We only have one area code, and we are proud of it. Using “401” is like the discreet and hip way of referring to the state. You see friends write things on Facebook, like “Back in the 401,” or you know of someone with a tattoo that incorporates “401,” or your favorite bar was Lot 401 when it was still open. Being small and overshadowed by big cities makes us proud of where we come from, and using “401” is just another way of showing our love for our awesomely quirky state.
We get excited to bring our non-native friends to restaurants that have clam cakes, Rhode Island-style chowder, steamers, stuffies, and Rhode Island-style calamari. We make them try the cold, cheese-less “pizza strips,” calzone-like spinach pies, and hot wieners served with “the works.” And they must, of course, have frozen lemonade from Del’s Lemonade, try Autocrat coffee milk, and have at least one Awful Awful, (preferably on Mondays during the two-for-one special) from Newport Creamery.
It’s what we call a hard-shell clam in Rhode Island. Some people use the term to only describe the largest of hard-shell clams used for chowder, and others use it to refer to any hard-shell clam.
Family Guy has drawn attention to our small state, so much attention that we are accustomed to the question, “ Is Quahog, Rhode Island a real place?” Although Quahog is fictitious, thanks to Seth McFarlane — Rhode Island School of Design graduate and creator of Family Guy — the show is filled with real Rhode Island references. And we love it, because it includes places like McCoy Stadium, where our Pawtucket Red Sox play. It often references and sometimes stars an animated version of Buddy Cianci, our famous convicted Mayor of Providence, who (although corrupt) cleaned up our beloved city.
Some people say our accent is like a mix between New York and Boston, which geographically makes a lot of sense. More often, you will hear someone pointing at you and your friend saying “daboatayaz,” (“the both of you”). You might be asked if you want a “wickit good sangwidge” (wicked good sandwich). We love to use the word “wicked” as an intensifier, taking the place of “very” or “really.” Not all Rhode Islanders have accents though; the people with the strongest accents can usually be found in areas around Providence including Cranston (pronounced “CrANNNNston”) Johnston, and Warwick (pronounced “WA-wik”).
Rhode Island’s coastline is so large compared to the size of the state that we have all felt the effects of a hurricane in some way. We have lived through days, sometimes weeks without power, damage to our homes or businesses, and we all have witnessed the drastic change and devastation hurricanes have caused to our ocean front towns. We have all lost, or felt the loss from a hurricane. For the surfing community in Rhode Island, hurricanes have not always been so terrible, as they have given Rhode Island surfers a chance to experience bigger than usual, even legendary, waves.
We have over 1 million people living in a state that takes 45 minutes to drive through on Rt 95. Most people do not commute more than twenty miles to work, and we are all in close reach of modern conveniences like grocery stores, restaurants, CVS, and Marshalls or TJ MAXX. There are rural places in Rhode Island, like Richmond and Exeter, but even there it doesn’t take more than 20 minutes to reach a big grocery store, and definitely no more than 15 minutes to reach a Dunkin’ Donuts.
With about 100 beaches and Del’s Lemonade, there is nothing like summer in Rhode Island. After the long, grey, wet, and windy winter, summer is like going from black and white to color TV; the whole state feels like a different, brighter place. Many Rhode Islanders now living outside of Rhode Island for work, or those with new families, will vacation home as often as possible in the summer. Even Providence residents have to be as close to the beach as possible in the summer, and have purchased beach homes in towns like Narragansett, despite it only being 30 minutes away.
To a tourist passing through, Big Blue Solutions might just seem like a hokey advertisement for the pest-control company on Rt 95. But to a Rhode Island native, this massive construction of a 9’x58′-long termite is so much more than that. It was constructed in 1980, and by 1990 it had already become enough of a Rhode Island icon that a radio contest was held to give the bug a name — it’s actually called Nibbles Woodaway.
Some Rhode Islanders pass it every day on their commute to work; others drive by it in the holiday seasons to see it twinkling with Christmas lights, or wearing a witch’s hat for Halloween, and all of us are very proud of its cameo appearances in the movie Dumb and Dumber and on television shows like Family Guy, The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and The Daily Show.
It makes sense — the water bubbles up to your mouth to drink. Frankly, most of the time water pressure is too weak to be called a fountain. Apparently we are not alone in this either, people from Wisconsin also call it a bubbler. After a quick research online, I found a University of Wisconsin article saying the origin of the word is from a water-fountain-like product called a “Bubbler” made in 1888 by Kohler.
Although the politically correct name is “Victory Day,” you may hear it commonly called “V-J” Day. Rhode Island is the only state to recognize the United States’ victory over Japan, and although there have been attempts to legally eliminate the holiday in the 1980s and 1990s on the basis of discrimination against the Japanese, we have kept the holiday to honor the many Rhode Island veterans who either fought or lost their lives in World War II. According to an article by Providence station WPRI-12,“There’s no question the Second World War had an enormous impact on Rhode Island. More than 100,000 of the state’s residents served in the war, and 10,000 were killed, injured or lost.”
We do not take this question very well: “Rhode Island…is that part of New York?” Situated between Boston and New York City, we have always fought for our state to be recognized. We are proud to say Rhode Island is the smallest state with the longest name — Rhode Island and Providence Plantations — and that Rhode Island was the first colony to have religious freedom, the first state to declare independence from the British, and the last state to sign the Constitution of America.