Midwesterners are the salt of the earth.
We’re hard-working, super-nice, and can make a mean Tater Tot hotdish.
And yes, we call soda “pop” and hair ties “hair binders.”
Inspired by Business Insider’s recent list of Southern sayings the rest of America doesn’t understand, here are 14 Midwestern expressions that will inspire you to visit “flyover country.”
1. “If I had my druthers…”
“Druthers” is a shortened way of saying “would rather.” So “If I had my druthers” essentially means “If I had my way.”
Usually when someone says this, they’re amping up to tell you how something could have been done better.
2. “Oh, for cute!” or “Oh, for fun!”
Unlike Southerners who like to stretch sentences out, Midwesterners love to shorten theirs. And sometimes, things are just so gosh darn cute or fun that you don’t have time to make grammatical sense or even get out a full sentence. That’s why after seeing a newborn or a puppy, “Oh for goodness sakes, how cute!” is suddenly condensed into “Oh, for cute!”
3. “For cryin’ out loud.”
This expression of exasperation is reserved for when a situation or individual is particularly ridiculous or annoying. Instead of taking the Lord’s name in vain and shouting “For Christ’s sake!”, it’s much nicer to say “For cryin’ out loud.”
See also: “Oh, cheese and mice!” instead of “Oh, Jesus Christ!”
4. “That makes as much sense as government cheese.”
For several decades starting in the 1960s, the U.S. government provided processed cheese to those on welfare, food stamps, or Social Security. The processed cheese was a mishmash of cheeses and emulsifiers that didn’t taste (or smell) all that great.
In short, people really hated it. So saying “That makes as much sense as government cheese” means something is a truly terrible idea.
5. “He’s schnookered!”
If you’ve had one too many beers while out with friends and are excessively intoxicated in public, you’re “schnookered.”
The term can also mean that you’ve been conned into doing something under a false pretense. For example, “He was schnookered by all that malarky” means that you were taken in by someone else’s bulls**t.
6. “The Frozen Chosen.”
The Midwest has a fair number of Lutherans and Presbyterians, two branches of Christianity that have a reputation for being chilly or overly formal to people they don’t know.
Combine this with the fact that the Northern Midwest is a frozen tundra during the winter, and the nickname “Frozen Chosen” starts to make a whole lot of sense.
“The weather sure is cold today.” “You betcha!”
7. “Slow as molasses in January.”
Have you ever seen molasses move during the dead of winter in Wisconsin? You’ll be waiting a while.
“Slow as a molasses” was originally a Southern phrase for someone who was moving slowly. It got a Midwest twist given that viscous molasses (a product of sugar) would move even more sluggishly in freezing temperatures.
8. “Duck Duck Grey Duck”
The rest of America knows this game by its alternative moniker, “Duck Duck Goose.” But every Minnesotan knows that “Duck Duck Grey Duck” is the far superior way to play.
Not only do you have infinite psych-out options (“Red Duck,” “Purple Duck,” “Grey Moose,” etc.), but it’s also just much more fun to say out loud. Trust us.
9. “He’s got the holler tail.”
If someone’s in a bad mood or doesn’t feel well, then “he’s got the holler tail.” People used to believe that when a cow was sick and wouldn’t get up that was because it literally had a “hollow tail.” The farmer would cut the tail open and put salt or turpentine inside and wrap it up.
And lest you think they were crazy, it actually worked. But it was not because the tail was hollow — most likely it was because the cow got some much needed rest and extra food during treatment.
A condensed version of “Let’s put her going,” or essentially “Let’s get going!”
The “eh” is tacked onto the end as a verbal exclamation mark.
11. “Tough tomatoes!”
Saying “Tough tomatoes!” is the equivalent of saying “Tough luck” or “Tough sh*t,” but in a nicer way, of course.
It makes literal sense, too — it’s “tough tomatoes” if you get a tough tomato that isn’t quite ripe yet.
12. “You betcha!”
This positive and energetic phrase is used in a variety of ways. People say it when they strongly agree with someone, when someone else is right, to reply in the affirmative, and even in lieu of “You’re welcome.”
“The weather sure is cold today.” “You betcha!”
“That game on Sunday sure was a nail biter.” “You betcha!”
“Are you feeling all right today?” “You betcha!”
“Thanks for the delicious Lutefisk!” “You betcha!”
13. “Dontcha know.”
“Dontcha know” means “don’t you know,” but it’s not a question — it’s said as a statement.
Particularly used in Minnesota, this phrase can be placed at the end or beginning of literally any sentence: “The Minnesota State Fair starts next week, dontcha know.” “I’m stuck in traffic, dontcha know.” “Dontcha know, I was at the store today and saw your uncle.” Et cetera.
14. “Uff Da!”
Sometimes spelled uff-da, offda, oofta, and ufta, “Uff da” is a Norwegian expression that upper Midwesterners utter when they’re experiencing sensory overload.
The next time you’re relieved, exhausted, surprised, or experiencing any other overwhelming emotion in the Midwest, say “Uff da!” — everyone will know what you mean.
Did we miss your favourite? Add it in the comments.
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