Let's Talk with Diane A.S. Stuckart


April 28, 2022

I recently read an article from the Atlas Obscura folks about the name confusion surrounding the toboggan. No, not the sled. Instead, the author referred to the traditional winter knit cap that supposedly bears the same name. Interesting, but then it gets confusing.

You see, the author states that people up North who actually ride around on toboggans call this style of headwear “watch caps” or “knit caps” or “tuques”. Apparently, it’s only folks from the South—the ones who rarely see enough snow annually to use a sled, let alone to bother buying one in the first place—who call those caps “toboggans.”

Whoa! Hold your horses!

As someone born and raised in Texas, lived in Oklahoma for a few years, and now makes my home in Florida, I’ve never heard this term applied to a knit cap. In fact, that’s what I always have called them…knit caps. That, or stocking caps or pom pom hats (assuming the hat in question has that particular embellishment). I asked my husband, who is from Ohio but has lived in OK/TX/FL for more than forty years. He never heard “toboggan” used in reference to this style of hat, either.

But just to be sure, I did the only thing I could do. I checked the Merriam-Webster online dictionary…and the results were shocking, to say the least. Under “noun”, our friends at M-W gave as the 3rd definition the following: chiefly Southern US and Midland US: STOCKING CAP.

Even worse, the comment section was filled with observations from people claiming to be from the South and swearing “toboggan” was the term they’d always used.

Getting It Right

As an author, getting it right—particularly when it comes to language and regionalisms—is important. But this toboggan rabbit hole I wandered down goes to show that “right” isn’t always “correct”, and vice versa. You’ll never get me to call a stocking cap a toboggan, no matter where I might live. But at least now I know to keep my mouth shut when someone else does!


What’s one of your favorite regionalisms? Comment below and/or tell us what you call that style of knit cap.

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For more information about author Diane A.S Stuckart, who also writes as Anna Gerard, visit Diane’s website. CLICK HERE

Posted in Let's Talk, with Diane A.S. Stuckart • Tags: , , |  13 Comments


13 thoughts on “Whatchamacall-hat…

  1. My absolute favorite regionalism is “All Y’all” from my days of visiting my grandmother in eastern Kentucky. I still hear her soft voice imploring guests, “Now, all y’all come back and see us real soon.” The lovely part is that she meant every word.

    1. Ah, yes, the Southern double plural. 🙂 I wish I had more memories of my grandparents but they’ve been gone a really long time and we didn’t get to see them all that much. How wonderful that you can still hear her voice whenever you want. 🙂

  2. I had relatives in Phila. who always said “I’m going with.” That was it. They never added with whom they intended to go somewhere. I always thought that was really odd.

    As far as the toboggan hat, I’ve never heard a knit cap called that, and now I’ve got an image of someone wearing a sled on his head stuck in my head!

  3. Holy cow! I’ve never heard of that term (except for the sled, of course). But then, I never lived in the South. I’m with Lois on this one—got that same image floating around. My favorite regionalism is probably also y’all. But then, we here in California tend to get that one wrong all the time!

    1. Hey Terry, here’s a quick primer on “y’all”. First, it’s never “ya’ll” as it is a contraction for you all (and y’all wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve seen it written that way!). Y’all is plural — you never call one person y’all. And “all y’all” is to address a big old group of folks, usually used to make sure everyone knows they are included in whatever sentiment is being voiced. (Oh, and we do use “hey” a lot.)

  4. I grew up calling those close fitting knit caps “watch caps,” but that’s probably because I come from a seafaring family with Navy service. After I grew up and moved to colder climes, I expanded my description to, wait for it, hat, or if I was being precise, winter hat.

    Back in the day, sweetened ice tea was called “tea” in the South. There was none of this calling it “sweet tea” because it only came sweetened. Sometime later I realized that a person could order “unsweetened tea” and I thought why would anyone do that (as a teen was not concerned with weight or diabetes). I noticed older grownups ordered “half and half.” For those who think they were drinking cream–wrong– they had ordered a glass with a blend of tea and unsweetened tea.

    Now people most places call it “sweet tea” and I would be gritting my teeth at that except I now order unsweet tea. Times they are a changing!

    1. Ugh, sweet tea. I grew up thinking I hated ice tea because I couldn’t stomach that sugary taste. Then, when I was a teen I finally had unsweet tea and, hey, that stuff wasn’t bad at all. So I drink unsweet. Have you ever tried an Arnold Palmer? That’s half ice tea and half lemonade. Sounds pretty yuck to me but some folks just love it!

  5. My brother-in-law grew up in West Virginia and he says “yuns”. I guess the apostrophe would go y’u’ns, but that looks silly.

    In New England, they say “wicked” for emphasis: wicked smaht (smart), wicked good, wicked bad, wicked fun.

    1. I love “wicked” as an adjective; however, I don’t think I could get away with saying it. But on the other hand, after years of watching British TV I have to force myself not to include some of their expressions into my speech (though I do always now call sneakers or running shoes “trainers”).

  6. I’m a dyed in the wool New Englander, who when asking a rhetorical, “where is the…” question, would receive the answer,”down cellar, behind the axe.” When making a u-turn, I’d be “banging a “u-ey,” while driving to “the packie” to buy beer or tonic (the sugary carbonated soft drink, not medicine). There are so many New England words and phrases, I could write a book! Hmmm….maybe I will, after I finish my brewski and maybe an Italian sub.

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