You Can Take a Girl to the Midwest…But You Can’t Make Her Talk Right

When I moved to the mid-west there were several things I had to get used to. 1) The weather 2) The absence of the ocean 3) The language. There were probably more, but I can’t think of them right now. Either that or I’ve repressed them because they were too traumatic. Either that or I have gotten so used to them that they don’t feel weird any more.

So…1) The weather.

Growing up in Washington and Oregon for the first 16 years of my life, and then spending my four years of college in Eugene, OR, rain was just a given. Rain came often, drizzling its way through the day and into our ears, insinuating itself into our daily lives so that umbrellas were third appendages that sprouted periodically from our hands and wet socks were par for the course.

Every car in the PNW contains at least one umbrella.

Here, on the other hand, I’m not sure I’ve used an umbrella, ever. I have one or two – that haven’t been destroyed by my children, that is – but I just never use them. If it’s raining, I run for it. Here it rains in BATCHES. Two inches here, half an inch there, maybe even five inches other there. Very different from the day-long drizzles I’m used to.

In the Pacific Northwest, by the way, no one has rain gauges. Well, not nearly as many people as do out here, anyway. Rain is just part of life out there…why would I want to gauge my life in a tube? It’s far too depressing.

The view from my home, growing up.


2) The absence of the ocean.

I miss oceany things in the grocery store. I miss briny scents as I drive into town. I miss views of headlands and sprawling acres of gray, undulating seas. I miss the tides giving rhythm to my day.

When I first moved to the Duluth area, well-meaning people said to me, “Lake Superior must make you feel right at home.” Now, I know I’ve whined about this before so I’ll spare you my soap-box. Let me just say this: Lake Superior is awesome. BUT IT IS NOT THE OCEAN. For many reasons.

‘Nuf said.

3) The language.

There is much which could be said about this topic. I’ll restrain myself for today and say only this: to me, “lunch” means a noon-time meal of sandwiches or macaroni and cheese, for example, combined with a glass of milk, a banana, and possibly a cookie if I’m feeling reckless. “Lunch” does not come at any other hour of the day, nor is it accompanied by the words, “a little”, nor does it consist of sweet treats such as tea ring, coffee cake, or ginger snap cookies.

In addition, “dinner” comes at approximately 6:00 p.m. and NOT at noon. (Except on Sundays, of course. Then it comes at noon and is the big meal of the day with an evening meal of popcorn or something else easy on Mom.) So if you want me to get to your house for a noontime meal, do not be calling it dinner. Or, conversely, don’t be surprised if I miss lunch at your house if you insist on calling it dinner. Unless, of course, you want me to miss it, then call it dinner to your hearts content.

“Supper” is a weird word that is rarely used in the Pacific Northwest. It’s known…but it’s suspect.

I’ll leave my tirade at this for now, but know this: I have much to say about “borrowing” me your pencil. My eyebrows are furrowed as we speak…

4 thoughts on “You Can Take a Girl to the Midwest…But You Can’t Make Her Talk Right

  1. Oh, Gretchen, please know that the “borrowing me” something really bugs me, too. And I am a native Minnesotan. Apparently some students did not listen in English class. But the “little lunch,” dinner and supper, well, I will not apologize for that.

    This weekend, when I met my eldest daughter’s boyfriend, who is from LA, I gave him a copy of “How to Talk Minnesotan” by Howard Mohr. I thought it might help him adjust. He has, during his visits to our state, already grown fond of “bars,” which he terms “dense cake.”

  2. I too go crazy when someone says “borrow me something”! For the record, I borrow something; the person who I borrow it from loans it to me. Maybe grammar is no longer taught in school:-)

    • Oh, Barb, thanks so much for your comments! Yes – “loan” and “borrow” are terribly confused around here – though I’m not sure if the problem is that it’s not taught or just that what you hear at home is more powerful! The first time I heard someone use “borrow” the wrong way I didn’t understand what they were talking about! Thanks again so much for stopping by!

  3. :-) Yes, “bars” are fabulous around here and I mean to blog about them at some point! And then there’s hot dish…I think that was a perfect gift for someone new to MN!

    No need to apologize for “a little lunch” – it just cracks me up! And let’s be perfectly clear about the time on Saturday…no “lunch” or “dinner” without a specific clock time!!!

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