Everyone grows up hearing the common terms used by their families and friends. It isn’t until we get older that we realize not everyone uses the same words or knows about the same stuff. If you happen to be from Nebraska, though, chances are you’ll know what just about all of these mean.
That’s “Nebraska” spelled backward. Clever, right? The name dates back to 1895 when a group of Omaha businessmen formed a coalition to keep the Nebraska State Fair in Omaha. The name most famously graced the former AKSARBEN horse racing track; today, the name is still attached to the philanthropic organization but is also used on a trendy mixed-use business development called Aksarben Village.
Before UNL’s legendary football team was known as the Cornhuskers, they were called the Bugeaters. Coined in the late 1890s, the name has disputed origins. Some attribute it to early Nebraska pioneers resorting to eating grasshoppers in tough times; others say it was borrowed from Nebraska’s hordes of bug-eating bats.
3) Cheeseburger Pizza
Nebraska managed to combine two of the world’s most amazing foods into one seriously delicious mash-up. Cheeseburger pizza has all of the burger fixings: ground beef, tomatoes, pickles, lettuce, onions, cheese, and bacon. Other pizza places have jumped on the bandwagon, but Nebraskans know Valentino’s did it first and best.
I’m not trying to ruffle any feathers here with our Iowa neighbors, but this is a uniquely Nebraskan word that really deserves a mention. The long-standing rivalry/weird animosity between Omaha and Council Bluffs (just a short walk away over the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge) inspired Omahans to refer to their twin city as a rather backwoods kind of place. (Apologies to Kentucky for the implication, as well!)
5) Der Viener Schlinger
Almost as popular as Husker football itself is the giant sausage-shaped gun used to shoot wrapped hot dogs into the crowd. It shoots only Nebraska’s finest Wimmer’s Wieners, and you’d be surprised how much better a hot dog tastes after it’s just been launched at you by heavy artillery.
If you grew up in or near rural Nebraska, this was probably your first summer job. Farms bring in literal busloads of teenagers to either walk or ride through the fields, tearing off and throwing down those wavy parts from the tops of the corn plants.
7) Dorothy Lynch
If you’ve never had the pleasure of sampling this sweet and tangy orange goo, you have no idea what you’re missing. It’s typically referred to as a “salad dressing,” but that’s a little misleading. We use it as a marinade, a dipping sauce (for any and every kind of food) and even as a substitute for mayo in pasta salads.
8) Farmer Wave
When you’re driving in a rural area – and particularly when you’re driving a pickup – you’ll get the friendly farmer wave or two-finger salute from most other drivers. “Two-finger salute” sounds like a rude gesture, but it’s merely the lifting of the index and middle fingers from the steering wheel to offer a brief greeting to passing vehicles. If the other driver is feeling particularly friendly you’ll get a slight head nod and a smile.
9) Golden Spike
Every schoolchild in America probably learns about the Golden Spike, the final spike that connected the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads in 1869. But only Nebraskans have the awesome Golden Spike Tower, an eight-story lookout built specifically to provide an amazing view of the world’s largest railroad yard. Bailey Yard in North Platte is still a working yard that accommodates more than 150 trains every day.
10) Market Rat
This is another term that is uniquely Omaha in origin. It refers to the kids who, in the golden age of the 90s, hung out on the stoops and planters of the Old Market, smoking clove cigarettes and planning all kinds of mischief. The kids who weren’t cool enough to actually belong to the inner circle (I’m talking about me) hung around the fringes enjoying the insanity of a group that lived life to the fullest every day.
11) Peony Park
From 1919 to 1994, Omaha’s largest amusement park stood proudly on the corner of 78th and Cass Streets. Decreasing revenues led to its closure and a subsequent hole in the hearts of everyone who loved the rides and the artificial beach.
12) Red Beer
Anywhere else in the world, red beer might be cause for concern. In Nebraska, we like our beer as red as our game-day shirts. The addition of tomato juice lends the beer its rosy hue and a uniquely pleasant taste. And yep, that’s a piece of bacon in that mug of beer. Jealous?
Meat-filled baked pockets of bread and some of the world’s best fries? Aww yeah. The delicious treat definitely isn’t something you should nosh on every day, but when you do give in to the craving you’ll be so happy you did.
14) The Stellanator
This incredible beast of a meal comes from Stella’s Bar and Grill, a landmark restaurant in Bellevue. The burger boasts six beef patties, six fried eggs, six pieces of cheese, 12 strips of bacon, lettuce, tomato, fried onions, pickles, jalapenos, peanut butter, and a thick bun. If you can manage to eat all of that and an order of fries (which amounts to 4.5 pounds of food and 4900 calories) within 45 minutes, you get the whole meal for free plus a free t-shirt and a place on the Wall of Fame. Fail the challenge and you’ll be out $35…plus your face will be immortalized on the Wall of Shame.
Nebraskans may not always agree with the decisions of the single-chamber legislative body, but we can still kind of enjoy the notoriety that comes from being the only U.S. state with a unicameral legislature.
Nebraska is a pretty big state, and regional dialects produce all sorts of different pronunciations and hotly debated differences in terms (don’t get two Nebraskans started on whether it’s called “soda” or “pop,” or “creek” or “crick”). One writer can’t possibly cover all of the uniquely Nebraskan words – what are some of your favorites?