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7 Michigan Slang Words You Must Know Before Visiting

Didja ever notice the slang words your pals from Michigan use, or if you’re from there, didja ever look in the meer closely to check out your accent? 

If you’ve never visited the Great Lakes State, you might be surprised at how many distinct words and phrases people use up there. We hear so much about Southern American jargon that it’s easy to forget the Northern ones.

But trust us, Michigan slang is one of a kind. We’ll explore the words you need to know before you go.

Let’s go, Wolverines!

About Michigan Slang Words

They say it’s something in the water. Michigan accents are a part of the Inland Northern American dialect which spans all states surrounding the Great Lakes. Vowels shift around, and words get shorter and shorter. 

Michiganders, in particular, like to slur their words together. Some words, like realtor, are a challenge. So they just go ahead and add a letter and say real-a-tor.

Even more notable than their accents are Michigan slang words. Some residents don’t even realize the uniqueness of the terms until they leave the state. You can find enough to start a small dictionary! That said, we narrowed the list down to our top seven.

#1 Yooper

Michigan is one of the most oddly shaped states in America. First, you have the hand-shaped blob above Indiana, surrounded by water on three sides. But then there’s the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, sitting atop the mainland like a 1700’s wide-brimmed hat. This is where the Yoopers live.

A Yooper, or a native of the Michigan Upper Peninsula, loves mother nature and knows how to thrive in extreme weather. Especially in the winter. Their homeland constitutes 29% of Michigan’s land but only 3% of its population. You have to drive far to see your friends, but a Yooper is more than happy to!

When visiting a Yooper, you might notice the local color in the way they talk. They like adding an “eh” at the end of sentences. And da seems to be much more popular than the word the.

#2 Fudgie

Fudgie is a Michigan slang word for tourists of the Upper Peninsula. Mackinac county, the lower part of the UP, is famous for its candy shops. In fact, it’s the fudge capital of the world and has been since the 1880s. Many of the state’s residents from other areas like to visit and grab sweets from the local fudge shops. 

Apparently, the locals don’t love the fudgies. According to them, tourists drive poorly, act snobby, and only care about visiting the easiest part of the Upper Peninsula. The Upper Peninsula may be the only place with so many terms to tease outsiders. It seems like there’s a bit of a territorial vibe goin’ on here! 

Pro Tip: You’ll love exploring these 7 Underrated Michigan Tourist Attractions.

Michigan hiker
Sound like a local by learning some Michigan slang.

#3 Party Store

Michigan residents like to add some flare to everyday terms. One example is the party store! A party store is a small convenience store typically located in a city. They’re usually open late and sell snacks, beer, sodas, and random household goods. Basically, anything that’s a vice and still legal to sell, they’ll have it.

The phrase party store makes sense because it’s the kind of place you can stop in on your way to a gathering. Forgot the plates? Need some gum or a tube of toothpaste? These shops typically aren’t a mecca for healthy food. But whether you call it a party store, pony keg, or bodega, most urban areas can’t thrive without them! 

#4 Michigan Left

Michigan lefts are annoying. They’re those single-lane crossovers with a long median. Instead of turning left at an intersection, the road guides you straight a few feet, where you make a U-turn.

That said, the Michigan Department of Transportation uses them for good reasons. One-third of car accidents in the Mitten State happen at intersections, with left turns being a hefty component. Restricting these turns improves safety for all on the road by improving traffic flow and eliminating cross hazards. 

While it may be one of the local slang words, Michigan lefts are used worldwide, depending on road structure and the local traffic engineers.

#5 Pop

Pop is what folks up north call all carbonated beverages. If you call your root beer a soda, you might as well say you’re from New York City. Although pop is how most people who live in the Midwest say it, no area is more famous for its use than Michigan.

Some townies might let you get away with using soda pop to describe your favorite fizzy beverage. But as tradition calls to shorten things up, Pop’s the way to go. Soda is used by folks in the Northeast and around California. Plus, that’s exactly what it sounds like when you open the can.

Interestingly, Southerners like to call everything a coke. If they need to, they’ll let you know what brand they meant later.

Lake Michigan at sunrise
From Yooper to Ope there are lots of local words to learn.

#6 Troll

The Mackinac Bridge connects the Upper Peninsula to Lower Michigan. So it’s easy to see how the Yoopers coined the term troll. Since trolls live under bridges, that’s what they call anyone residing in the mitten-shaped part of the state.

Trolls love to root for the Detroit Lions football team. And they despise the Green Bay Packers – who the Yoopers love, of course. 

Trolls also like to pass the time by playing the card game Euchre. Cards come in handy on snow days, which happen when there are over three inches on the ground. This is in stark contrast to their Yooper neighbors above. You need a whole foot of snow in the Upper Peninsula before the schools call in a snow day!

It’s hard to tell how lighthearted the rivalry is between the two peninsulas. Yoopers have tried to organize a succession and form a state called Superior. Until that happens, though, Michigan will have to use slang words to tease each other.

#7 Ope

As we mentioned earlier, Michiganders like to shorten things. Especially words. They prefer to skip an extra letter when you don’t need it. Ope is Michigan slang for oops. It covers a lot of bases. You can use ope when you mean oops, I’m sorry, or excuse me. 

Ope isn’t a recognized word. But folks use it in many parts of the midwest. It just makes things easier! When visiting Michigan and you bump into someone or spill your drink, just exclaim Ope! And everything will be just fine. That is, as long as you clean up any mess you make while you’re at it.

It may seem weird at first, but it does have a nicer sound to it. It also appears to call less attention to yourself without that loud S sound.

Pro Tip: Exploring Michigan on a budget? No problem! We found the 6 Best Free Camping Spots in Michigan.

Blend in With Michigan Slang Words

It’s kinda fun to explore Michigan slang words. While these seven will help you get started, we’ve barely scratched the surface! Although we highly recommend knowing our top seven before you visit, or the locals will still spot you guys as a tourist.

But we love visiting Michigan. The Wolverine State offers new things to explore every day, whether you love cityscape or vast uninhabited lands. You can find dense forests, enjoy mountainous views, or explore Motor City. Having some knowledge of local vocabulary will just make things more fun.

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