Language is an interesting thing. I suppose we all have certain words or expressions that we’re known for. Slang terms different than our slang terms just confuse us. And we pretend to understand the jargon we encounter. East coasters and southern folks are well known for their phraseology. But what about Michigan? What expressions are unique to this midwestern world? Here are a few, in no particular order, along with their meanings.
Up North – common for anywhere in the state north of the middle of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, say around Alma.
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”.
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.
How’zit goin’? – In other parts of the world, the equivalent of “what’s up?” or “how are you?”
The Joe – Our energy-saving name for Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena.
SecretariahState – US equivalent: Department of Motor Vehicles. (Having lived in a few other states, I can speak from experience, no one outside of Michigan knows what this is.)
The Thumb – the thumb-shaped area of the Lower Peninsula “mitten”.
The U.P. – Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Yoopers – the people who live there.
You guys – No, not “youse guys”, and yes, it refers to women as well. Michiganians use it without even thinking.
Thanks to the Michigan Native website for its insight and humor into all this Michigan Speak. It also offers info on pronunciation and all the weird ways we supposedly talk. There’s University of Michigan Speak, too. Enjoy this list of Ann Arbor icons and experiences. For some of you it will be a stroll down memory lane.