Weird things Slate claims Upper Midwesterners say

Slate Magazine mapped the (supposed) top colloquialism of all 50 states. Did they get it right?

Slate Magazine mapped the (supposed) top colloquialism of all 50 states. Did they get it right?

The unthinkable has been done. A national media organization has weighed in on Minnesota culture in a manner that didn’t boil the blood in our defrosted veins.

Slate Magazine pulled together a map of wacky colloquialisms specific to each state. The so-called United Slang of America project, destined to stoke Internet outrage, assigned one word or phrase that supposedly reflects how we talk.

Not surprisingly, “uff da” was Minnesota’s chosen expression, presumably edging out fellow Sven and Ole-ism “you betcha.” It’s hard to argue with the Scandinavian exclamatory heard at church bake sales around the state. After tapping linguists, scrolling online message boards, and polling readers, the Slatesters had one heckuva debate before making each pick and writing their definitions. Here's ours, replete with a tame swipe at Minnesota voters in the sample sentence.


uff da (expression): a brief statement of surprise or disgust

Uff da, was Jesse Ventura really the governor at one point?

The phrase used in three out of five Minnesota jokes is an appropriate fit. But admittedly, we were unfamiliar with the picks for our border states – save for North Dakota, which nabbed hotdish. Seeking answers, we reached out to Minnesota transplants hailing from neighboring states to see whether Slate got it right.


TYME machine (noun): an automated teller machine

Where can I find a working TYME machine in this town?

“Yeah, totally,” Brad Habeck says. “Everybody in Wisconsin knows that.”

The sausage-grilling Tomah native confirms that TYME-brand ATMs were/are so ubiquitous in Packer country that the name’s synonymous with cash dispensers. Another Wisconsinite was vaguely familiar with the term, but thought it was before her time.

“I remember when I first moved [to Minneapolis] people were like, ‘What are you talking about?’” Habeck says. “They got that one.”

Asked about other Sconnie parlance, Habeck says bubbler – Wisconsin for water fountain – would have been equally suitable. On the less congenial side, Wisconsinites apparently use “FIBs” in reference to Illinoisans invading their highways. The acronym stands for (earmuffs, kids) “fucking Illinois bastards.”

“They’re terrible drivers and they speed through Wisconsin going 90 [mph],” Habeck says.


kybo (noun): port-a-potty

Whoa, I gotta go! Where’s the kybo?

“I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean,” says Brandon Bohlen before  the supposed Biffy synonym is explained. “I’ve never heard that before.”

Bohlen, who grew up in Durant, was stumped for a uniquely Iowan phrase, so instead we’ll link to a random Slipknot video.

South Dakota

chislic (noun): cubed meat

The only available appetizer was the chislic that made me sick.

“Chislic? Wow, really?” says Hillary Spreizer, born in Rapid City.

Spreizer, too, was stumped for other South Dakota slang (we don't know any bands from there). While she lived there until legally old enough to bounce, Spreizer cautions that her mother, who still lives there, is a New Yorker who rejects the soulful and dietary benefits of hot dish.

“In South Dakota we just evade property taxes and bring children into bars,” she jokes.

Slate writer Matthew J.X. Malady, who was traveling, says he’s heard from haters in a number of states who weren’t fans of their picks. While a degree of criticism is to be expected, Malady welcomes the convos, acknowledging that they of course can’t know as much as longtime locals. Besides, it’s all for well-meaning jollies.

“We never meant to dictate ‘right answers’ or tell people in various states what their state word should be,” Malady writes in an email. “Instead, we just thought it would be fun to map out a bunch of these interesting and unique words in an interactive way so readers from all over the nation could check them out and discuss and etc.”

What do you think, ye of Upper Midwest origin? Are these phrases completely foreign or entrenched in their alleged home states? Is something else a better fit? Let us know in the comments.