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?