Little Details

A Fact-Checking Community for Writers

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
Minnesota slang and sayings
cerridwen666 wrote in little_details
I have a character in a fic that I'm working on that has moved to America from Wales. He is leasing an apartment in Bemidji, Minnesota (he wishes to be close to the university that he'll be working at). Now, I've done some research via Google, but I'm not having any luck. I have a new character that is going to be introduced and I want her to be as Minnesotan as you can get. She was born and raised in Bemidji and I was curious about any slang or sayings that she might use. I have a fairly good grasp of Bemidji (I used to vacation on Leech Lake nearby) so I know the area legends and tourist spots, but anything really would be helpful really. *disappears back to Google to see if maybe his Googlefu will work a bit better this time*

Page 1 of 2
<<[1] [2] >>
I have a lot of family in Minnesota. The things that spring to mind immediately are that soft drinks are called pop and I had an aunt who referred to the newspaper comics page as "the funnies." The more distinctive thing is probably the accent; my stepmother, who grew up in St. Paul, swears that Fargo gets it pretty dead on.

I shall have to hunt down this Fargo that speak of. Thank you.

I'm sorry I don't recall the author at the moment, but there's a great book, "How to Speak Minnesotan," which (despite the comedy angle) is actually pretty spot-on. I have a dear friend in MN, so I go back whenever I can to visit.

They have "hot dish," which is a casserole of various kinds; 'bars' which are often Rice Crispie bars; "a little lunch," which is a surprising amount of various dishes. Some of them *do* say, "Don'cha know," "you bet'cha," and "Uff da!" -- the Minnesotan equivalent of my Yiddish "Oy vey!"

Seriously, if you can find the book, you'll pick up a lot of things they still say. :) Hope this helps and good luck to you!

My grandmother says "uffda", but I rarely say it. The other two are more of a joking thing for the younger generation. I say it out here in socal with "the accent" to make people laugh.

I grew up in Michigan and moved to St. Paul. My Minnesotan housemates ask me if I want my food 'hotted up' if it's been sitting long enough to chill, and occasionally comment "You're just *verb*ing right along there, aren'tcha?" - rhetorically, generally to other drivers doing something they disapprove of. That's more of a put-on accent, though.

Mostly I've noticed that it's more an attitude than an accent. Minnesotans are so laid back they're pretty much horizontal. They're polite, they get the job done, and they like understatement. I like Minnesota.

Minnesotans are so laid back they're pretty much horizontal.

This? Made me LOL.

Okay lets see what I can come up with. As stated above, I was raised there, lived there 21 years, still go back a couple times a year. This is all just personal experience, coming from a southeastern MN town of 25,000 people, so keep that in mind.

The Cities - Twin Cities
The Mall - The Mall of America
The River - The Mississippi River
The Airport - MSP International Airport.
The Funnies - The comic section in the paper.
Pop = soda
Creek - Pronounced Crick
Hotdishes - in specific, Tator Tot Hotdish
We say the word "so" in front of most every sentence.
And we do say "oh yeah" a lot.
Long O's, and A's, but not as much as they do in Fargo.
We're "minnesota nice", as was described above.
I agree with the "wanna come with", I used to say that a lot.
We leave our cars running in the parking lot in the winter.
In the smaller towns, it's not uncommon for cars/houses to be left unlocked.
You can go to the local grocery store and see 5-7 people you know just shopping there, let alone working there.
Very religious, close knit families.

I'm sure I'll come up with more later. I'd say look up a list of "you know you're from Minnesota if" and run it by a few people from MN (I'll be up for the challenge if you'd like) and that will give you a lot more than I can think of right now.

Every good Minnesotan knows about 'Sven and Ole's Pizza' in Grand Marais. It's a tourist town, but it's a Minnesota landmark. (Grand Marais is a little town on the edge of Lake Superior, so it's a bit from Bemidji, but very well known).

Other than that, Minnesota is a lot like Canada (Northern Ontario specifically), just not part of Canada. Yet.

Other Minnesota-isms: Block Heaters (used to keep engines plugged in and warm at night in winter). These are totally unknown in Wales.


Block heaters are really a "cold-winter place" thing, rather than a specifically Minnesota-ism, surely? My Canadian friends certainly talk about them. Definitely unknown in Wales, though - and anywhere else in the UK; I'm pretty sure I've never even seen one in Highland Scotland. It's just not cold enough.

I grew up in Minnesota (suburb of minneapolis), and there are a few things I say that are Minnesotan or at least Mid-Western. Keep in mind, different parts of Minnesota actually has different accents... for example, my grandma has what my family calls a "nord'est" (northeast) accent, and she says things like "counsint" instead of cousin, and "torlet" instead of toilet. This is an accent I've rarely seen outside of my relatives.

The ones I'm bad about.
--Saying "I borrowed him [something]." Not loaned. Borrowed.
--Saying "bolth" instead of "both"
--Saying "Acrossed"/"Acrosst" instead of just Across.

As far as the movie Fargo... careful using that for your guideline. It's EXTREMELY exaggerated. Also, everyone in the movie kept talking about the Twin Cities.. most people say EXACTLY what city they are referring to. "I'm going to Minneapolis." I don't know, maybe up north people say that, but usually people said the city than they meant.

Hmm.. People are always talking about the Mega-Mall. They mean the Mall of America, but most of the locals just say Mega-Mall.

That's all I can think of offhand, but if I think of anything else, I'll definitely post it.

The most important rule of all... It's POP, not soda!!!

Oh, and instead of "roof", it's pronounced kind of like "ruff" or "rouff" or something.. hard to type it. The "oooo" sound is slightly modified, but when I say "ruff" it doesn't rhyme with "cuff"... anyone know what I'm talking about?

(no subject) (Anonymous) Expand
Re: It's POP, not soda! (Anonymous) Expand
(no subject) (Anonymous) Expand
This post made me smile. Life-long Minnesotan here, except for 7 years in the Bay Area in the 80s. I wanted to read all comments first so I don't repeat anyone. We're quite conservative (not politically, though) and when faced with weirdness, we're know to say, "That's different," in a flat voice. It's meant to take the starch out of the others' weirdness. It's sort of like the Church Lady's "Isn't that special?" except not so sarcastic.

You sure about that? ^^ How would one of you react if someone pulled a wand out and made their laundry fold itself?

"That was...different" can mean anything from "I didn't get that" to "God, that was awful," often with the same vocal inflection.

Another thing a non-local might notice--often, the "t" sound will be softened in the middle of words: "Minnesoda", "North Dakoda". Never at the beginning of words, though.

Like other places, people who think they're comedians will lay on the accent really thick when meeting out of staters for the first time.

And although it's probably unlikely for politics to come up, Minnesota has slightly different names for their two big parties: DFL (Democratic Farmer-Labor) and IR (Independent Republican.) They're Democrats and Republicans when you say the names, but the abbreviations are as before.

the "t" sound will be softened in the middle of words: "Minnesoda", "North Dakoda".

This is true of many dialects of English, and possibly even the English spoken by the Welsh character. It's definitely not a Minnesota-only thing.

Unless maybe you mean that the "t" will actually become voiced, rather than a tap/flap as elsewhere...

I moved to Minneapolis 16 years ago. Two of the things that I still notice are "parking ramp" rather than the "parking garage" I'm used to elsewhere and "rubber binders" for "rubber bands." Oh and people often "borrow something to someone" rather than "lend" it.

I've never heard of the rubber binders personally.

But yes, you "borrowed" it to someone. As in,

"Do you still have that book I borrowed you?"

Oh and the word "sure" is said a lot also. Just thought of that one.

I'm a native Alabamian, still living there. I married a Minnasotan (from St. Paul) and we live in Alabama.

The "Minnasoata Nice" is really the most noteable characteristic. We went to a St. Paul bookstore when we visited his parents and I've never seen people be so polite in my life. Everyone stayed with their group and talked quietly, and nobody tried to chat up someone they didn't know. It was weird.

In many places, Minnasotans (in the Cities, I might add), were unfailingly, amazingly polite. In Alabama, a lot of people try to be entertaining to make sure someone pays attention. In Minnasota, there's no audience. You don't have to perform. It's...kind of nice.

Recorded Samples of Minnesota Accents

I'm listening to the second one now. It's not like Fargo, but it's really noticeable on the vowels. I found this site while trying to decide where in the south one of my characters would be from. They have samples from everywhere!

An early commenter said that the accent wasn't noticeable in people from the Cities, but when I lived in San Francisco, I'd get: "You're not from around here. Where are you from?" They guessed Wisconsin, Iowa, North and South Dakota.

I said, "Minnesota."

They said, "Isn't that in Minneapolis?"

So true..


2007-09-04 05:32 pm (UTC)

My first visit to San Diego a few years ago the two cute barista girls had no idea where Minnesota was. I had to pull up google maps on my laptop... I'm not even sure they were aware it was a state..

I've also had others in California (I live in the bay area now) ask if Minnesota was in Canada.

But I think that's just California in general.. born and raised in California seems to suggest they don't know shit about anything outside of California.. they believe they've already found gods gift to geography.

I'm one of anonymous_bosh's aforementioned Minnesotan housemates, and you know, we're not really joking. We really do talk like that.

We don't have the 'Fargo' accent mostly, since we grew up in the Cities. But some of the verbal mannerisms are spot-on.

Don't take the exaggerated Scandinavian-isms as gospel unless you're writing a goofy old farmer. Younger folks tone them down a bit. For instance, we'd say "Yaknow" instead of "Dontcha know", and "You bet" instead of "You betcha". And I've never known anyone under 60 to say "uff da" unless they were joking.

There's a sort of singsong rhythm of language, kind of laid back and amused, that we have around here. A way of commenting on what's going on without getting excited about it. For example, when annoyed by another driver in traffic, rather than honking or swearing at them, we're more likely to say, "You might wanna pick a lane there sometime." We say it quietly to ourselves. It's not like hearing it will improve their driving, so why waste the energy? We need those calories for staying warm. :D

The lake is always 'up' from wherever you are, and you go up to 'the lake' unless there's a particular need for people to know which lake. Snowmobiles are 'sleds', and they're only recreational vehicles as much as a bicycle is; it's not uncommon for every kid in a farm family to have his/her own sled. It's not a sign of wealth. Similarly, having your own boat doesn't mean you're rich, it just means you fish. Timeshare on lake cabins is really common too. We live outdoors as much as we can manage, more so outside the urban areas.

Use the word 'there' as a general intensifier; you can append it to just about any sentence. Also, 'you wanna' can substitute for any imperative or suggestion. You can add 'okay' as a kind of doubling of 'there' if you don't quite feel like you're done talking. "You wanna put 'there' on the end of your sentence there, okay."

In general, if your character talks like a standard American, he or she will be plenty authentic; just sprinkling one or two of these expressions around will be enough to get the 'Minnesotan-ness' across. :)

For example, when annoyed by another driver in traffic, rather than honking or swearing at them, we're more likely to say, "You might wanna pick a lane there sometime."

This made me laugh, because I'm from Atlanta and I've been known to say that verbatim. The difference is that I'm usually yelling it out the window and it's accompanied by a finger and appended with 'asshole' instead of 'okay.'

I've lived in Minneapolis all my life except for the four years I was away at college, and it seems like everyone's got it pretty well covered. My only extra additions are that I hear a lot of "Oh fer ___" from people from outstate. As in "Oh fer goodness sake" or "Oh fer cute" or "Oh fer the love of Pete."

I haven't seen Fargo, but I have seen (and have friends who acted in) the movie Drop Dead Gorgeous. It's a tad exaggerated, as it's a satire, but if you recognize that and remove the element of slight insanity, it's not that off of being representative of outstate (small town) Minnesota.

The big thing, though, is that there is just a HUGE difference between the cities and the smaller outstate towns. I've really never known anyone from the cities with a major accent or who uses a lot of these phrases, but everyone I've known from places like Bemidji and other small towns does.

Oh, I thought of a few others, things that my wife, who's from Michigan, makes fun of me for. I say "ish" (or at least I did before I went to college and had it pounded out of me) for "ick" or "yuck"--apparently this is a local thing? We also measure our distance in time--never "that's 5 miles away", ALWAYS "that's five minutes away." Also, the word "spendy", which is like "expensive". You don't buy things that are "too spendy" or "kinda spendy".

(no subject) (Anonymous) Expand
Same with the rest of the midwest, the food is bland. The typical food is severely lacking in spice.
Pretty much like everyone else said... And calling pop "soda" will out yourself as non-Minnesotan. XD At college it was the easiest way to tell between Minnesotans and the Wisconsinites.

Oh yes! My roommates, who like spicy, occasionally call ketchup 'Minnesota hot sauce.'

Lived here all my life and most of what has been said is spot on. One thing about the sterotypical accent: you're more likely to hear it with older residents from small towns/rural areas. And not all of them. "You betcha" and other phrases like that will sometimes be used more as a joke than anything.

Make sure you bring the hotdish to the church potluck now.


2007-09-06 10:43 pm (UTC)

I have three words for you that will encompass all the research on stereotpical Minnesota you could ever want or need: Prairie Home Companion.

I am from small town MN and prairie home companion is an accurate representation of my life

If it hasn't been mentioned already, "you bet" or "You Betcha" can be used for both "yes" and "You're welcome"

A:"I'm goin' to the bar..ya comin' with?"

B:"yeah, you bet(cha)"

A:"I got your beer there, okay"

B:"Yeah, Well... thanks."

A:"You Bet(cha)."

My favorite bit of humorous seasonal downplay is when using chilly and nippy when describing the extreme cold. You can add the (negative) intensifiers "little bit" or "tad bit". But that is usually because the only choices are to laugh at the cold or go crazy waiting for late spring and summer. "Cold enough for ya there?" is also a popular question.

We are both proud of and like to complain about our weather. Like a lot of the upper Midwest, Spring does not really warm up until mid to late April. March is often the snowiest month and the sidewalk salt is usually sold out by January (in the Cities). The cute little girl Easter dresses are always worn with sweaters. Most often coats and boots will be needed.

Once the weather hits the low 60's F. expect to see some shorts and a few sunbathers.

In the Fall, kids Halloween costumes are usually bought or made large to fit over a coat.

I've lived in Duluth, Minnesota all my life and I love it here. I just got a few things to clarify... We DO say "sure" and "so" alot and we the younger kids REALLY over use the word "dude." I've never heard rubber binders before but we do use "borrow" alot, so much I didn't know it wasn't common in the whole US... We often joke about the cold as said before, in the winter, if we are lucky enough to get a 40 degree day, at least up here, it's not uncommon to see alot of people wearing shorts. We keep to ourselves in public, I personally find it annoying if a random person you don't know tries to spark a conversation with you but that's just me. I rarely hear Dontcha know, sometimes in the beginning of a sentence just to speed up your sentence as in, "Dontcha know that bob got a new boat." Rarely at the end of sentences like some people exaggerate it as. But when I refer to either Minneapolis or St. Paul I usually just say the cities. If I think of more I'll post it.

speaking in Duluth


2011-07-03 02:46 am (UTC)

I am writing dialogue for a book that involves a young man from Duluth. I'd appreciate your help so I can get it right. Can you give me any examples of how "sure" and "so" are used? Any other information would be appreciated.

hi ya, minnesotan born and raised 29 years... sure means
"can i get a beer?"
"you wanna come with me to the store?"
"did you eat that whole hotdish?"
"sure did."
sure is also commonly thrown into a sentence in place of the word 'really'. eg:
"it sure is cold out today."
"it sure did snow a lot yesterday."
(we sure do talk about the weather a lot here too)
the word 'so' is commonly used at the beginning of a sentence, usually a story. eg:
"so i was just sitting there the other day minding my own business..."
"so i went to the store today and..."
'so' is also used at the end of a sentence when your upset or unsure about something. eg:
"i was supposed to go out tonight but my friends changed their minds. so."
"they told me it was gonna cost $50, but when i got there, they said it was $"
"tommy said he wanted to dump his girlfriend of 12 years. so."
the 'so' at the end of a sentence is almost always accompanied with a shoulder shrug

I'm from minnesota, born and raised. small town too... and the stuff you're hearing about it being easy to pick up in small towns is bull. I live in a town of about 500, and I've only ever heard 3 people say the phrase 'Dontcha Know' that were younger than 60. I've heard 'Holy Balls' a bunch from the elderly, and my instead of battery, a lot of the elderly folk (we say that a lot too) call them 'Battries'. Folk/s means people, and families. umm... I do say borrowed a TON, and 'pop' instead of 'soda'.

I've lived in Minnesota my whole life. Yes, we call soda 'pop.' I have only ever used 'you betcha' purposefully. Despite people who say no one sys 'uffda,' I actually catch myself saying it an awful lot. Remember, Fargo was exaggerated. One important thing to remember, sauna is pronounced SOW-NUH. It is unforgivable if you pronounce it any other way. We callthe Range 'Up North,' (I am from the Iron Range), and we talk about the the weather quite a bit. Minnesota nice is another one. Everyone is polite, even if they're hating on the inside. Like when we're driving, intersection courtesy is a big one. We call the University of Minnesota 'the U' or 'the U of M.' We measure distance in minutes. Our hard o's in words are important. I was at a band camp in the Cities (Minneapolis-St.Paul) and I met a drum major from California. I told her I was from Minnesota, and she asked if I could exaggerate my Minnesotan accent, so I said, "Oh ya, you betcha I'm from Minnesooota." Btw, 30 below is only a little chilly. Everyone shovels, snowblows to clear their cars and driveways. And in Bemidji, keep curling important. We like that up here, and skiing and hockey. Gitchagumi is the nickname for Lake Superior, keep that in mind. Our sports teams tend to disappoint us quite a bit. P.S. Fargo is in North Dakota... not Minnesota.

Some videos:



Page 1 of 2
<<[1] [2] >>

Log in