The “Michigan Accent”– It Exists!
A man approached me in a gas station this past week, asking for directions. I got about 3 words out of my mouth before he interrupted me with: “Do you have an accent?” Taken aback, I said, “Uhhh… I don’t think so?” He explained he was from California and totally thought I had a “Michigan accent”. I smiled and finished giving him directions but secretly thought, “I don’t have an accent you weirdo, you do.” I think it’s pretty common for those of us native to Michigan to think we don’t have an accent and it’s everyone else who sounds funny. Well, I came across a blog that breaks down the Michigan accent. After trying out a few of the examples I can totally hear it… Fellow Michiganders, we do have an accent! And, some pretty odd slang terms too.
Like me, the writer of The Michigan Accent & Michigan Slang Term hubpage , Melanie Shebel is from southwest Michigan. Growing up closer to Chicago we have sort of a hybrid accent, different from those who grew up in central, eastern, or northern Michigan. And while the Michigan accent may sound similar to a Minnesotan accent to those from out of state, it is actually one of a kind.
As far as Michigan slang goes, some of the most unique terms we use describe locations and the people from (or not from) here:
The U.P.: Rarely do Michiganders say “The Upper Peninsula.” Too formal, right? We might say it only when teaching people what U.P. means (holding up a hand to make a mitten and hovering the other hand above it to indicate the U.P.– obviously.)
Yoopers then, are people from the U.P.
Up North: This is where you go if you’re traveling within Michigan.
This next one really isn’t my favorite, because I guess I am one and I don’t find it a very flattering term–Trolls: What Yoopers call those who live in the lower peninsula, because they live “under” the bridge.
And then there are the FIPs…. Also a not very nice term for what some southwestern Michiganders call people who visit from Illinois. Growing up in a beach town with lots of tourists who had summer homes there, I can attest to this. While there are certainly some very lovely people from Illinois, some Michiganders feel they are rude… So FIP is an acronym for *ahem* “F***ing Illinois People.”
Also, a big part of what makes a Michigander sound unique is our desire to save time: We talk really fast here, and so in order to do that, we mash up words to make pronunciation easier and faster.
Ja-eet? – Now at first look, you might be wondering what in the heck that means. Say it out loud… “Ja-eet?” means “Did you eat?” Those from other states might shorten it to just “Didja eat?” but that’s still not short enough for a Michigander. Another one would be “imunna” which means “I am going to.”
Now, for some particular sounds that make up the Michigan accent:
Glottal stop: This is when your voice breaks a bit in the middle of a word and then starts again, like “Uh-oh!” In Michigan, our glottal stops come at the end of our words, like a last bit of forced breath. Melanie gives the example of “Detroit”– we don’t say the “t” sound at the end. Instead, it’s like “Detroi” followed by some forced breath.
For words with a double consonant “t” in them, like “kitten” or “button”, there is a glottal stop without the “t” sound being pronounced. Kitten becomes kih’ihn, and button = buh’ohn.
More on The letter “t”: If “t” comes in the middle of a word, we make a “d” sound. City = ciddy, patty = paddy, nutty = nuddy.
Just try to prounounce that “t” in the middle! I just did and it sounded super-forced, like I was trying to be “proper” — Haha!
Like our pronunciation of Detroit, Melanie points out we’ve got a special way to say some of our other cities’ names:
Pontiac = Pah-neeack (Prounounce that “t” and you will for sure give away you’re no Michigander)
Dowagiac – “Doe-waah-jack” with an emphasis on “waah”
And my favorite:
Grand Rapids – Now Melanie says that the fist part of our city’s name must be too much for us because we shorten it to “Grrarapids”, but I would argue that there are some of us who put a bit more effort into it, and just leave off the “d”: “Granrapids”.
What other examples of the “Michigan accent” can you think of? Do you think you have one?