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Alaska Lingo: The Wild Slang of Anchorage & Alaska

Alaskans have some pretty unusual terminology that can be confusing to the untrained ear. Here’s a list of terms that may be helpful when talking to an Alaskan or writing about Anchorage and the state.

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Alaska – Aleut word meaning “Great Land.”

Alaska Marine Highway – Alaska's statewide ferry system, connecting remote villages throughout the inside passage as well as along the Aleutian Islands.

ALCAN – Short for the Alaska/Canada Highway, this famed highway runs through Canada and connects Alaska with the contiguous United States.

Alpenglow – The pink glow on mountain peaks at sunset. While this phenomenon is easily seen on the slopes, travelers can also get a bird's-eye view by booking a sunset helicopter tour.

Aurora Borealis – Another name for northern lights; shimmering curtains in the night sky. The best times of the year to view the Aurora Borealis is during the equinox, the months of March and September.

The Bush – Typically refers to places in Alaska not accessible by the road system, which encompasses a large portion of the state.

(CASH) - A food storage cabin that is elevated out of reach of both animals and children. The little elevated log cabins are mainly for decoration around and near town.

Cheechako – This is a newcomer to Alaska, and what in the west would have been called a "greenhorn."

Chugach – (Chew-gach) The Chugach people gave their name to Chugach National Forest, the Chugach Mountains, and Alaska's Chugach State Park, all located in or near the traditional range of the Chugach people in southcentral Alaska.

Combat fishing - Alaska features the most salmon rich fishing streams in the world. Opening day is so eagerly anticipated that hundreds of anglers will line the banks of the river, shoulder to shoulder, casting for fish. The trick is to actually hook a salmon and not a fellow fisherman.

Dena’ina (Den-eye-een-ah) – The Dena’ina are Alaska Native people and the original inhabitants of the Southcentral Alaska region.  

Denali (deh-NAL-ee) – This Koyukon Athabascan word means the "High One" The massive 20,310-foot peak, was once more officially labeled with this traditional name in 2015. Once officially known as Mount McKinley, it is the tallest peak in North America. It's also a popular destination for flightseeing day trips, and can also be reached by road or rail from Anchorage.

Floatplane – Planes with floats in place of wheels for water landings. Many Examples are found at Anchorage's Lake Hood Seaplane Base.

Iditarod – “The Last Great Race on Earth.” The 1,049 mile sled dog race to Nome kicks off with the ceremonial Anchorage start on the first Saturday in March.

Inside Passage – Maze of islands and protected waterways along the Southeast Panhandle. Longest sheltered waterway in the world and most popular Alaska cruise route.

Kuspuk (KUSS-puck) – A cloth parka cover often made of velvet or brightly colored cotton print.

Lower 48 – Refers to the contiguous United States, excluding Alaska and Hawaii.

Mudflats – Silty, beach-like tidal zones on the coast of Anchorage. Mudflats get their color and consistency from glacial silt carried down by rivers to the sea. These mudflats follow the coast of Anchorage, but don't walk on them; there's the possibility of getting stuck in the mud or caught by the incoming tide.

Mushing – Alaska’s state sport – driving a sled pulled by a team of dogs. While the most famous events are the Iditarod and Rondy World Championship Sled Dog Race. Mushing can be experienced in summer as well as winter.

Outside – Any place not in Alaska.

Permafrost – Ground that stays frozen all year round and causes the humps and bumps in the Alaska road system.

PFD – This is the permanent fund dividend, which is derived from a state savings account created by constitutional amendment that requires at least 25 percent of Alaska's royalties from oil to be set aside, with only the interest earnings available for spending. Permanent Alaska residents, who apply annually, have been fortunate to receive a yearly dividend check.

Qiviut (KIH-vee-yoot) – The warm under-wool of the musk ox.  It's stronger and warmer than sheep's wool and softer than silk or cashmerecan. A network of Alaska Native knitters turns the spun qiviut into hats, scarves and other garments, and the finished goods are sold at Oomingmak.  

Run – Refers to the time when fish swim back up the rivers to spawn. This is when they are harvested. 

Sleeping Lady – This is the local name for Mount Susitna and a well-told Alaska legend, of a silhouette of a woman stretched out and sleeping on her back. The mountain is easily visible from Anchorage on the far side of Cook Inlet. Snow Goose Restaurant's in-house brewery takes it's name from the iconic mountain.

Snowbird – A snowbird is an individual who spends summers in Alaska and migrates south for the winter.

Sourdough – A long-time Alaskan. The name is derived from the yeasty starter many early pioneers carried with them.

Snowmachine – Alaska word for snowmobiles. Snowmachines are a popular way to explore the backcountry in winter, and are an important form of transportation in remote areas of the state not reached by roads.

Subsistence – The practice of harvesting resources from nature for food, shelter, cultural or other personal needs. Many Alaska Native people still live a subsistence lifestyle.

Termination dust - The first snowfall that sticks on the tops of the mountains each year, which signifies that winter is on its way. Originally a gold rush term signaling the end of the prospecting season, it now gives low-land residents warning that snow will be falling in about a month.

Ulu - A traditional style of kife used by Alaska Native people of northern Alaska. In use for centuries to skin and dress game or fillet fish, ulus are also a popular souvenir. Short factory tours and demos are also available at The Ulu Factory in Anchorage.