The Guide to Buffalo English

"Welcome to Buffalo, where uppers aren't drugs and Texas Hots are Greek."

Last updated - 18 May 1999

Like so many others, I'm a "Generation X-Buffalonian," who left the Niagara Frontier (for a second time) at the end of 1996. However, I bucked the trend of fleeing for Charlotte, North Carolina ("Buffalo South"), and instead moved to Denver, Colorado. I'm planning on some major changes to this page, but I'll need help from you. If you have any contributions, in the form of vocabulary, quirks or digitized images, send them my way -- tasman (at) Yes, you'll get credit for any contributions.

26 September 1999 - I'm amazed at the response to the recent Buffalo News article about this page. (Nicole, you're a sweetheart!) Please give Dad and Mom and my relatives a break, though. Don't call every "Tasman" you see in the Buffalo phone directory, trying to find me. Because I don't have the political connections it takes to find a job as an urban planner in local government, I moved out of Western New York. I live in Denver, Colorado -- not Buffalo! You know -- Broncos, brewpubs on every block, Ford Excursions in every driveway, skiing, Dynasty reruns, mountains, inflated real estate prices, every male older than 16 required to don a goatee and baseball cap by law, and all that. Send e-mail to tasman (at), and I'll respond within a few days or so. If you really want to call, call 1-303-555-1212, and request my number from information -- it's listed. Okay?

Some general technicalities

Naming city regions

When refering to general areas in Buffalo, the following designations are used: The words "Buffalo" and "Side" are usually not interchangable. It is considered incorrect Buffalo English to refer to "East Buffalo" or "West Buffalo," although you'll occasionally hear references to the "North Side" or "South Side."

Confusing the three Tonawandas

There are three contiguous suburbs of Buffalo with "Tonawanda" in their name. This often causes confustion to outsiders normally used to suburbs all having different names. "Tonawanda Township," or simply "Tonawanda," is the largest, a middle class community of around 85,000 residents located directly north of Buffalo. The "City of Tonawanda" is an older, smaller incorporated city located in the north section of Tonawanda Township, where the Niagara River-East Branch meets Tonawanda Creek. "North Tonawanda" is in Niagara County, north of the previously mentioned Tonawandas, and is an older industrial city of some 50,000 residents.

What is it, Williamsville or Amherst?

Amherst is an affluent suburban town of some 130,000 residents, located adjacent to and northeast of Buffalo. Williamsville is a quaint incorporated village, about two square miles in area, largely surrounded by the Town of Amherst. However, Western New York residents often consider an area far beyond the village boundaries to be "Williamsville," which can be confusing to newcomers. Most places that some think are in Williamsville are actually in Amherst and Clarence, specifically the 14221 Zip Code and adjacent areas along Transit Road (NY 78). Also, the Williamsville School District (including Williamsville North, South and East High Schools) covers the eastern half of Amherst, which makes the whole "Where is Williamsville?" think even more confusing.

The Village of Williamsville is actually a part of the Town of Amherst. In New York State, villages are considered parts of the underlying towns. (Kenmore is part of Tonawanda; the Village of Hamburg is part of the Town of Hamburg, and so on.) Amherst Town Hall is located in the Village of WIlliamsville. Amherst also provides many of Williamsville's services, such as police protection. While technically Williamsville is a part of Amherst, Amherst is not a part of Williamsville.

Unlike residents of other towns, few Amherst residents refer to their home as just "Amherst." More often, a hamlet name will be used, such as Snyder, Eggertsville, East Amherst, North Amherst, Swormville and Getzville. These are not official government entities, although they may be marked on maps. A similar situation exists in the southern suburb of Hamburg, where residents identify closely with the Carnegie, Mt. Vernon, Locksley Park, Athol Springs, Bay View, Clifton Heights, Wanakah, Scranton and Woodlawn hamlets. You can send mail to "Snyder, New York," or "Wanakah, New York," but not "Black Rock, New York" or "Parkside, New York."

There's probably a lot more that I can say about this, but let's move on ...

Decoding real estate ads

There are several uncommon words used to describe homes and apartments in Buffalo. The vocabulary list defines -

Many homes and flats (apartments) are advertised according to the church parish they are located in. This can be especially confusing to non-Catholics. This is done for several reasons, including -

Homes listed under the Buffalo News classified categories for Snyder and Eggertsville are actually in Amherst. Most homes in the Williamsville category will also be in Amherst.

Many apartment ads will say "appliances included." That's because unlike most other cities, appliances aren't provided in many apartments. Outside of student ghettoes, you're often expected to supply your own stove and refrigerator!

Coming soon -- a word to Buffalo area Realtors about their incorrect usage of terminology describing residential architectural styles. In other words, quit calling 1920s-era Buffalo Bungalows and two-flats "colonials" or anything built before World War I a "victorian" !!! BAHHHHHH!!!

Archaic usage (old names)

Many older residents will refer to stores, shopping centers and other landmarks by an old name, often one not used in 30 or more years. The most common old names still used by stubborn old farts are as follows:
 Old usage   Current usage
 ---------   -------------
 AM&Amp;As    Bon-Ton (department store)
 Bells    Quality Markets (supermarket)
 Como Mall   Appletree Business Centre 
 Courier (Express)  Buffalo News Sunrise Edition
 GEX    Super Flea
 Hengerer's   Kaufmanns (department store)
 Hens & Kelly   AM&Amp;As/Bon-Ton @ Northtown Plaza
 Humboldt Park   Martin Luther King Park
 Loblaws   Quality Markets
 numbered schools (city) name of the school
 Park Casino   Stuffed Mushroom (bar)
 Pennysaver   Metro Community News
 Rich Stadium   Ralph Wilson Stadium
 Rosary Hill College  Daemen College
 Shelton Square   corner of Main Street & Cathederal Park
 Sibley's   Kaufmanns (department store)
 State Teacher's College Buffalo State College
 Super Duper   Jubilee Markets (supermarket)
 Thruway Plaza   the pile of rubble that was the Thruway Mall
 Town Casino   Pfeiffer Theatre
 Twin Fair   anthing that used to be a Twin Fair
 Two Guys   Silo/TJ Maxx/Media Play on Sheridan Drive
 University of Buffalo    University at Buffalo
 Your Host   any restaurant that used to be a Your Host

The Buffalo accent

Linguist Wolfgang W lck has written several articles in various academic journals about the Buffalo accent, which he calls "Buffalo English." (Unfortunately, none of his excellent journal articles are on the Internet, and I'm very reluctant to transcribe them without his permission.) The most well-defined characteristics of Buffalo English include - If you want to hear a strong Buffalo Italian accent, listen to any of the ubiquitous Pat Gambino Ford commercials that air on Channel 7 ("Hi Mahm!"), or watch the news and wait for a speech by Buffalo mayor Tony Masiello. To hear the Buffalo Polish accent, head out to a bowling alley or neighborhood bar in Cheektowaga, Sloan or Depew, or in the city's Black Rock, Broadway-Fillmore, Lovejoy, St. John Kanty or Kaisertown neighborhoods. Better yet, listen to WGR (AM 550, a local news/sports talk radio station) and wait for a call from East Side Eddie.

Da' Toonahntey

One frequently observed speaking pattern by alt.culture.ny-upstaters is the placing of the word "the" before naming an expressway. While other people may say "To get downtown, take I-90 to Route 33 east," Buffalonians will likely say "To get downtown, take the 90 to the 33 east." One can also say "Take the Thruway to the Kensington east"). Only expressways and similar limited access highways are elevated to "the" status; nobody refers to "The Sheridan Drive," "The Main Street" or "the 5."


Another strange linguistic trait among Buffalonians is the "posessification" of many business names, where it is changed to the posessive case. For example, it's common to hear Buffalonians refer to "Rite Aid's," "Kmart's" or "Noco's," as if there's a "Mr. Noco" that owns the gas station chain. In some cases a business name is shortened and the posessive case added, for instance Blockbuster Video becomes "Blockbuster's," and La Nova Pizzeria changes to simply "Nova's." Wolck doesn't mention posessification or "theification" of expressway names in any of his studies of Buffalo English, but the traits are commonly discussed on the Usenet alt.culture.ny-upstate newsgroup.

A Buffalonian, in describing errands for the day, might say "I gotta' go to Fleet's to deposit my paycheck, then I gotta' drive over to Quality's and get some groceries, then maybe get some lunch at Burger King's and buy some fertilizer at Wal-Mart's later." The habit is so pervasive that one area restaurant, The Abilene Cattle Company, started to call itself "Abilene's" on radio ads a few months after it opened because that's what everyone else called it.

Posessification is not to be confused with adding an apostrophe-s to pluralize words, as is common in ads that haven't been proofread or cheap, handpainted store signs on East Side bodegas ("i.e. GET LOTTO TICKET'S HERE", "40 OUNCE'S", "WE ACCEPT FOOD STAMP'S" and so on).

To sum all up, the typical Buffalonian will still be shopping at AM&A's for the next ten years, after which they'll call the place "Bon-Ton's," pronounced as "Bahn-tahns". To get there from the "Tahn-ah-tahn-ah-wahn-dah", they'll drive on "The Youngmann" to "The 90" to the Walden Galleria. If the person's name is Alfreida, Sophie or Stan, they'll call it "da Walden Galleria Mall dere," or worse, "dat big mall where da Leonard Post used to be dere."

The list

(soon to include links and graphics -- stay tuned!)

ALLENTOWN - a historic neighborhood in the vicinity of Allen Street and Elmwood Avenue, just north of Downtown Buffalo. Allentown is home of one of the nation's largest historic preservation districts and the Allentown Art Festival, the country's largest outdoor art festival. Allentown the Buffalo neighborhood is not to be confused with Allentown, Pennsylvania. See also BOYS TOWN.

ALL PAPER - signifies a bingo game that does not use reusable bingo cards. The cards in an "all paper" game consists of a pad with many newsprint bingo sheets. Numbers are marked by a bingo marker or crayon, and a used sheet is torn off the pad at the end of the round.

ANTHONY - current Buffalo mayor Anthony Masiello. Best pronounced with an Buffalo Italian accent, like "AYN-tinny". See also TONY.

THE AUD - Buffalo War Memorial Auditorium in Downtown Buffalo, home of the Buffalo Sabres and a growing number of unusual ... okay, schlock sports teams like the Buffalo Bandits (lacrosse) and the Buffalo Stampede (roller hockey).

BACKHOUSE - a house in the back of a (usually narrow) lot which contains more than one freestanding house, the other being in the front of the parcel by the street (fronthouse). Common on Buffalo's West Side and in Black Rock. See also REAR.

BARFALO - a nickname for Buffalo used by Canadians, particulatly those in the Hamilton and Toronto area. The term is usually intended to evoke memories of Buffalo's decline in importance compared to the Toronto area. Barfalo can also refer to the city's abundance of bars and late last call (4:00 AM) compared to Canadian cities.

BEEF ON WECK - a roast beef sandwich on a salty kimmelweck roll. A Beef on Weck is considered a local delicacy, ranking with chicken wings, char-broiled hot dogs and Texas Hots.

BEEF ON WICK - alternative spelling and pronunciation of Beef on Weck, usually used by older Buffalonians and eastern suburbanites.

THE BIG BLUE WATER TOWER - a large, blue, somewhat phallic water tower in the Town of Amherst, used as a landmark by radio traffic reporters for the interchange of the Youngmann Expressway (I-290) with the New York State Thruway (I-90).

BILL GODWIN - Linda Just describes it better than I could.

My cousin linked your site with an Email message.You are probably too young to remember, but there was a popular and very unique expression that originated in my neighborhood in South Buffalo, not all Irish,; I'm of Polish-Italian descent, back in the 60's. I grew up with a boy named: "Bill Godwin". Bill was known to be the last one to hear the news. His stories were mostly old news. Someone would begin to tell you some news and if you already heard it, you replied, "Oh, Bill Godwin." It became a so popular that the expression spread as west as Chicago, and as East as New York. It may have been used on American Bandstand! Do you remember it?
BLUE - Labatt's Blue Beer.

BOMBERS - Term used locally in the 1940s and 1950s to describe submarine sandwiches.

THE BUFF - another nickname for Buffalo, usually used by disk jockeys on the city's many classic rock radio stations. ("It's another snowy night in The Buff, and our Led Zeppelin marathon continues on 97 Rock with Stairway to Heaven...")

BUFF STATE - SUNY College at Buffalo. Not to be confused with UB. See also MUFF STATE.

BUMPER SKATING - hanging of the bumper of a car and sliding with it along an ice-covered street. See also POGEYING, SKEDDING, SKEECHING.

THE BOULEVARD - Niagara Falls Boulevard, one of the area's suburban strip shopping areas. The Boulevard is rapidly transforming from a tacky 1960s era commercial strip to the region's largest and busiest retail center.

BON-TON - the name of the York, Pennsylvania-based department store chain which bought out AM&Amp;As. French for "good tone," roughly equivalent in meaning to "good taste".

BOYS TOWN - a nickname for the Allentown neighborhood, so called because of the relatively high concentration of male residents which practice an "alternative lifestyle." See also ALLENTOWN.

BREWER'S RETAIL - government-owned beer stores in Canada. Ontario law prohibits the sales of alcoholic beverages in supermarkets, convenience stores and other related outlets. See also BLUE.

BUFFALO SOUTH - Charlotte, North Carolina, the primary destination for "Generation X-Buffalonian."

BUTTANA - Italian profanity meaning "c**t." Often used among Buffalo area Italian-Americans to describe a woman with loose morals.

CANADIAN BALLET - a strip joint in Fort Erie or Niagara Falls, Ontario. Full nudity and lap dances are permitted by adult entertainment establishments (strip joints) in Ontario; thus there is a high concentration of them in Canadian border towns, but relatively few on the American side.

CANISHIT COLLEGE - derogatory term for Canisius College. See also GOOD CATHOLIC FUN.

CARRIAGE HOUSE - a freestanding garage-type building which was used at one time for quartering horses, but later converted to a residential structure. Carriage houses are usually behind older homes, particularly mansions, in Buffalo's Delaware District. See also BACKHOUSE.

CHAR-BROILED HOT - a hot dog cooked on a charcoal grill. Char-broiled hots are considered a local delicacy, with the mini-chain Ted's known as serving up the best examples.

CHEEKTOVEGAS - a nickname for the Town of Cheektowaga, referring to the predilection of Cheektowagans for tacky art, both inside and outside of their homes.

CHEEKTOWARSAW - a nickname for the Town of Cheektowaga, so called because of the town's large and highly visible Polish population. (According to the Census, only 29% of Cheektowaga's population is of Polish descent, but Polish-Americans tend to dominate the town's culture and politics.)

CHIAVETTA - barbecued chicken served at lawn fetes (see definition), named for the catering company that usually provides it. (sign ex.- "Our Lady of the Blessed Shroud Lawn Fete - Rides, Bands, Games, Chiavetta"). The word is quickly becoming a generic word for barbecued chicken - "Let's gota' Boston Chicken's and get some Chiavetta." See also LAWN FETE.

CHOWDER - chicken chowder, a tomato/chicken/vegetable "soup" that is >> primarily known in Niagara Country, traditionally served at volunteer fire department field days.

THE CITY OF GOOD NEIGHBORS - one of Buffalo's many nicknames, refering to the hospitality of its residents.

THE CITY OF NO ILLUSIONS - a nickname for Buffalo popularized by T-shirts sold by New Buffalo Graphics on Elmwood Avenue. The phrase, conceived in the early 1980s, refers to the good news-bad news nature of living in Buffalo and coping with its occasional setbacks, like plant closings and Super Bowl losses.

CRICK - creek, stream or other small flowing body of water.

CROSS-BORDER COMMUTING - the act of a Canadian citizen residing in the United States, particularly Buffalo or its suburbs, and commuting to their job in Canada, taking advantage of lower housing costs in the United States.

CROSS-BORDER SHOPPING - the act of Canadian citizens shopping in the United States, particularly Buffalo-area shopping malls and supermarkets, to take advantage of lower prices and taxes. (ex.- "Gordy and Louise drove all the way from Mississauga to do some cross-border shopping.")

DERE - Cheektowaga accent/Polish ethnolect pronunciation of "there," sometimes used at the end of sentences (see example in the DUPA definition), much like Canadians use "eh?". Occasionally spelled "der."

DOOVILLE - The Buffalonain pronounciation of D'Youville College, a small, four year institution of higher learning on the West Side known for its allied health programs.

DUPA - Polish for "butt." Used as an insult among Buffalo area Polish- Americans. (ex.- "Stash, you dupa, you have to hook up the fire hose before you open the hydrant dere!")

THE EASTTOWNS - the eastern suburbs of Buffalo, including Cheektowaga, Sloan Village, Depew Village, Lancaster, Lancaster Village and Alden. Seldom used, in comparison to "the Northtowns" and "the Southtowns."

EGGERTSVILLE - a neighborhood in the Town of Amherst, in the proximity of the intersection of Main Street and Eggert Road, adjacent to the northeast corner of the City of Buffalo. Eggertsville contains some of Buffalo's most affluent neighborhoods, and was developed from the late 1920s to the early 1950s. Because Eggertsville has its own mailing address, separate from Amherst, it is often mistakenly considered a separate town or entity.

THE FAIR - the Erie County Fair, held for two weeks at the end of August. The Erie County Fair is the United States' largest county fair, despite the urban nature of Erie County, and traditionally marks the end of summer.

FISH FRY - a breaded, often beer-battered fish, traditionally served in most Buffalo area restaurants on Friday. Many Catholics do not eat red meat on Friday because of an (outdated) prohibition on eating meat that day by the Catholic Church, so many restaurants serve fish fry as an alternative. Unlike wings, it is impossible to find a bad fish fry.

FLAT - a dwelling unit in a multi-family house where one apartment is above the other ("two-flat" or "three-flat"). Flat is considered a British English word, but its usage is quite common in Buffalo.

FORT MAKOWSKI - a plan by former Buffalo Mayor Stanley Makowski to build a maze-like structure around the McKinley Monument in Niagara Square. Loud protest by citizen groups and preservationists blocked Fort Makowski from ever being built.

FRONT - (1) the front unit in a multi-family telescoping house which has one unit in the front, another in the back. (2) the main house on a lot which has a carriage house or other smaller freestanding dwellings in the rear of the lot. (3) see also FRONTHOUSE.

FRONTHOUSE - the house at the front of a (usually narrow) lot which contains more than one freestanding house, the other(s) being in the rear of the parcel (backhouse). Common on Buffalo's West Side. See also FRONT.

FUNGULA - Italian for "f**k." Often pronounced fahn-GOOO. Fungala is used interchangably with the English profanity by many Buffalo area Italian- Americans. (ex.-"Fungula! Nova's put friggin' anchovies on 'dis pizza!")

GALLERIA MALL - the Walden Galleria. Many locals call the Walden Galleria the "Galleria Mall" because all enclosed shopping centers previous to its opening had the suffix "mall." Buffalo had no "squares," "centers," "commons," "fairs" or "gallerias," common suffizes for shopping center names in other parts of the country. Because the habit of calling a shopping center "[something] Mall" was hard to break, people just naturally added the non-existent "mall" sufix to the Galleria when it first opened.

GENNY - Genesee Beer. Sometimes spelled "Jenny." See also GREEN DEATH, POUNDERS, SCREAMERS.

GOLDEN - Molson Golden Ale.

GONORRHEA MALL - the Walden Galleria. Gonorrhea ... galleria ... get it?

GOOD CATHOLIC FUN - engaging in an activity traditionally overrepresented by Canisius College or Catholic single-sex high school students (Canisius High, St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute, Bishop Timon, Nardin Academy, Sacred Heart Academy, ad infinitum) such as crew, ordering from J. Crew, lacrosse or hanging out in a bar with lots of wood and brass. Good Catholic Fun activities are usually preppy in nature, as opposed to more blue-collar Catholic church-related entertainment such as lawn fetes (see definition), bingo and spaghetti dinners. See also CANISHIT COLLEGE.

GORDY - derogatory term for a Canadian. Supposedly, many Canadians are named Gordy. Someone who is real Canadian can be called a "Gordy McGordy," or, as many Buffalo area waiters and waitresses say, "Donut-eatin', eh-sayin', factory outlet shoppin', curling playin', high stickin', one A.M. bar closin', buyin' gas by the liter and Molson by the two-four, low tipping Gordy. See also NORK.

GREEK RESTAURANT - An independently-owned "family-style" table service restaurant or diner. Many restaurants of this type in the Buffalo area are owned by Greek immigrants. See also "ORIGINAL HOME OF THE SOUVLAKI."


GREEN LIGHTNING - a short-lived neon sculpture displayed in the median strip of the Kensington Expressway near Downtown Buffalo, which depicted four dancing penises. Green Lightning was ordered removed by then-mayor Jimmy Griffin after it was first unveiled. (Buffalo was known for its many examples of public neon art, much of which has fallen into disrepair.) See also JIMMY.


GST - Goods and Services Tax, charged on most purchases in Canada. The GST is often called "Go South Tax" and "Go Shop in Tonawanda" by some wittier Canadians. See also CROSS-BORDER SHOPPING.

HOME OF THE ORIGINAL SOUVLAKI - What every one of Buffalo's 100+ Greek restaurants claims to be. See also GREEK RESTAURANT.

HYDRO - Canadian English for "electricity." Most electric utility companies in Canada are named "[region] Hydro," and the word evolved to become equivalent with "electric". Appliances are not plugged into the electrical socket, but rather the "hydro socket."

INFILL - the act of building new homes on vacant lots located close to the center of the city. Many parts of Buffalo's Lower East Side are experiencing a large amount of infill development.

IRON ISLAND - a nickname for Buffalo's Lovejoy neighborhood. "Iron Island" refers to the neighborhood being completely surrounded by railroad tracks. Lovejoy is a working and middle class neighborhood whose residents are mostly of Polish and Italian descent.

THE ISLAND - The town of Grand Island, located between the Town of Tonawanda and the city of Niagara Falls. The Island is isolated from the New York State mainland by the East and West Branches of the Niagara River, and is accessible only by crossing one of the Niagara Thruway (I-90) bridges on the north and south end of the town.

JIMMY - James D. Griffin, the previous mayor of Buffalo. Jimmy was known for being in office practically forever (1978-1993), his short temper and colorful personality. Originator of the phrase "Go get a six-pack." See also GREEN LIGHTNING.

THE KENSINGTON - the Kensington Expressway (NY 33), the primary arterial between Downtown Buffalo and the eastern suburbs. While traffic reporters and locals refer to "the Kensington", it is not named on any signs.

LAKE EFFECT SNOW - snow generated when moisture-laden winds pass over Lake Erie. (Perhaps a meterologist can offer a more detailed technical explanation.)

LAWN FETE - an outdoor carnival held at a Roman Catholic church, usually during the summer. (Protestant churches do not have lawn fetes, because there are very few of them in Buffalo and their congregations are much smaller than the massive Catholic patrishes.) See also CHIAVETTA.


LOGANBERRY - An uncarbonated fruit drink made from loganberry juice.


LOWER FLAT - the downstairs or "lower" apartment in a two-flat residence. See also FLAT, TWO FLAT, UPPER FLAT.

THE MAINLINE - the New York State Thruway (I-90), excluding the Niagara Thruway (I-190).

MARY ON THE HALF SHELL - display of a Virgin Mary statue under a partially buried, upright clawfoot bathtub or similar object. More common in blue collar eastern suburbs (Cheektowaga, Depew, Sloan) than other areas. See also POLISH PORCH.

METRO - (1) Canadian terminology for Toronto, because it has what s called a "metropolitan" form of government with shared services among several suburban communties. This term is often heard but rarely used by United States residents. (2) see METRO RAIL.

METRO BUS - the NFTA (see definition) bus system, serving Erie and Niagara counties. See also NFTA, METRO RAIL.

METRO RAIL - Buffalo's rapid transit system. Sometimes called "light rail" because the trains are powered by overhead wires, as opposed to "Heavy rail" which is powered by a third rail along the tracks. Also called "the train to nowhere," since the system is far from complete. See also METRO BUS, NFTA.

MEXICAN - A sundae consisting of vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup and topped with spanish peanuts (the salty red ones w/skins).

MILK CHUTE - A feature resembling a very large pass-through mailbox found on many older houses in the Buffalo area, where milkmen used to place milk deliveries.

THE MISTAKE ON THE LAKE - a nickname used for Buffalo during the 1970s, then the city's overall future was in doubt. "The Mistake on the Lake" more commonly refers to Cleveland.

MUFF STATE - SUNY College at Buffalo (Buffalo State College), so called because of the school's high ratio of women to men, and their reported liberal attitude towards casual sex. See also BUFF STATE.

THE NAP - North Americare Park, a baseball stadium in downtown Buffalo that was formerly called Pilot Field.

NIAGARA - Canadian terminology for the region that includes the cities of Fort Erie, Port Colborne, Welland, Thorold, Niagara Falls and St. Catharines in Ontario, excluding any parts of the United States. Rarely used by United States residents. (ex.- The QEW passes through Niagara on the way to Toronto.)

THE NIAGARA FRONTIER - A nickname for the Buffalo-Niagara Falls metropolitan area, including Erie and Niagara Counties in New York state and the Regional Municipality of Niagara in Ontario. The origin of this term is unknown, but its usage dates back to the late 1800s.

NICKEL CITY - CB slang for Buffalo. (Remember Indian nickels, the pre-1938 5 cent coins with the buffalo on the rear?)

NFTA - Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority. A quasi-public governmental body that operates public transit in Buffalo, the Greater Buffalo International Airport, the Niagara Falls International Airport, and the Port of Buffalo. The NFTA is a rough equivalent to the Port Authority of New York. See also METRO BUS, METRO RAIL.

NORK - derogatory term for a Canadian. (North + dORK) See also GORDY.

THE NORTHTOWNS - the northern suburbs of Buffalo, including Tonawanda, Kenmore Village, Amherst, Williamsvile Village and Clarence. May or may not include Wheatfield, Tonawanda City and North Tonawanda, depending on speaker.

N.T. - North Tonawanda, an industrial suburb between Buffalo and Niagara Falls.

O.P. - Orchard Park, an affluent suburb located southeast of Buffalo.

ORANGE CRATE - the nickname for Lackawanna's City Hall, so called because it looks like a big orange milk crate.

ORIGINAL HOME OF THE SOUVLAKI - what every Greek restaurant in Buffalo claims to be.

POGEYING - hanging of the bumper of a car and sliding with it along an ice-covered street. This term is mainly used in the Kensington neighborhood. See also BUMPER SKIING, SKEECHING, SKEDDING.

POLONIA - once the name of Buffalo's Broadway-Fillmore neighborghood, but now referring to Buffalo's Polish community as a whole. (ex. - "Polonia is very supportive of Dr. Atwal's efforts to provide surgical equipment to Polish clinics.")

POLISH PORCH - a garage that is used as a substitute for the living room during the summer months, having a large screen door replacing the normal garage door. Polish Porches are quite common in Cheektowaga and Depew, communities that have a large Polish-American population. Also called "Polish patio." See also MARY ON THE HALF SHELL.

POP - the one true word for a flavored carbonated beverage or soft drink.

POUNDER - a sixteen ounce (530 ml) bottle of Genesee Beer or Cream Ale. See also GENNY, GREEN DEATH, SCREAMER.

THE QEW - the Queen Elizabeth Way, an expressway linking Buffalo and Toronto. Also called the Queen E, QE and the Road With No Potholes.

THE QUEEN CITY - an older nickname for Buffalo. The origins of this name are questionable, referring either to Buffalo's status as the second largest city in New York State or its previous position as a major Great Lakes port.

RACHACHA - Rochester, New York. Rachacha exports to Buffalo include Kodak film, college students, Wegmans and Screamers.

REAR - (1) the rear unit in a multi-family telescoping house which has one unit in the front, another in the back. (2) a carriage house or other smaller freestanding residence in the rear of a lot which contains more than one house. (3) See also BACKHOUSE.

RICH - (1) Rich Stadium, in Orchard Park. ex.- "Da' Bills play in Rich." (2) an adjective describing Canisius College students and residents of Amherst, Clarence and Orchard Park.

RIVER RAT - A resident of the Black Rock or Riverside neighborhoods in the city of Buffalo.

ROCKPILE - A nickname for War Memorial Stadium, located at the northwest corner of Jefferson Avenue and Best Street on Buffalo's East Side. The Rockpile was torn down in 1993.

THE S-CURVE - Delaware Avenue between the Scajaquada Expressway (NY 198) and Forest Avenue, named because of its twisting configuration. Local preservationists have blocked plans to straighten the curves.

THE SCAJQUADA - the Scajaquada Expressway (NY 198), a winding arterial that connects the Kensington Expressway (NY 33) with the Niagara Thruway (I-190). Named for Scajaquada Creek, whose course the expressway roughly follows.

SCREAMER - a bottle of Genesee Cream Ale, named for its laxative qualities. See also GENNY, GREEN DEATH, POUNDER.

SKEDDING - hanging of the bumper of a car and sliding with it along an ice-covered street. See also BUMPER SKIING, POGEYING, SKEECHING.

SKEECHING - hanging of the bumper of a car and sliding with it along an ice-covered stree. See also BUMPER SKIING, POGEYING, SKEDDING.

SNYDER - a neighborhood in the Town of Amherst, in the proximity of the intersection of Main Street and Harlem Road. Snyder is one of Buffalo's most affluent neighborhoods, and was developed from the late 1920s to the early 1950s. Because Snyder has its own mailing address, separate from Amherst, it is often mistakenly considered a separate town or entity.

SODA - what you get at Dairy Queen; soda water with ice cream amd syrup in it.

SOUTH BUFFALO - A section of Buffalo generally consisting of all areas within the city limits south of the Buffalo River and the First Ward and Old Valley neighborhoods north of the Buffalo River. South Buffalo is known for being a predominantly Irish neighborhood.

SPLIT - A small bottle of beer or pop, usually ranging in size from six to seven ounces (125-150 ml).

TELESCOPING HOUSE - an older style of home, commonly found on the East and West Sides, where multiple additions were made to the back, each narrower than the last.

TEXAS HOTS - a style of hot dog known for its hot, spicy sauce. Texas hots originated in the kitchens of Buffalo's many Greek restaurants, not in Texas.

THE TONAWANDAS - referring to the Town of Tonawanda, City of Tonawanda and the City of North Tonawanda.

TO - Toronto (pronounced tee-oh). Also pronounced "tronno" and "tronna."

TONY - current Buffalo mayor Anthony Masiello. Best pronounced with an Italian accent, like slowly combining the words "toe" and "knee." See also ANTHONY.

TWIN CITIES - referring to the City of Tonawanda and the City of North Tonawanda, excluding the Town of Tonawanda.

TWIN-TON - referring to both Tonawanda (the city, not the town) and North Tonawanda. Not related to the Bon-Ton department store chain.

TWO FLAT - a two family residence, with one unit directly above the other (unlike a suburban duplex where the units are side-by-side). The two-flat is a type of house that is unique to the Buffalo area, common in city neghborhoods and in older suburban areas such as Kenmore and Lackawanna. See also UPPER FLAT, LOWER FLAT, FLAT.

THE SOUTHTOWNS - the southern suburbs of Buffalo, generally Hamburg, Orchard Park, Boston, Eden, Elma, East Aurora and other towns located south of the Buffalo River.

THE STRIP - a three mile (five kilometer) stretch of Elmwood Avenue between Forest Street and Virginia Street, which is home to a vibrant commercial district containing a large number of bookstores, restaurants, bars, galleries and other trendy establishments. The Strip is one of the centers of Buffalo's nightlife, and in some places defined by a blue neon strip placed between the first and second floors of many buildings.

THE [street name] STRIP - used to refer to other streets with heavy concentrations of bars, for instance The Seneca Strip, The Hertel Strip and the Oliver Strip. Not to be confused with "The Strip," which always refers to Elmwood Avenue.

UB - State University of New York at Buffalo (University at Buffalo). Not to be confused with Buff State.


UPPER FLAT - the upstairs apartment or "upper" in a two flat building. See also LOWER FLAT, FLAT, TWO FLAT.

VILLA - Villa Maria College, a two-year institution of higher learning located on the border of Cheektowaga and Buffalo's Schiller Park neighborhood. Villa is known for its "wholesome" majors like gerentology and social work.

VIRGIN VAULT - Canavan Hall, an single-sex female dormitory at Daemen College. Named because of the dorn's strict intervisitation policy and the reported Ivory Soap-pure quality of its residents.

WHAT ARE YA'? - A question that a Buffalonian might ask you upon hearing your last name for the first time, if you name isn't obviously Italian, Polish or Irish.

WHAT'S DA DAMAGES? - A question a Buffalonian asks when they're asking for the check at a restaurant, or otherwise inquiring about charges for a product or service.

WINGS - chicken wings, called "Buffalo wings" by outsiders. Buffalo-style chicken wings were originally served at Frank and Teresa's Anchor Bar on Main Street. Chicken wings are the most popular regional food originating in Buffalo.

WILLIAMSVILLE - a small, quaint village northeast of Buffalo, completely surrounded by the affluent town of Amherst. Often "Williamsville" is used to refer to a large portion of the towns of Amherst, Clarence and Lancaster, frequently confusing non-natives.

THE YOUNGMANN - the Youngmann Expressway (I-290), a six-lane expressway through Buffalo's northern suburbs of Amherst and Tonawanda, connecting the Thruway (I-90) with the Niagara Thruway (I-190). As with the Kensington Expressway, no signs refer directly to the "Youngmann Expressway." Mark Wozniak provides this insight into the naming of the Youngmann Expressway -

I was browsing your Buffalo English guide for the first time in ages, and saw the question re "The Youngmann". The 290 was originally to be called the Power Line Expressway, since it adjoins the high tension lines for most of its length. Elmer G. H. Youngmann was one of the project engineers who died during the road's construction in the early 60s, and the road was named in his memory.

Showing my age, I remember going on vacation with my parents to Corning in August 1963 (around the time of the great WNY floods), and getting on the new expressway at Millersport. It had just opened between Main and Millersport, and the pavement ended just north of Millersport. It opened to Niagara Falls Boulevard sometime in 1964, and a year or so later was completed through Tonawanda. I also have seen in the (Greenhaven branch) library recently a Town of Tonawanda brochure published around 1966, talking up how great the town is. There's one aerial view that shows road construction crews at the 290/190 split.

One other not so fine father's boss was the first person killed in an accident on the road, hitting the railing abutment from the 290 westbound to the 190 southbound only a week or so after the road opened. The railing there begins just after the curve starts, in other words, the abutment is directly in line with the traffic lanes. The road was poorly designed (maybe that's why Elmer Youngmann died early?)...the original separate exit lanes caused a lot of accidents, and for a while the road had the highest concentration of speed traps in the state because of the abnormally high accident rates.

YOUSE - Plural case of "you."

Special thanks to:
barring (at) (David Mix Barrington)
bfowoz (at) (Mark Wozniak)
bob (at) (Robert Reville)
brothmanbj (at)> (Bernard Brothman)
cmurphy (at) (Colleen Murphy)
dudek (at) (The Cybard)
ghb1 (at) (Gregory Bondar)
gmosure (at) (Gregory Mosure)
jmilitel (at) (Joe Militello)
justl (at) (Linda Just)
kevinp (at) (Kevin Phillips)
Konopski_Mike/tiger_adms (at) (Mike Konopski)
l-graham (at) (Laurel Graham)
lnyman (at) (Lisa Nyman)
panda (at) (Lisa Wolfisch Nyman)
rsmiller (at)
slitwin (at) (Steve Litwin)
toneymv (at) (Monika Toney)
V140PXGT (at) (Dan Case)
yaros (at) (Steve Yaros)
yearke (at) (Dave Yearke)

If you didn't get credited for a contribution, please let me know and I'll be glad to add you to the list of contributors. Additions and comments can be sent to tasman (at)

This document is Copyright 1991-1999 by Daniel P. Tasman, all rights reserved. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced on paper, or electronically on any system connected to the various networks which make up the Internet, USENET, and FidoNet so long as it is reproduced in its entirety, unedited, and with this copyright notice intact.

A special notice to other regional slang and vocabulary enthusiasts : please notify me (tasman (at) if you are considering using or copying any of the definitions in the Guide to Buffalo English for your own lists. In other words, I don't want to see this list used as a basis for writing the "Buffalo" section in Slanguages, or any similar Web site or publication, without prior permission and giving credit where credit is due.

Dan Tasman - tasman (at)

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