Minnesota Made Easy—A Glossary of Common Terms

I am often (well, at least twice) asked for tips on helping non-Minnesotans assimilate and become at home with the quirks, foibles and otherwise wacky behavior that makes Minnesota what it is (which is, frankly, largely unfathomable.) Let’s start with a brief Glossary.

From the moment you step off the plane at the Charles Lindbergh Terminal of the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, you will begin to hear a dizzying array of strange phrases and bizarre usage of what passes marginally as the English language. Don’t panic: they’re probably not talking to you.

But in the event they are, here are some typical phrases and their meanings in the North Star State:

“Quite the deal”:  Something good, interesting, or considered worthwhile. For example, “Say, that new snowblower you got is quite the deal.”

“That’s different”: Proper response when commenting on something you don’t like. For example, upon seeing that your neighbor has painted his house hot fuchsia, you might say, “Well, that’s different.”

“Whatever”:  Used to signal the end of a conversation. For example, if the neighbor who painted his house hot fuchsia told you that he got a deal on the paint, you might say “Whatever.” Important note: the tone will not be the irritation heard when a teenager uses the term. When uttered by a Minnesotan over the age of 18, it will most commonly be in a tone that conveys surrender.

“The Cities”: The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

“Out-State”: Any part of Minnesota outside of the Twin Cities.

“Out-of-State”: Anywhere that isn’t Minnesota.

“Beater”: A car driven in the winter, usually at least 10 years old. This car is used while the “good car” is stored in the garage to protect it from rust, winter fender-benders and spin-outs. Most often, the Beater is a 1969-80 Chevrolet Impala, Ford Galaxie or Chrysler New Yorker. A Beater should never cost more than $400, but always has a brand-new battery and set of jumper cables.

“Hot Dish”: Often confused with “casserole”, the Hot Dish has the following distinguishing characteristics:

    • Always contains cream of mushroom or cream of celery soup.
    • Never contains anything red.
    • Is always better the third day.
    • The top layer is always crushed potato chips or chow mien noodles.

Hot Dishes are most often seen at funeral lunches (“Bereavement Buffets”), Lutheran pot-luck suppers and Mom’s house.

Well, hope that helps you get along when you come to visit. If not, well, whatever.

Today’s Fact-Cetera

The stapler was invented in Spring Valley, Minnesota.
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