Language is a fascinating thing. Throughout thousands of years we’ve crafted words into countless usable forms of communication. Words evolve and new words emerge alongside changes in environment and technological advances. “Google” and “Tweet” are words now, who knows what will be a word in 20 years? Within any given language, there are also regional variations. Here in Michigan we have our own special vocabulary. Check out our list of words that are exceptionally meaningful in The Mitten:
Vernors: The best ginger ale. Furthermore, the brand does not matter. All ginger ale is Vernors in Michigan. Canada Dry? The second best kind of Vernors. Red Rock? What a great Vernors.
Yooper: One of the quintessential Michigan terms. A Yooper is anyone who lives in our beautiful Upper Peninsula. While they use many of these terms and definitions, they have another dialect entirely their own.
Troll: The Yooper name for residents of the Lower Peninsula. Much like the antagonist of the fairy tale, “Three Billy Goats Gruff,” the name comes from living “under” the Mackinac Bridge.
The Joe: The affectionate nickname for Joe Lewis Arena, the longtime home of the Detroit Red Wings. The arena is now closed and waiting demolition. I (and many other Michigan residents, I imagine) will slip and call the new Little Caesars Arena “The Joe” multiple times.
Michiganian: A person from Michigan. There’s some contention over the use of “Michiganian,” as others prefer a different term (see entry below). Will cause a semi-heated debate in the right circles.
Michigander: A person from Michigan. There’s some contention over the use of “Michigander,” as others prefer a different term (see entry above). Will cause a semi-heated debate in the right circles.
Didja: An informal version of “did you?” Produced by the ubiquitous Michigan accent, you’re liable to hear it no matter where you go in the state. A common phrase, but the scourge of pronunciation purists everywhere.
Pasty: The main form of sustenance for Yoopers and also popular throughout the state. A pasty usually consists of some sort of meat-filling stuffed inside of a flaky crust. They are a delicious and filling meal. It is a legal requirement for every Michigan resident to eat one before they die. Don’t look it up, just trust me.
Pop: The correct term for any number of sugary, carbonated beverages. People who call it “soda” are not to be trusted. People who use “Coke” to describe all of these beverages are to be trusted even less than “soda” people.
Michigan vs Michigan State: The Linguistic Rivalry
The last two terms are for the big college sports teams. We’re including one of each since we’re equal-opportunity trash talking fans here. One of these is going to make some people upset over fresh wounds when they read it (this was written before the Michigan/Michigan State football game).
Little Brother: A nickname University of Michigan fans have given to Michigan State’s football team. This stems from Michigan’s lopsided win record against the Spartans. Michigan’s 2007 running back, Mike Hart, first uttered this phrase at a press conference. Considering Michigan State has dominated the rivalry in recent years, the effectiveness of this taunt is currently questionable.
Walmart Wolverine: A name Michigan State fans have given to Michigan fans they perceive as bandwagon fans. This name comes from the extensive collection of Michigan Wolverine merchandise that the supermarket chain Walmart carries. Walmart also carries Michigan State gear, but “Walmart Spartan” apparently doesn’t have the same ring to it.
What are some of your favorite Michigan slang terms? Let us know!