THE MICHIGAN ACCENT
Pronunciations Unique to Us
Here are some common Michigan pronunciations so that you can proudly walk around and convincingly say you've been a Red Wings fan, ya know, like since you were a kid.
"AK-cidih": Accident. "Got inta'a baad AKcidih' with my rennel cahrr....some drunk f&*#$@ on I-696!" (in the Texas Accent Pronunciation Guide, this is noted as "got inta a bay-ed wreck in mah rent cawr.")
"aeh Narbor": Ann Arbor. Home of the Michigan Wolverines.
"Ashfault": Asphalt. It almost sounds like we're from Jersey, doesn't it? (this one sent in by Bob)
"Aent": Aunt. When you hear Will Smith talk about his "awntie", doesn't that just sound wrong?
"Bob-lo": Bois Blanc. The name shared by several Michigan islands (and a former amusement park). Next time someone blows their nose: "Hey, it's the Boblo Boat!"
"Bolth": Both. Suzanne, a fellow Michigan expat who, like me, ended up in CincinNASTI says that we say "bolth". Others swear we say "boath".
"Char-LOTT": Charlotte, a Michigan village close to Lansing. Related: Durand, MI, pronounced "DUrand", Saline, pronounced "SuhLEEN", its neighbor "MYlun" (spelled Milan), and of course, Lake Orion, pronounced "OReeyun." This phenomenon is what happens when townsfolk in the 1800's weren't quite sure how to pronounce "all them fancy French" town names, and is actually much more prevalent throughout Ohio (e.g., Delhi, OH, pronounced "Dell-High"; Lancaster, OH, pronounced "LANKster"; Marseilles, OH, pronounced "MarSAYLES", and my favorite, Bellefontaine, amazingly pronounced... "Bell Fountain"! Ohio Public Schools is all I'm sayin'...)
"Ciddy": City. Which ciddy in Michigin are ya from? Baddle Creek, er AnNarbor?
"Cloze": Clothes. That kidza real cloze-horse.
"CAHL-yum": Column. In some parts of the state, they still say this. Hmmm... I think I used to say this when I was a kid even. (Another one sent in by the indefatigable David Pool.)
"COMF-terbul": Comfortable. The caabz in those F150's are damned comfterbul.
"Cahngriss": Congress. Those guyz frum Waashingtin, DC.
"C'Meer": Come here. The only time we don't use this shortcut is when we're talking to our kids. Thanks to Jen B of Canton for providing one of the first real additions to the Guide in years.
"Cranz": Crayons. Her aent gaver some crans for her birthday. You SO know we talk like this.
"Crick": Creek. According to Tristan, in some parts of the state, they say "crick". Not so much in GraRapids. I think that's some kind of Hoosier thingy. JANUARY 2007 UPDATE: Someone once told me that many people in our fair state use "crick". Not according to the wonderful Dialect Survey at the University of Wisconsin/Madison (eeeewww....WisCAAANsin). 86% of MI residents report they properly say "creek". For the rest of you: how exactly do two e's make an "ih" sound? That's correct...they don't.
"Deeahd" or "Dayaahd": Dad. Many Michiganians say "deeahd" with that hard nasal Chicago thingy. Other "tucky" parts of the state (HAH) use that hillbilly "I-moved-up-here-from-Lexington" twang. "My deeahd still callzum keahl-yums". (Thanks to Liz for this one)
"Davenport": Sofa. "Maaam, Eric's gotiz shoes up on the davenport again!"
"Deerburn": Dearborn, home of Ford Moder Company. Likely if you work there that you work "at Ford's". Or maybe "K-Mart's".
"Di'TROI'": Detroit. You can always tell a non-native because they'll say "DEEtroit". Dear God, what a freaking insult, people! Ya soun' like-a buncha hillbillies already. No, use that breath clipping mechanism and cut off the T. Then accent the second syllable and cut off THAT T as well. It's almost like two clipped words slurred together. Welcome to DihTroih! It's not so bad! Just don't go a block off that main drag or we'll put ya in the hahspidal. JANUARY 2004 UPDATE: Brett Herron has reminded me that "not all Michigan residents are nasally northwoods white folk," (THAT cracks me up) and that blacks and whites in the Motor City often say "DEE-troit". He's right. But Antonie Laumet de La Mothe de Cadillac is probably turning over in his crossaint-lined grave...
"DisPARate": Disparate. Fundamentally distinct. Or, what you might do to make fun of a tropical bird.
"Drownded": Drowned. "After he dropped my fishin' pole I almost pushtim outta th' boat'n drowndedim." (Thanks to Greg Rowe for reminding me of this classic.) Related: "drownding".
"EeeevsTraaaf": Eavestrough. US equivalent: rain gutter (thanks to Bill).
"FI-yerr": Fire. Say it in two full syllables. You gotta love it when Captain Janeway of Star Trek: Voyager launches an attack against some troublesome alien species with a Midwestern accent! Perhaps we pronounce it that way because we shop at Meijer. Texas pronunciation: "fahr". Kentucky pronunciation: "fawr". Brooklyn pronunciation: "I'm on fi-yah, bay-bee".
"Flint": Flint. Oh, alright, it sounds the same. I just wanted to say that, if Detroit was the anus of the US, Flint would be about sixty miles up it, hee hee! Oh, those warm memories of my days of misspent youth in Happy Valley... near the Chevy Engine Block plant... near the bubbly, stinky Flint River... kinda brings baack a tear ta my eye... er is thadda metal snowflake from the plant powerhouse smokestack... I dunno...
Sorry, Flint residents. Actually, your town holds a special place in my heart, and even more so after seeing Bowling for Columbine. Even a gun enthusiast like me might begin to hold the opinion that Charlton Heston could be the Anus of the US!
"Foilage": Foliage. This one sent in by David Pool, who sez his wife and father in law use it to refer to plants and bushes. Sounds like something you'd do at the "Beauty Parlor" instead.
"FREVer": Forever. Winn'er seems like it's laastin' FREVer this year.
"Frigerraider": Refrigerator. Hey, why waste energy on that first syllable? They know whut yer tockin' about. Maahm sez you left the melk outta the frigerraider again!
"GoverMit": Government. You think you say the n's... but you don't. (thanks to Tim)
"Graage": Garage. Ahhh, shuddup an' go parrk yer cahrr in the friggin' graage. (another one from Tim)
"Gran Blank": Grand Blanc, a suburb of Flint. "Ya know, I tried ta thinkuva specific featura that town but my mine' drew a gran blank."
"Grrarapids": Grand Rapids, my hometown. It's cold, so slurrr those werds tagetherr! Residents are sometimes known as GraRaptiles. ;) Some famous Grand Raptile home-girls: the lovely Stacy Haiduk (Heroes, Seaquest DSV - she seems to dig NBC), and Gillian Anderson, ladies and gentlemen. NOVEMBER 2001 UPDATE: "Greenrbbit" kindly brought to my attention that Judy Garland was born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota... I've heard people in GR Mich brag about her being from there for years! Oops.
"GROSHries": Groceries. Wouldjamind goin' to the groshry store? (thanks to Susie B)
"Haahkee": Hockey. A Michigan favorite. With an abundance of lakes and cold temperatures, it's understandable that we dig hockey and won the Stanley Cup. The Red Wings... a mighty force to be reckoned with!
"Hunnerd": Hundred. I toldja a hunnerd times, there's alwayz trooperz jus' easta Howell! (another good one from Tim). Alternate pronunciation: "hundrid".
"I-munna": I'm going to. I-munna head overta K-Mart's on Gratiot an' finda cup holder fer my Tie-ota. (a classic example of conserving energy the Michigan way)
"Kiddycorner": Kitty-corner. Elsewhere in the US: "catty-corner". Local variation of "cater-corner," the actual original English word. "When I was a kid, we lived kiddycorner from the Brznickiwiczskiszaks." (thanks to Dave)
"KI-nuh": Kind of. I dunno, I kinuh like Vernor's.
"LayKEERie": Lake Erie. Shallow, skanky, dreary...let's go sail Lake Erie!
"Lie-berry": Library. That extra R just slows you down... Thanks to Kat, and Bill from Alto.
"liVONEya": Livonia. Perhaps the fladdes' ciddy in Michigin.
"Maahm": Mom. I was tockin' ta my maahm about goin' ta the maall.
"Melk": Milk. Tell 'em you waana glassa melk. MAY 2004 UPDATE: Growing up in the heavily Dutch community of Grand Rapids, I never thought twice about pronouncing this bovine bounty as anything other than "melk". So, on a May 2004 trip to the Netherlands, when I found this on a friend's breakfast table in Alkmaar, the teeny teeny lightbulb came on in my head. You wondered why we say this: now you know. (Click on image to enlarge)
"Michiganderr": Michigan native. Who knows where the hell this came from. All I know is, I am not a duck.
"Mier": Mirror. Don' lookin the mier... yull breakit.
"Minnuhsoda": Minnesota. Our brethren to the West. Shares affinity with Michigan in that Minnesota and the UP are the only places in the country where you can still find guys named "Lars".
"MON-row": Monroe, a town in southeastern MI that was apparently, mysteriously transported through time and space from somewhere near PigHoller, Kentucky. DECEMBER 2002 UPDATE: A couple of folks have written me to let me know that it's MONrow rather than MAAHNrow. The rest of the state still strangely enough calls it munROW.
"Muskeeda": Mosquito. The State Bird of Michigan. Other states have tried that "it's our state bird" thing but they don't have 11,000+ lakes either. I've seen them carry away cats, sometimes even small children.
"NAWzeeus": Nauseous. "Went ta Liddle Sleazers an' gah really nawzeeus. Musta been the pepperoni-n-shrooms."
"Night-meer": Nightmare. "I hadda nightmeer I wuz out in the wuds near Grayling, with no ammo and completely outta Stroh's."
"NUKE-yuller": Nuclear. "Let's hope we don't hafta, ya know, fi-yer our nuke-yuller missiles."
"Er": Or. Ya know, it wuz like watchin' X-Files er somethin'.
"Pah-neeack": Pontiac. Ya might live in Pahniac, er ya might drive one. An' ya might be embarrassed.
"Pahp": Pop. "Soda", in other parts of the world. Hey, do they call it a Sodasicle? I think not. "Let's stahp by SevenuhLeven and gedduh pahp."
"Pellow": Pillow. Je ne sais pas pourquoi ces Michiganders pronouncent ce mot en tant que "pellow". C'est très étrange. (sent in by Patty)
"Port Urine": Port Huron. For some reason, the locals get pissed if you don't pronounce it this way. Other variants: "Poor-CHORN", "PorchYEARN". Of course, growing up in Grand Rapids we always called it Por' HyurRAAAAN.
"Pronounce-eation": Pronunciation. We don' alwayz pronunce it currec'ly. (another one from Liz, who claims she's 1/2 Troll, 1/2 Yooper, and that half her family works for the Big Three...a true Michigander!)
"Reeelatur": Realtor. This one sent in by Joe in KalamazOOOOOO.
"Ruff": Roof. Yo, Jack, ya lef' yer tools on thuh ruffa yer cahrrrrrrr. (EDITOR'S NOTE: Kripes almighty, the grief I get over "Ruff". Here's a little tip to Michigan expatriates: the next time you're at dinner and someone makes fun of the way you say this, ask them how they say "woods", "look" and "book" and then tell them to shut the hell up and eat their "fud".)
"Samwich": Sandwich. Somethin' ya might have with melk. This one sent in by Cheryl, who also says we pronounce it "samrich"... but that must be some kinda freaky Lansing thing. David Pool's mother-in-law calls it a "san-widge"... part of the little-understood Saginaw variant.
"Seckit": Second. Wanna go graab a pahp an' a samwich? Gimme a seckit.
"SOWnuh": Sauna. A Finnish word should be pronounced in the appropriate Finnish accent common to da U.P., eh? (sent in by Caleb)
"Sherbert": Sherbet. Is this unique to Michigan? Another one from Kalamazoo Joe.
"Sisterr": Sister. Ahh, geez-o-pete, ya soun' like my sisterr. Draw out that rrrrrrr.
"Stold": Stole. "Stopda take a leak aat a rest area on I-94 and some guy stold my Pahniac... canyabaLEEVE it?"
"Sump'n": Something. Craig found some kinda animaler sump'n in the baackoviz Chevy AAAvuLAANche.
"Tempachur": Temperature. Another very true Michiganism from Joe in Kalamazoo.
"Thenks": Thanks. Also: "THENKyou." "Hey, Maatt, thenks fer thuh pahp. Yuhwaaana beer?"
"Tie-ota": Toyota. Originally developed by the hourly automotive workers as a passive-aggressive way to diss Japanese carmakers. "That kid drove one-uh-them Tie-otas inta the plant parking lot, so the guyz loosined all his lugnuts. He dint get too farrr."
"Tuh": To. It's hardta get inta the habita sayin' teeeoooo.
"Terr": Tour. "Welcome 'ta the Manitou Ilun Ferry. My name's Pam, 'n I'll be yer terrguide fer the trip." (there really WAS a Pam, she was damned cute, and she did indeed speak like this... sort of a Northern Woods Bipsy... prob'ly some Seaholm chick!)
"U-sta": Used to. My deead u-sta work at th' Tek-Cenner in Warn. (submitted by Hari)
"Vanella": Vanilla. "Didja hear? GM's got a new color for the Z34 body style: vanella." (this one sent in by Jennifer)
"Wasteland": Westland, a Detroit suburb. (long ago submitted by Jan Pickard) (related: Bland Rapids, Cantoon, Sterile Whites, Farm Town, Royal Joke, HazelTucky, TaylorTucky, Ypsitucky, Garden Shitty, etc....thanks, Jennifer!)
"WEEK-en": Weekend. "Ya goin' huntin' this weeken?" "No, we're takin' Maahm's Chriscraft out on LayKeerie." It's 25 degrees and we're standing around talking... do you REALLY need to pronounce the d? I didn't think so.
"Winzerr": Windsor, Ontario. Detroit's sisterr ciddy on the other side of The Tunnel. A sort of, uhh, business retreat center for busy, uhh, male executives. Riiiiight.
"Wuds": Woods. Be careful in the wuds... it's deer season, an' ya got 30,000 unemployed auto workers, drunk off their ass, armed ta the teeth with high-powered weapons. I love Michigan!
"Yuh": You. How the hell arrrrya? How ya doin'? What thuh helleryuh thinkin' about? Where ya goin'? Ya goin' bowlin' tonight? Er snowmobilin'? Ice fishin' might be kiina fun.
It's rare to hear any Michiganian say "arse" (Great Britain), "warsh" (Indiana/Kansas) or "soda" (Eastern US). In case ya weren't wonderin'. OCTOBER 2002 UPDATE: I received an email from Kid Ripster who claims that there are many Michiganders that say "warsh". As soon as the news gets out that there is a secret colony of Hoosiers in Michigan, spreading their addiction to basketball and their genetically-modified corn, there'll be trouble in River City, let me tell YOU.
Detroiter in the heeeeeouse!
What Michigan pronunciation guide would be complete without a guide to pronouncing the street names of Daytwah?
"LAEHzer": Lahser Road, using the Michigan "A"
"Lasher": same road, different peeps who didn't stop to read the sign carefully
"Wooderd": Woodward Avenue
"GRAEHshit": Gratiot (hey, it's not my pronunciation)
"teliGRAAAAF": Telegraph Road...emphasize that aehhhh
And... is there anything else that makes one feel like a Detroiter more than cranking up 'JLB full blast with the windows down and careening down the Lodge at 100mph like some crazy-ass slalom skier? I'm tellin' you!
Detroit is one of the few places I know where rush hour traffic, all going 85 mph, can blast past a Michigan State Trooper with his radar on, and not get pulled over. Why? He's looking for those guys doing 100.
The Michigan Accent Pronunciation Guide and all content on this site, unless otherwise noted, is copyright © 1995 - 2013 by Eric Weaver. All rights reserved worldwide. Don't make me go get all litigious on yer ass, okey doke?