THE MICHIGAN ACCENT

Unique Words and Phrases

Alright. Now you can make the words sound Michiganian, but if you don't use them in the proper way, people will think you're either a freak or that you're making fun of them. Here are some common phrases:

"Beeyemites": Sounds like a kind of small insect or perhaps an Australian sandwich... but in fact refers to residents of the city of Birmingham. Somehow, some way, long ago, Birmingham became abbreviated "B'ham", and locals were branded in this unfortunate fashion. And the town... ahhh, the town. Such a lovely town. Bartender, Range Rovers, all around!

(Meanwhile, Pronunciation Guide viewers from Dowagiac to Sanilac were trying to figure out if they gave a half or even three quarters of A RAT'S ASS about B'hamites and their ideosyncracies... heh)

Conversation with an out-of-towner "Big BEEverr" (PARENTS: hide your children, for I now digress into PG13-rated content): pronouncing this major thoroughfare through the city of Troy almost always draws snickers from out-of-towners. However, it was originally named in the 1800's after a nearby beaver pond, long since paved over. Sadly enough, that fact that it is Exit 69 on I-75, and the old location for the Playboy Club, perpetuates its urban legend factor. (What Kentuckians don't want you to know is that there are two villages in Northern KY: Beaver Lick and Big Bone Lick. I am not kidding... see fer yerself.)

"The Big Lake": With 11,000 inland lakes, you can't drive in a straight line in Michigan for long without hitting some body of water. So whichever Great Lake you're near becomes "the Big Lake". WEST MICHIGAN VARIANT: "The Beach" always refers to Lake Michigan (thanks to Lee Paul).

"The Bridge": Everywhere except for the towns of Port Huron or Detroit, "The Bridge" refers to The "Mackinaw" Bridge.

"Bulletproof Snow": A common occurrence at Michigan ski resorts, the continuous melting and refreezing of snow on the runs results in "bulletproof snow", which can be detected by the sound of your ski edges grinding off (courtesy of my good friend Randy Howie).

c'Meeerr: Come here. Draw out that rrrr. Thanks to Jennifer Baird for this one - I still use it after many years out of MI.

Da Camp": alright, I've resisted using this term long enough. "Camp" is one of those UP terms similar to "The Cottage" (see below). Highlighted in the 2001 movie "Escanaba in da Moonlight" starring Jeff Daniels, and sent in from a ton of people, including Mark Korpi.

"A Cole One": a beer. Or several.

"The Cottage": Many folks in Michigan have a place they go to Up North that they call The Cottage. Sometimes it's a slowing disintegrating cabin in the middle of frickin' B.F.E., where you go to get drunk and THEN shoot at deer. Other times, it's a Lake Michigan beach house that sleeps 22 and has its own marina. Ya jes never know.

"Dethaw": to thaw or de-ice. Confused, table for one? "I gotta go dethaw my snowmobile"... which I guess means to spray it with a garden hose in the winter. Thanks to Dave Eno.

"Doorwall:" Sliding glass door. This really is a weird one. Who thought this up? Thanks to both Anita Hayes and Dave Eno for pointing this out.

"Euchre": a card game which is popular in Michigan and seemingly, no where else. Oh alright...maybe parts of Ohio. How could I forget this one? Thanks to Cara Christeson for that, and Laura Hamel for her euchre savvy.

"FIPs": for those who live in southwestern Michigan towns, an acronym for tourists from Illinois: "Friendly Illinois People". Use your "frickin'" imagination. Sent in by Emily.

"Fudgies": Tourists. Visitors to Michigan's Mackinac Island spend a lot of time in the gourmet fudge shops there, earning the local nickname "fudgies", which has spread to other tourist areas as well. California equivalent: "Lookieloos", who will approach you at an after party, stand about a foot from your face, frown at you when they realize you're not Tom Cruise or Nicole Kidman, and then walk away without a word.

"Geez-o-pete!": Related: "Geez-Louise!" A Michigan expletive for polite company, having something to do with Jesus and St. Peter. The funny thing about this one is that in Cincinnati, they say "GEE-zle." In Ireland: "JAYsus."

"Glovebox": US equivalent: glove compartment. Do you suppose that, at one time, people actually kept gloves in it, instead of napkins, Altoids, tire pressure checkers and a Glock Nine?

"A Good One": a good day. Proper Michigan etiquette is to say "have a good one!" to the checkout clerk when leaving the party store. Caz we're all, ya know, frien'ly and stuff.

"Hourlies": hourly factory workers, usually automotive.

"How'zit goin'?" In other parts of the world, the equivalent of "what's up?" or "how are you?"

"Ink Pen": It's not a ballpoint, not just "a pen"...why do we do this? No clue. (thanks to Joe for another one)

"The Joe": Our energy-saving name for Detroit's Joe Louis Arena (thanks to DJ Clutch)

"Kripes Almighty!" This one sent in by John Z, as another unique Michiganism similar to "Geezopete!"

"LOOKit!" Sometimes, we, uhh, have a tendency to end sentences with a preposition, like. 

Mackinaw...that's the law. Mackinack? That's just WACK."Mackinac": this French/Indian word confuses nearly everyone, even natives. If you're talking about the city on the south side of the Straits of Mackinac, it's pronounced "Mackinaww City". If you're talking about the island, it's pronounced "Mackinaw". If you're talking about the Straits, they're pronounced "Straits of Macinack". If you're talking about the Mackinac Bridge, it's "Mackinaw Bridge". If you're talking about the fort on the south side of the straits, it's pronounced "Michillimackinack". Got it? Never mind. DECEMBER 2001 UPDATE: I've gotten an overwhelming response from Michiganders and expatriates alike who claim it is NEVER EVER "mackinack".

"Michigan Left": A right turn onto a boulevard followed by an immediate u-turn at the next available crossover. This keeps traffic from backing up at intersections with boulevards... only other place I've seen this is in Maryland.

"Parking Deck": Alternate form: "parking ramp". Known elsewhere as a parking garage.

"Parrty Storre": US equivalent: liquor store. There's one on every other block. We like it that way, cuz ya never know when the urge fer a Moosehead'll hitcha. Or, ya know... could be Stroh's.

"Pasty": a meat-filled pastry dish, pronounced passtee, brought to the Upper Peninsula mining country by Welsh and Cornish miners in the 1800's. Most Trolls (see below) and Fudgies erroneously pronounce it paystee, which brings a whole new meaning to being hungry for a pasty. (don't go there) (this one sent in by Stacey)

"The Plant": any factory (again, usually automotive).

"The Ren Cen": Detroit's Renaissance Center, which 1) hasn't ever been called by its full name, ever, and 2) didn't spark the "renaissance" that Detroiters had hoped for, and 3) wouldn't fit in as a place to hold a Renaissance Festival. GM finally bought it, likely hoping for their own kind of renaissance, which is just plain tough when you share shoreline with attractions such as Zug Island.

"SecretariahState": US equivalent: Department of Motor Vehicles. I've always wanted to register for that personalized plate on the wall of every Secretary of State's office that says "SAMPLE". Hmm... or, ya know, like "VOID" er "XPIRED" er somethin'. As the kids in B'ham might say, that would be "suhweeeeeet!"

"The Soo": Refers to the small Upper Peninsula town Sault Sainte Marie that weathermen across the nation love to refer to. Pronounced "soo saint marie".

"The Thumb": the thumb-shaped area of the Lower Peninsula "mitten". (another one sent in by Stacey)

"Trolls": people from the Lower Peninsula, who, in the minds of Yoopers, live "under the bridge." (still another from that Stacey) I personally resent that label and think we should charge some sort of toll or something to all the Yoopers coming down from... uhh... err... never mind.

"Trooper": a Troll that has moved to the UP (troll+yooper). Thanks to Nick Seidl fer that one, eh?

"Townies": a derogatory name for residents of small Northern Michigan tourist towns, made by snot-nosed kids from Chicago or Detroit who spend their summers there (think Charlevoix, Petoskey, Harbor Springs). Also commonly used in New England.

"Trunk Slammers": visitors to the U.P., usually from the Lower Peninsula. Also known as "citiots". Thanks to Jim Campbell.

"The U.P.": Michigan's Upper Peninsula. If you say you're goin' to The U-P, everyone knows what you're talking about. I've heard some non-natives trying to fit in leave off the word "The"... saying they "went to U.P." Are they smoking crack or what! Folks who live in the U.P. have an accent all their own that sounds very Canadian, and are called "Yoopers". Even the streets are funky, with their Finnish and Welsh roots... "make a left at Lehtonen until you cross Hakktui Avenue." Unh-hunh. Say Yah to da hand, dude...

"Up North": common for anywhere in the state north of the middle of Michigan's Lower Peninsula, say around Alma. If yer goin' Up North, it's usually fer a vacation er fer deer huntin'.

"The Union": In Michigan, there are a lot of labor unions, but when you mention "The Union", everyone knows you're talking about The UAW.

"Where at?" or "Wherebouts?": I'm not sure this is unique to Michigan, but when asking for the location of something, we often use the noun "whereabouts" as a question. "I live near Jenison." "Oh, yeah? Wherebouts?" Also popular, according to "bolth" Juanita and Kalamazoo Joe: "Goin' drinkin' tonight? Where at?" Yeah, uhh, most other people just say "Where?"

"Who was she from home?": Ahh, the Thumb. Such a strange place. With all the northbound traffic passing it by, it's sort of the Appendix of Michigan. Or maybe the Wales of Michigan. Anyway, in such a place, strange countryfied sayings fester and then finally spread throughout the area, one of which is "who's she from home?" which means, "what's her maiden name?" Thanks to both K. Jacobus and Carrie Dekoski for that one.

"The Windsor Ballet": Term used by Detroiters to say they're going to Canadian strip clubs in nearby Windsor. "Where ya'ff to, honey?" "Oh, the boss wants us to take a client out to the ballet. In, uhh, Windsor."

"You guys": No, not "youse guys", and yes, it refers to women as well. Michiganians use it without even thinking. No true native would be caught dead saying "y'all"... that's just not right. (California Accent Pronunciation Guide equivalent: "duuuuuuuudes!")

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