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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!


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: Haddayr Copley-Woods (haddayr)
Posted at: January 29th, 2012 12:07 am (UTC)

I was hoping you'd speak up and give me ones to add! Thank you!!!!

Posted by: Tiger Lily the Ginger Cat (tigerbright)
Posted at: January 29th, 2012 12:45 am (UTC)

You know, till I read this, I thought Garrison Keillor had to be exaggerating.

Posted by: Marissa Lingen (mrissa)
Posted at: January 29th, 2012 01:08 am (UTC)

Garrison Keillor lived on the coasts too long. He is now too overstated and exaggerated. Which in this case is the opposite of exaggerating.

Edited at 2012-01-29 01:09 am (UTC)

Posted by: Lioness (elisem)
Posted at: January 30th, 2012 06:18 am (UTC)

*almost audible noise of amusement*

Posted by: Ayesha (browngirl)
Posted at: January 29th, 2012 01:23 am (UTC)
Seshat (found online)

*takes notes for the day I visit this ancient and mystical land*

Posted by: Jed Hartman (elysdir)
Posted at: January 29th, 2012 02:24 am (UTC)

The two things in this thread that have made me laugh the most so far are Haddayr's translation of "Nice day, eh?" and Marissa's line "We seem to still be in an enclosed space together!"

Posted by: Haddayr Copley-Woods (haddayr)
Posted at: January 29th, 2012 05:40 am (UTC)

That was the part of Marissa's that made me laugh hardest, too!

Posted by: Careswen ferch Madoc (careswen)
Posted at: January 29th, 2012 05:09 pm (UTC)


Posted by: Haddayr Copley-Woods (haddayr)
Posted at: January 29th, 2012 03:25 am (UTC)

I just have to tell you that this comment was so beautiful and transcendent that I just had to read it out loud to Jan, who laughed and laughed and laughed. Again, thank you.

Posted by: Marissa Lingen (mrissa)
Posted at: January 29th, 2012 03:28 am (UTC)

Well. One does try.

(Anyone who wants to translate that gets extra credit.)

Posted by: David J. Schwartz (snurri)
Posted at: January 29th, 2012 06:20 am (UTC)

"I am extremely flattered but also embarrassed so let's just leave it at that or I'm going to have to flee."

Posted by: Marissa Lingen (mrissa)
Posted at: January 29th, 2012 12:45 pm (UTC)

Native speakers don't get extra credit!

Posted by: Naomi (naomikritzer)
Posted at: January 30th, 2012 02:05 am (UTC)

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

I loved all of your additions, and I laughed out loud pretty hard when I got to "Funny thing about that!" because I can so imagine myself thinking the same thing in a mildly panicky way.

Posted by: aedifica (aedifica)
Posted at: January 31st, 2012 01:49 am (UTC)
"Funny thing about that"

In my re-read of Narbonic I just got to this example of that phrase, and laughed because I hadn't known Dave was Minnesotan til I saw that line. (Context: Mad scientist comic, though Helen, the actual mad scientist, isn't in that day's strip. Mell and Dave are on their way to the Moon. Mell, who came along as a stowaway, already pushed Dave out the airlock once and only brought him back in because she realized she doesn't know how to fly it.)

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