It sounds like a one-of-a-kind crime alert.
WANTED: A charming old Scandinavian Minnesotan with a penchant for risk-taking and strong sense of irony. Will be carrying a spraypaint can and smiling like a grandparent who just whipped the grandkids' asses at some card game no one can pronounce correctly.
This alert comes thanks to Bill Lindeke, a civic planner, writer for MinnPost and streets.mn, and general man about town(s) in the Twin Cities. As Lindeke explains, he and his friends like to pass night hours riding bikes around, especially near the Mississippi River. They sip beer and keep their eyes open for local curios they chance upon.
Last weekend, as they biked just off a passage of East River Road in Mineapolis, Lindeke peeled off from the pack to check out some nearby graffiti.
"I just came upon it," Lindeke says. "You know, you discover stuff when you wander around a city."
Lindeke's friends hung back as he explored a stretch of wall. He's always liked checking out cool spraypaint art. Especially the funny stuff.
And there it was. "Uff da." As graffiti. The incongruous sight stopped Lindeke in his tracks.
"I'm Scandinavian, so, I know what it means," Lindeke.
In fact, he grew up hearing it used. His Scandinavian-Canadian grandmother taught Lindeke there are three expressions that communicate varying degrees of dissatisfaction with one's condition.
"The first one, 'uff da,' is when you smell it," Lindeke recalls. "The second one, 'ishta,' is when you see it. The third one, 'freyda,' is when you step in it. That's what my grandma told me, and that's what I, to this day, believe."
University of Minnesota etymologist Anatoly Lieberman told Minnesota Public Radio "uff da" probably gets more usage in the Upper Midwest of America than it does in Norway. Here's how he tried defining its origins back in 2015.
"Uff" is just oof, it's just an exclamation... And "da" is simply, "there." So, "ah, there!" "Oh. there! I've put my foot into it," or something like that.
Um, Anatoly? Did you not pay attention when Bill Lindeke's grandma explained just a minute ago? Uff da is not for when you've put your foot into it. Uff da is for when you smell it.
In all his travels hunting for local color and distinctly Twin Cities-flavored scenes, this is the only Scandinavian agitprop art Lindeke has noticed. For now.
"It's the first one," he says. "I'm kind of hoping it's a trend."
Someone's tagging the area with words that many people have heard, but only a few can define, or would use regularly. In Minnesota, this ought to narrow it down to a list of, say, 500,000 suspects.
Keep an eye on your grandparents.
Previously, in This is a good thing: