Vernacular Spectacular!

Vernacular Spectacular!

Michigan has its own language. It took me a while to notice this, and much of it was after people from other states pointed it out to me. Not only do we Michiganders have our own words, but we have our own way of pronouncing words that others use. It is quite ridiculous – and so very enjoyable! Read on to see if you recognize any spectacular vernacular idioms.

The Awesome Mitten - Vernacular Spectacular!
Photo Courtesy of Riverside Canoe Trips

Cabrewing – Not only is this a lovely word Michiganders have created, but it is one of the most enjoyable summer activities that Michigan has to offer: canoeing while drinking fresh brews! This usually takes place on a river, with large groups of people who have no control over their canoes. Lifejackets strongly recommended…

Yooper – People from the Upper Peninsula are not merely from the Upper Peninsula – they are Yoopers.

Citiots – I heard this one from a former roommate of mine who was from “the Thumb”. Tourists who come from big cities to vacation in small, beach towns are known as “Citiots”: idiots from the city.

Michigan Left – You can never simply turn left in this state. You have to do some sort of weird u-turn through a median, and then you can turn right. Directions to a person’s home will often include an instruction like “drive for 3 miles, take a Michigan left, and then turn right.”

Opening Day – This is a holiday in Michigan. Seriously, people get this day off from school! What exactly does it mean? It’s the first day of rifle season for deer hunting – obviously more important than school…

The Awesome Mitten - Vernacular Spectacular!
Photo Courtesy of Joann’s Fudge of Mackinac Island

Fudgies – Why are tourists called fudgies? Apparently, out-of-towners like to travel and buy fudge. Lots of fudge. They buy tons of fudge, eat an abundance of fudge, and give lots of fudge as gifts. Clearly, this means they have turned themselves into fudge. It happens.

Shining – Have you ever been shining on a date? I have: it’s where you go out in the woods with a large flashlight of some sort, and shine it through the trees to scout out deer. If you go on a date in the fall in Northern Michigan, it is quite possible that you will end up shining. I am not making this up!

Mushroom Hunting – Another Northern Michigan activity: my dad loves to spend hours in the woods searching for morel mushrooms, and then sells them to a man in a van at a gas station in Mesick. Don’t poke fun just yet – this is a common (and lucrative!) way to spend time outside in the spring.

The Awesome Mitten - Vernacular Spectacular!
Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Hamilton

Cherry Capital – Traverse City, Michigan. When I tell people I’m from Traverse City, they ask if I like cherries. I kid you not – a gelato place I went to in Athens, Greece, had a flavor called Traverse City Cherry. TC truly is the cherry capital of the world! For the record, cherries are pretty good, but I like tomatoes more.

There you have it – a look at Michigan’s crazy, lovable language. Our way of speaking makes this state just that much more endearing. Why be anything else when you can be a Michigander?

Do you have any local words or phrases that you use? Add them to the comments below!

Jennifer Hamilton, Feature Writer

  • Swampee

    Lake Effect – Is weather that is altered by crossing the Lake – Michigan that is . The West coast of the state, particularly the midwest has a saying “It’s Lake Effect”

  • laker

    The Big Lake – the main way to say “Lake Michigan” on the west side of the state.

  • BetteyRae

    Trolls- What the people from the Upper Peninsula call individuals who live in the Lower Peninsula. Haven’t figured out why yet? Well, it is because those in the Lower Peninsula live under the bridge!

  • Joker


  • Carol Stiff-Dybilas

    “Who are you from home?” is a Thumb/ Huron County saying. Whenever I travel and meet someone from Michigan, I’d ask, “Who are you from home?” and if they are from the Tip of the Thumb area, they would answer with their family name and/or location. If they are not from the Thumb area, they just look at you strange like you have a third head. LOL

  • Ron

    You have your Yoopers and your Trolls

  • Dan

    There an almost nasally “e-a” quality to an “a” in parts of the state. Never noticed until living out of state for a while.

  • Joni

    FIPS and FOPS…guess they could also be considered citiots

  • Sarah

    fudgies aren’t just tourists-they are visiting Mackinac Island, or City. you know, where mackinac island fudge comes from. you don’t call someone visiting grand rapids a fudgie!