It’s necessary to take a moment and understand the Michigan slang words and phrases that locals use daily to get the full experience of being in the area.
Whether you’re visiting or recently moved to Michigan, learning some of this colorful language will prove invaluable when interacting with locals and understanding Michigan culture.
Michigan Slang Words And Phrases – 13 Things!
Michigan has a unique dialect muddled with its colorful slang words and phrases.
Words like “bubbler,” which means water fountain, or “cherry picker,” which is a lift truck, have been used in Michigan for a long time.
Even the word ‘pop’, used to refer to soft drinks, is peculiarly exclusive to Michigan – most of the U.S. uses the word soda or coke instead.
According to locals, some sayings have even trickled down from Dutch and German immigrants who lived in and around the Great Lakes State back in the day.
If you ask any Michigander what they call those shoes they wear while mowing the lawn, they might reply with ‘turtles’—it’s refreshingly unusual yet distinctly part of their culture!
1. Yooper – A Resident Of The Upper Peninsula:
“Yooper” describes a resident of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula– perfectly conveying their dedication to the region.
Yoopers are exceptionally proud of their hometowns and passionate about their culture- especially the Michigan slang words and phrases they use!
There are a lot of fun Michigan slang phrases used by people who live in the Upper Peninsula. For example, you might describe someone innocent as “green around the gills.”
Or, if you are referring to an inexperienced hunter or trapper, you might say that they “couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with a handful of rocks.”
Whether you live in the U.P. or just visiting, saying a few Michigan terms will go a long way in befriending the locals.
2. Mackinawite – A Person From The Lower Peninsula:
A Mackinawite is a proud native of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. With its unique regional culture, language, geography, and climate, life in the mitten state certainly has advantages.
Mackinawites are known for their rugged individualism and love of outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing, and skiing.
Not to mention the homestyle cooking that’s legendary across the Midwest!
People in this culture have generated various made-up words and expressions for decades. Examples of these include ‘buck up’ and ‘mamasan’.
So if you find yourself in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula anytime soon, don’t forget to salute your local mackinawite with a hearty shout!
3. Boonies – Rural Areas Outside Of Major Cities:
Boonies, or rural parts of the country outside major cities, have a distinctive atmosphere. The culture and slang words people in Michigan use differ from other places.
In rural areas, you might hear a farmer say they must take care of “business down at the mucky-muck.” This is a local way of saying they need to go into town.
One might boast about their attempt to outwit their neighbors through a game termed “doofa,” which essentially means playing a prank on someone.
No matter what individual Michigan slang you come across, living and experiencing life in these rural areas can be satisfying and memorable.
4. Jibber Jabbering – Talking Nonsense:
Have you ever been talking to someone and heard words that didn’t make sense? Chances are, you were listening to Michigan slang!
Michigan slang words and phrases often sound opaque or like gibberish to anyone unfamiliar with the local culture.
However, in Michigan, they’re an integral part of communication — perfect for times when Michiganders want to express themselves without words.
Jibber jabbering can be as simple as a few nonsensical syllables at the end of an otherwise very expressive sentence.
It adds an element of fun, complexity, and personality to Michigander dialogue that cannot be found anywhere else!
5. Doodad Or Thingamajig – An Object Or Gadget:
In Michigan, a colloquialism exists for an object whose purpose or name isn’t known – “doodad or thingamajig.” This term arises when one needs help recalling the object’s proper moniker.
It’s a clever way of speaking about those mysterious tools and gadgets that have perplexed us all at some point!
Though the phrase’s origin is difficult to pinpoint, it has been used for many years. Some people call them “gizmos” and even “whatsits”.
This Michigan slang encompasses objects of various shapes and sizes, often making it difficult to describe what you need accurately.
However, regardless of their name, they usually fill an important role in whatever situation they encounter.
6. Tote Bag – A Grocery Bag:
A tote bag is a great way to get around Michigan with ease and convenience. Not only is it light and easy to carry, but they also double as a stylish accessory.
Many Michigan locals refer to them as “grab-and-gos”, since they’re perfect for grabbing a few items from the store without having to lug around big bags or take multiple trips.
And with their heavy-duty construction, you can put all your “Michigan mitts” in for a long getaway.
Whether you want to stock up on Michigan munchies or transport your belongings in style, pull out that trusty old tote bag and go!
7. Michigan Left – A U-Turn Type Of Left Turn At An Intersection:
Michigan lefts are a favorite among Michiganders. Also referred to as “Michigan Turns” or “Michigan U-Turns,” they are the out-of-the-ordinary type of left turn at an intersection.
Motorists heading in one direction make a right onto a side street that loops them back around to their original direction. It eliminates the need for large and dangerous three-point turns in busy intersections.
Only in Michigan will you find the coveted ‘Michigan Left’, and natives refer to it with phrases such as “Yes way, Michigan Left!” or “Let’s do a Michigander turnaround!”.
Beyond the borders of this great state, these U-Turns are unknown – but here, they are an essential part of driving!
8. Pop – Michigan Slang For Soda Or Soft Drink:
One of the most commonly used Michigan slang words for soda or soft drinks is ‘pop’. This term is used in areas of Michigan such as Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Ann Arbor.
People in Michigan say “pop” means a carbonated beverage like Coke or Pepsi. They might say this instead of “soda,” “soft drink,” or “carbonated beverage.“
You can find individuals expressing pop in certain Michigan restaurants, gas stations, or convenience stores, but its recognition may vary from one region to another.
However, despite this variation in usage, Michiganders will always know when someone is referring to their favorite pop at any given time.
9. Michigan Nice – Friendly Nature Of Michigan Residents:
The phrase “Michigan Nice” describes the friendly nature of Michigan residents.
It’s a term of endearment that has been embraced by the people of Michigan and has become an integral part of their culture and identity.
The phrase is often used with other phrases that are common in Michigan. For example, “Yoopers” describes a person from the Upper Peninsula.
Another phrase, “Fudgies,” refers to people visiting Mackinac Island during summer.
Even though some people may not know these terms, they are special to the people of Michigan, who have kept this cultural perspective alive as part of their identity.
10. Jitney – A Type Of Bus Or Taxi Service:
If you ever visit Michigan and are looking for quick and affordable transportation, consider taking a jitney.
Where many people may say they’ll take a cab, Michiganders use the slang term “jitney.” This bus or taxi service type is popular due to its low fares and ease of access.
Although ‘hoppin’ is still a popular way for locals to get around, jitneys provide an easier and more reliable option found mainly in larger cities.
Unlike hoppin’, which refers to hitching rides from strangers, a jitney guarantees comfortability and security during your travels.
Whatever form of public transport you decide on, remember “to take the jitney” is what all Michiganders say!
11. Flatlander – Someone Who Is Not From Michigan:
Flatlanders visiting Michigan or who have relocated there may find themselves rather perplexed by the Michigan slang words and phrases they hear.
Many Michigan natives toss around sayings like ‘up north’ – referring to any place above the mitten-shaped state’s center.
They also often use the phrase ‘Yooper’ when talking about someone from Michigan’s upper peninsula.
Always feel free to ask what these Michigan phrases mean; many Michigan natives are more than happy to explain them and share a few laughs as well!
12. Biff – A Stupid Or Clumsy Person:
The term Biff is a type of Michigan slang and refers to an individual considered stupid or clumsy.
“Michigan” is often used to describe someone who isn’t smart. But not everyone from Michigan feels bad about the term. On the contrary, some people think it’s fun and friendly.
The word “though” has a different meaning when used by people from Michigan. Sometimes it is used to make jokes, but other times it is used to be mean or disrespectful.
Michiganders can usually tell the difference between when the word is used as a joke.
13. Hunker Down – To Take Shelter From Bad Weather Or Danger:
“Hunker Down” may be familiar as a Michigan slang phrase describing shelter from bad weather or danger.
It implies an intensity of focus and urgency, as tunneling down and taking cover can be the difference between safety and disaster.
We have all been in a storm before. But sometimes there are bigger dangers like a powerful earthquake or tsunami. If this happens, we need to Hunker Down to stay safe.
This phrase describes something universal, whether you’re a Michigan native, a transplant, or just passing through – take shelter when needed, and Hunker Down!
Michigan slang words and phrases have demonstrated the breadth of their existence in the language used throughout the mitten state.
These expressions often evoke a feeling of home for Michiganders – as it reflects Michigan residents’ unique culture and landscape.
Even though some words might change from one region to another, Michigan slang words show how language and communication are always changing.
This creates an ever-increasing amount of fun vernacular for all Michiganders to enjoy.
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