In the past 9 1/2 months since I first moved to Fargo, I have been introduced to a greater variety of new phrases, words, and foods than I ever knew existed within the United States. On a weekly bases I seem to have conversations with co-works, friends and random strangers about this fact and inevitably a greater plethora of new words are added my Midwest vocabulary.
As I approach the anniversary of my first ever trip to North Dakota and the Midwest (when I first went apartment hunting and stopped by my future place of employment), I decided to compile a list of all of these phrases, words and foods in my own little Upper Midwestern Dictionary. Feel free to offer suggestions.
- Barbecue: The Midwest equivalent to Sloppy Joes, which are served at most picnics and usually in large quantities. Example: “Why don’t I throw together a little barbecue before the picnic this afternoon?”
- Bison: (pronounced “Bi-zen”) A large and delicious animal and the mascot for NDSU. Example: “Let’s go watch the Bison play at the Fargodome.”
- Bars: The name for any type of dessert that is not in cookie, pie, icecream or cake form that is often brought to potlucks. Many bars involve Special K cereal, Rice Krispies, chocolate and peanut butter.
- “Feels like” Temperature: Take a cold temperature, add some windchill, and you will get the “feels-like” temperature. Example: “The high today is -30 but when you step outside it feels like -50 with windchill.”
- Glare Ice: The equivalent to black ice except for some reason it is called glare ice.
- Hotdish: (pronounced “hawt deesh”) A baked item, usually served at potlucks, that is similar to a casserole in other parts of the country. Most hotdishes usually contain a starch, a meat and vegetables (canned or frozen) with the most popular being a Tater-tot hotdish. Example: “I’ll bring some Special K Bars to the potluck, why don’t you bring a hotdish?”
- Lefse: (pronounced “lef suh”) A flat tortilla-like treat, with Norwegian roots (as most things are around Fargo-Moorhead), served usually with butter and sugar on top. Speaking from experience, if you did not grow up eating this, you do not find it delicious.
- Lutefisk: (pronounced “loo tu fisk”) Scandinavian dish made from aged whitefish or dried/salted whitefish and lye. It is gelatinous in texture and has an extremely strong odor. It literally means “lye fish”. Example: Person #1: “Hailey, would you like some lutefisk?” Person #2: “No thank you, I would not like some lutefisk.”
- North Dakota: (pronounced “Nort Da-koe-tuh) The coldest state in the continental United States.
- Oh: (pronounced “oooooo”) A word used in the majority of conversations in the upper Midwest.
- Oh, I suppose: The phrase used in a conversation instead of nodding your head or saying “uh-huh” when someone is speaking to you. Example: Person #1: “I was driving down the road and I saw a deer.” Person #2: “Oh, I suppose!”
- Plug In: The action required so that your car is able to start when the temperature is below zero. Plug ins can be found in most large parking lots and residential areas. When you install a plug in on your car, the cord hangs out resembling a small booger hanging out of your cars nose. (Sorry if that was graphic, I just can’t help thinking that every time I see one.)
- Snow Birds: Upper Midwest residents, usually retired, that head south for the winter. Most Snow Birds head to Phoenix or another location throughout Arizona.
- The Cities: The shortened name given to Minneapolis and St. Paul. Example: “I’m heading to The Cities this weekend.”
- The Lake: The location everyone escapes to when the temperature reaches above 32 degrees F. “The Lake” is not a singular location. In fact, going to “The Lake” could be one of the 10,000 lakes throughout Minnesota or one of the many across North Dakota. Example: “Oh, I think I might just head out to The Lake this weekend.”
- Thunder Snow: The weather phenomenon that occurs when it is snowing with thunder and lightening at the same time.
- Uff da: (pronounced “oof duh”) An expression of Norwegian origin used in the upper Midwest as a term for sensory overload. It can be used to express astonishment, surprise, exhaustion, frustration or relief. It can also be used as an alternate for most swear words (though of course I never use it this way). Example: “Uff da, look at all that snow outside that I now must shovel.”
- 20-32 degrees above zero: This temperature marks the beginning of Spring and signals that it is now appropriate to put away your coat and walk around in a t-shirt.