Mare of Hoagietown

Why do Philadelphians have their own word for a submarine sandwich?

In the first episode of HBO's acclaimed crime drama Mare of Easttown, the show's protagonist, a detective played by Kate Winslet, is flirting in a bar with a lecturer from a nearby college. Richard is in fact a visiting lecturer, not from around here — here being a working class suburb of Philadelphia — which means he's still finding his culinary bearings. Seeking confirmation from Mare, he says, "Right, so it's La Spada's for hoagies and Coco's for cheesesteaks." Watching him struggle with the local sandwich scene, Mare smiles. "You got it," she replies.

Why am I quoting from Mare of Easttown? On this week's episode of Lexicon Valley, John McWhorter flexes his hometown pride to discuss the famed, and infamously difficult to imitate, Philly accent and its use in Mare. So how did Winslet and her dialect coaches do? You'll have to tune in to find out, but the show exults in a host of other Phillyisms, from food to slang to food slang. Which brings us back to that scene in the bar with Mare and Richard. Why do Philadelphians call that sandwich, typically with sliced meat on a long roll, a Hoagie?

This post is for paying subscribers