WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

You Say Toboggan, I Say...

Posted February 16, 2009

We got an e-mail from a viewer named Dan today who noticed that one of our meteorologists (Kim), in discussing a very minor snow event and modest cool-down coming up for today, said (to paraphrase) there was "no need to get out the sleds, but you may need a toboggan." Dan made the point that a toboggan is a type of sled, at least to the degree they are both designed for traveling across snow. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it got me to thinking about my childhood over in Rocky Mount, and wondering if Kim's was similar in West Virginia where she grew up.

I think at some point I came to know that there was such a thing as a toboggan that was sort of sled-like, but in my world back then, a toboggan was something you wore on your head on really cold days to keep warm! As I recall, we often pronounced it with the emphasis on the first syllable ("put your TOE-bog-in on if you're going out in the snow"). Eventually I ended up in the Air Force and it became clear that others were at a loss that terminology, and I've since developed more of a habit of calling it a stocking cap.

At any rate, I'm sure that's what Kim was getting at in her weathercast. It would be interesting to see some kind of "slang map" that shows what parts of the country routinely call stocking caps toboggans. A Wikipedia entry notes the use in "Southern American English" which would pretty well account for me, "Appalachian English" which would probably apply in West Virginia, and "Yooper English" common to parts of the Michigan Upper Peninsula.

Anybody here use other names for stocking caps/ toboggans, and where did you pick up the term?


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  • UNCalumnus Feb 19, 2009

    I grew up in Durham. There we also called the hat a toboggan. I still persist in that habit, with odd looks from neighbors from other parts of the country.

  • Builder Feb 16, 2009

    toboggan It was something you put on your head, (Rocky Mount), but if you weren't around here it was a sled (up north & out west). Probably because enough snow to sled in is a rare thing around here. And that was called sledding.

  • 7prolifers Feb 16, 2009

    In our family, we started a tradition of calling a "toboggan" a more weather related name. The new word is: "snow-boggin". My husband and I had no idea that the word "toboggan" had a different meaning in other states as we called it a toboggan when we were growing up, too.