"I CAN'T UNDERSTAND THE WORDS COMING OUT OF YOUR MOUTH!" Excuse me? "I'm sorry but I do NOT speak your language!" But it's English. Well, it's English-ish. I may have a small, vaguely-annoying accent. Or a dialect. Or a strange 'twang you just can't place but you immediately want to forget. These things happen.

Minnesotans have some unique words and phrases you won't find anywhere this side of Stockholm. The truth: being above average, we don't want to sound like everyone else. Secret handshake? No, a secret vocabulary is so much better.

When I first arrived in Minnesota 40 years ago the TV station I was working at kept me off the air for 3 months while I learned how to 'Speak Minnesotan' - specifically how to correctly pronounce Native American town and county names. Yeah, really. It's the Minnesota slang that took me longer to master, and I learn new stuff all the time.

How many of these words or phrases do you use on a regular basis?

"Ya! You Betcha!" Corny. Predictable. But I defy you to find a Minnesotan who hasn't used this expression at least once. It's infectious - you catch this from friends, family members and complete strangers without even trying.

"Oh For..." Translates into "oh how" with various words inserted to make a point. "Oh for stupid" means oh how stupid. Oh for weird? The possibilities are endless.

"Wanna come with?" Maybe it has something to do with German and Scandinavian languages that end a sentence with a preposition. Use in a sentence: "We're going to the lake. Wanna come with?"

"Ish" Another way of saying "ick" or "yuck". A derivation of the Norwegian “ish da” which means “how yucky”. The opposite of a compliment.

"Aw, Geez." Popularized in the movie "Fargo" - this phrase expresses a sense of indignant disappointment, which I make use of frequently.

Credit: Paul Douglas
Credit: Paul Douglas

"Ya!" As the word implies, yes! There may still be more Germans than Scandinavians in Minnesota, so I'm not terribly shocked by this one either.

"Uff da" An exclamation of surprise or shock, either good or bad. Shorthand for "Oh my goodness!" This is a staple of my vocabulary, even when I'm not in the Northland.

"Doncha Know?" Abbreviation of don't you know, what happens when you just jam words together and hope for the best.

"Can You Borrow Me....?" I don't remember much but I seem to recall "borrow" and "lend" mean something altogether different. Use in a sentence: "Paul, can you borrow me 5 bucks to grab a beer?" (uh no, but thanks for asking).

"Hot Dish". See "casserole". It's casserole with an attitude. Pass the tater tot hod dish please.

(don't even get me started on "Duck, Duck, Gray Duck" because it hurts my brain).

Otherwise there are no wrong answers here. I use about 5 of the expressions above on a regular basis. I didn't see that coming, but Minnesota slang sort of creeps up on you over time. Before you know it you're blurting out words spoken by waves of optimistic, wide-eyed 18th century Minnesota immigrants. I suspect they would be proud of the linguistic revolution they started!


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