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April 8, 2014 | 6 Comments

Dear Mr. Keillor:

Merriam-Webster's 2014 Collegiate Dictionary will include the word "Yooper" for the first time. As a long time resident of Michigan's Upper Peninsula who has benefited from a liberal arts education heavily steeped in the humanities, I'm personally pleased that our shared moniker has gained some legitimacy.

As an English major, what's your take on this and similar developments? Do such inclusions water down our treasured language, or should we be happy that our universe of words is forever expanding?

Kenneth Stewart
Gwinn, MI


I'm all for expanding the language but you and I have been using the word "Yooper" for ages, Mr. Stewart, and we didn't need Merriam-Webster to legitimize it. (Did I really just use the word "legitimize"? Aiyiyi.) It was a word for a proud people who are Michiganders but who stand apart from your rank-and-file Michigan crowd, and yet with no yen to be Wisconsinites or Canucks. People from a place where winter extends into May. Where miners live and the descendants of miners. In other words, a rough-and-ready bunch. Seeing it in Merriam-Webster now, I suppose all sorts of clans and tribes will want in. If Yoopers, why not Gophers? I grew up in a tiny sect called the Plymouth Brethren, who referred to each other simply as Saints, and when other kids asked what church I belonged to, I usually said, "Lutheran," to avoid a big Q & A, though it felt weaselish, Jesus having said that He would deny those who denied His Name. But it was too much for me at that age to say I was one of the Saints. Merriam-Webster never gave us that name, capitalized, but you know, it felt thrilling, even subversive, to belong to an unknown tribe. Now that you Yoopers have been admitted to the mainstream, some non-Yoops may horn in. Someone will come out with a line of men's clothing. There will be a TV show. Yooperism will be watered-down to mean simply anybody from the northern, or upper, part of anything, whether a peninsula or not. You know and I know, Mr. Stewart, that this thing is going to come around and bite you in the ass. That's just how it's going to be.


Yoopers & Cock-ups

Thanks to yoopers
I finally looked up
Blush -
Not at all what it seems -
Nay, the term
Simply means to
Stand up conspicuously -
Cock-up your ears,
Cock-up your nose,
You could, even,
Cock-up your toes.
(We'll simply side-step
if you cock-up one of those,
or, would that be cock's up,
come to think of it,
in which case,
recede and hide, abide.)

And for Burns' fans,
Cock-up your beaver
Means to adorn your beaver
Hat with a feather.
There, no need for a tether!

But let me tell you anyhow,
The yooper logo with the phallic protrusion
And shaded bushy area
Leaves little doubt
What many can't help
But think about.

Hilary - what a lovely name and a lovely little poem. I did know the term cock up in the sense you describe. Maybe a Midwest thing - I grew up in Indiana? I know it'll never happen, but I would like someday to meet the lady who did that ditty.

Does this mean that the definition of "trolls" will be expanded? It would only be fair. From a troll from down below.

Thanks! The brits seem to use cock-up a lot - who knew a cock-up was just a boner!

Phrase Finder Dictionary

Herewith a cornucopia of phrases, including a list of phrases about about parts of the body.

I have always thought your sect was the "Sanctified" Brethren, not the "Plymouth" Brethren? At any rate, it would be hard for a dictionary to identify your group as "Saints" when that moniker has been in use for so long by the Mormons.

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