Sprinkles vs. Jimmies

One of the great mysteries of the world is the difference between sprinkles and jimmies. Okay, it’s not much of a mystery because there IS no difference. But why do some portions of the country refer to those small candy coated chocolates that accessorize ice cream and donuts sprinkles while others call them jimmies?

Jimmy Carter

This was a major conundrum for my boys when we moved from New York to Massachusetts two and a half years ago. On moving day, we walked down to Nona’s, the homemade ice cream shop down the street. They ordered something chocolatey and then were faced with a dilemma posed by the teenager wearing a Red Sox cap behind the counter: “Do you want jimmies on that?” She may as well have asked the question in Swahili because they literally had no idea what she was talking about. Fortunately for them, mom and dad used to live in Massachusetts and thus we turned into on-the-spot translators.

Jimmy Connors

Thinking about this recently, for some reason, I did some extensive research (thanks, Google) on the subject. It turns out that in the 1930s the Just Born candy company (the same folks that bring us Peeps) were cranking out boatloads of sprinkles. The guy who operated the sprinkle-making machine was named Jimmy. People started calling them “Jimmies” and the name stuck. I’m still not sure how it became a regional thing but whatever. It’s a good story.

Jimmy Cliff

Ben and Zack still refer to them as sprinkles — either old habits die hard or it’s their way of sticking it to the Massachusetts “man.” But ultimately they don’t care as long as they get them on their ice cream. And at least we didn’t move to the Midwest to get embroiled in the old soda versus pop debate.

Jimmy Hoffa


4 Comments on “Sprinkles vs. Jimmies”

  1. And don’t forget grinders vs. hoagies vs. subs!

  2. Dave Clinton says:

    Wait until you take them to North North Scituate for Wilbur’s Ice Cream. There you can’t get Jimmies or Sprinkles. They call them billies.

  3. Lindsay says:

    Try Maine. “Soda” is soda water. “Pop” is your dad, a sucker, or something you do to someone’s eye… “Tonic” is what you’re looking for… or, perhaps a “Moxie”…

  4. Jay Croft says:

    When I was growing up in the Hartford area, there were small shops offering “apizza.”

    Plus, all of the above regarding New England.

    I live in Alabama now. A “meat and three” (choose one meat and three side dishes) will list macaroni and cheese as a vegetable.


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