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Haddayr Copley-Woods [userpic]

What a Minnesotan really means

January 28th, 2012 (02:35 pm)

Having lived in Minnesota for more than 18 years now, and influenced by the table of Britishisms explained, I have decided to go into public service. You're welcome, transplants to Minnesota!

What a Minnesotan SaysWhat s/he meansWhat the transplant thinks
"I'll get right on that!"I will never do this.This will be done very quickly!
"Um, I guess that might be okay."No.Yes.
"That's different."I hate that.He likes my unusual choices!
"Maybe you should think about . . ."DROP EVERYTHING AND DO THIS NOW.She's offering me her thoughts.
[longish pause] "Yeah, that's [smallish pause] good!"That is disgusting. Do not ever order this under any circumstances.What I am about to order at this restaurant is good and I will enjoy it.
"It's a mite nippy out!"It is 30 degrees below zero with a wind chill of minus 60.Perhaps I should put on a sweater!
"Wow! It was so nice to meet you!"Goodbye.I made a great impression on that guy!
"This was a great conversation. We will definitely get back in touch with you!"Get the fuck out of my office and thank you for wasting my time.I TOTALLY nailed that interview!
"You know, other guys might shovel the snow downwind."Oh Christ you are an idiot.He thinks I'm an idiot.
"Can you borrow me a dollar?"Will you loan me a dollar?What the hell is this person asking me? What is happening? i don't need to borrow a dollar someone help me
"Nice day, eh?"why do we live here this crushing hellish nightmare of my existence is best borne quietlyWow. This person thinks icy slush and hail is pleasant weather.
"Oh, I don't know about that . . ."You are wrong; you are completely talking out of your ass. If you don't stop talking about this I will punch you right in the jaw.This person does not know much about this topic or is very mildly disagreeing with me. I shall try to explain why I am right!
"Have a nice day."Goodbye.That person wants me to have a nice day!
"Have a super nice day!"Go fuck yourself.That person REALLY wants me to have a nice day!


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Posted by: Dena Landon (dlandon)
Posted at: January 28th, 2012 08:41 pm (UTC)

You forgot - "You're not from around here, are you?" Translation - You just did/said something no Minnesotan would ever do, you weird ferringer. Other variations include asking where you went to high school.

Also heard a lot, "Oh, Jeez."

- D

Posted by: UR taste buds can't repel flavor of this magnitude (sofvckinghot)
Posted at: January 28th, 2012 09:13 pm (UTC)

Other variations include asking where you went to high school.

Really? I thought only St. Louisans did that...

Posted by: triciasullivan (triciasullivan)
Posted at: January 28th, 2012 08:43 pm (UTC)

This is brilliant! :D

Posted by: Marissa Lingen (mrissa)
Posted at: January 28th, 2012 08:56 pm (UTC)

The one that's gotten me in the most trouble is "could be better" vs. "could be worse."

If you ask me how I am doing, and I say, "Could be better":

Some coastal friends have thought I meant, "I think I might have improved since last time you asked." They will say, "Great!" or, "Yay!" in unironic voices. Then I will give them the eyes of betrayed puppy doom because they are so very mean.

What I actually mean is, "I can think of so very very many ways in which my current situation could be better; there is hardly anywhere to go but up from here."

"I just got a several million dollar deal on a book contract I'd been working for years to pursue": could be worse!
"Someone very close to me has just received a terminal diagnosis, possibly myself": could be better!

The pinnacle of human existence, of course, is "can't complain." "Can't complain" comes when you have that several million dollar book deal and also the terminal diagnosis someone close to you got last week turned out to be a mistake and what they really have is a hangnail. And also your feet finally got warm for the first time in three months.

"Isn't that a thing!": this coastal person seems to expect me to express something here. I have no idea what. I shall make mouth noises and smile until they seem satisfied and go away. Alternately: I need a moment to collect my thoughts, as the thing in question has startled me so much that both having and processing the resultant emotions will be too much for me. Alternately: see "that's different." (You can tell the difference in these three situations by subsequent words/behavior. If it is followed by puzzled questions, you're on option 1. "Have you...always wanted to raise mutant hamsters?": option 1. If they then say, "Wow, that's great for you," or, "I am so sorry," we are in option 2. If they look at you expectantly like, "Why are you still here?", option 3 all the way.)

"That's sure different": like "that's different" but really anybody ought to be able to SEE that I hate your choices what is WRONG with you do you not have a combination of manners and sarcasm on your planet. "That's different": your hair smells of coconut, and I personally hate coconut. "That's sure different": your hair smells of rotten coconut. "That's different" could be an honest difference of opinion; "that's sure different" indicates that no sane person could do what you have just done. But we don't want to be rude about it!

The desire to not be rude and also not lie has led to many a Minnesota Enthusiastic Neutral. My own best example was when someone showed me her daughter's playroom, and the 18-month-old had her very own pink Disney Princess themed television. "A Disney Princess themed television!" I cried. "All for her very own!" When further comment seemed desired, I said, "I didn't even know they made those!" This is not saying, "You are a shitty parent and I hope the wolves carry your daughter away and raise her somewhere without your highly gendered fucked-up corporate bullshit." It is also not saying, "I endorse your parenting decisions in this and all regards." It is saying, "We seem to still be in an enclosed space together! Funny thing about that!"

Oh, "Funny thing about that": any fool could have expected this outcome.

Note: for the vast majority of Minnesotans over the age of 65 or so--everyone older than the Baby Boom and a great many Boomers who are from outstate--"spicy" is never a positive word. It is up there with "spendy" on things that are intense and uncomfortable and excessive. For Minnesotans younger than that, it may well be positive, but you're safest assuming neutrality until you know for sure. On the other hand, younger Minnesotans have often been around other younger Minnesotans, so even if they love spicy food, they may feel the need to warn you that something is mildly spicy just in case you're like the many blond-and-bland people they know.

One of my favorite Minnesotan-to-English translations was when you said Chicago was not the same Midwest as Minneapolis, and I said, "Oh yah?" And on the spot you translated this correctly as, "No shit, Haddayr!"

Posted by: jiawen (jiawen)
Posted at: January 28th, 2012 09:02 pm (UTC)

"Oh no, that's too nice of you! I couldn't! > "I want it. Gimme now."

"Isn't that special?" > see "Different"

Posted by: sasha_khan (sasha_khan)
Posted at: January 28th, 2012 09:07 pm (UTC)
bald me

I love learning new regionalisms.

Posted by: Geoffrey H. Goodwin -- I Can See in the Dark (readingthedark)
Posted at: January 28th, 2012 09:08 pm (UTC)


Posted by: DebW (deborahw37)
Posted at: January 28th, 2012 09:09 pm (UTC)
raucous laughter mentalme


Posted by: Skylarker (skylarker)
Posted at: January 28th, 2012 09:49 pm (UTC)

Great stuff! "That's different" isn't always equal to "I hate it." Sometimes it's more like "I have no idea what this is or what it means and don't want to appear stupid by asking questions."

Posted by: Naomi (naomikritzer)
Posted at: January 30th, 2012 02:06 am (UTC)

This is an excellent addendum.

Posted by: burgundy (burgundy)
Posted at: January 28th, 2012 10:02 pm (UTC)

Wow. This is awesome and illuminating and very funny, and I should never, ever go to Minnesota. (I was raised in Texas by New Yorkers. I'm way too nice for NYC but I would be terribly rude in Minnesota.)

Posted by: Haddayr Copley-Woods (haddayr)
Posted at: January 29th, 2012 05:42 am (UTC)

The neat thing about Minnesota is that if you live there long enough, people get used to you. I am given dispensation, now (grew up near Chicago and later on Long Island and NYC, raised by a Southerner and Chicagoan).

Posted by: Sasha_feather (sasha_feather)
Posted at: January 28th, 2012 10:08 pm (UTC)
ski pluto

This is awesome you have nailed it!!

Posted by: Carol Kennedy (cakmpls)
Posted at: January 28th, 2012 11:17 pm (UTC)

"Not too bad a deal"="Deal of the century."
"Not too good a deal"="You are SO screwed."

Posted by: MuseMama (anne_mommy)
Posted at: January 28th, 2012 11:25 pm (UTC)

Ishy = Icky
Go with = Go with me
Hotdish = Casserole
Oh, well that's interesting = What kind a freak are you anyway?

I have heard all of these since moving to Minnesota.

Posted by: Marissa Lingen (mrissa)
Posted at: January 29th, 2012 12:25 am (UTC)

Go with is not always go with me. It's go with [entity implied by the rest of the sentence].

"Grandma is going to the store; are you going to go with?" Clearly, this is, "are you going to go with Grandma?" If there was possibility for confusion somewhere, "go with" would not be used. "I'm going to the library. Grandma's going to the store. Are you going to go with her?", just as in the rest of the country.

Posted by: Jam (jamiam)
Posted at: January 28th, 2012 11:43 pm (UTC)

Wow, I have exactly the same problems communicating with Minnesotans and Brits! That's amazing!

Posted by: Hilary Moon Murphy (hilarymoonmurph)
Posted at: January 28th, 2012 11:46 pm (UTC)

Excellent translation!

Posted by: Tiger Lily the Ginger Cat (tigerbright)
Posted at: January 29th, 2012 12:41 am (UTC)

Actually, a whole lot of that also applies to polite Bostonians and New Yorkers. (And yes, we exist.)

Posted by: yasonablack (yasonablack)
Posted at: January 29th, 2012 03:43 pm (UTC)

I was just coming here to say that. These phrases and translations are heavily used here in upstate NY.

Posted by: jasondwittman (jasondwittman)
Posted at: January 29th, 2012 02:14 am (UTC)

So Minnesotans don't say "Uff Da" anymore? (For those who don't know, it's the Minnesotan's version of "Oy veh.")

I can just imagine if H. P. Lovecraft's "The Dunwich Horror" had taken place in Minnesota. People would look at Wilbur Whateley's corpse and say, "That's different."

Posted by: like a hundred billion hot dogs (half_double)
Posted at: January 29th, 2012 02:45 am (UTC)

My wife, born in Virginia, MN, says "uff da" with startling regularity.

I'd never thought of the "uff da"/"oy vey" comparison. I'm not sure I agree 100%; my understanding of "uff da" is that it's more akin to "oh, jeez", where "oy vey" (at least in my family) carries an undeniable air of "woe is me; my life is such torment".


Edited at 2012-01-29 02:46 am (UTC)

Posted by: Marissa Lingen (mrissa)
Posted at: January 29th, 2012 03:43 am (UTC)

Two more, while I'm thinking of it:

"That's not what we do": your behavior is so shocking and so far over the top that I have crossed the line into direct censure. You should now slink away in shame. My dog, for example, whines or grumbles under her breath if I say, "Ista! Is that what we do?" Because the implication that it is not is bad enough.

A masterclass in "that's different": it can be used not only to censure your actions but simultaneously to mock ourselves for being too Minnesotan for words. Let us say, for example, that two Southern women have encountered each other in the baggage claim of the Minneapolis airport after being parted for somewhere between a day and ten years. They make the horrendous shrieking noises characteristic of such an encounter. I might well quirk the corner of my mouth at a Minnesotan companion and say, "Well, that's different!"

Am I actually censuring these people's behavior? Yes; shrieking in the airport is not what we do. But I am also acknowledging that my own cultural standards are a) not universal and b) kinda ridiculous.

Posted by: Careswen ferch Madoc (careswen)
Posted at: January 29th, 2012 05:26 pm (UTC)

I remember being told "That's not how we do it," in your kitchen because I had prepared the kiwis the way someone else told me to. Since I don't know beans about food preparation, I was mortified, because I assumed it had the same meaning as "That's not what we do." But upon reflection, I now wonder if the two are not the same.

Posted by: geniusofevil (geniusofevil)
Posted at: January 29th, 2012 04:05 am (UTC)

okay, this is hilarious! Love the shoveling snow one. Man ... lol

Are you this funny on fb? Please say no, I don't want to have to go there to read your brilliance. FB is evil, ask any one. It makes me itchy.

Posted by: Haddayr Copley-Woods (haddayr)
Posted at: January 29th, 2012 05:43 am (UTC)

I am only funny LOOKING on FB.

Posted by: David J. Schwartz (snurri)
Posted at: January 29th, 2012 06:17 am (UTC)

Not bad. (Translation: I laughed.)

For some reason my first thought upon finishing was that I want you to do a Minnesota flirting dictionary.

Posted by: Haddayr Copley-Woods (haddayr)
Posted at: January 29th, 2012 03:14 pm (UTC)

But Minnesotans never flirt!

um, at least not with me

Posted by: Damon R Moss (FuegoDiego)
Posted at: January 29th, 2012 02:29 pm (UTC)
Thanks much!

Thanks much! = I could not possibly give a shit about you, but I don't want you to think I'm rude.

Posted by: Haddayr Copley-Woods (haddayr)
Posted at: January 29th, 2012 03:36 pm (UTC)
Re: Thanks much!

. . . but I would REALLY like you to stop talking, now! YES. I had totally forgotten about that one, which is funny since I've joyfully acquired that one myself.

Posted by: jasondwittman (jasondwittman)
Posted at: January 29th, 2012 04:45 pm (UTC)

Should we provide a definition of Lutefisk?

Posted by: Trouble (ccjohn)
Posted at: January 30th, 2012 05:04 am (UTC)

Brooklyn in the house.

Give me.

I will complain if I live through it. Lye fish.


Posted by: Peg Kerr (pegkerr)
Posted at: January 29th, 2012 11:40 pm (UTC)

*falls over laughing* Well done!

Posted by: OneCrowdedHour (1crowdedhour)
Posted at: January 30th, 2012 12:10 am (UTC)

Here via Peg Kerr's link. I love this.

The only one I can think of is:

"I'll have to think about that." which means no.


Posted by: like a hundred billion hot dogs (half_double)
Posted at: January 30th, 2012 02:34 pm (UTC)

Yes! I'm a little embarrassed to admit I've adopted that one. It's soooo passive-aggressive, but handy in certain awkward situations.

Posted by: Trouble (ccjohn)
Posted at: January 30th, 2012 12:21 am (UTC)
pioneer 11

Whoa Turkey. You guys'd do good there. Great start!

Posted by: matt_doyle (matt_doyle)
Posted at: January 30th, 2012 12:31 am (UTC)
here via Peg Kerr

Minnesotan can also be a very tonal language. When I was going door-to-door as a community organizer, I was repeatedly told "God Bless!" in a particularly cheerful voice that clearly and unambiguously translated as "Go fuck yourself!"

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