Know Your Minnesota Slang: 15 Words and Phrases Minnesotans Use
To many, Minnesota is a flyover state known for its 10,000 lakes (more like 14,380), brutal winters, love of hockey (and its hair), and the movie Fargo (actually a city in North Dakota). But to the Slang.net team, Minnesota is home.
Minnesota is also home to some unique words and phrases, much of them shaped by its Scandinavian heritage, landscape, and wacky weather. While these sayings are well-known by Minnesotans, they may confound everyone else. Therefore, we put together a list of 15 words and phrases to help you know your Minnesota slang:
This stereotype applies to Minnesotans who are reserved, polite, friendly, and non-confrontational (some classic Scandinavian traits). It's a brand of nice that will help a stranger get their car out of a snowbank or drop off a meal when a person is in need. However, there are limits to this niceness. Try to return kindness to a Minnesotan and they will make it next to impossible by rejecting your gesture at least three times before maybe accepting.
Minnesotan 1: "I was short a buck for parking but a stranger paid for me."
Minnesotan 2: "That's Minnesota nice, right there."
A variation of "oh" that Minnesotans use when moderately surprised. For example, if they drop an item, you'll hear an "Ope!" as they bend to retrieve it. It's also an alternative phrase for "excuse me" or "pardon me."
Minnesotan 1: "Ope. I'll just squeeze right by ya."
Minnesotan 2: "Ope. Didn't see ya there!"
3. Uff da
A versatile term (pronounced "oof duh") for expressing dismay, surprise, or relief. It originated from various Scandinavian languages, including Swedish ("och då"), Norwegian, and Danish, and utilizes the oof sound people sometimes make when surprised.
Minnesotan 1: "I just got off the phone with the Andersons, and Jan said their cat died."
Minnesotan 2: "Uff da."
4. Not bad
A seemingly underwhelming compliment that Minnesotans use to describe things that are actually good or even great. It reflects the stoicism of Scandinavians that don't want to get too emotional when offering affirmation to others. (Another limit to Minnesota nice.)
Minnesotan 1: "What did you think of my play I spent months working on?"
Minnesotan 2: "Not bad."
Minnesotan 1: "Thanks!"
5. You betcha
A classic way to say "certainly" or "absolutely" in Minnesota. Some believe it comes from the "you bet your (life, rear, house, etc.)" saying people utter when emphatically answering "yes." But in this context, the regional dialect transforms "you bet your" into "you betcha."
Minnesotan 1: "You going to the cabin this weekend?"
Minnesotan 2: "You betcha!"
6. Hot dish
Any type of casserole served hot and in a dish, get it? The hot dish (or hotdish) became a favorite of many Scandinavian communities in Minnesota because it was easy to make in large quantities to feed big groups of people, cost-effective, and good for warming people up during harsh winter evenings. Tater Tot hot dish is an all-time favorite.
Minnesotan: "Can you grab my hot dish on your way out? It's for the church potluck."
What could be better than washing down a hearty helping of hot dish than a refreshing can of pop? For those not in the U.S.'s northern hemisphere, pop is a carbonated soft drink. Other parts of the country refer to it as soda or coke (which is just silly).
Minnesotan: "Feel free to grab a can of pop from the fridge!"
8. Cake eater
A go-to Minnesotan insult to describe anyone from an affluent background (because rich people can afford to eat lots of cake). It was even featured in the 1992 movie The Mighty Ducks (set in Minnesota) when characters used it to refer to their hockey teammate, Adam Banks, a resident of Edina (a wealthy Twin Cities suburb).
Minnesotan 1: "Can he buy us tickets for the concert if we pay him back?"
Minnesotan 2: "Of course, he can. He's a cake eater!"
9. False spring
One of the most challenging aspects of Minnesota is its winters, which can be long and hard. False spring is the cruel cherry on top as it toys with Minnesotans' emotions. It gives a glimpse of spring (maybe a week in March or April of spring-like weather), then quickly reveals its false self by returning to freezing temperatures and more snow.
Minnesotan 1: "This false spring crushed my spirit."
Minnesotan 2: "I was wearing a t-shirt yesterday, and now I'm wearing my winter coat."
When spring finally does arrive in Minnesota, the melting snow transforms into "snirt," a mixture of snow and dirt (get it?). You will commonly see it on roadsides, in parking lots, and on sides of driveways where vehicles mix the dirt with the sticky snow.
Minnesotan: "That's an impressive pile of snirt plowed up there."
11. Up north
Minnesotans love going up north (anywhere north of the Twin Cities) for weekends, especially during the three months of summer weather they might get. Itasca State Park, Brainerd/Baxter, and Duluth are all hot spots for cabins, fishing, camping, and other adventures up north.
Minnesotan 1: "You have any plans this weekend?"
Minnesotan 2: "Going up north with the fam!"
12. Dontcha know
A consolidation of "don't you know" (pronounced "dohn-cha noh") that Minnesotans often use at the end of a sentence. It is a subtle confirmation to check if the audience understands or agrees with their thoughts, stories, etc.
Minnesotan: "When I was your age I had to walk to school uphill both ways, dontcha know."
A Scandinavian greeting of "good health" similar to cheers that people often use as a celebratory toast. It comes from "skål" in Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish. Minnesota Vikings fans also chant "skol" to cheer the team on to victory.
Minnesotan 1: "Here's to a Super Bowl before I die."
Minnesotan 2: "Skol, Vikes!"
Minnesotans use these contradictory statements quite often. "Yeah no" is a phrase many Minnesotans utter when attempting to communicate understanding with a person's statement or question but ultimately disagree. On the other hand, Minnesotans may use "no yeah" when agreeing with a person's choice to do something different or not do something at all.
Minnesotan 1: "I'm excited to go up north tomorrow. You wanna carpool?"
Minnesotan 2: "Yeah no. I'm already going up with Kevin, but I'll see you there."
Minnesotan 1: "No yeah. Sounds good."
If we trust Shakespeare that "parting is such sweet sorrow," Minnesotans are the sweetest and most sorrowful people on the planet. In Minnesota, a simple departure from a get-together often transforms into conversations that go on longer than Lake Superior's north shore.
It's unclear why Minnesotans' goodbyes take so long. Maybe because they are trying to out-nice each other and find it too rude just to say goodbye, or perhaps it evolved from waiting for their cars to warm up during winter. Regardless of the reason, you better factor in at least 20 minutes of goodbyes for your departure time (or just start ghosting).
Minnesotan: "If this last definition were a Minnesota goodbye, it would go on for about five more paragraphs, dontcha know."