The Real Reason Why We Call it a ‘Bubbler’ in Wisconsin (And Who Else Does Too)

bubbler or water fountain?It’s happened to just about all of us when we travel outside the state.

You’re absolutely parched and ask a friendly looking stranger….”Where’s the bubbler?”

They look at you like you’re speaking Klingon.

Or perhaps an out-of-towner has asked you where they could find the nearest water fountain, and you were momentarily puzzled, picturing a statue of a little boy peeing.

For some strange reason, the thing seemingly every other state in the nation calls a drinking fountain or a water fountain is a bubbler to us.

The explanation for this linguistic phenomenom, which is almost exclusive to the Badger State, actually makes a lot of sense. What’s more peculiar is the fact the we Wisconsinites aren’t the only ones…


Before you read any further – please realize that we have since discovered new information about the origins of the bubbler and the history of the word’s use in Wisconsin.

You can get that information in our article Maybe We Were Wrong – A Closer Look at Why We Call it a Bubbler in Wisconsin.

The History of the ‘Bubbler’

It’s really quite simple. We call drinking fountains bubblers for the same reason everyone calls tissues Kleenex and inline skates Roller Blades – good branding.

The twist is that – with bubblers –  it just happened to be good regional branding.

Back in 1889, a man named Harlan Huckleby designed the very first bubbler.  I know, the name  Harlan Huckleby sounds made up, but it was 1889 and that’s what names were like.

bubbler in madison

An original Bubbler in Madison

There were certainly other types of drinking fountains in existence, but Huckleby’s design was unique. It had a spout that shot a little stream of water about an inch in the air so people could slurp it up.

The device was picked up and patented by what was then called Kohler Water Works and today is the plumbing fixture giant Kohler Company of Kohler, Wisconsin. Kohler also gave the new product its name and The Bubbler was born.

The original version was modified after several years to shoot water in an arc instead of straight up. One of the problems with the early bubbler was public health concern. Germs from people’s mouths, bugs and bird doo-doo could fall inside the water supply.

But some of the original Bubbler designs still exist. You can find some near the Wisconsin State Capitol building in Madison. If you like living on the edge – go ahead and take a sip.

People really liked drinking out of these newfangled faucets, and soon copycats emerged. However, those competitors needed to come up with different names because Kohler had trademarked The Bubbler. There was “The Gurgler” and “The Gusher.” But none of those names stuck in the cultural lexicon like The Bubbler did here in Wisconsin. Kohler still makes and markets The Bubbler.

For the past 125 years, we’ve been passing this Wisconsin-based tradition down through the generations. Allowing more and more young people to experience embarrassing moments when they attend college out of state.

Take Heart…We Are Not Alone

benson bubblers

A set of Portland, Oregon’s iconic ‘Benson Bubblers’

That explains why drinking fountains are called bubblers in most of Wisconsin.  The real mystery is why a few other locations in the United States – and yes, even on the opposite end of the Earth – share this anomaly of dialect with us.

Those hipsters in Portland, Oregon are also quite familiar with the term. Apparently there is a large collection of so-called Benson Bubblers in the city, which are considered icons.

Go to Boston, Massachusetts or talk to folks in Rhode Island and they may also consider calling thirst-quenching fountains bubblers completely normal.

Although, they’d call them “bubblahs.”

Strangest of all is the fact that most of our friends from Down Under adopted the same term as the rest of us Cheeseheads. Australians will more-often use the phrase “water bubblers.”

Check out this article from ABC in New South Wales in which the reporter compares the quality of bubbler water and bottled water. He thinks more Australians should “Give the water bubbler a go.”

“The humble water bubbler or tap can often be found in main streets, parks and playgrounds.

The water is free, tastes pretty good and you the ratepayer have paid for it to be there, so maybe it’s time to cash in and drink up.”


Click Here to Get This T-shirt!

Don’t be ashamed of what you call it. An entire country, a continent even, can prove the rest of America wrong!

When you say “bubbler,” you should not be considered strange. Take pride in knowing that a unique, perhaps world-changing product, was conceived, designed and masterfully marketed to the masses right here in your home state.

Plus, if you ever visit Australia, you’ll fit right in.

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  1. I <3 the "Bubbler"… Born and raised right here in East Central Wisconsin!!!

    • Bubblers rule!

    • Penny Kimble-Yanez says

      Ok here is my bubbler story.I grew up in Madison and when I was 16 I moved to California. I was shopping at a local department store called Hinshaws and started to get thirsty. I walked up to one of the clerks who was working at one of the registers and asked her where the bubbler was. She looked at me with a puzzled look and said, ” I don’t think we sell those here.” I said, ” I don’t want to buy one I just want to get a drink from it.” She thought for a moment and said, “do you mean a drinking fountain?” I thought for a moment and said, ” I guess you could call it that! ” After that I realized pretty quickly that not everyone called it a bubbler. I remember being angry at my first grade teacher at that moment for teaching me a term that not everyone knew!

      • Oh, those first grade teachers! Must have been pretty embarrassing as a 16-year-old. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your story, Penny.

      • People in Wisconsin are down right obnoxious and obcessed with “the bubbler.” I’ve asked where the water fountain was in some Pick N Saves and this is how I was treated by employees: One girl bugged her eyes at me and said, “I thought we agreed to call it a bubbler.” even though I had never met her before. Another time when I asked where it was at a different Pick N Save: The employees started laughing as soon as I walked away saying, “She called it a water fountain. LOL” At a different location when I asked where it was at, the clerk asked me where I was from. I told her Indiana. She then made a rude dig about Indiana. All I did was ask her where the water fountain was. At the West Bend Library, when I told my daughter I was going to get a drink from the water fountain, a man standing about 10 feet away said to his young son, “She’s not going to have any friends here if she calls it that.” At the West Bend Parks & Rec when I told my daughter I was getting a drink at the water fountain before leaving, a woman who started to go down the stairs, stopped in her tracks, told her daughters “just a minute.” She walked over to me and said curtly, :”We call it a bubbler.”

        • Sorry that happened to you, but hey there are mean and rude people every where, soulds like you ran in to every single one in wisconsin. If you have askd me, I might have laughed a little and told you where it was, unless you want to be mean back I let you have an ear full, wisconsin people are very loud when it comes to rude people, maybe it was he why you were acting to get such mean things said back.

          • I am a natural born Wisconsinite and have I never herd anyone really call it a Bubbler… It’s always been Water Fountain, or drinking fountain.. 😛

          • That might have to do with what part of the state you live in. If you live in western WI – far fewer people use that term. But just about everyone on the eastern half – from Milwaukee on up – does.

  2. Okay, guess I’ve been wrong all this time. I thought it was called a Bubbler because it was a continuously-running water fountain!

    • Laura – I would venture guess the inventor called it The Bubbler because water did/does come bubbling out of it – more so in his original design because the water spouted straight up. Thanks for checking us out!

  3. Terrific story — well written, witty and informative!

    P.S. I grew up in Central Florida and I’ve lived in Northern California since the age of 21, and I never realized that I was using a “foreign term” out here in what is apparently “drinking fountain” land. In any case, thanks to our heat, there are many more water/drinking fountains/bubblers in Florida than in the Bay Area!

  4. Now if you can just tell me what a spiggot is! some guy from the south asked me where he can find one!

  5. When I moved from Milwaukee, Wi to LA, Ca as a kid, I had brought the bubbler terminology with me. The first time I asked a teacher where the bubbler was, she got that deer in the headlights look which changed quickly to the “are you an alien?” look! Finally, I got her to understand what I wanted and she pointed me toward the “drinking fountain”. I never asked where the bubbler was again. I moved back here to Milwaukee when I was 18! I still can’t bring myself to call them “bubblers” again. I think that initial “close encounter” experience was a traumatic event for me. I was only a kid and it was horrifying to being treated like a freak! But I will kindly point others toward a bubbler.

  6. Bettye Bunch says

    When I first moved to Milwaukee, WI, in 1970, from Tulsa, OK, after growing up in Bridgeport, AL, I was teaching at a junior high. On the first day of school, a seventh grader asked me if he could go to the bubbler. I did not want to let a seventh grader know that I did not know what a bubbler was, so I wrote him a pass to the bubbler. Then, as I stood at the door watching, he walked about 20 feet down the hallway, took a drink of water from the water/drinking fountain, and returned to the classroom. That was my introduction to the term. However, another teacher who became a good friend in MPS grew up in Fort Atkinson, WI, and she said they never used the term “bubbler” there. She said the first she had heard it was when she moved to Milwaukee to teach in 1970.

    • Interesting that it’s regional, even in Wisconsin.

      • chris spangler says

        I came 35 miles from Madison, WI, to live in Fort Atkinson, WI, 35 years ago and hear “bubbler” used all the time. Perhaps, though, the people using it are “transplants” like me!

      • Lar ish leer says

        Never heard it called anything else but a bubbler until I was nine. Everyone laughed when I called it bubbler in Kansas

    • Yep – there are definitely some pockets in Wisconsin where folks don’t say “bubbler.” IMHO they can move to Minnesota.(kidding)
      Great story about the bubbler hall pass too! Made me laugh.

    • I moved from Milwaukee to Tulsa for college and wore a T-shirt on registration day that said, “Where’s the bubbler?”

    • Hana Momic says

      I grew up in Milwaukee and moved to Los Angeles at 19. Same story–no one knew what a bubbler was. I had to conform to the awful “water fountain”, which in my head is still a large outdoor fountain. I’ve been living in the Tulsa area for over six years and Tulsans, too, are unfamiliar with bubblers. I’m happy to know this is a Wisconsin thing and that I was a part of it!

    • I went to high school in an old grade school in Fort Atkinson in the middles 60’s. We had a white, porcelain bubbler in the hallway.

    • It is definitely a regional thing. I grew up in Fond du Lac and went to college in La Crosse and used the term there. They looked at me like I was from another planet. i since have moved back to the eastern part of the state and cannot bring myself to call it a bubbler anymore.

      • Yes – the closer you get to Minnesota – the less people use it. What you have to ask yourself, Dan, is are you more Minnesotan or Wisconsinite? 🙂 I kid – call it whatever you want.

      • I am 63 yrs old and I live in La Crosse and it was always called a bubbler. It is still a bubbler to me and always will be. I do not know who you asked in La crosse but they might not have been brought up around here or is pretending to not know,LOL

      • I grew up in La Crosse. I always called it a bubbler, too, until I moved to California. We also used the word “pop” for soda. My adult Californian friends had no clue what either word meant.

      • Dan – HAHA! I also grew up in Fond du Lac and went to college in La Crosse. I remember being a freshman asking for a bubbler and so many of my new friends thought I had lobsters crawling out of my ears. Small world!! (And don’t get us started on the whole pop/soda thing. SODA, dammit.)

    • I’ve lived in Fort Atkinson all my life (60 yrs), and people still call them “bubblers” here.

    • Russ Patefield says

      I was born and raised in Fort Atkinson and I never heard a “bubbler” called anything else. I have lived here since 1956 and still do

  7. When I first moved to WI from OKc, OK, I worked part-time at a Target at the Customer Service Desk. A customer came up one day and asked me where the bubbler was located. I told them bubbles were found in toys & I thought bubblers (bubble machines for children) would be there with the bubbles. Both the customer and my co-worker looked at me like I had sprouted antlers. The co-worker re-directed the customer and asked me what I was talking about. I explained (the customer was still listening in). They both started laughing and the co-worker told me that in WI, a bubbler was a water/drinking fountain – not a toy. I told them I had NEVER heard it called that before and I had spent my childhood in northern Indiana – and had not heard it called that there, either. We all got a good laugh out of it. I have taught my children the term water/drinking fountain, but have explained some people in the world call it a bubbler. Since they were born here in WI, they will hear it eventually I suppose…

    • I can imagine the look on everyone’s faces! Glad you’ve explained this subject to your kids, it will make things easier for them. Thanks for stopping by and telling your bubbler story!

  8. I grew up in Oneida County, WI and never heard the term “Bubbler” until I came to the Green Bay area. It is more an eastern WI term than state wide.

    • I agree. My dad grew up in Racine, so that’s how Iearned the term Bubbler. I grew up in northern IL so I always called them drinking fountains. But, I also lived all over WI (before ending up here in northern IN) and don’t recall too many people in Woodruff, Merrill or Portage saying “bubbler”; I’m sure I heard it while living in Kenosha!

    • Yes, it’s true. The map above shows that northwestern WI, doesn’t really use bubbler. But Oneida County is more North Central. That’s interesting!

    • La Crosse Wis is the southwestern part of Wisconsin. We used the term Bubbler growing up. Maybe the younger generation does not use that term now.

  9. Here is another Harlan Huckleby who should be remembered by Wisconsinites:

    • Yes. There was a Green Bay Packer with the same name. Coincidence? I think not! Thanks for sharing – great factoid!

      • When we first moved to the la crosse area I asked for directions to my child’s room at school. The secretary said it was down the hall past the bubbler then to the left. I did not want to appear naive so I just left and walked down the hallway wondering what on earth is a bubbler and where did we move to? Later, after getting lost in the school I askes a local what on earth was a bubbler. Ask a wisconsin person to say baggie they say that with an accent.

        • OMW! The word Bag! It sounds like Beg! My beloved husband is from SE WI (where we live) and when we first met, he sounded to me like he had a sock in his mouth, lol! However, lucky for him, when I was still living in OKC, I worked with a woman who was from the other side of WI (near Minneapolis) and she said beg for bag and such.

  10. And, it is Rah-seen, NOT Ray-seen! 🙂

    • Right on – and it’s Green BAY not GREEN Bay. And it’s WISconsin, not WESconsin. 🙂

      • Amen. Now I’ve lived longer away from WI then when I grew up there. So nice to “see”
        Someone say things right! I’ve been on the east coast so long that I no longer call it pop. Something I used to defend against my Milwaukee friends! Gotta change that back!

        • Pop is an IL term. I lived in SE WI and we all said soda. If you said pop, we knew you were most likely from Chicago!

          • Nope, pop is mostly mid-western and extends out a little further than that. I grew up in Iowa, where we called it pop, as they did in Minnesota, too. Even Sweet Brown, in Oklahoma, ran to grab herself a “cold pop”, so it’s more than just Chicago.

          • Sue Garfield says

            I grew up in NW Pennsylvania and we call it pop there. Soda is either powder for baking, or pop with a scoop of ice cream in it.

    • But nobody wants to admit they are from Racine!

  11. Born and Bred right here in Appleton, WI. Bubbler from day 1. Traveling out of state got me to learn that there could in fact be a device named the ‘water fountain’ that dispenses drinking water. who knew!?

    • I still say water fountains are what you throw pennies in when you want your wish to come true. Drinking fountain I get. But it’s just more fun to call it a bubbler. Thanks for representing, Brendan.

  12. HAAAAA!!!! Born and lived in MKE along with the rest of the tight-knit Serb community, for only 2 yrs. until we moved to the OC in CA… but spent many a summer at Leon’s & Kopp’s & Summerfest, so I’m familiar with the paper baig and the bubbler. As a Spanish Teacher, I share this with my students when I explain the dialects in Spanish (you say chamarra, I say chaqueta, you say elote, I say maiz, etc., etc.) :))) They don’t get it, unless they have relatives from “the middle”… then I quickly move on to other examples (British, Australian, etc.) Good times, good times… love me some Milivoki (as my grandparents called it).

    • Gotta love those Sconnie Grandparents! Thanks for stopping by Tina.

    • I say paper baig too. I’m from cudahy and grew up with bubbler. My dad grew up in South Milwaukee and called soda- soda water. anyone else?

      • I grew up in SM also and my dad also called it soda water! No one else that I knew of did – we just all called it soda. I still can’t get used to the pop thing. Just recently moved to NC and everyone here seems OK with the term soda. I know better than to ask for a “bubbler”, lol! They still think I talk funny and I almost said “y’all” the other day

  13. Lucille Mentzel says

    We had a “bubbler” in our little country grade school. One of the student’s chores each morning was to go to the outside pump, pump a pail of water, and pour it into the top of the of the crock. To drink, we pressed the little button at the bottom and got our drink–NO running water in those little schools so there were no flush toilets either! This was in Juneau County, in the upper middle of Wisconsin

  14. Ben Walczak says

    Born and raised about 30 west of Milwaukee in Waukesha County. Always has been and always will be a Bubbler. Something that got me was when going to school in the west suburbs of Chicago, I met a fellow student from the Janesvilles/Fort Atkinson area. Pretty sure he also used the term “fountain”, but I thought it funny that he used the term “Pop”. Ive only known it as Soda. I found it hard to believe that a fellow Wisconsinite from a similar area, called it a term I thought only “southerners” used. Ive heard even farther south “southerners” called everything Coke. That one I dont get, if you want grape soda, then say grape soda, its not Coke, LOL.

    • Wisconsin is sort of unique with the pop/soda thing. The state is actually split on what term is used. I’m not sure about which region is which off the top of my head. We’ll have to do a story on that one sometime soon! And I agree, the Coke thing is pretty weird – branding again. To each his own!

    • I moved from WI to TX. Great hospitality but the first time I was offered a refreshment, I said NO because the question was phrased as “Do you want a coke?” (With a lowercase c). Since I’m not a fan of Coke, I turned it down. Imagine my surprise when someone said they’d take a glass of iced tea! It took me a little while to understand they were actually asking “Do you want something to drink?” I think it’s more prevelant in smaller towns but I have heard it all over the South. And it’s really amazing in TX because most Texans are loyal Dr. Pepper fans, especially North Texas!

  15. I grew up in the west ‘burbs of Milwaukee in the ’50s and ’60s. Thanks to a grade school teacher, I knew that the term “bubbler” wasn’t used everywhere. She said that when she first moved to Milwaukee to teach, a student asked if he could use the bubbler. She said she didn’t know what he meant but she’d probably better let him go! I moved to eastern Massachusetts (west ‘burbs of Boston) in 1970 and heard that “bubbler” was in use in some neighborhoods in Boston, but the usual term was “drinking fountain”, not “water fountain” as the map says. And only some people — even close to Boston — were aware of the term. For the past 40 years I’ve lived in southern Maine and seacoast New Hampshire. Few people have ever heard of bubblers.

    • swampscottsoxfan says

      Sorry Linn but I grew up on the Noath Shoah of Boston and we always called them “bubblahs”! I find it hard to believe that this phenomenon came from Wisconsin to Boston and took root there and NOWHERE ELSE. I’m claiming bogus – I believe they were independent developments.

  16. I’ve been fascinated by regional English since the ’60s. Where do chuck holes turn into pot holes? Soda into pop into tonic (New England) into Cocola? Soda crackers into saltines? Purses into pocketbooks into bags? For that matter, bags into sacks?

    • Sacks is a funny one. I went to school in Tulsa, and I’ll never forget the first cashier who asked me if I wanted the receipt in my sack. A little shocked at first – then I said – “Oh you mean the baaaaag!”

      • You’re welcome back anytime, Laura!

      • Lol This made me laugh because I totally heard you say it as I read it with that Wisconsin “baaayyyyg” sound to it. The sack thing took me by surprise too when I went to work at a retail store in Alaska. I kepy thinking, “What is wrong with these people? Don’t they know what a sack is?” Otherwise, there are so many people from WI in Alaska they probably know what bubblers are there.

  17. When I moved to the Chicago ‘burbs from Madison, I too got the “are you an alien” look when I asked where the bubbler was. I had no idea at the time it was a regional thing and really wondered why I had moved to the flatlands. (I still wonder)

  18. Lived in Wisconsin most of my life-born in Highland, raised outside of Madison, and now live in Mount Horeb. I’ve travel the country quite a bit and still today, only Wisconsinites know the term “bubbler”!

    • Kristin Augustine says

      Ha ha, loved the article!! Being from Green Bay, I didn’t know how “dIfferently” I talked until I moved to north central Iowa 11 years ago. I got made fun of for saying “bubbler,” of course, and also “baaaaaag,” and “shovel,” as in “shovel snow.” Down there, they “scoop” snow, and also drive on “blacktops” (county highways), and “warsh” their clothes. I also find the pop/ soda thing interesting…in GB it’s pop, but when I moved to Whitewater for college it was soda there…but down in Iowa it was pop again! Now I’m back “home” in Neenah, WI, and I hear both “pop” and “soda”!!!

      • Kristin – I think the Iowans are the funky ones with scooping snow and blacktops. That’s ridiculous :). Thanks for stopping by. Glad you’re back in the land of bubblers!

        • I agree, Kasey! Wisconsin has it right!
          I live in northern IN now (near where I was actually born) and people say I have an accent. Maybe so, but at least it isn’t a Hoooooosier accent!

      • It all must be sub-regional specific. I grew up in Northeast Iowa, somewhat Wisconsin adjacent, and we all understood and sometimes alternately used the term “bubbler”. I think we used bubbler for the porcelain ones that didn’t cool the water. We shoveled snow and said “blacktop” not for highway but for any asphalt road, and it was the Southeastern Wisconsiners that said “warsh” and rhymed “root” with “put” and said “you’se guys”.

      • My boyfriends dad always says “warsh”! From around the Menomonie WI area. I still remember the first time I heard him talk about “warshing” something. You’re going to what?? Haha didn’t know it was anything regional

  19. When I was entering High School, just north of Milwaukee, there was an unfortunate prank that upper-class students would play on the newbies – a “bubbler ride.” Sounds fun, right? Well, in fact, they would hoist a freshmen up and make them sit on the bubbler, thus leaving them a wetspots on their pants. Fortunately for me, I have always been a big guy and was not messed around with too much.

  20. How come we call flavored, carbonated water, soda? That seems to be a Wisconsin thing also.

  21. The bubbler I used most often was in the 1100? Block of spaight street along the walk to “the beach” on lake monona. I moved from WI when I was 21 and also got those out of state stares when asking for one. One of the sweet memories of my childhood. Wish I could buy an old Madison one somewhere. Let me know!

  22. Neville Duncan MD says

    When I first came to Milwaukee from New York for a job interview I asked for the water fountain since I was thirsty. My interviewer laughed and corrected me in saying that what I meant was called here, the “bubbler”. I laughed ’til my sides ached all the way to the water fountain and back. I don’t use the term ‘bubbler’ and every time I think of using it, I bust out laughing and can’t seem to get it out. The term has always brought on a laugh to this day.

  23. They have an actual Bubbler in Schroeder’s department store in Two Rivers!

  24. In addition to the questioning looks I received when using the term “bubbler” after leaving Milwaukee, I learned “paddle-pop,” (ice cream bar), as well as “taking skips,” (cutting in line), also were local expressions. I still use the term soda, which I learned growing up working behind the old-fashioned soda fountain in my father’s drug store. Are there other local terms people have found exclusive to Wisconsin natives, after leaving the state?

    • Up in the Green Bay area a lot of people call traffic lights stop-and-go lights, which is pretty ridiculous.

    • When I moved from Sheboygan in 1973 to attend Lawrence University in Appleton (about an hour and a half northwest), I was shocked to find that many students and professors did not understand lots of the words I used. I wrote a paper on what we called Sheboyganese in an English class and the professor thought that I MADE IT ALL UP! I once asked another student (obviously not from Wisconsin) where the closest place was to buy coolers (popsicles to everyone else, I have learned). Imagine my surprise when she, thinking I had said “Coors,” directed me to the closest liquor store!! — this was in the days when it was legal to drink beer at age 18. I thought I had come to a foreign country, especially since Coors was not a Wisconsin brand and I had never heard of anyone drinking something “imported.”

      • Pretty funny Diane. We’d love to hear some more “Sheboyganese” that might make a fun story!

        • Well denn, I gots a fun story fer ya!

          I was inside havin a butterbread, ya know, and denn my ma she hollered me out and said to go get us some bakery and make it quick. But she says first t wash da hands and don’t get da towel all knirdled up. So I cleaned up all da schnibbles and made da cupboard to. Denn I took off down da road and hung a left by da stop and go lights. I made it real quick – I didn’t get a schluck at da bubbler r go by Fritz’s r get a cooler, I just went down by da bakery and went right back t da house. I didn’t schlupp along. My ma was so happy, she gave me a koosie n says I’m her little schnookie. N I tink ja, n so?

          I was inside eating a sandwich and my mother called me to come outside. She told me to go buy us some pastries and to hurry up. But she said that I should first wash my hands and not leave the towel in a mess. So I cleaned up the crumbs and closed the cupboard door. I went down the street, turning left at the traffic light. I went very quickly – I didn’t get a drink at the water fountain or visit at Fritz’s house or buy a popsicle. I went straight to the bakery and then straight home. I didn’t drag my feet. My mother was so happy that she gave me a little kiss and said I am her little sweetie. I think she is right, don’t you?

          • Awesome! Love it.

          • JoAnne Mauer says

            I am from Manitowoc. Ya know, closer to the Lake. (Michigan) Anyhow, some of the sayings I heard and still use.. My grandma and grandpa came from Germany; so I really believe a lot of the sayings are German. I was Schnookie and bubbler was a given. Also, schnibbles, koosie, schlook, were the norm. So many others, especially when I was naughty and she would call me things in German. Those were the good ole days!

          • Honestly JoAnne, I have no idea what any one of those mean. 🙂 But it makes me wonder if Snookie of Jersey Shore fame has a Wisconsin connection. NAH!

          • Julie Hermann says

            Another Sheboyganese comment we still use is “How bout we go down by the lake(Michigan)! Or remember “Lets go down by Pranges! Pranges was a WI based department store that burned down years ago but was a icon for all Sheboyganites for many years. It’s also been known that 3/4 of Sheboygan residents were there, including me, to watch this two day tragedy. It was best known for its animated Christmas figures in their windows every year on Thanksgiving Day!

          • JoAnne Mauer says

            Being from Manitowoc, it was always the thing to do during the Holidays (after Thanksgiving) to go to Prange’s to see all the Christmas figures in there windows. Does anyone on here remember listening to “Billy the Brownie” from Schuster’s in Milwaukee? It was on that strange thing called a radio on WTMJ from Milwaukee?

          • Yes, I do remember sitting on the floor by the console radio-record player listening to “Billy the Brownie”!! I must have been quite little then. The first I recall of TV was so boring–political stuff. Now I think it was 1952 and President Eisenhower. The only other things I recall are “Amos and Andy” and “Pinky Lee”-a guy who wore checkered clothes. I was born in 1947. Oh, yes, the “Winky-Dink and Me” show where Mom put a plastic shield thing on the TV screen so I could COLOR the picture with special crayons. Wow, color TV !!!!!

  25. Barb Weiss says

    When my then nine year old daughter and I made a trip to London, England we visited the Tower of London. It was a hot day standing in line. She decided she needed a drink of water so she asked the Beefeater standing near us where the nearest bubbler was. The Beefeater looked at her and said, “Hi! You must be from Milwaukee!. She looked at me with big eyes and asked, “Mom, how does he know we are from Wisconsin?” I laughed and said, “Because you asked where the bubbler was!” This family story still gets told today even though she is now 36. It still brings a smile to everyone’s face.

  26. LaCrosse – bubblers forever!

  27. Grew up in Green Bay & have since lived on the West coast and in the South. I still catch myself saying bubbler some times. The best Wisconsinism though is when I lived in CA and asked my new co-workers where I could find a Tyme machine. I wanted an ATM, however they thought I wanted to to go back in time…

    • The Tyme machine thing is even more hilarious than bubbler. I never got into the habit of saying it – but I definitely remember those Tyme booths. They actually did feel like time machines.

    • I was in a Phoenix mall once and I asked the Customer Service attendant where I could find the Tyme machine and she very slowly turned, without taking her eyes off me, and pointed to the clock on the wall!

    • Ah yes, the classic Tyme machine. My kids get teased about that all the time. We’re from WI but moved to CO about 3yrs ago, and they get the typical “going back to the future” questions when they mention a Tyme machine to somebody here.

  28. This map is wrong. Nobody in SE Wisconsin calls it a Bubbler. I had never even heard that term until I moved 3 hours north. It’s a Drinking Fountain or a Water Fountain.

  29. Growing up, there was a bubbler going in just about every Milwaukee County park. Moved to Columbus, Ohio when I was 11 in 1965 and learned about pop and got teased for my accent. Moved back to Milwaukee in 1969 and got teased for my accent again.

  30. Ben Walczak says

    Pretty sure on cans of “soda”, its labeled Soda-Pop. I would swear that Ive sean it before, but there was also the old term of a Soda-Jerk. The guys that worked the Soda Fountains “back in the day”. In fact, I would stil call the current self-dispensing machines of today a Soda Fountian. I do have another one though, I know it as a shopping cart or grocery cart. Where does it become a buggie? Ive heard that term in the south before, I have relatives that moved to Virginia. To me, that term was reserved for “baby buggies” of the 1800’s etc, which would now be called a stroller. How about Turnpykes vs Interchanges, Freeways/Interstates vs Thruways. I know theres more, just trying to think of them.

  31. My US mate Steve originally from Milwaukee has sent me this webpage and I can confirm any Wisconsin resident will be completely at home here and will have no problems asking for the location of a bubbler for refreshment purposes. I have been using bubbler for more than 60 years having learnt it when I started school and my grandchildren are using it as well. I can confirm it is used everywhere in Australia.

    We also have “paddle pops” which is a brand name for an ice confection sold in Australia and New Zealand and starting to spread around the world – my favourite is the traditional chocolate version. See the following links for more information:

    My favourite memories of my visit to Milwaukee for Xmas 1974 was no snow when I was hoping to have my first-ever “White Xmas” and several visits to Farrells Ice Cream Parlours to demolish their “Pigs Trough” on my own and Steve and I slaughtering an entire “Zoo” in possibly world record time with a standing ovation from the other patrons.

  32. Re my post above, my location didn’t appear as I intended; I am an Australian from the land “Down-Under” and an honorary “Cheesehead”……..

  33. Kasey, Wisconsin and my family has a connection spanning two generations thanks to a Milwaukee soldier in the “Red Arrows” 32nd Division 128th Infantry who was seriously wounded at the beginning of the first US Army offensive in New Guinea against the Japanese in October 1942. Steve’s future father-in-law Ben was repatriated to Newcastle Australia for medical treatment and his family informed that he was missing presumed dead. Ben met my mother and her girlfriend while he was recuperating and asked them to write privately to his family to let them know he was alive as his letters would be censored. Ben dictated a letter to Mum’s girlfriend who posted it to his family and you can imagine the rejoicing when they learnt he was alive. Ben survived the war, returned to the USA and kept in touch with Mum and her girlfriend over the subsequent years. In the early 1970’s, Ben wrote to say his daughter and her new husband were coming to Australia for a visit and we arranged get-togethers with our families while they were here. Steve and I became firm friends during their visit and invited me to visit Milwaukee for the Xmas/New Year during my trip to the USA in December 1974/January 1975. Needless to say I had a fantastic time with Steve, his wife and their respective families in Milwaukee. Steve was working for the Pabst brewery at the time and I had bought some Australian beers with me so Steve and I introduced his workmates to our full-strength beer during one memorable afternoon shift.

    Many family trips to and from the USA and Australia have happened since and will continue in the future as I have some unfinished business in Wisconsin involving food, cheese and beer not necessarily in that order!!!.

    • Amazing story David! When you do make it back to Wisconsin, try to make it up to Green Bay (90 minute drive north of Milw). Or visit Door County. Australia is on the top of my list of places to visit someday.

  34. proud to call it a bubbler. and no we call soda a soda. live in southeastern wisconsin in a little town that was known for it’s springs. the water used to be very good.

  35. Green Bay is a definite visit so I can wear my “Cheesehead” hat. I also want to visit Circus World as it was closed when I was in Milwaukee; I particularly want to see the Circus Train so will be co-ordinating my visit to coincide with one of the Great Circus Parades in Milwaukee.

    The current AUD exchange rate is a big deterrent for US visitors right now but keep saving for a future visit. You will not be disappointed with your visit but be prepared for some long-distance travelling while you are here and try to include New Zealand as well as NZ is a complete contrast to Australia and well worth the extra cost, time and effort involved. My 1974/75 trip to the USA and Canada involved an 8 week coast-to-coast and border-to border round trip in a 1966 Mustang I purchased in San Francisco and sold the day before I left SF to come home. The entire road trip cost me $600 for the loss in selling the car quickly plus the cost of fuel for the 10,500 miles travelled in 8 weeks. I would suggest a similar type of visit here as you really get to see the real country away from the tourist trial, meet some incredible people and enjoy experiences a normal tourist will never have. My memories from this trip are as strong today as they were nearly 40 years ago.

  36. When my (now) brother-in-law came to visit our family for the first time he about had a heart attack when he heard us talking about getting a drink from the Bubbler. Apparently in Cleveland, OH, where he is from, “bubbler” is another word for bar. lol

  37. When I was going to school at MATC downtown, in my econ. class, one of the girls, who was not from Wisconsin, said she was thirsty and asked where she could get a drink. And I responded, “There’s a bubbler right down the hall.” She looked at me really funny and said, “A what?” I said, “A bubbler.” She asked, “What’s that?”

  38. I was born and raised in Sheboygan, WI and I completely understood Diane’s post without the translation, lol. I remember the first time I asked a person in Chicago where the bubbler was, and the man looked at me like I was crazy. The second time I asked when I was out of state, I did so as a joke. Then me and my friends asked the people in the restaurant if they knew where we could get some brats (as in bratwurst). The looks on their faces were priceless. We laughed so hard! Now, being the military, people ask me to say “Wisconsin” all the time because they think I sound funny. Sheboygan makes them laugh too. Ahh, fun times, fun times….

  39. Born and raised in Milwaukee along with the “bubbler”. Now living in Tennessee, and yes, people DO look strangely at me if I ask where’s the “bubbler”! HA!

  40. Born and raised in Wisconsin I grew up calling it a “bubbler”… In college I was routinely mocked by my out of state classmates for my quaint Wisconsin terminology, and eventually found myself using “water fountain” too. Skip ahead 15 years, and I’m in Northern Australia, walking back from lunch with coworkers, when a born-and-bread Australian announces she’s stopping at “The Bubbler”. Seems the East Coasters had it wrong all along.

  41. interesting story! I do call it a bubbler, and I’m from the Madison area and have also lived in Green Bay. everyone calls it a bubbler.
    Once when I worked a a Culver’s a customer asked for some custard with “jimmies” on it. I had no idea what he was asking for and neither did my coworkers until he pointed to a picture of a cone with sprinkles on it. weird.

    • Ben Walczak says

      My fiance (from Elkhart Lake) and I (from Waukesha area) have the same arguement all the time about Jimmies and Sprinkles. I say its Jimmies, she says they’re Sprinkles, LOL. We just agree to disagree I guess.

  42. “Those left-wing hippies in Portland, Oregon…”? Where do U hail from, Missy? Scott Walker-sha? Besides, there’s more hipsters there these days anyhoo, but no more than in Bay View, the “fashionable east side” of Milwaukee. or in Mad-town…

    • Oh, chill the hell out dude! It was just a joke. Did you really think this article was serious? But you’re right – we should have said hipsters instead of hippies. Happy Easter Ninja!

  43. Sandra (Rusch) Hofsommer says

    My husband has teased me about using “bubbler” and “soda” for years. He’s from that sophisticated state of Iowa!

    My grandma always told us to “Come good home” when we left Campellsport to make the “long” drive back to Mission House College.

    The many delightful comments also remind me of the looks I received when I lived in New York State, Texas, and now Minnesota, home of Ole and Sven.

  44. Emma Prasse says

    Bubbler is awesome! Born in Racine Wisconsin!

  45. I know this is kind of off topic, but… I shared this page with my aunt and she had a funny story about something that happened to her like that.. Does anyone remember when the ATM machine used to be called a tyme machine? (Take Your Money Everywhere) so when she asked someone if they knew where a tyme machine was they thought she was crazy! 🙂

    • Not off topic at all George. We’ve been discussing that here too! I think those situations are even more hilarious than bubbler stories.

      Can you imagine what people must think? It’s for the same reason as bubblers though – branding. I think at one point most ATMs in Wisconsin were operated by Tyme – which stood for Take Your Money Everywhere. Their slogan was Tyme is Money – clever, right? The network was only available in Wisconsin and the UP.

    • Yes, I remember that! I asked someone once about a Tyme machine, and they thought I was referring to the Delorean type of time machine!

      • I wonder, if anyone who was ever REALLY time traveling from a time where time machines were like bus stations, came to Wisconsin asked where to find a time machine, then someone sent him to an Tyme ATM and he kept pushing buttons trying to figure out. That would be funny.

  46. FOSTER FINCO says


  47. When I was studying in Ireland, I encountered an American tourist who asked me where the bubbler was. Instead of the “Are you speaking Klingon?” look, my eyes lit up and I asked if she was from Wisconsin. It turns out she and I lived only 20 miles apart and went to the same dentist!

  48. If you think everyone in Portland, OR is a left-wing hippie… you might be a redneck.

  49. I grew up in Milwaukee, then the Cedarburg area. Bubblers were the thing and I loved that I could get a good drink of water on the street in downtown Milwaukee from a bubbler. (Notice that the word bubbler gets underlined which indicates it is misspelled or not a word?) And we drank “soda water” made by the Ritter Soda Water Co. Then it changed to soda pop, and then either soda or pop. White soda was like 7UP but my favorite was called “swamp juice” which was Ritter’s uncarbonated orange soda.

    • Marilyn, yeah I also chuckled to myself when spell-check kept telling me bubbler wasn’t a word. That swamp juice stuff sounds awesome! I tried to look up Ritter’s Soda – but all I could find was people selling old labes eBay. Thanks for sharing your memories!

  50. W. W. Williams says

    Transplanted to Milwaukee area from central Ohio, I learned shortly that I had an accent and spoke in different lingo than my co-workers so I can relate to others who suffer confusion about bubblers and Tyme machines. Let me add this about soda vs. pop (diplomatically, we called it soda-pop where I grew up): The name, “pop” comes from an old bottle design that was sealed with a cork ball from inside the bottle. Carbonation pressure pushed upward on the cork, sealing it against the constricted mouth opening. To open it you would press your thumb down on the cork, forcing it into the neck and releasing the pressure. That would make a distinct “pop” sound. The cork remained in the neck as it was too large to slip out the top, and it was prevented from falling all the way in by a second constriction below it, so it was trapped loosely in its own compartment in the neck and the soda flowed around the cork when poured.

  51. Christine says

    10k Facebook shares! That’s awesome!

  52. Loved this story! I was born and raised in Milwaukee and thought everyone knew what a bubbler was….that was until I joined the Army. Since then I’ve been trying to convince people that I’m not crazy lol! Great story!

  53. This is not an attempt to jigger the map or findings, for there are anomolies wandering about every solid-set-of-historical-facts, just igglin’ to pounce and mess with the perceived or real stats. But growing up in a rural farm culture in northwest Hooseirland, our local county seat has three places, in the small town of under 2,000 farm-free-souls, where one could quench a thist from a ‘bubbler’. From the Kohler works, no less.

    As I remember, a pod of four bubbler units stood in a branched group out front of the courthouse west entrance; a single bubbler stood quench-sentry outside the hopsital’s east entrance and the last one at the foot of the steps leading up to our local Carnegie Library.

    I remember well the day I became an informed soul, about the proper term for these wonders of man-made utilitarian intelligence. I was to learn they were _NOT_ to be referred to as a ‘mere fountain’, but that they were, “Bubblers’. It was from the corrective tongue of a local, and quite prominent legal Sophi.

    Living as we did on a very rural farm, going to ‘town’ was a huge deal. The always anticipated stop was the wonderous Rexall Drugstore. All the size of one-car garage, to me it was the size of a Super Walmart. Hitting the soda-fountain for a rootbeer or Coka-cola float was my idea of Nirvana delight.

    One day, when I was a wee lad of near 5 -heading-into-6-years, we – Mom and I – made such a trip into our local urban center. After decimating -in short order – the Coka-Float, as the local Rexall fountain jerk marketed his special concoction, I decided to escape the ‘EverPresentEye’ of my mother to wander about the 3 block downtown of our rural metropolis; seeing the sites.

    After my hour-or-so-AWOL, the Rexall Coka-Float was long gone and I needed some free refreshment. For at the age of 5, I was found in much the same economic condition as today… present, but void of coin.

    Round the corner of the courthouse I spyed the oasis of water – bubbling into the air. I ran for the slake that awaited. Watered well. Backing away and off my tip-toes, I remarked to the air and no-one in particular, ‘Wow! That’s cold water! It must be a really good fountain.” As my hand made the drying pass over my lips I was near scared into the next quadrant of life by a booming voice of nomenclature correction. “Son! That is no fountain. That is a ‘Bubbler’. A Kohler Bubbler. It’s good because it’s Indiana water. It’s cold because that Bubbler is made in Wisconsin.”

    Nearly leaping into the next county, I whipped around to see a tall man. Well, at my 5 year old sizing, anyone over 5’6″ was gigantic! The MAN, was dressed in in a very gray pin-striped suit, wearing a neat Humphrey Bogart fedora, peering down at me through spyglass round wirerim glasses. His piercing grey eyes poking holes right through me. A second death was near to arrival, when I heard my mom’s voice. “Harry, if you’re grilling him for not being near him mother, I’ll stand in line, otherwise I get first crack.”

    Even through all that cat-o-ninetail promised pain, of mom’s voice, I was glad to see and hear her. Insanity they say, closely follows severe fright. I knew what near-death would be like from her; I’d already survived many. Yes, my conclusion of a near-death experince was a bit over-the-top, but hey, I was, after all, 5 years old! And I had no idea what type of pain and torture the ‘Grey suit guy’ would muster!

    He chuckled and related the reason for his peering-holes-through-me-stance-from-on-high. My mom laughed and said, “What did you call that fountain?” He laughed and told her the same story he’d told me. She looked at the fountain and back at Harry and said, “Well, OK, then Bubbler it is. Seems sensible. They do ‘bubble up’ like a spring.” They laughed. Something I was not fortnate enough to do a few minutes later. Death comes early when the bubbles fade and mom’s rath is rekindled.

    And you wonder how a 5 year old remembers all this?

    Well it wasn’t totally for the tail-shreading I got for freelancing my own little gadabout town, after giving my mom the slip at the Rexall; though it did have a serious impact! The real reason for the memory clarity was this: For the next 15 years, everytime I saw Harry-the Lawyer, he’d seem to always get the drop on me, from behind, and ring out cadence I soon grew to consider one of my fonder memories, “Son! That is no fountain.That is a ‘Bubbler’.” We reinacted that same little skit, dozens of times over those 15 years. They only ended with Harry’s death. My mom and I would joke about the ‘whole bubbler affair’. Harry’s role was the memory kick that lasted all those years – until her death now nearly 25 years past.

    So, for this Hoosier boy, ‘Bubbler’ is a lot more than just the name of a Wisconsin drinking apparatus, it is cornerstone of a childhoold memory. I’ve not forgotten that bit of memory either. But I must admit, this story was a much welcome reboot. Thank you. Now I have to go get a drink and imagine standing over a Bubbler.

    • I should have stated that all three Bubbler locations are long gone. Replaced, not by modern ‘fountains’, but by empty spaces. Fortunately there are those of us who still remember their once-upon-a-time existence. At least for a few more years.

    • Les, thanks for stopping by and sharing your story! I was a wandering kid too. But that’s where adventures comes and when we learn new things, right?

    • Les, your story was so cool! It doesn’t have to even be true-it was charming and endearing! Thanks for sharing!

  54. I was glad to see that the dialect map reinforced my experience. I’m form Northwest Wisconsin, where we did say “drinking fountain.” I also grew up calling a car’s turn signal a “clicker” but discovered that was peculiar to our family, not our region!

  55. I didn’t read all of the posts but “Drinker Beware”. These types of fountains are outlawed for the obvious reason as the water you drink was in someone else’s mouth moments before or could have excrement from birds or insects. Modern, safer fountains have a hood over the spout and the water comes out of the spout in an arc so someones slobber wont fall into the water outlet. I am surprised it hasn’t been discussed with the City Council or the powers that be, as to the gross direct contamination of the water supply and health hazards associated with this type of fountain, or as you like to call them “bubblers”.

    • Russell – we call all drinking fountains bubblers in Wisconsin.

      I’m not even sure if the original Kohler bubblers in Madison and Portland are even operational. So don’t get your plumber panties in a bundle.

      If you read the story you may have noticed that we mentioned the arc of water was introduced just a few years after the bubbler’s release anyway. Kohler still makes “bubblers”. If you click the link in this story you’ll see there is a hood on modern bubblers. But if you watch Parks & Rec on NBC – you know that you can still put your whole mouth on it.

  56. Ben Walczak says

    Came acrossed another dialect study/survey map today that shows not only the Bubbler/Water Fountian/Drinking Fountain, but also the Soda/Pop/Coke etc debate. There are many others as well, one that got me was the Crayfish (which is how I grew up knowing it)/Crawfish/Crawdad map.

  57. Crawfish/crawdad/mud bug are all crayfish. Soda/pop/coke is any carbonated drink that is dark in color. 🙂 In the South, we say coke, whether it’s a Pepsi, RC, or other. We normally call them crawdads or crawfish. Us in the Deep South say stove eyes instead of stove burners. We say toboggan instead of knitted hat. Toboggan is from tobogganing hat, which we apparently decades back cut short because a toboggan is a sled down here. Since there’s is practically no snow, we don’t go tobogganing. So the hat that was worn while “sledding” became a toboggan.
    Imagine when my kids and I traveled north and a person talked about tobogganing down the hill…my oldest son was puzzled: why would someone sled down the hill on their hat??
    Regional dialects are cool to learn about.

    • All good ones! The coke thing always threw me off when I visited the south.
      “What kind of coke do you want?”
      “Huh? I want a root beer man, not Coke!”

      Thanks for stopping by to check us out.

  58. Robert J Herrera Sr says

    Bubblers FOREVER!!!! Lmfao

  59. Born and raised in Kohler, WI! ;D bubbler user for life!

  60. Also born and raised in Kohler…one of my earliest and fondest memories are the public bubblers located around the village…how as a small child you would have to pull up a park bench to drink from it, clogging the drain to fill it up for a bathtub for Barbie or racing to it, trying to beat your friends after playing in Ravine Park all day…even to commiserating with owner of the occasional chipped tooth after engaging in horseplay around it…

    • Fun memories! Thanks for sharing, Mary.

    • We lived in Kohler as well, and I loved the bubblers that were all around the village. I also loved that the village was called, a ‘garden village at a factory gate’! That is exactly what it was too….a garden village. Our home was one of the first non-brick ones built and it was on Schooool Street…the Bavarian styled home at the end of the block. As for the Schooool reference, continue reading. We moved to Pittsburgh Pa in 1974 (talk about weird dialect) and then moved here to the San Diego area, 23 yrs ago. Just this past weekend, our Grandchildren were visiting us as well as our niece from Fond du Lac, where my husband and I grew up. One of our grandsons, asked me what I call a place to get a drink of water from, when out and about. I told him a “bubbler”. He couldn’t believe it and said that was what my nieces children called it and he had never heard that word before. He attends college in Colorado and no one there says that so he can’t wait to get with his buddies and call the drinking/water fountain a bubbler. I also told him a soda was a ‘pop’, a root beer was pronounced rut beer, we flew a flaaaig and put our food in a baaaig, whenever we went shopping in Mulwalkie. I carried my purse, or what used to be called a pocketbook, or handbaaaig.
      I also told him about the times I had to take his daddy into Sheboygan which was very close to T’rivers. He was laughing so hard and didn’t want me to stop!! I have really enjoyed the comments on this site and especially enjoyed the story of how the bubbler came to be called that. Oh, and out here the blinkers are called turn signals or directionals, and you always drive on freeways, or the I-5, and in town you stop at the stop lights, not ‘stop and go lights’ such as when I lived in Wisconsin. I find dialects to be fascinating and thank you for writing this article which got so many people responding.
      Yes, and I know an Australian who says Bubbler too!! LOL

  61. That was awesome! I was looking for a site to tell my family where water fountains are called bubblers and I actually got a color coded map! Thank you for the informative entertainment.


  62. I grew up in MA, calling it a Bubbler (of course my dad worked for Wausau Insurance of Wisconsin- perhaps that’s it). Moved to PA and really confused my middle school students with the directions to the Bubbler. They confused me even more by telling me we had a Water Fountain down the hallway. I was so excited to be in a building that had a real fountain of water in it, creating a beautiful atmosphere with it’s display of water cascading down. I really did look for this fountain of water in our atrium lobby. The kids thought I was nuts.
    We all sorted it out after a day or two- had quite a laugh!

  63. Patrick Getty says

    I don’t think it is any mystery why we folks from Massachusetts and Rhode Island call drinking fountains “bubblers.” When I was growing up in Springfield, MA I had a water fountain in the yard with the word “bubbler” engraved on it by the manufacturer.

  64. I am from Western WI (and reading other comments of yours…in no shape or form would I ever ever call myself a Minnesotan, I guess I am from an area sometimes referred to as “Minnesconsin” though) I now live in Eastern WI, in my husband’s hometown. My 5 year old will say “Mommy calls it a drinking fountain, Daddy calls it a bubbler” She uses both interchangeably 🙂 ~ Does that make her bi-lingual ;-p people here talk so different!
    I never heard of the term bubbler until I started college (in Western WI) and had girls in my dorm from other parts of WI. I think it was actually part of our first floor meeting with the RA.

  65. How fun to stumble on this discussion! The Wisconsin Historical Society sells a T-shirt (in tasteful lime green) that has, on the front, a picture of a public drinking-water fixture and the words IT’S A BUBBLER. On the back it says A FOUNTAIN IS WHERE YOU THROW COINS. My family got me one of the shirts for Mother’s Day a few years back. I treasure it.

    My family moved from Long Island, New York to Racine, Wisconsin when I was 6 years old. One of the first things I learned was what a ‘bubbler’ was.

  66. Liz Koester says

    How I have enjoyed reading this whole discussion!!!! I am a Milwaukee girl who moved to Spokane at 22 (for hubby’s Air Force tour), then here to Medford, Oregon. I still use bubblers and blinkers and soda and koosies and schnitzles and jimmies and I had forgotten about paddle-pops! I am constantly asked where I am from because of my “accent”, (which I don’t hear). Once I was asked if I were from Switzerland, which greatly amused me!!!!

    I was working at a Museum when someone asked if we had a bubbler. I jumped up & down & yelled ” where in WisCONsin are you from???” Sure enough, he was!

    Thanks for this great discussion even tho I have joined in so late–I’d love to have one of those “bubbler” T-shirts!!!

  67. Harlen Huckleby also played running back for the Packers from about 1980 to 1985.

  68. ok…..i have lived in wisconsin all my life and ive never heard anyone call it that or called it that myself….everyone heres crazy

  69. Being the Wisconsin pothead I am, I call it a water fountain because I laugh when I ask where the bubbler is and I think of a water pipe.

  70. I moved from Wisconsin to South Dakota. I’ve given up bag for sack, but I can’t exchange bubbler for the super-clunky water fountain!

  71. this original song by a native son of Wisconsin (Waukesha) touches on the bubbler, “The Cheesehead Song”

  72. I loved reading the Sheboyganese post. As a native Sheboyganite I must admit I didn’t need translation. It was like my Grandma was talking to the 9 year old version of me again…

    And it was bake-ry, not bake-er-ry.

    I loved reading the article as well as every post in here. It’s a wonderful feeling of solidarity. Ya enso!

  73. Great to learn something new as here in Ks. We’ve always called them water fountains.

  74. I relocated to N. FL from the WBAY viewing area and had to learn a new langauge when moving here. Never knew I had an accent before but it seems I do!—even 25 years later!! When someone visits me from home, immediately my ‘accent’ returns and hangs on a while after they are gone. Makes me miss them a bit less.

    I am familiar with the bubbler thing, the soda vs. coke choices (folks say I pronounce ‘soda’ like my nose is pinched shut, but it’s cute), say ‘stop and go lights’ and blinker with my cute little lilt. Even after all these years, people will ask smile and ask me where I am from, with ideas that I am from Canada, MN, or some other exotic place than WI. My FL friends refer to their purses as pocketbooks, but I’d never get mine into my pocket. A grocery cart is a buggie, and I get mocked for the way I pronounce ‘Crayon’ and ‘baayygg’. While I refer to my living room furniture was being a sofa, my mom, still in Manty, calls her a Davenport. It’s that branding thing again!

    Love reading stories from those who got away, and from those who have made their homes in WI (a.k.a. God’s country!)

    Still say every Sunday during the season – Go Pack Go!!!

  75. Please excuse my errors in the posting—generally like to edit first, but I was excited!

  76. We live in the house a relative grew up in. I showed him something we found under the eves when putting a new roof on. He said, “look at that! the old Spiggot” It was something they put into a barrel to let the moonshine out!. To Funny.
    I am also guilty of calling a couch/sofa a davenport. And I am “only” 63. I told my granddaughter age 3 to go sit on the davenport and I would bring her a book. She went running into the living room only to come right back to ask me “grandma? whats a davenport?”

  77. Very interesting always wondered why we called it a bubbler and others called it a water fountain. So now tell me why do we say soda and others call it fountain drinks? Just curious 🙂

  78. This makes me proud to be born and raised in good ol’ Wisconsin! 😀

  79. Gail slaughter says

    I went to high school in Detroit with. Guy named Harlan Huckleby. He went on to play football for a while with the Green Bay Packers. I wonder if he knows the connection of his name to the bubbler

  80. Phyllis Fischer says

    When we traveled from Pulaski, WI to take our son to college in Iowa, it was a very hot August day. After a twelve-hour drive, I was extremely “dry”. Some young guys were moving their things into the dorm, and I asked them where the “bubbler” was. They looked strangely at me and asked, “WHAT do you want?” I repeated, “a bubbler”, thinking “what’s wrong with these guys, anyway?” Next, they asked, “What do you want it for?” I said, sarcastically, “I’M DRY”! They looked puzzled, and said, “Do you mean a water fountain”? I said, “I guess so!” They led me to the “bubbler”, laughing all the way. And we had to go back home to Wisconsin and leave our poor son there!

  81. Monte Marchant says

    I can’t believe the number of folks saying they live in Ft. Atkinson 🙂 Seriously, I went there in the ’70’s to be the best man for a good friend of mine (Kevin Kelley). Thought I had returned to my own small Iowan home town. It must have grown.

  82. I’m From Aus, lived in South Australia for 23 years and Queensland for 4 years and visited Victoria regularly through out my life and i’ve never heard the term Bubbler so i wonder if its only in some regions of aus and associated with close ties to wisconsent state where bubbler is used

    • Maybe so Ash. Don’t know if you’ve read all the comments – but there is an Aussie who confirmed that people where he lives call it a bubbler – but he didn’t say where in Australia he is from. Look for David’s comments from March 27, 2013.

  83. I like the link with all the maps. One word I didn’t see was Aunt. We always pronounced it like the Ant or Antie but I hear it as Awnt or Awntie here in Milwaukee.

  84. I’m from Texas (yee haw) and I’ve never heard of a bubbler. I use the term water fountain, which strangely enough is also used for an outdoor decorative garden fountain. But we don’t have to distinguish between the two. I guess if you’re walking down the hallway asking where the water fountain is, most people know you want to drink from it and not watch it!
    My husband is from Ohio and when I asked him what he called it he said drinking fountain. He said a water fountain is the statue of the little boy peeing. And he had not even read this article!
    On a side note, I grew up calling everything coke. Then the waitress would ask what kind? And you would narrow it down by saying Sprite (or whatever you want). However, now that I’m older I call it soda. You know, to sound more international. 🙂

  85. Its a water fountain!

  86. I am originally from Wisconsin and I moved to Springfield Massachusetts for one year. They did look at me funny when I said Tyme machine. I also said sucker and got made fun of for that, they call it a lollipop.

    • Anybody still play Sheepshead?? In high school, guys ate lunch fast so they could go back & play cards. Every day. When the men & boys in my family played, there was a lot of yelling involved. Women didn’t often play.

  87. I grew up in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Everyone I know while growing up used the term bubbler. It was only until I moved to New Orleans for school and asked “where the bubbler was?” that I was laughed at and told there “weren’t any bubbles around in the science building.” Fast forward 6 years, I moved to Kenosha, WI for school. My 2nd week in school someone asked “where’s the bubbler?” I nearly cried tears of joy and hugged them.

  88. Dawn Langhammer says

    Am lifelong Milwaukeen. While climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge,our local escort turned to us and said “Here’s the last bubbler,or what you’d call a drinking fountain, so if you’re thirsty get a drink now. My mom and I were so surprised we had to tell him that we also called it a bubbler. He was very happy we shared where we were from!

  89. Cassandra Larsen says

    the old sturgeon bay high school had porcelain bubblers. when you were initiated into the school in 6th grade you were given a bubbler ride or pushed onto the bubbler and your seat would be wet.

  90. I grew up in the Milwaukee area. My dad’s from the east coast. Everyone in my family called it a bubbler. I knew SOME people called it a “drinking fountain” and decided to be “from somewhere else” when I moved to Minnesota and asked for a “drinking fountain.” come to find out that EVERYONE here calls it a drinking fountain! If we’re on the Wisconsin side of the border, I correct my husband (It’s a BUBBLER here) and I have to explain it to my kids when my mom calls it a bubbler, and in my mind it’s always going to be a bubbler….

  91. Sorry, at least in Central Michigan it was a WATER FOUNTAIN. I refuse to use the B word. So to be acceptible in Wisconsin, I switched to Drinking Fountain..

  92. I found your post when searching for “What is a bubbler called in America”. LOL. I am an Aussie author converting my Cheer Chick Charlie children’s books to US English for Amazon. It occurred to me during the conversion that I’d never heard Bubbler used in the USA, I did not know about your fair state! YAY! We are “bubbler brothers” (or sisters … or cousins … or something). Anyway, I have switched the text in my book to drinking fountain to cater for the majority of the US fans. Thanks so much for clarifying!
    Cheer Chick Charlie 🙂
    (and fellow blogger)

  93. If you live in Waukesha Wisconsin (or visit the birthplace of Les Paul) stop by Cutler Park. look at the cannons and slurp from a bubbler yourself. There’s still one there, at the east end of the park by the playground area.

  94. Dennis R. says

    I live in Waukesha Wisconsin. You can also re-create you own bubbling “Bubbler”.

    Hook up a garden hose with no attachments. Turn on the water low to moderately and point hose end straight up. You will then have a bubbling “Bubbler”.

  95. Years ago, while waitressing, I had a young woman ask me if we had a water fountain. I thought a moment, thinking this a strange question, but I answered her and told her she could find one about a mile away in front of, the now Quad Graphics building on Hyw. 100. I didn’t know a bubbler was called other names, like drinking or water fountain!!!! I hope she didn’t have to travel far to find one! Born, bread and raised a Wisconsinite!

    • I once worked in that Quad Graphics office. The real purpose of that pond is to have a large water source for the fire sprinklers. The fountain keeps the water moving all year round so it will not freeze. If she saw it, she would figure out quickly not to drink from it with the canada geese and ducks who love finding liquid water there all year. 😉

  96. The original design was a tube that you would l literally put your lips on and drink the water, which would bubble water over it. For obvious reasons of sanitation this was modified into the arch of water(minus the tube). Nice try though.

  97. New Yorkers call it a bubbler, too 🙂

  98. David Nord says

    Hate to tell you this, but the Kohler commercial plumbing fixture catalogs call them “drinking fountains”….

  99. M Greenisen says

    I live in a town called Boiling Springs in Pennsylvania. Our school mascot is a bubble (like the kind that comes from soap), and we call ourselves the ‘Bubblers’. That is why this article drew my attention. It’s very interesting that Wisconsin calls water fountains bubblers. I like it.

  100. So I grew up in Georgia and I guess I pretty much assumed the rest of the world called it a water fountain. Then I moved to Florida (and there are all kinds of people here) and I met a girl from Massachusetts. One day after class I told her something around the lines of that I was thirsty and I was going to go to the water fountain. She just kind of stared at me and she was like,”What the heck is a water fountain?” And I just kind of stared back like are you dumb or something. I said, “You know, a water fountain. You drink water from it. It comes from a faucet.” She was like, “Oh you mean a water bubbler.” (and by the way the computer just tried to autocorrect the word bubbler) Then I repeated her question, “What the heck is a water bubbler?” And she was like, “I guess that’s what we called a water fountain.” And we kind of stared at each other again before laughing. And she repeated it again saying, “Watah bubblah.” And I laughed and said, “Omg that was the most northern thing I’ve ever heard.”

  101. I am from Rhode Island, so it was always a bubblah to me. Went to boot camp and the DI assigned me to keep the drinking fountain clean, I was astute enough to know what he meant so went on with the task. Later he was quizzing us as to our responsibilities, and I said I had to clean the bubblah. The WHAT? The bubblah sergeant, WHAT THE HELL IS A BUBBLAH? Thinking quickly I told him the drinking fountain? Well he got a good laugh out of that one, guess
    there was nobody from Wisconsin to assign it to.

  102. Actually, I’m from north central Massachusetts and have never in my life heard it called a water fountain; it’s always been a bubbler. It’s not just the eastern part of the state that uses the word bubbler, I even have friends in eastern mass who call it the same thing. However, my cousins in NH still insist it’s a water fountain 🙂

  103. We call it a water fountain in California, don’t know where you got your information from.

  104. Bridget Gregory McElreath says

    Our whole family (all 13 of us) traveled from WI to CA in 1956. One of my little brothers asked the girl behind the counter in a store in Oklahoma for some “orange soda.” She asked him about 3 times, “What’d y’all want?”, finally going to a shelf and coming back with a box of baking soda. He said no, he wanted orange soda; she looked at me and asked again what he wanted. “Orange soda,” I said slowly, “like you drink.” She said, “Ah, y’all want a bottle of pop?”

    We’ve laughed about that for years. And yes, even though I now have lived in Oklahoma for over 40 years, I still call it soda.

  105. Conversation between and my sister the first time I went to WI:

    Carol: Do you have a Time Card.
    Me: Well, yeah, at work, I do.
    Carol: You leave your Time Card at work?
    ME: Yeah, where else would I keep it?
    Carol: In your wallet. That way you can get money whenever you need it.
    Me: Well, yeah, if they gave us our checks, I guess I could get money, but it still wouldn’t be whenever I needed it.
    Carol: Why wouldn’t it. If you have money in the bank, they’ll give you money.
    Me: Well, we don’t have to have money in the bank to get paid. They just do it every pay day.

    Shortly after this conversation, we pulled over to an ATM, and my sister pointed to one of the icons for the cards it accepted, and she said, Is this what you are talking about? A TYME Card? I told her I thought she meant the time card I hand in to show how many hours I worked. She says, “Well, do you have these machines in Washington?”

    I said, “Yes, but we call them ATMs, and we call the card a debit card.” I love foreign languages!

    • Kim Lahaie Day says

      Ha! I had the same type of experience once when I was at the Oneida Casino. I asked one of the attendants if they had an ATM and she said, “No.” I found that awfully odd since certainly folks needed cash to play the games and that’s what the casino is all about. Then she said to me, “We do have a Tyme machine….” and directed me to an ATM. Um….what???

  106. I moved away from Milwaukee when I was 19, to Colorado where I had kids and am raising my family. I still call them bubblers and so do all of my children. It’s so much more fun than water fountain!

  107. Cindy Carlson, on behalf of all Wisconsinites, I apologize for your experience. It truly shocks me to hear of what you are saying. I’ve been living in WI for about 20 yrs and I really believe that we’re a diverse area for one but hospitable for sure. I’m originally from MI and I’d expect that type of behavior more from there than here in WI. That would be lower MI to be exact. Not to say that they’re singled out. I agree with Chey, maybe it wasn’t so much the people as it was the situation (?) Just a thought…also along with Chey in saying and believing that there are bad seeds everywhere, unfortunately. Timing and circumstances can also affect a situation. Nevertheless, I hope that your next experience here will be a better one…that’s if you’d give us another try. 🙂 God bless you and yours~

  108. Lol A Rhode Islander moved to Wisconsin, a Wisconsinite heard the Rhode Islander and its a “bubblah”. Get it right.

  109. Always been a bubbler to us in RI!!

  110. Yes! I grew up on the north shore of Massachusetts and we called it the bubbler. I moved to connecticut as an adult and at my kids school they look puzzled when I call it a bubbler. But now my kids call it the bubbler :).

  111. I grew up in Milwaukee and moved to Kansas 30 years ago. I’m teaching my grandkids the word bubbler! Spread the word!

  112. Jonathan Gardner says

    Found a 1947 American Standard bubbler dose anyone have information on this antique I have photos please email

  113. Mark Amaral says

    In RI it’s a bubbler and always will be! To some of us, a bubblah.

  114. I thought that “bubbler” was used only in some parts of Massachusetts/Rhode Island. Interesting.

  115. Amusing find in my random google reads. I remember being in 1st – 4th grade, being made fun of for NOT calling those things a “bubbler”. I had moved into WI from Colorado where “Drinking fountain” was the word.
    I was asking where the “drinking fountain” was and everyone from Appleton, WI at the time looked very confused, even the teachers. Fellow classmates snickered at me, laughed at how I came up with such a foreign word. Finally when they realized what I wanted they wanted to make sure I called it a bubbler. If I didn’t, they looked so confused and perhaps a bit upset? Their efforts failed. I lived in WI for most of my life but could never use that word without a chuckle.

    Fortunately in Milwaukee, WI, even though “Bubbler” was still used, people there seemed to have a better idea where the “drinking fountain” was, or at least after a slight pause point me to the right direction. Now in MN whenever anyone comes to me asking where the “bubbler” my answer is to laugh and ask if they are from Wisconsin. I’ll get an answer like yes, how’d you know? Before sending them off to the drinking fountain. Kind of funny thinking about it all, tables turned. Being made fun of for using a common term vs a local term, but if those locals that made fun of me moved outside the state, they’d be the ones picked on. That said I also got made fun of and corrected more less constantly using the term “pop” and not soda. I came to use “soda”, but easily switched back to calling it pop in MN.

  116. When I moved from Milwaukee to Las Vegas I asked my new group of 4th grade schoolmates where the bubbler was. They had no idea what I was talking about. They started ridiculing me and I thought they were going to beat me up.

  117. I am from Green Co., Wisc. (south of Madison), and we never called it bubbler, so that map is not completely accurate. It may have been a pocket, consisting of Schweitzers. English was a second language for my parents, and many of my peers’ parents. So, I was able to understand the example of Sheboygan dialect pretty well.

  118. I moved to Fort Atkinson in 2012, and it was almost like having to learn a new language. I grew up in the Dodgeville/Mineral Point area, and we never called it a bubbler, it was a water fountain. The whole ‘crick’ instead of ‘creek’ thing gets me, too; as well as ‘stop and go lights’. To me, it was always ‘the lights’.

    Of course, SW Wisconsin has it’s own oddball way of talking, too. I know plenty of people there that use ‘warsh’ and ‘zink’ instead of wash and sink. It’s also the only place I’ve lived where a car’s turn signals are ‘blinkers.’

    One thing I’ve noticed travelling around the state: if you tell someone you’re going to Point for a trip, everyone knows you mean Stevens Point. Unless you’re in the southwestern part of the state, then you mean Mineral Point. When I’d visit my relatives in Adams County, they’d tell me the were going to the Fleet Farm in Point, and I’d correct them and tell them there’s no Farm and Fleet in Mineral Point. I got a lot of weird looks for that one.

  119. branden hinkle says

    Even funnier to me is the fact that the east coast drinks from “water fountains” HAHA!. I’ts called a drinking fountain! Water fountains are large water displays in front of businesses & other public areas. i can understand “bubbler”, but certainly not a “water fountain”. Just google water fountain and look at the results…its mostly water displays, now google drinking fountain, you will get drinking fountains and drinking fountains only in the results.

  120. I went to NC. Fort Bragg and they never heard the term snarls a girls asked me isn’t that what a dog does its tangles in your hair and yeah cheese curds not heard of I went to three different stores looking for them but yes bubbler also was a laugh.

  121. People in Maine say bubbler…..

  122. I doubt anyone will reply to this 4 years after being written but here is a story. So I live in Portland (For now, I am moving to Northern Wisconsin in about a month.) Knowing a little bit of Portlands history I can say with relative certainty that Simon Benson (Benson Bubblers) was born in Norway but got the term bubbler when he immigrated to Wisconsin in the late 1800s. He spent time in Wisconsin from around 16 until around 27 years old. So coming from a country that doesn’t speak English, and moving to Wisconsin where the vast majority only spoke English (especially around 1900), I am sure that it is because of the Wisconsinites in the early 1900s that the “Benson Bubblers” even exist.

  123. Trevor M says

    Hello, Australian here.

    If you’re still reading comments here you will be interested in this:

    “Bubbler” is in fact primarily used in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, and not widely used in the rest of the country.

    • When my mom and I were climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge, our leader, said ” this is the last water fountain, or as we call it bubbler, until we come down” imagine our amazement at this statement! I always knew I loved Aussies! He couldn’t believe we knew what he was referring to!

  124. Lee Hurley says

    I Grew up in Milwaukee and bubblers were on most street corners downtown. Until I moved away, I didn’t realize they were called anything else.

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