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Turning Yoopanese




A-SQUARED: Ann Arbor, home of the University of Michigan, which so aspires to join the Ivy League that it admits all the Chicago and New York suburbanites who can't get into Yale. A few people from Michigan go to U. of M. too Bob Seger's song "Main Street" is about Ann Arbor. Iggy Pop and the MC5, who claimed gritty Detroit origins, got their starts here too.

BIG MAC: The Mackinac Bridge. Pronounced MACK-i-naw. Calling it "The Mackinack Bridge" is the surest way to reveal yourself as an outsider.

BENTON HARLEM: Benton Harbor, according to residents of Saint Joseph River, the mostly white town across the Saint Joseph River.

THE BIG THREE: Ford, Chrysler, adn General Motors. Also Domino's, Little Ceasar's, and Hungry Howie's.

THE BIG TIRE: Six-story tall Ferris wheel refurbished to look like a Uniroyal tire, on I-94 outside Romulus.

BLACK BOTTOM: The original black ghetto on the lower east side Detroit.

THE CEREAL CITY: Battle Creek, home of Kellogg's, which has a statue of Tony the Tiger outside its plant. The city was also the setting for The Road to Wellville, about the turn-of-the-century sanitarium run by the brother of company founder W.K. Kellogg.

CONEY ISLAND: A chile dog.

COPPER COUNTRY: The area around Houghton, in the Upper Peninsula, so named for its copper mines, which are now closed.

"D'JA GET YOUR DEER?": Heard whenever two hunters meet in late November or early December.

DOWNRIVER: The industrial suburbs along the Detroit River south of Detroit. Includes River Rouge, Ecorse, Wyandotte, Trenton, and Grosse Ile.

FIP: Fucking Illinois People. Used mainly in the resort towns of southwestern Michigan, where Chicagoans vacation. Summer people are among those attempting to prevent locals from building a casino. Someone spray painted "FIPs Go Home" on an overpass near Union Pier.

THE FREEP: The Detroit Free Press. Scab newspaper that a few years ago replaced many of its striking reporters wiht journalism students.

FUDGIES: Tourists who visit Mackinac Island, Traverse City, or any of the resort towns with an overabundance of fudge shops. Also called "cones" because of many gourmet ice cream shops there.

THE GENERAL: General Motors. Was also called Generous Motors before the layoffs of the 1980s.

GR: Grand Rapids, hometown of Gerald Ford and Amway Industries. Residents aer called Grand Rapidians.

HIS ROUNDNESS: Governor John Engler, a walking advertisement for the state's butter and cheese manufacturers. In a country run by Bill Clinton, considered too fat to run for president.

HOLLANDERS: The Dutch, the dominant ethnic group in Grand Rapids and western Michigan. Renowned for their frugality. A Hollander, Hendrik Meijer (pronounced MI-er), founded the Meijer grocery store chain, which was originally known as Meijer's Thrifty Acres. Grand Rapids joke, "What's the difference between a canoe and a Hollander? The canoe tips once in a while."

"IF YOU AIN'T DUTCH, YOU AIN'T MUCH": Popular Hollander bumper sticker.

JACKTOWN: The Southern Michigan Penitentiary in Jackson. There has never been an execution here, or one in any other state prison since 1841, and Michiganders are proud of it. Every schoolchild is taught that Michigan was the first English-speaking government to abolish the death penalty.

THE JOE: Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, home of the Red Wings hockey team. The statue outside depicting Louis's clenched hand is called "The Fist."

THE LAKE: Houghton Lake, Higgins Lake, Duck Lake, or whichever lake you have a cottage on. As in, "We're going up to the lake this weekend." Usually not used for one of the Great Lakes.

LAKE STATE: Lake Superior University, in Sault Sainte Marie. You've probably never heard of the school, but its hockey team won the NCAA championship in 1988, 1992, and 1994.

MICHIGANDER: A resident of the state. Coined by U.S. Representative Abraham Lincoln of Illinois as an insult for a rival congressman from Michigan. (At the time, "gander" was as derogatory as jackass.)

MICHIGAN MILITIA: A group of deer hunters who banded together in the mid-90s to protect the state from the United Nations.

THE MISTAKE BY THE LAKE: Muskegon. Or Bay City, if you're from Muskegon.

MOO U: Michigan State University, which began life in 1855 as Michigan Agricultural College. When the wind blows north in the spring, you can smell manure wafting up from the college's thousands of acres of farmland.

THE MOTOR CITY MADMAN: Ted Nugent, ex-rock'n'roller whose career parallels the interests of many white, urban baby boomers. In the 70s, put out kick-ass songs like "Wang Dang Sweet Poontang" and "Cat Scratch Fever." Now owns a bow-hunting emporium in Jackson and recently signed to produce and distribute a line of beef jerky.

OUTSTATE: Anyplace outside of metro Detroit.

PASTIES: Pronounced PAST-eez. Meat-filled pastries, can purchase microwaveable pasties "Made in the U.P." in the frozen foods section of your local grocer.

THE POINTES: Grosse Pointe, Grosse Pointe Farms, Grosse Pointe Park, Gross Pointe Shores, Gross Pointe Woods. The North Shore of Detroit. Does not include Eastpointe, which recently changed its name from East Detroit in order to encourage a kinship with its tony neighbors.

THE REN CEN: The Renaissance Center. Black, cylindrical buildings that revitalized the city of Detroit, enabling it to reclaim its position as one of America's fastest growing, most vibrant cities. General Motors recently moved its world headquarters here.

SAINT JOHANNESBURG: Saint Joseph, according to the residents of Benton Harbor.

THE SHOP: An auto plant.

SHOPRAT: Anyone who works in an auto plant.

THE SOO: The area around Sault (pronounced "soo") Saint Marie. The locks that lead from Lake Superior to Lake Huron are called the Soo Locks.

THE SUNRISE SIDE: The east coast of Michigan. You can watch the sun rise over Lake Huron, then drive across the state and watch it set over Lake Michigan.

SUPERIOR: The 51st state that the Upper Peninsula would like to form with northeastern Wisconsin. The capital would be Marquette, which has 22,000 people, and the main industries would be tourism and the export of frozen pasties. The Lower Peninsula will then be renamed "Inferior."

THE THUMB: An area, shaped like a thumb, between Saginaw Bay and Lake Saint Claire. The Oklahoma City Bombing was planned here, in the Decker farmhouse of Terry Nichols. Michiganders make much of the fact that the state resembles a mitten. Ask one where he's from, and he'll point to a location on the pinkie, Bay City in the web between the thumb and forefinger, Detroit at the base of the thumb.

TROLLS: People from the Lower Peninsula or anywhere beyond the U.P., because they live under the (Mackinac) bridge.

U.P.: The Upper Peninsula. Sometimes shortened to "The Yoop." The Lower Peninsula is not called L.P.

UP NORTH: Anyplace north of Clare, but only in the Lower Peninsula. The U.P is not "up north." The U.P. is the U.P.

VERNORS: Pop made in Detroit. If you ask for ginger ale in a Michigan bar, you may get this.

WINDSOR BALLET: Strip clubs in Windsor, Ontario, directly across the Detroit River from Detroit. Popular because Ontario allows nudie bars to serve liquor, which Michigan does not.

YOOPERS: People who live in the U.P. Talk like Bob and Doug McKenzie from the movie Strange Brew. The song "Second Week of Deer Camp" was recorded by Da Yoopers. You can spot a Yooper by looking for a sticker that says, "Say yah to da U.P., eh!" on the bumper of his car or truck. Some Yoopanese terms include "chook" for hat, "mitts" for gloves, and "snow cows" for fat girls.

YPSITUCKY: Ypsilanti, one of several auto-making towns overrun by southerners who migrated to Michigan to work in the shop.

--Ted Kleine

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Illustration of a boy with an ice cream cone by Mike Werner.

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