Minnesota and its residents are known for a few things: strong accents, ten thousand lakes, bread and butter, Fargo, the list goes on. But even though not all residents of Minnesota actually speak with those exaggerated vowels, most Minnesotans do share a specific vocabulary of words and phrases that are unique to the state. In case you ever find yourself in Minnesota needing to decode a local, here’s a list of unique Minnesotan phrases and what they mean.
Uff da - One of the most well-known phrases favored by Minnesota residents, “uff da” (pronounced oo-fh dah) is a unique Minnesotan exclamation or interjection, like “whoa” or “ah.” It can express a variety of different emotions ranging from shock to relief to concern to astonishment. With its origins in the Norwegian language, uff da is often used as an alternative to curse words.
Example: “Uff da! I got a paper cut!”
Ope - This is likely the most often used word in Minnesota. Ope is used in all social situations in which you may have accidentally done something, like bumped into somebody, went to open the door at the same time, had to get by somebody, or really any other situation acknowledging another person you might encounter.
Example: “Ope! I'm gonna sneak right past ya.”
Dontcha know - A highly stereotypical Minnesotan phrase, “dontcha know” is just a quicker way of saying “don’t you know.” It’s used in conversation to keep the listener engaged and make sure that all parties are on the same page. That is to say, it doesn’t necessarily have any particular meaning at all.
Example: “And then I went to the store and they were all out of grapes, dontcha know?”
You betcha - Another phrase that Minnesotans are famous for overusing, “you betcha” is used to express agreement in a cheery fashion. It’s perhaps more common among older generations, but even younger people can’t resist using it every once in a while.
Example: “Hey, can you pass me a bowl of potato chips? “You betcha!”
Skol - Another word that made it’s way over from Scandinavia, “skol” translates to “good health.” It’s used like the equivalent of “cheers” when doing a toast or salute. It’s also the fight song for the Minnesota Vikings football team: “Skol, Vikings!”, making it a common phrase amongst sports fans.
Example: “Skol! Vikings!”
Pop - One of the more controversial words used in Minnesota, “pop” is how Minnesotans refer to a carbonated beverage, known in other parts of the country as “soda,” “coke,” or “soda pop.” “Pop” is a general term for all drinks in this category.
Example: “I’ll take a large pizza and a medium pop.”
Hotdish - “Hotdish” or “hot dish” is a general word Minnesotans use to refer to a casserole. However, it also refers to a specific kind of casserole made of a starchy carb, a meat, a canned or frozen vegetable, and a “cream of” soup. The most popular type of hotdish in Minnesota is made from tater tots and beef.
Example: “What are you bringing to the potluck on Saturday?” “A tater tot hotdish.”
Up North - In Minnesota, “up north” doesn’t literally mean in the north. It’s the part of the state that people tend to go to in the summers, where all of the lakes and cabins are. People will use “up north” to refer to going east, west, and even south. The point is that they’re heading off to somewhere fun.
Example: “What are you doing this weekend?” “Me and my family are going up north.”
Lutefisk - Lutefisk is a traditional Scandinavian dish that’s been brought over to Minnesota. It’s gelatinous in texture, made from aged stockfish, or dried and salted whitefish, and lye. It’s not for the faint of heart, which means that it’s not actually a favorite of all Minnesotans.
Example: “Grandma brought lutefisk to Christmas dinner again.”
Kitty Corner - “Kitty corner” means being diagonally across from something. Non-Minnesotans might call it “caddy corner” or “catercorner,” but here, it’s “kitty corner.”
Example: “The school is kitty corner from the library.”
Oh for ____ - A Minnesotan expression of delight and excitement, this phrase has multiple iterations, including “oh for cute,” “oh for sure,” and “oh for fun.” This is another one that isn’t as popular among the younger generations.
Example: “Look at your scarf! Oh for cute!”
It Could Be Worse - Often used as an optimistic reference to the cold, snowy weather, Minnesotans always recognize that things could get worse than they are now, even if it’s the middle of a blizzard.
Example: “I can’t open the door because of how high the snow is… Oh, well. It could be worse.”
Interesting/Different - Minnesotans don’t usually want to say something negative or be confrontational. So if they’re asked to give an opinion, instead of saying something is ugly or dumb, they’ll say it’s “interesting” or “different.”
Example: “What do you think of my new haircut?” “It’s... interesting.”
Duck, Duck, Gray Duck - A beloved childhood game that involves sitting in a circle and choosing a special bird out of all of the ducks to race around with, this is generally known outside of Minnesota as “duck, duck, goose.”
Example: “Hey kids, gather ‘round for a game of duck, duck, gray duck.”
Borrow Me - When a Minneston asks to use something, they’re much more likely to say “borrow me” than “lend me” or “loan me.”
Example: “Hey, can you borrow me a couple of dollars for a pop?”
Budging in Line - This is what Minnesotans call it when a newcomer skips people who are already standing in line and stands closer to the front. It’s known in other places as cutting, butting, and jumping, among other things.
Example: “Hey, I was standing here. Don’t budge in line.”
And there you have it! Now you should be prepared to understand Minnesotans, identify a Minnesotan in other parts of the country, or even recognize that you might be a Minnesotan yourself.