Moon Dimple, my back-home pal, recently called me. When I answered, he asked, “How’s it goin,’ sexy?”
“Fine,” I answered. “But why are you calling me sexy?”
“Because you were raised in the U.P. like me, of course. Didn’t you hear the news?”
“Some big survey said the Yooper accent is the 14th sexiest in the country, right before Cajun and right after Miami.”
Well, that’s a kick in the head. I wasn’t even aware I had an accent when I left the Upper Peninsula 40 years ago to attend Central Michigan University, much less that it was sexy.
But the first night in the dorm, I was talking to the girls next door and they said, “Oh, my God! Your accent is so cuuute! Say that thing you said at the end of the sentence again.”
“You mean ‘eh’?” That made them squeal with delight.
“Now say ‘off’ again!”
I wasn’t aware at the time, but apparently, I and other Yoopers say “ahf” whereas Downstaters (also known as Mittenheads, Fudgies or Lopers) say “awf,” which I don’t understand at all. Saying “awf” requires an uncomfortable pooching of your lips and is far too much trouble. What’s wrong with you people?
“C’mon, say it,” the girls urged.
“Um … ahf.”
“Now, say yeah!”
“Um … ya.”
“Now, say ‘you betcha’!”
“Now, say ‘youse’!”
“Now, say ‘anudder’!”
“Now, say ‘dat’!”
“Now, say …”
You get the idea. This went on for some time and I was happy to play along because, well, girls.
But the longer I was downstate, the less I liked the attention, so I started changing the way I spoke. These days, I sometimes still substitute “ya” for both yes and you, but usually only when I’m tired.
I occasionally still end sentences with “eh,” which can mean a hundred or so things in Yooper-ese but for me, usually means “you agree, right?” or “you understand, correct?”
“Off” is the one word I can’t seem to change, although I’ve tried.
But other than those few terms and a slight flattening of my vowels (like they do in the movie “Fargo”),
if you listened to me these days, you’d be hard-pressed to tell I was a Yooper.
“You ought to embrace your heritage and go back to speaking like you used to,” Moon said.
And, maybe I will. I’ve lived a linguistic lie for a long time now, after all. Maybe it’s time to open the Yooper floodgates and let my sexy dialect flow, so to speak. I already revert when I’m back home, so I know it’s still in there.
I don’t think I’d mind the attention these days. And who knows, maybe there would be spin-off benefits. Yooper, after all, is the 14th sexiest accent in the entire nation. Maybe the lovely-yet-formidable Marcia would suddenly find me irresistible again.
“What do you think, sweetie?” I asked, adding a wink-wink leer. “Should I go back to my accent?”
Her response: “Yeah, so, no. But you can take out the garbage.”
Ya, so, that didn’t work very well, eh?