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10 Regional Words From Waaaay Northern Michigan

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In 2014 Merriam-Webster announced that it was finally putting “Yooper” in the dictionary. What’s a Yooper, you ask? Why someone from the U.P., of course. What’s the U.P.? The Upper Peninsula, what’s wrong with you!

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is connected to the rest of the state by only one little four lane bridge (okay, actually the longest suspension bridge in the western hemisphere), and in its relative isolation, has developed its own distinct culture. Here are 9 other words it might be good to know if you ever decide to pay a visit to Yooperland.

1. Holy wah!

The Yooper version of “Holy cow,” “whoa,” or “duuuude” depending on the intonation.

2. Pank

To pat something down to make it more compact. You’ll want to pank down the snow real good if you aim to make a sturdy snow fort.

3. Big Mac

The Mackinac Bridge. The one that connects the U.P. to the “mitten” that makes up the rest of Michigan, and that brings all the tourists up in the summer.

4. Sisu

Many of the settlers of the U.P. came from Finland, and some useful Finnish vocabulary has made its way into the dialect. Sisu is a Finnish word for grim, hardy perseverance. To make it through a winter up there, you’ve got to have sisu.

5. Toivo and Eino

A pair of Finnish names that refer to the lovable, hapless characters that are the basis for a whole genre of Yooper jokes, such as:
Toivo and Eino decide to head down to Motor City. After they cross the bridge they see a sign that says DETROIT LEFT. So they turn around and go home.

6. Chuke

A basic knit winter hat. Comes from the French-Canadian word toque.

7. Choppers

Deer skin mittens with a wool insert.

8. Swampers

Rubber boots to be worn in muddy terrain. Go well with choppers and a chuke.

9. Troll

Someone from the lower part of Michigan. Cause they live under the bridge, doncha know.

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'Froyo,' 'Troll,' and 'Sriracha' Added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary
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Looking for the right word to describe the time you spend drinking before heading out to a party, or a faster way to say “frozen yogurt?" Merriam-Webster is here to help. The 189-year-old English vocabulary giant has just added 250 new words and definitions to their online dictionary, including pregame and froyo.

New words come and go quickly, and it’s Merriam-Webster’s job to keep tabs on the terms that have staying power. “As always, the expansion of the dictionary mirrors the expansion of the language, and reaches into all the various cubbies and corners of the lexicon,” they wrote in their announcement.

Froyo is just one of the recent additions to come from the culinary world. Bibimbap, a Korean rice dish; choux pastry, a type of dough; and sriracha, a Thai chili sauce that’s been around for decades but has just recently exploded in the U.S., are now all listed on Merriam-Webster's website.

Of course, the internet was once again a major contributor to this most recent batch of words. Some new terms, like ransomware (“malware that requires the victim to pay a ransom to access encrypted files”) come from the tech world, while words like troll ("to harass, criticize, or antagonize [someone] especially by provocatively disparaging or mocking public statements, postings, or acts”) were born on social media. Then there’s the Internet of Things, a concept that shifts the web off our phones and computers and into our appliances.

Hive mind, dog whistle, and working memory are just a few of the new entries to receive the Merriam-Webster stamp of approval. To learn more about how some words make it into the dictionary while others get left out, check these behind-the-scenes secrets of dictionary editors.

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How New Words Become Mainstream
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If you used the words jeggings, muggle, or binge-watch in a sentence 30 years ago, you would have likely been met with stares of confusion. But today these words are common enough to hold spots in the Oxford English Dictionary. Such lingo is a sign that English, as well as any other modern language, is constantly evolving. But the path a word takes to enter the general lexicon isn’t always a straightforward one.

In the video below, TED-Ed lays out how some new words become part of our everyday speech while others fade into obscurity. Some words used by English speakers are borrowed from other languages, like mosquito (Spanish), avatar (Sanskrit), and prairie (French). Other “new” words are actually old ones that have developed different meanings over time. Nice, for example, used to only mean silly, foolish, or ignorant, and meat was used as blanket term to describe any solid food given to livestock.

The internet alone is responsible for a whole new section of our vocabulary, but even the words most exclusive to the web aren’t always original. For instance, the word meme was first used by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene.

To learn more about the true origins of the words we use on a regular basis, check out the full story from TED-Ed below.

[h/t TED-Ed]

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