Friday, August 21, 2009

How to talk Minnesotan

In my lifetime, I’ve studied six languages: English, Latin, Spanish, German, American Sign Language, and Mandarin, and my father also taught me the basics of Pig Latin when I was a wee lad.

It wasn’t until 1981 (when we moved to Wisconsin) that I learned that I also had the ability to speak ANOTHER language that is foreign to most of the rest of the country: Minnesotan.

At our going away party in Minnesota, one of our friends gave me a copy of a book titled “How to Talk Minnesotan: a Visitors Guide”, written by a man named Howard Mohr. Although it was published a while ago (1987), you can still find it on for about $11.

When we moved to the Chicago area in 1986, a number of people accused me of having an accent, to which I replied, “I don’t have an accent. I’m from Minnesota”.

After a while, I came to realize that people from Minnesota DO talk a little differently than the rest of the country. That point was really driven home when all of us watched the movie, “Fargo”, which was released in 1996:

As we watched the movie, we came to the realization that a LOT of our family and friends “back home” sounded a lot like the characters in the movie.

Not many people know that Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) interviewed Sarah Palin during the Presidential campaign last fall.

THAT interview can be seen below:

For most of my stay in Minnesota I lived in St. Paul, but the majority of my jobs were in Minneapolis or its suburbs.

Although BOTH of the Twin Cities have an interesting history, I recently discovered that Minneapolis, in particular, has some interesting “claims to fame”:

1 - The average annual temperature of 45.4 °F (7 °C) gives the Minneapolis–St. Paul metropolitan area the coldest annual mean temperature of any major metropolitan area in the continental United States
2 – Minneapolis has the 4th highest LGBT population in the country. If you’re not sure what that means, I’ll just tell you that it represents a LARGE group of reconciling couples, and the initials stand for “let’s get back together”
3 - Availability of Wi-Fi, transportation solutions, medical trials, university research and development expenditures, advanced degrees held by the work force, and energy conservation are so far above the national average that in 2005, Popular Science named Minneapolis the "Top Tech City" in the U.S.
4 - The region is second only to New York City in live theater per capita and is the third-largest theater market in the U.S.
5 - In 2007, Minneapolis was named America's most literate city. The study, conducted by Live Science, surveyed 69 U.S. cities with a population over 250,000. They focused on six key factors: Number of book stores, newspaper circulation, library resources, periodical publishing resources, educational attainment and Internet resources. In second place was Seattle, Washington and third was Minneapolis' neighbor, St. Paul, followed by Denver, Colorado and Washington, D.C.
6 - The Minneapolis park system has been called the best-designed, best-financed, and best-maintained in America
7- Minneapolis ranks second in the nation for the highest percentage of commuters by bicycle.
8 – Minneapolis/ St. Paul has been rated the 13th healthiest place to live in America

Although I’d definitely recommend buying Mr. Mohr’s book on, you may also want to consider simply checking out a copy at your local library, which is exactly what I did a few days ago.

The book itself is spread over 26 chapters, ranging from “Getting Started in Minnesotan” to “The Minnesota Long Good bye”.

Naturally, there’s a chapter about Lutefisk, but he also passes on a few words of wisdom about “talking cars in Minnesota”, “your winter vacation in Minnesota” and “Oh, for and Heckuva deal”

Do I think that you’ll enjoy the book?

You bet.

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