FARGO — Lately I have been getting a bit of flack from friends about my, well, let's call it peculiar phraseology and accent. I don't hear it often — it's the way I speak, why would I notice it? — but every now and then it sneaks its way into my ears and I have a bit of a cringey moment.
But I can't help it.
Raised in the small town of Roseau, Minn., just 10 miles south of the Manitoba border, surrounded by grandparents and relatives who were born and raised by Scandinavian immigrants and children of immigrants, my speech has been shaped ever-so-carefully into a beautiful symphony of long "oh" sounds and a "boot" where a "bout" should be. I boast a THICK Minnesotan-Canadian accent.
Being away from home for the past month or so, it's started to fade again. However, with a few upcoming trips back to the Northland, you can bet your bottom dollar that it'll soon be back in full force.
I am also a huge family gal. Some of the best days of my life have been spent at the cabin on Lake of the Woods with my grandparents, talking and laughing and learning everything I can before I'm not able to anymore. Not only does this include my immediate Vatnsdal grandparents, it also includes all of their friends and the other "old timers" who enjoy the slower lake life each summer.
Naturally, I am well-versed in the Midwestern lifestyle and enjoy sharing my words and phrases with anyone and everyone I can. So, without further ado, here are five Midwestern phrases you should be using.
Ope may be my favorite phrase. This tiny exclamation of surprise is something that many Midwesterners don't even realize they say... until it is pointed out to them. It's often said with a sudden start, as if you've been taken aback — like when you round a corner and bump into someone you didn't know was there — and it's almost always followed by a "sorry."
Example: "Ope, sorry! Didn't see ya there!"
I mean really though, does it get any more Midwestern — and I mean NORTHERN Midwestern — than uff da?
Like "ope," uff da is an exclamation or interjection expressing bafflement, surprise or dismay. But it really is so much more.
Uff da can be used as its own sentence, sprinkled throughout sentences and sometimes even shoved inside other words. (Don't ask me how, but it can be done. Just trust me on this.)
Example: "How's it going today?" "Uff da, it's been quite the day. I dropped my lefse when I was reaching for my coffee and now there's none left."
Now, I know this one isn't quite a phrase or saying, but I feel it is very important to discuss.
It has come to my attention that the term "Special K Bars" has been flying around quite frequently and I am just here to say one thing: Stop it.
There is a HUGE distinction between the dense, brick-like Special K bar (blegh) and the light, airy, crispiness of the Scotcharoo.
First off, the cereal is way different. Combining Special K cereal with peanut butter, sugar and corn syrup creates a dense and gooey mess that nobody has time for. Scotcharoos, on the other hand, bring in a light and airy crunch to the party with the use of puffed rice cereal. The texture is just right and the taste is out of this world.
Secondly — well, actually, there really is only one difference. But it's an important difference that should not be mistaken.
Example: "Man, these are some delicious Special K bars!" "What? Scotcharoo bars are better!"
This one is a biggie, and it can definitely be debated — even among the Midwestern states.
While some east-Midwestern folk will say "soda," "pop" is more commonly accepted in the northern states, and for good reason.
Think back to the bitter cold of, well, a month or so ago. Leave a vessel of carbonated beverage in a closed vehicle overnight when the temperature dips to the double-digits below zero and you will see how pop gets its name.
Example: "My pop exploded in my car last night." "Well, that's what you get for leaving it in there when it was minus 50 degrees!"
The "oh fors" distinguish the Midwestern from the others.
Most commonly used in Minnesota, this diverse sentence-starter has numerous possible endings and truly expresses the like or dislike of the person, place or thing being talked about.
Example: "Didja see Ethel over there got a new haircut?" "Oh for pretty!"