There’s frankly no denying that here in Wisconsin, we’ve got a unique way with words. Some of it we can blame on the awesome collection of immigrant groups that settled here and melded together, but some of it I’m not sure has any explanation. Other states might have a small handful of phrases, but it feels like this is a list that could go on and on. Many of these are regional, but most everyone in the Dairy State has heard these phrases a time or two.
1. We're headin' Up Nort'
Not only is "up nort'" more of a state of mind than an actual physical location, but this one is just the first of many phrases on this list where I think accents attributed to the changing and dropping of letters.
2. Aw geez!
Another shared trait by many phrases on this list? Adding unecessary words to sentences. "Aw geez" is one where it can stand alone, but it often proceeds the recounting of some calamity. It's also a phrase that most of us use without even realizing.
3. Did yous guys see that play by Jordy last weekend? We're going to win the Super Bowl this year!
There's a few great Wisconsinisms to unpack here, but the main one is "yous guys" or just the shortened "yous." Both are enhanced by our superior nasal inflection. In the south they say "y'all." Up here, a collective group of folks is "yous guys." This phrase has the bonus Wisconsin trait of referring to ourselves as part of a sports team. The Packers aren't doing well, we are.
4. How about using your blinker next time, ya FIB?
For most people, it's a turn signal, but for us, that directional notification on your car is a "blinker." Using words that describe something's function is a common theme for us, and might trace back to German roots. In German, they don't really create new words, but instead combine words that describe what's happening. There's not a word for driveway - it's just a combined word for "place where I park my car." FIB is a not so pleasant way to refer to those folks from the state below ours, especially on the highway on a Friday afternoon as they drive to their "up north" in Lake Geneva.
5. I'll stop by The Pig on the way home and grab something for dinner.
Piggly Wiggly used to have a wider reach, but now only has stores in Wisconsin and Illinois. The Pig is a staple of more rural parts of the state and sometimes is the only grocery in town.
We also have a tendency to say we're "swinging by" somewhere instead of "stopping at" or "going to" it.
6. ... er no?
This is when you make a definitive statement and then end the sentence with "er no?" to imply you're not entirely sure or to ask for someone else's opinion. I put this down to our tendency towards Midwestern nice. We're not great at definitive statements here and we sure don't want to offend anyone, so even our most opinionated sentences leave some room to invite a response.
7. Aw geez, I can't go to the gym after work - I forgot my tennies.
It's apparently weird enough that we call them tennis shoes as opposed to gym shoes or sneakers, but then we add or own Wisconsin spin by shortening it up and just calling them "tennies."
8. Where's the bubbler?
Probably our most famous Wisconsinism is calling a drinking fountain a bubbler. It's not that odd - bubbler was a brand name for a specific type of drinking fountain. Much like how we call any facial tissue a Kleenex, bubbler got co-opted as the cover-all phrase, but it only seemed to stick here.
9. Did you see the car crash on Main Street took out the stop and go lights?
Here we are with the overly explained version of a word. Traffic lights tell you when to stop and go, so that's what we call them.
10. It's about two hours from Milwaukee to Green Bay.
For some reason, we like to relay a distance between to points in a measure of time instead of the miles. Green Bay is about 120 miles from Milwaukee, but I had to use Google Maps to find that out.
11. Is it cold enough for ya?
This is the oddest bit of small talk every time we hit the dead of winter. The thermometer shows below zero, the wind chill is even lower and we greet friends and strangers alike with an "Is it cold enough for ya?"
12. I have to swing by the Tyme Machine before we head out for the night.
There was a point when most ATM's in Wisconsin were supplied by Tyme and just like bubbler, the terminology stuck. No matter whether it's a bank or free-standing ATM, here in Wisconsin, they're all Tyme Machines.
13. Ya der hey!
Or it's cousin "ainna hey!" Or just adding "hey" to the end of a sentence. The more of these I write, the more I think maybe we just like hearing ourselves talk so we keep adding words to the sentences for no good reason at all. "Ya der hey" and "ainna hey" are just overly complicated ways of saying "yes" or "yeah." Ending a sentence with "hey" is a bit like "er no?" It's inviting a response and is kind of like "don't you agree?"
14. Hey, c'mere once!
We don't mean to imply that you might only come here a single time. Once is the more prevalent usage, but you might also here "right quick" in that spot as well. Basically, we're softening whatever request or command we've made and adding that touch of Midwestern nice.
15. Dem dere logs need to be moved over dere and dese guys need to go thatta way.
I'm going to go ahead and blame this one on the Germans. It's partly because many of the folks that settled here just couldn't wrap their tongues around all the "th" sounds in American English and partly because in German, the articles are "da" "der" and so forth. So much of what we say today has been passed down a couple of generations and it's just stuck. If Ma and Oma were saying these things, chances are no matter what you learned in school, they stuck in your vocabulary as well.