I was born and raised in the area lovingly known as Western New York: where the winters are cold, and the sports teams are awful. Since coming to college, I have noticed that even within a single state, there are many things that "up-staters" and "down-staters" may disagree upon. I would like to clear the air on a few things that are different between us.
1. Everything North of New York City is "Upstate"
While the world clearly believes that New York State is all just a huge city and some suburbs surrounding it, residents should realize that this is not the case. So why should we set our bearings according to New York City? Potsdam is upstate. Canton is upstate. Plattsburg is upstate. But Binghampton and Poughkeepsie? Those are not upstate. Read a map!
2. You're Probably Saying it Wrong
How do you put out a fire? With water, right? Let me translate that into downstate: "how do you put out a fie-yur? With wuter, right?" I would debate which set of accents pronounces the things right, but I would assume you would trust the one that only pronounces the letters that are present...
"My guy, this day is gonna be lit, but I'm just tight that it's mad brick today." What are you saying? Was that English? The only reason I've understood anything recently is because another Odyssey writer wrote a downstate slang dictionary (thanks, Kiki). When I decided on an institution in the same state, I didn't think I was going to have to learn a new language.
4. Buffalo is Not Canada
We don't say 'eh' in every sentence, we don't all play hockey, and we enjoy maple syrup just the same as any down-stater. While those may be Canadian stereotypes, anyone who has worked retail within an hour of the border knows that not all Canadians fit the civil and kind stereotype. "No, ma'am, there is no Canadian discount. Yes, I can call over the manager to confirm."
5. Yeah, We Know They're Awful
In Western New York, game days are hardly about the quality of the team. Despite the fact that the Buffalo Bills haven't seen a playoff game in seventeen years, the Ralph--excuse me, New Era Field--is always packed. Some hardcore fans even claim to be in the "Bills Mafia," supporting their team no matter how awfully they play. The Sabres, while they have changed their jerseys enough times to force fans to take out second mortgages to afford them, have not been able to change their Stanley Cup standing in any of their 46 seasons.
6. No Really, They're Just 'Wings'
You don't have to say they're buffalo wings. Anatomically, that's pretty crazy. I'm pretty sure a buffalo with wings large enough to fly would 1) feed an entire family for a month and 2) be the most terrifying creature to land on a telephone pole. Just because Buffalo does them best, it doesn't mean you don't have to create a mythical creature every time you want some wings. Now I'm gonna have nightmares. Thanks.
This semester I got a message that I never would have imagined getting, had I stayed in Western New York: my university had cancelled classes in anticipation of heavy snowfall. When I was in high school, there could be three feet of snow that accumulated overnight, and there wouldn't be even so much as a delayed opening. The thing that was truly crazy was that three feet of snow overnight wasn't unheard of. Thank you, lake effect snow, for making our six-month winter that much more interesting.
Although a drive through the state would make you believe that anything north of New York City is boring farmland that isn't worth seeing, you'd be wrong. The amount of land that is used for agriculture in New York is only about 25%, which means that it ranks at number 39 for most agriculture in the United States. That's not to say that the things worth seeing don't include natural landmarks, such as Letchworth, the Adirondacks, or even Niagara Falls.
Ever since my orientation day, I knew you people were strange. While participating in the cheesy ice-breakers that are traditional for orientation, I became engaged in a game of rock, paper, scissors. This game takes very little required skill, and I had been doing it since preschool. But the down-staters just had to be difficult. In all my years, I have never heard a pair of scissors say "shoot." So why is that part of the way you play the game? Stop saying "rock, paper, scissors says shoot!" I would be creeped out if the scissors on my desk said "shoot," or really anything for that matter.
10. Standing In Line
When you wait for something that many others are also waiting for, it is customary to make a line so that each person is served in order of presence. We call this standing in line. Say it with me. In line. There are only two times that you would be correct in saying that you are standing on line: if there was a line printed on the floor for people to balance on, or if you are accessing the internet while you wait. Otherwise, you're in the line.
I hope I've cleared up some of the misconceptions that any down-staters may have about other New Yorkers. If you need any more guidance, just ask someone from a place north of New York City, they'll probably be right, too.