The American Midwest is known for its cornfields, cheese, and friendly folks. But if you’re visiting the Midwest, you may hear some phrases you’re unfamiliar with.
Here are 16 quintessential Midwestern sayings, from someone who grew up in the Midwest.
“Bubbler” is a word for what others call a “water fountain.”
What is known as a “water fountain” or “drinking fountain” most everywhere else in the US, in some parts of the Midwest, it’s known as a “bubbler.” So how did it get its name?
Similar to how many people know tissues as Kleenex and inline skates as Roller Blades, “bubbler” came about due to good branding. According to Whoonew.com, the Bubbler was the name given to Kohler Water Works‘ 1889 water fountain. And although the original Bubbler designs are less common today, the name has stuck around.
“Pop” is a word for what others call “soda.”
One of the most common words Midwesterners get teased for saying is their word for “soda.” You may get strange looks for saying it elsewhere in the US, but a fizzy, flavored drink is called a “pop” in the Midwest.
“Puppy chow” is a Midwestern staple.
This is not referring to any sort of dog food, but actually a homemade Midwestern, sugary snack.
The recipe for puppy chow is Chex cereal mixed with melted peanut butter and chocolate, all of which is then coated in powdered sugar. In other parts of the country, it’s equivalent to “muddy buddies” or “monkey munch.”
“Stop and go lights” is a word for what others call a “traffic lights.”
Instead of calling them “traffic lights” or even “stop lights,” Wisconsinites, mainly, call them “stop and go lights” or more like “stop n’ go lights.”
“Dontcha know” is frequently used in Minnesota.
“Dontcha know” is a phrase that means “don’t you know,” but it’s said as a statement instead of a question and you’ll hear used a lot in Minnesota. It’s commonly used as a filler phrase and can be placed at the end or beginning of any sentence.
“Ope” is a word said in the Midwest that takes the place of “sorry.”
“Ope” is a word you say when you’ve made a minor mistake or when you’ve done something on accident such as bumping into someone, taking the place of “sorry,” “pardon me,” or “excuse me.”
It can also be used when you trip, drop something, or grab a hot plate, acting as a surprise word such as the word “oops.”
When others would say “did you eat?,” Midwesterners say “Jeet?”
This saying is the epitome of Midwestern charm because it was derived from a phrase that was meant to check up on your friend’s eating habits.
Used all over the Midwest, “jeet?” is a mesh of the sentence, “did you eat?”
In the Midwest, “hotdish” is a word for what you’d bring to a potluck.
This word is typically used for potlucks when you ask your friends and family to bring over a casserole.
Hotdishes are commonly loaded with a cream-based soup, a veggie, a protein, and hopefully lots of tater tots and cheese.
When Midwesterners go “up north,” they’re usually going camping.
For those down-staters of the Midwest, saying you’re going “up north” usually means you’re going camping, up to the cabin, or up to your favorite holiday spots that are in the northern part of the state.
“Uffda” is a word in the Midwest to express disbelief.
According to Sundfjord.com, “Uffda” is of Norwegian origin, specifically, it’s adapted from the Norwegian word “uff da.” It can be also spelled uff-da, offda, oofta, and ufta.
Upper Midwesterners use it to express dismay, relief, sensory overload, surprise, and a ton of other things.
“Crick” is a word for what others call a “creek.”
This is a mere pronunciation discrepancy. Instead of putting emphasis on the “ee” sound in “creek,” some Midwesterners say “crick” when referring to a brook or a small stream.
“Schnookered” is a word for what others call “wasted.”
Instead of saying their friend was “wasted” or “slammed” the night before on a night out, Midwesterners will kindly say their friend got “schnookered” last night if they were excessively drunk in public.
In the Midwest, “jeez” is a polite way of expressing frustration.
A lot of words and phrases from the Midwest originate out of politeness. Instead of offensive words, they’ll choose soft alternatives such as the word “jeez,” used to express frustration, amazement, or surprise.
“Brewski” is a word for what others call “beer.”
If you find yourself visiting the Midwest, don’t be surprised if you’re asked to get your friend another “brewski” when you’re drinking beer with your pals.
“Tennis shoes” refer to what others call “sneakers” or “running shoes.”
In the Midwest, “tennis shoes” take on a whole new meaning. They aren’t solely for tennis games, but when used in this part of the US, “tennis shoes” refer to both running shoes and sneakers.