Want to make a martini in Connecticut? Head for the package store to buy the gin or vodka, you can’t buy hard liquor in a grocery store. Liquor stores are called package stores in all of New England. After a while, the two words get hard to carry around, and you fall into the New England habit of calling the liquor store “the packy,” as in, “I’m going for a six-pack of bee-ah, want me to fetchup one for you?” I said it for years; it became part of my vocabulary.
When we moved to the D.C. area, I didn’t think twice about asking, “Where can I find a packy?” when I wanted to buy the backbone of a refreshing adult beverage.
The look I got was one of slight revulsion. The voice was patient, the kind of patient you hear when your toddler has pooped in a corner of someone else’s house. “Here, we call them Pakistanis,” the woman chided gently.
I looked back with concern and amazement. “You call your liquor stores Pakistanis?”, I asked, incredulous.
It was her turn to look confused. “Liquor store? I thought you meant . . . never mind,” she back-tracked, “You are looking for an ABC store.” Really? To me, ABC sounded like a school supply store. It was not. It was the Alcoholic Beverage Control store, and while the words were different, the urge to compress a longer word into a shorter one was strong.
Moving to Phoenix, I knew better than to ask for an ABC store. Still, I needed to know where wine, beer, and vodka were sold. Easy answer to my question, “Oh, any CVS.” True. You can buy hard liquor in any grocery or pharmacy.
Satellite, Netflix, cable. They all help us connect on phones, computers, and social sites. But for all that connection, the words we use for certain items–sandwiches (subs, grinders, po’ boys), carbonated drinks (soda, pop, coke), are still different. You can still tell where someone grew up or where they lived for a long time. And I love that about our language. It changes and it doesn’t.
—Quinn McDonald is a word collector. She never tires of it.