“What Do You Call Gym Shoes?” | Saved By Words

by fitness journalist

I had so much fun with the difference between lightning bug and firefly that I looked to see what other interesting word maps I could find. The one above particularly appealed to me since I run into this distinction quite commonly. Participants were asked “what is your “general” term for the rubber-soled shoes worn in gym class, for athletic activities,etc?” The answers shown above varied from tennis shoes(red) to  sneakers(blue) and gymshoes(light blue.)

I grew up calling them sneakers although I lived in a very “tennis shoe” part of the United States. (Oregon is the second state down from the top on the far left of the map.) Now that I live in New England I still call them sneakers and am easily understood. (New England is the upper right side of the map in nearly solid blue.) My mother grew up in “sneaker” New York, so I guess I learned the term from her. I remember being very confused as a kid by the term “tennis shoes” and thought they must be something special for playing tennis!

I am very curious to know what these shoes are called around the world. I was just watching “Broadchurch” on Netflix, and the little boy’s shoes were called trainers. I am not sure if these are the same as sneakers or not. Please let me know what word is commonly used where you live.

Thanks for supporting my lifelong fascination with who uses which words where.(That was one alliterative sentence!)

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