On National Doughnut Day, the holiest of high fat holidays (hole-y, get it?), we celebrate the delicious pastry, from the plain to the just plain crazy. Not only can you get your grubby hands on free doughnuts today, you’re getting a bunch of regional doughnut lingo right here. With the editors of the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE), we explore the different ways people say doughnut across the United States and bring you a dozen to sink your teeth into.
1. CHOKER HOLE
Choker hole is originally a logging term from the Pacific Northwest. It refers to a small hole dug under a log so that a choker—a rope or wire formed in the shape of a noose—can go under the log for hauling. Due to its resemblance, loggers nicknamed the doughnut “choker hole.”
If you really want to confuse your friends, call a doughnut a cookie. Popular in the Southern and South Midland states, this term probably comes from the Dutch koekje, meaning a “small sweetened cake.”
In German communities in Missouri, you might hear doughnuts referred to as fettiglich. The word probably comes from the German fettig, meaning fatty or greasy. According to a quote in DARE, a fall tradition in Missouri involved masked children going door to door, saying, “Fettiglich, fettiglich,” to which people would respond by giving them doughnuts, a practice which should definitely be revived for Doughnut Day.
Olykoek is an early term for doughnut that hails from the Hudson Valley in New York. One of the earliest recorded usages is from Washington Irving in his 1809 book A History of New York: “The table … was always sure to boast an enormous dish of balls of sweetened dough, fried in hog’s fat, and called dough nuts, or oly koeks.” Olykoek is a variation on the Dutch oliekoek, which translates as “oil cake.”
While a submarine is familiar as a sandwich in some parts of the U.S., it has also been a name for a doughnut in states like Kansas, Minnesota, West Virginia, and New York. Alternatively called a sinker, the name submarine comes from the idea of a doughnut being submerged in oil or fat, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).
6. FRIED NUT
If you’re ever in New Hampshire and get offered a fried nut, take it! It’s an old-fashioned term for a doughnut. The “nut” of fried nut (and of doughnut, for that matter) comes from the idea that earlier doughnuts—which didn’t have holes—looked like nuts.
An old-timey New England term, cymbal refers to a doughnut without a hole, according to a quote in DARE. A doughnut with a hole might have come from a sea captain, at least according to an early 1930s quote from the Linguistic Atlas of New England. Boston native Oliver Wendell Holmes called the cymbal “a kind of genteel doughnut.”
8. COLD SHUT
Ever bite into a tough, day-old doughnut? That might be called a cold shut in the Pacific Northwest. Cold shut was originally a welding term referring to a link that was closed “while cold” and without welding.
A kolacky is a doughnut with a sweet filling, as well as a pastry made of pie dough and topped with something sweet. The term is chiefly used in Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest states, and is a variation on the Czech kolač, which comes from kolo, meaning wheel or circle. DARE’s earliest recorded use of a form of kolacky is from Willa Cather’s novel My Ántonia, which is about a family of “Bohemian” immigrants: “Show him the spiced plums, mother. Americans don’t have those … Mother uses them to make kolaches.”
In Wisconsin and craving a jelly doughnut? Ask for a Berliner. If wreath-shaped pastries are more your thing, you can find the Berliner kranser in Scandinavian settlement areas like Minnesota. Despite its German-sounding name, Berliner kranser is actually Norwegian and translates as “Berlin wreath.”
11. TANGLE BREECHES
Tangle breeches is a nickname for the cruller in states like Pennsylvania, Maryland, Nebraska, Kansas, and Alabama. What’s a cruller? Basically a doughnut in a twisty shape. The term cruller, chiefly used in the North Central and Central Atlantic states, comes from the Dutch krulle, a curled cake.
The matrimony sounds like a delicious union: two crullers joined by another piece of dough. Such a doughnut might be found in Massachusetts and Rhode island.