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Author Topic: Wisconsin/Minn./Michigan setting
wbriggs
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Anybody who knows these areas . . . I have a couple of questions.

Are the people way more undemonstrative emotionally than other Americans, or about the same?

I gather I should put in an occasional "I guess," "You bet," and "eh?" (maybe that last one's Ontario?) -- is other middle America slang also right for the region? Things like: gotcha; yeah, man; you ain't lyin' (things drifting in from Black English).

Maybe I should just watch Fargo again.


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franc li
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My first though was "go watch Fargo" so... what else? I do a great impression of that Asian stalkerish guy. "I always liked you, Margie, I always liked you so much." My other favorite line is "Tea-ann Seeyaira! Tea-ann Seeyaira!". Actually, there were a lot. "He was really funny looking. More than most people even." And the unguent. Is it spelled like that or is that how they pronounce "ointment"?

By the way, for any onlookers, Fargo is a murder mystery as well as a regional character sketch so don't blame me if it grosses you out.

But as to your question over whether they are less emotionally demostrative, I'd have to say it is more of a rural vs. urban thing. Unless you are talking about the south. But look at Accidental Tourist and The Straight Story. Or maybe it's just some types of people. The quiet ones who you can't tell if there is more than meets the eye to them, like in Raising Arizona (Ed) and Oh Brother Where art Thou (Delmar).


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MaryRobinette
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You might pick up one of Garrison Keilor's books. Granted he's writing for comedy, but he knows his people. My inlaws, who live in Minnesota, say they never listen to his Prarie Home Companion because it just sounds like people they know.
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Spaceman
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Reaching back about 20 years to pull memories from Wisconsin childhood, I recall that people said, "doncha know" quite a bit. In metro Milwaukee, they say "bubbler" instead of "drinking fountain." You will make an instant friend if you mention the Packers, and better run if you mention the Bears. Wisconsin is the only place I've ever been where they cn get away with playing polkas in a college bar.
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wbriggs
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So if small-Wisconsin-town Ed goes tearful when small-Wisconsin-town Joe gives him something to save his life, people won't say, "Look this is Wisconsin -- he should just say, 'I owe you'"?

I like those two bits of slang y'all gave me -- a couple of things like that really make color, for me.


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dpatridge
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Also, make HEAVY use of the double negatives. People, at least in the part of the midwest I hail from, absolutely LOVE their double negatives... They don't even notice when they're doing it... I hail from NW Ohio BTW.
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Spaceman
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We NEVER EVER said y'all in Wisconsin. In fact, we probably would have made fun of it.
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Rahl22
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I lived in Minnesota all my life until I moved to Florida for college. The stereotypes are generally true, but greatly diminished in younger crowds and near the cities.
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Minister
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My wife's from MN, and I have thus spent some time up there (even put in a summer working a dairy farm). The less-emotionally-demonstrative thing is indeed present, but it is tied both to setting (rural vs. urban) and ethnicity. The people from the old Norwegian/Scandinavian bloodlines can be really hard to get a read on. The newer Mexican and South-East Asian community (and there are pretty large numbers of both of these) would not fit the old MN stereotypes. However, I would find it extremely odd if two small town sorts of any background burst into tears with each other, regardless of the emotional level of the surrounding events.

The Viking/Packer rivalry is huge, and I mean huge. Rivalries really don't come much bigger. The Twins and Brewers don't produce much rivalry -- a person can be a devoted Twins fan without any ill feeling for the Brewers. This is hardly ever true of the football fans, though.

Fishing is very popular in MN. Mosquitos are every bit the menace that stereotype claims. And everyone would know what a Holstein is. A casual rural MN conversation that didn't mention a farm, a fish, a football team, or a mosquito that could carry away a football team would seem somehow lacking.

Other popular sports/cultural aspects include wrestling (the amateur sort done in high school and college), basketball (highschool basketball sometimes draws really surprising community interest), and sometimes church (Lutheran is probably most common, but Catholic is prominent as well).

Oh, and family ties are often very strong. The same family will own the same property for many generations, and families often own adjoining farms. Farming is tough these days, and families usually help each other out at harvest, building time, and any other difficult event. The sense of community is very strong, a lot of the time, and people help each other out.

There are large numbers of Amish, at least in the region where my inlaws live. Many people would own furniture made by Amish, or quilts; some would use soaps or eat jellies prepared by them. The quality of their handmade products is generally very good, and they are generally very respected.

The exceptions to all of these things would be found in the twin cities. They really don't feel much like part of MN at all.

I second the recommendation of the Garrison Keilor stuff. Listening to his radio show (usually aired on National Public Radio for two hours on Saturday evenings) would give a feel for MN culture faster than anything else I can recommend (and I thought it far better than Fargo). He has a "News from Lake Woebegone" segment in every show that should give you enough material to flesh out a couple of characters with no problem.

[This message has been edited by Minister (edited June 29, 2005).]


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wbriggs
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Great stuff, Minister (and everyone)! Eh?

[This message has been edited by wbriggs (edited June 29, 2005).]


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goatboy
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Being from Michigan, I would say that the emotional thing depends on who you're talking to. Some are, some aren't.

I know we tend to have a way of saying things that is a bit different too. But it is going to depend on whether you are looking at the population as a whole, or if you are angling toward the scandanavian aspect.

"Eh" would be appropriate to end a sentence with in the Upper Peninsula. In the lower, we don't use it unless we didn't hear something. People from the Upper are called Yoopers and people from the lower are Trolls or Fudgies. The farther north you go the more fudge shops and casinos you find, also the land goes from dead flat in the South to more and more rolling as you go North.


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rjzeller
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Briggs...

DON'T use Fargo as an example. It's way overblown. Most middle-age and younger folk don't talk that way around here.

Basically, if you have people in their 50s or 60s (or older) who are set in MN or WI then you probably will hear the "Fargo" stuff. And it's present in us youngins' as well, but not nearly so pronounced. I guess the modern age of communications has smoothed out the dialect a bit.

It does matter which area you want to focus on, though. MN? WI? MI? Sports is big but big in different ways around here. A Packer fan will bleed green even if the team is losing. A Viking fan, however, only really cares when the team is doing well.

Fishing is huge, as are most "outdoorsman" type sports. Deer hunting is big. As for other sports, ice hockey and wrestling are huge, and soccer is rapidly growing in the state as a huge sport as well (much to my chagrin).

Instead of Fargo, I'd reccomend Grumpy Old Men. It won't give you as much of the accent, but the lifestly is very much right. One thing Hollywood has dead wrong about MN, though -- they seem to think we have 200 inches of snow but only moderate cold. Quite the reverse. It gets so cold here the snow often pushed east or south of here. We are colder in the winter, for instance, than Anchorage, Juneau, and much of southern Canada (including Edmonton and Toronto). Wind chills go anywhere from -30 in the southern part of the state to -70 in the far northern parts. Actual temperatues usually reach negative teens around the south and negative 30s or 40s in the coldest places up nord. But actual snowfall often may be only a few inches at a time. Some winters we don't even get a white christmas. It ALWAYS snows at least a little each year, but we don't usually see the massive snowstorms other places get. Of course, when it snows around here, it never melts. So if we get four good snowstorms of 4 or 5 inches each, we have 20 inches piled up. But compared to the 18 inch dumps some folks east of here get in ONE storm, that's nothing.

Other things:

FOOD -- Welcome to the land of deep fried cheese curds, casseroles, and tater-tot hot dish. Minnesotans haven't a clue when it comes to good food. Those who do, aren't originally from MN. Remember this is the place that brought you lutefisk! And spicy foods are a big time no-no. Black pepper will blow most people's heads off.

Salt everything, and make sure you only use yellow cheddar cheese no matter what the dish. Making pizza? Cheddar. Making grilled cheese sandwich? Cheddar. Making a casserole (because EVERYONE here does), use cheddar. Wanna top your spaghetti? Cheddar...you get the idea.

And BOY do folk love to snack around here. I mean if you don't have crackers or chips or chocolate and some sort of honey-roasted nuts, people just won't understand how you make it through the day.

MINNESOTA NICE -- This is phrase coined either by someone who only came to visit, or by somoene who was born and raised here. Not that Minnesotans aren't nice, they are, just that when they ARE mad at you, you'll never, EVER, know it. They'll smile at you, wave, make small talk. That's great ... until you've upset someone. Then you have no idea you've done so. Because everyone just keeps on actin' nice. So eventually they keep resenting you, you keep being the person they resent unapologetically, and it festers until by the time you realize the tension exists, it's WAY past the point of fixing it. The exact opposite of each-coast "here's my opinion whether you like it or not" mentality.

FASHION -- don't ask me. I can't even get my own fashion in order. But I'd say we're probably a year or two behind the "trend".

TECHNOLOGY -- Minnesotans ARE very tech saavy, and many top corporations are headquartered here. We may be quircky, but we are smart...

POLITICS -- some have referred to this as little-California. MN hasn't voted Republican in a presidential election since Nixon. Folks here don't mind paying higher taxes, IF you can give them a good reason for it. There are a lot of church and state programs that encourage refugees from around the world to settle here (Bosnians, Serbs, Somolians, Cambodian, etc); and the state welfare and public healthcase systems is among the most generous around.

People prefer to focus on local political issues and care less for the national or global issues. Most Minnesotans are NOT very attuned to what's going on in politics, simply preferring the status quo. They'll vote for big tax levies and increases almost automatically but hate big government and excess spending. It's the land of fiscally liberal Republicans and socially conservative Democrats.

LANGUAGE -- AH! Here's the bit everyone thinks of. Dialect! Ya, we like to yoooze tings such as ya, and you betcha, and doncha know quite often. It's THICK with older folk, but very subtle with younger folks. Typical MN conversation:

"'ey Bob."

"'ey Carl."

"How 'bout dem Vikings? Didja see da game dis veek?"

"Oh, yaaaaa. I s'pose I did. Don't 'memeber much 'bout it, dough." [Minnesotans NEVER REmember anything, they only 'member things]

"OH! Don't 'member it? Why, didn'cha see da big play by Moss? He must've run to damn near Canada! Ders no way yah didn't see it."

"NO, I guess I didn't. Dat Moss, he sure can run, dough. Don't know what he wants with all dat money, dough. I just don know 'bout him sometimes. But, ya, you know -- I missed part'da game because Barb had ta take da kids to deir hockey game, and Joe -- you know old Joe Nelson, he loves to talk, you know -- and well old Joe, you know he was outside shovelin' da walk when I helped Barb unplug da car --"

"You mean Barb aint figured out how ta unplug dat der car yet?"

"No, she aint. I jus tell her unplug de damn thing an let it be, but you know her -- fraid it'll flap around and dent da car, doncha know..."

and so on....

BTW...I have never heard of a Holstein. What is it???? Maybe something to do wtih drinking? I don't drink so I wouldn't know much of those things. Besides, beer and alcohol are the domain of our neighbors to the east. MN has something like 2000 licensed bars. WI has over 30,000. Milwuakee alone has more bars than the entire state of MN....

Anyway...I think you get the picture....


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Jeraliey
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It's a cow.
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Elan
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great dialect
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Minister
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Loved the dialogue; that coulda been straight off Keilor's show. Yep, a Holstein is a cow, the dairy cow of choice. Where my wife was from, they were everywhere. Those who didn't have them themselves had grown up on farms that did.

And you nailed it about the cold. It was so cold one Christmas when we visited that the antifreeze, along with everything else, froze solid in our car engine. ('Course that was because the FL mechanics who maintained the thing couldn't imagine the concept of temperatures below 0, even 0 Celsius, and I forgot to tell them to load up on the antifreeze.) But we often get more snow here on Staten Island than they do in MN over the course of a winter -- which, from my perspective, lasts from somewhere around September until about the middle of June.

And the tech thing is true too. Totally defies normal rural stereotypes. Some of the best gamers I know come from farms in MN.


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Spaceman
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Surrounded on two sides. Dem Dern Bears to da south and da Vikings to da west. At least the Lions aren't much of a threat.
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dpatridge
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Well... another really big rivalry in the midwest is Michigan/Ohio... doesn't matter if it's football, or what, although the football is the biggest.

As for the accent... you don't really hear that sort of accent in NW Ohio... we mainly like to split things down as tight as they'll go, except for the obsessive use of double negatives.

We tend to use extremely tight and spare wording. We also think that the myth about not needing consonants is the largest flub ever, it's d'vowels y'don't need.


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rjzeller
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Minister -- good observation. I remember when I moved here in '94, we had a REAL cold snap hit. For two weeks solid the temperature in Minneapolis never pushed above -10. Nightime lows were down to around -25 to -35 each night. The governor closed all public colleges and schools.

Mind you -- that wasn't no brief cold snap (catch the MN double-negative?). It was TWO WEEKS. I thought I had died and gone straight to the underworld.

So anyway ... it reminds me of seeing all the cars in my apartment complex vying for the plugins. If you didn't have a block heater and access to a plug, you were kinda screwed. I remember spending an hour one morning trying to help some folks from Russia try to get their car started, and it simply wasn't going to have it.

And for those of you who haven't ever been more than a few miles north of the mason-dixon line, it's very hard to imagine that kind of cold. Walking outside on a 30 degree day with no shirt on doesn't compare. Walking into a dairy freezer without a coat on isn't the same. It's the kind of cold that burns. You simply can't stand to touch ANYTHING that's been sitting outside, especially anything metal. And the instant you try to breathe in it the first time, your lungs want to go grab a hot cocoa and sit by the fire -- it can hurt to breathe.

And that's the problem with winters around here -- when it DOES snow enough to go sledding, skiing, or build a decent snow fort, it's often so cold the next day that you can't enjoy it anyway.


...


A cow, eh? Go figure. Perhaps if I was a native Minnesotan I'd have known that! I'll have to ask my wife -- she's a life long Minnesotan (doncha know)...

[This message has been edited by rjzeller (edited June 30, 2005).]


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Minister
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quote:
And the instant you try to breathe in it the first time, your lungs want to go brab a hot cocoa and sit by the fire -- it can hurt to breathe.

Oh, that brings back painful memories. Nothing like stepping outside and taking that first deep breath, and instantly feeling every moist thing in your nostrils freeze solid. Don't bother trying to blow your nose -- what comes out are icicles, with broken off hairs frozen into them. Yes, gross, I know. But as RJ pointed out, this is the land of lutefisk (not that I've ever known any native Minnesotan who actually eats it). MN does gross really well.

And some of the scariest driving I've ever done was in cold like that, with blowing snow (it wasn't actually snowing -- it doesn't actually have to snow for the snow that's already on the ground to cause whiteout conditions), and just knowing that the road was probably slick as a greased baking pan. And then the wind dies down a little, and you can watch little eddies of snow snaking sinuously across the surface of the road, like a living mist. Very eerie.


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