gather nationally uncommon words and terms with a very specific regional use, but DARE shows how fun language can be and how Merriam-Webster and Oxford are not the purveyors of words-- the people are.

Here are three Wisconsin terms common to some; chuckle worthy to others:

1. Lawyer-  The terms might make the Milwaukee native shiver, but to some up in Door County the word lawyer is used for cod.

2. Terrace- A Madison term for the strip between the sidewalk and the curb. It mysteriously collects broken glass, and is a great place to throw an old couch.

3. Spanish Hamburger- Sloppy Joes can be called this term in the Milwaukee area.  But you know them simply as gross.

Joan Houston Hall edits the Dictionary of American Regional English, based at UW-Madison since 1963. To test your knowledge of regional terminology, check out the DARE quizzes.