A Guide To Minnesota Accents


I was born in Iowa. You may not think it’s far from Minnesota, but you would be wrong. By way of accents, at least where I came from in Iowa, the two states are world’s apart. We moved to the town I grew up in in Minnesota when I was going into first grade. I was six years old. I was teased a lot in first grade for calling pens “pins”, and random other words like that.

I lived in Georgia as a nanny for six months when I was 20. In the 6 months that I lived there, I was teased mercilessly about my Minnesotan accent. Then, once I came home, I was teased about the slight southern accent I had acquired down there in order to not be so badly teased for my MN accent. What’s the deal with all the teasing?? I tease because I love. I always assume the same is true for others. After living down there, I started really listening to people’s accents, and I have to say Minnesotans have quite the variety of accents. Here are some that I’ve noticed in all of my years of living here.

1. The people who talk like they are in the movie “Fargo”. Of all of the people I know who live in Fargo, I’ve never heard any of them speak like that. However, I definitely know some Minnesota peeps who speak with this accent.

2. The people who have an old school European accent. Not an English accent or anything like that. It’s more like this, “Ohh, Dae-vuht, how’ss werk going thesse dayss?” (David, how’s work going these days?) Notice the accent on the esses? They also may or may not say things like, ” Shad, please feed the shickens”. (Chad, please feed the chickens) – I didn’t have much experience with this type of Minnesotan accent until I met Dave’s grandparents. I LOVE listening to them talk. And I love listening to Dave talk with them because he takes on the accent as he’s talking with them and for at least an hour after we head home, he has this accent.

3. The people who talk without an accent for the most part, but get stuck on the OHs sometimes. MinnesOHta. DOHn’tcha knOHw. I definitely fall into this category. I like to say things like pOp (you know, like sOHda?) in kind of a nasally voice. Embrace my Minnesota-ness like that. We also like to pronounce the word bags like “baygs”. In Georgia I always got teased for saying “wok” when I was going to waLk somewhere. They pronounce every letter down south. And very slowly as well. They all thought I talked fast when I lived down there. It’s funny because when I lived down south, at first I really liked the soft-spoken and drawl-y way that women spoke down there. But after a while, I got homesick for the louder, faster, more nasally sound of a Minnesotan accent.

Here are some translations you may need, should you ever choose to visit the great state of Minnesota:

Uff-dah: pronounced “oof-dah”: used in sentences like, “Uff-dah, it’s going to be a humid and hot summer this year”.

Dontcha know: used in sentences like “Well that Swenson girl married that Anderson boy instead of the Larson boy, dontcha know”. (Those are some good MN last names). Usually answered with a “yah, yah, we knew dat one”. (Eze’s got a good MN “yah” going on already).

Yah sure, you betcha: (Thanks to Inga (good Minnesota name) for reminding me of this one) used in sentences like:
        “Oh yah, hey der Lars, could you help me pull my tractor out of dat der pasture today?”
        “Yah sure, you betcha, Sven. I’ll be over right after I help Greta finish canning da lutefisk today.”

Lutefisk: Don’t EVER eat this if you get invited to a Lutefisk Feed, unless you have a stomach of steel. It’s a kind of fermented fish. Don’t worry, you’ll smell it before you see it.

Any of you other hearty Minnesotans have any other good words we can translate for the friendly folks who read this here blog?

Paul Bunyan and Babe the Big Blue Ox - every good Minnesota elementary school teaches about this tall tale.

Paul.Bunyan and Babe the Big Blue Ox - every good Minnesota elementary school teaches about this tall tale.

(courtesy of Yahoo! images)
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56 responses to “A Guide To Minnesota Accents

    • i have lived in minnesota my whole life and i NEVER talk like that. i also know NO one who uses “Dontcha know” and i do not know what Lutefisk is

  1. Funny Rachel!! Did you ever see the musical “How to Talk Minnesotan” when it was here? It was so funny!! I have another thing for you that just kills Ryan. Did you know the rest of the world plays duck, duck, goose? Many Minnesotans can’t even associate this game with their beloved game of duck, duck, gray duck, even though they are exactly the same:) Thanks for putting some fun in my day.

    • duck duck gray duck is NOT the same as duck duck goose. duck duck gray duck is way more fun and creative than duck duck goose.. how fun is it to go around just saying duck? its way more fun to say yellow duck, pink duck, striped duck well basically anything you can come up with.

      anyways…. i have never heard anyone in minnesota pernounce their ch’s like sh…so yeahhh… but we do hold out our o’s and sometimes we pernounce ‘for’ like ‘fur’ and apparently we say boat weird(according to my teacher who came from iowa)

    • ive lived in Minnesota my whole and noone i know says ”yah, dontcha, uff,daa,” and i have never heard the word lutefisk therefore a lutefisk feed

  2. Very cute. I’ve been told that I have a strong Newfie (Newfoundlander) accent but I never really hear it myself.

  3. This is great! As a bartender I talk to many people and some people think that I have a northern accent. I have lived in the South my whole life but when I go visit relatives in Jersey I take on the Jersey accent.

    I had a room mate for Wisconsin and I just loved her accent. It seems similar to the Minnesotan accent. :)

    TFS.

  4. I think accents are so interesting. Living in Ohio, I don’t think of us as really having an accent but I’m sure we sound different to people from other states.

  5. being from Alaska we don’t have any particular accent, but people always tell Tom he sounds European and my family is from the South, so I tend to pick up that accent pretty easily.

    And don’t worry Rachel there is no difference between in pronunciation of ‘pin’ and ‘pen’

    • Sorry, Amanda, but there most certainly IS a difference between “pen” and “pin.” Maybe not in Alaska and/or Minnesota. But in much of the rest of the English-speaking world, there sure is.

  6. Ha ha. This is funny actually.

    I’m Canadian (Toronto, Ontario) and 99% of the people I talk at work are American. Almost every single person thinks I’m from Minnesota though. If they get it wrong, they guess Canadian next. Which is of course right. lol

    SO… I guess you could pretty much just drop the ‘eh’ out of your vocabulary and voila! You’re now Minnesotan. lol

    But yeah. It was pretty amusing. Reading through it I can definately see where people would think I sound Minnesota. But one time someone told me they knew I was Canadian because I was nasally. I never realized that we had that in common either. lol

  7. Lmfao this is hilarious. I live in Minnesota and have lived there all my life. We DEFINITLY don’t talk like that. Maybe the oof-duh one, but if you live in any remotely populated place you don’t use any of the rest. More than 3 quarters of the population does NOT farm, and don’t say “dat der” or “doncha know” or ANY of those other ones. Those are just dumb and make us sound like hicks. If you see the movie “new in town” we sound nothing like that. Really, we have the same accent as californians. This article is as untrue as it gets, but whatever :) just remember we have the mall of America , the water park of America, valleyfair, and nickelodeon universe.

  8. Next time gt your facts right. NO one in minnesota talks like that and only an idiot would think we do yes maybe a couple of them talk like that but not everyine and everyone also does not farm

    get you facts right next time

    • You sound completely retarded. If NO one speaks that way, how can “maybe a couple of them?” My mom is from Minnesota, and yes, she has what may seem like a typical Minnesotan accent. So stick that in juice box and sip it.

  9. I’m born and raised Northern Minnesota, and I have been told my whole life, I have no ‘Minnesota Accent.’ I’ve traveled the whole state, people think I’m not from around here, I’ve traveled the country, no one believes I’m from Minnesota. “You’re accent is wrong.” or “You’re faking it.” they always tell me. I’ve met lots of people with many, many different accents, but so far, none like I’m ‘supposed’ to have. Just because of the movie ‘Fargo’ or a few television shows, and suddenly everyone thinks they know how people talk in this state. The one accent I do encounter, on a daily basis, however is referred to as “Rez Speak” and not always in a kind manner. A lot of Native Americans around here speak slightly different, and are easy to spot when listening. One hilarious thing about it is, when people from the West Coast come here, they equate it to ‘Valley Girl Talk.’ “You know, like, talking all, like this all the time, like.” or “Oh ick, did you see that? She was like, all talking to him, when she like, knew I like him and stuff, you know?” And yes, a lot of them do bob their heads while speaking too. They imagine blond haired airheads, and instead see dark skinned kids, mostly females, no less. I too, am a Native American, and I do not have the supposed accent to match them, either. Though, they do seem to be leaning more towards the ‘ghetto speak’ more associated with inner city Blacks. They too (The Native Americans) seem to have forgotten who they are, and are attempting to emulate the speech and mannerisms of ‘gangstas’ much to the dismay of the elders.
    So please, do not make blanket statements about anyone, unless you wish for others to do the same to you. I have no anger about this, just mainly annoyed at how people tell me how I’m supposed to speak or sound. Perhaps I do have an accent of some sort, just not the one most people seem to think I should have.
    …Or maybe I have a speech impediment? Who knows…

  10. To everyone who says that this is false, take a trip to a small Scandinavian town, there are plenty to be found around Mankato. We do have long “Os”, and we pronounce D instead of T, like minnesohda. The old farmer folk in those small towns, they say dontcha know, and uff-da. Since all the immigration, and the fact that lots of people live in the Metro area, they are exposed to a larger diverse group of accents, thereby watering down the minnesota accent.

    Anyway, most of it is true, especially amongst the older population in outlying minnesota

    Just bring in someone from another state, and they will tell you everything that is weird.

    • Of course if you go to a Scandinavian town, the people there are going to have Scandinavian accents, just like if you went to a German town, they would have German accents, like a Mexican town would have Mexican accents. I know plenty of people who have moved from out of state, and even from out of the country and they don’t hear the ‘Minnesotan Accent.’
      Not everyone in this state is an immigrant.
      Some of us have been here for generations, and hundreds of years. We were here before the settlers, and before the English language.

  11. This is BS! I moved here from Germany and I have yet to meet anyone with the stereotypical accent. My great grandparents moved here a long time ago, and they didn’t even meet people with the accent people are supposed to have. I agree Minnesotans have an accent, but not like most people think. They are kind of sensitive about it. And to the DarthDefault Guy, I somewhat agree with you, but haven’t yet met one except for my neighbors, who come from the leech lake reservation. Is that the one you mean?

  12. Ok, there is no way possible you are from Minnesota, I live here and NO ONE talks like that, and BTW no one is named Sven either. You can’t just automaticly assoiciate MN w/ Norway, Sweden, and Finland. Minnesotans and the surronding states are considered to have a nuetral acent. If you ever watch T.V. most actors and actresses have our “nuetral” accent.

    • Are you stupid, the weather man for Kare 11 News is named SVEN Sundgaard. YOU sure you live here, bro?

  13. I live in Rochester, MN, and I have found that the accents here are pretty toned down. I just realized I had an accent the other day when someone called me on an “o” sound. It’s interesting though, because a friend had some family from Missouri stay up here for a week a little while ago, and they told us that we all sounded like idiots. I know that in the small, outlying towns, you can definitely find these kinds of accents, but yeah, in the larger cities, its not exactly hard to find, but it is very unpronounced. I work at a pharmacy and we get the occasional out-of-stater and they kinda point it out. But we have one Scottish guy, and I talked to him about his accent, and he told me about Minnesota accents, and proceeded to do his impersonation of a Minnesotan… through his Scottish accent. It was hilarious, and he completely missed the mark.

  14. Wow lots of ass holes here lol. I am proud to say that as a St Paul native(born AND raised oh and taught in the city also) I do in fact say uff Du, u betcha, dontcha know, and plenty of other cliche phrases. I do know an anders and I do know a nils so u guys who r quick to disagree r rather sheltered. Get out more that’s my opinion!

  15. I am born and raised west Minneapolis resident and i do very much believe in the Minnesotan accent it is quite pronounced in most northern towns. my father and grandfather both have VERY strong Minnesotan accents being from Tower Minnesota and i had the accent even after living in Minneapolis my whole life. not until i moved to Hawaii did my accent start to be watered down. i on the other hand believe 99% of what the above article has to state. no matter what anyone else has to say otherwise. and btw my brothers name is Nils my name is Leif and my fathers name is Hans and that’s just to name a few who proving that we do have names like Sven.

  16. The people who say they never hear any of this stuff must live in the cities! I grew up in a suburb of MPLS and never heard too much of the accent, although I did notice it is much more prevalent in the older folks. Now that I am at a small college on the western border, I realize from all of the small town people here that the accent is very real, and the stereotypes are pretty accurate. Lots of ya knows, you betchas, and long os.

  17. A lot of us do say these things but it’s not very often. One thing you will notice is how we pronounce our vowels and how long we hold them. For example a lot of minnesotans will say “woter” instead if water. I catch myself saying oof-da has an exclamation, will you barrow me, and bet’cha sometimes. The main thing that is pointed out to me is the pronunciation of words. Also names like Sven, nils are often and a lot of last names are Anderson, daveson.

  18. This blog is nice reading :) Thank you for writing it! I appreciate the way Minnesotans and people in some other parts of Great Lakes region cherish their Nordic cultural inheritage. We are Yah-people and that is both funny and unique in this world so be proud of it! :)

    I wish you all people writing and reading this blog warmly welcome to Nordic countries :) They are really nice countries for a holiday destination and maybe the most courageous of you could consider living here some time at least :) Six months as a nanny in the Swedish capital of Stockholm wouldnt be too bad ;)

  19. Love this blog entry. I also find it funny to see how many indignant posts declare how they’ve “never” heard anyone speak like that. The movie ‘Fargo’ began in Brainerd, which is ‘Up North’ about 60 miles from St. Cloud. They certainly DO speak with the singsong accent, and “UffDa” and “Dontcha knows” are fairly common in the age groups over 20. Many of them aren’t aware of their accent; it also seems to get stronger as people grow older (while remaining in the region.)Minnesota Nice and the ‘dee-doo-dee-doo’ accent is still alive and well, no matter how the indignant folks protest.

    By the way, our high school football captain was named Thor Thorsson. We also had an Ole, and two Svens. Nothing to be ashamed of at all. Names, accents and hair color don’t make people hicks.

    There are many of us that are quite proud of our Scandanavian heritage, despite the good-natured ribbing the Norwegians give the Swedes (and vice versa.)

    People that feel indignant because they think their accent makes them appear like an “empty-headed blonde” will hopefully not take themselves so seriously as they mature. If people underestimate you because of your accent or hair color, shame on them. You certainly don’t have to fall into a steroetype that someone else puts on you.

    I also find my accent coming back when I visit my parents. That includes ‘der’ in place of ‘there.’ So, for those of you vociferously protesting that there is nobody speaking in the accent, I say that you have not traveled much. It is alive and well, and the sing-song permeates even the younger folks.

  20. LOL I can’t believe all the people taking offense to this post. I’m from NC and currently at Camp Ripley and, to the outside world, there is a very funky accent around at least these parts.

    There’s no need to take offense to it. I was raised in the rural south, lived on the west coast, worked with many immigrants, lived in urban areas in the south with New Yorkers… Embrace your accents. I have quite the mixture of accent as I seem to integrate some of them all. It’s strange how that works. I might even be in Minnesota long enough to drink a “pop” or eat some “aids”. I haven’t picked up enough yet to differentiate whether I’m hearing beg, baig or bag. That’s the reason I googled Minnesota accents and found this in the first place.

    • I’m from southern MN and visited NC for a few weeks. One day I used the word “wood” in my sentence and the response I got was “What?” I repeated “wood”…to cocked heads and quizical looks…until I clarified, “you know, like a forest”? ……”Ohhhhhh!”

  21. I grew up in Minnesota and could sware we don’t talk like that at all! Seeing the movie Fargo was quite offensive to me! I moved to North Carolina several years ago and I can tell you, Minnesotans DO talk like that! When I hear my parents talk now, I just shake my head! I wonder if the movie Fargo was based on them! :)

  22. These are more northern Minnesota accents. I live up north and the only thing I don’t here is the esses one. But all the other ones are correct form me up in Northern Minnesota. Except I don’t eat lutefisk but I have heard of it.

  23. these are all sayings we like to joke about saying, and mock…but i guess some people saying. being from the cities, not many people i know do, but everyone definitely enunciates their long O’s even if they don’t realize it.

  24. I don’t know why everybody says nobody from Minnesota talks like that because I say long o’s and soft d’s and I hear a ton of other people talk like that to! I am also from the Twin Cities area and people hear also have a thick accent, so it’s not just up north. Also, most people that I know actually have brown hair and Minnesota is known for it’s education. I also say “Oh yah, I’ll borrow you my (insert item)

  25. Minnesotans sound nothing like that. Sure, we pronounce “bag” as “bayg” and end sentences with prepositions such as “come with,” but this is grammatically correct, and being that I teach literature at a university, I should know. So all off you self-proclaimed lingual experts should just leave us alone, and maybe focus on taunting someone who does have a terrible accent (like the Canadians, or anyone from the south). Have a great day, and always remember that the Minnesota Vikings are better than the Green Bay Packers. You know it’s true.

    P.S. Please stop saying ya’ll, it is extremely irritating.

    • Teaching literature doesn’t necessarily mean that you know your grammar. I can think of no situation in which a dangling preposition is “correct.” I can only hope that you’re being facetious, but I fear I have no such luck.

      And it’s “y’all,” a contraction of “you all.” Not “ya’ll,” which is a contraction of nothing.

  26. Okay, I have been wondering how we Minnesotans talk differently for a while, and now that I’ve been in Florida for a few days with people teasing me am making me say, “snow”, and “pop”, I realize that there IS something different about how we talk. And I do say, oof-dah, baygs, and wok. My grandparents talk the strangest of all though. I have never heard of lutefisk. Ever. And nobody says, “Dontcha know.”

    • Are you near any Scandanavians? That’s where you get Lutefisk. Or rather, they’re the ones who eat it, so if you don’t talk to any, you’re not liable to hear about it.

  27. I enjoyed this blog and discussion. It’s cute. However, I don’t think anyone should take offense by it.

    I have lived in central Illinois my entire life. But, I’ve been told I have a very northern accent. To me, very northern mean Minnesota. I’ve never been to Minnesota! I’ve even been asked if I’m from Canada (never been there either!). Someone today told me she can hear ‘my accent’ when I say a word with an ‘O’. I personally, have never noticed it and like everyone else, I don’t think I have an accent. Of course, to someone from the South, I do!

    Thus, this is the reason I happened to come across this blog. I was searching for ‘northern’ sounding words. Needed to see for myself if I sound ‘very northern!’ I been known to say ‘dontcha’ and ‘you betcha’, so that’s not something just confined to Minnesota. I can remember when I was little, saying ‘warsh’ instead of ‘wash’. I no longer call it warsh. And ‘sodie pop’ instead of ‘soda’. In fact, we still call it ‘pop’ in our house.

    An old friend of mine from New Jersey, says I really have a thick accent. Of course, I think she sounds like Fran Drescher, which her accent! She teases me when I say dog or coffee. To her, it sounds like ‘dagg’ or ‘caaffee’.

    Everyone is unique. Embrace it!

  28. I’m a transplant from Minn to Georgia and I’ve now spent equal time in both states. ALL regions have accents and accents are not an indicator of intelligence. Why so offended? There is ONE movie poking fun at the Minn accent and about a billion movies poking fun at the southern accent. And there’s wonderful people in both places, and hicks in both places. Calm down! I love all accents.

  29. My fiance and I are getting married next week. My fiance’s family is from Little Falls. My family is from South Boston, MA. We will need interpreters at the wedding and reception :-)

  30. I love how people are like “we’ve never heard of lutefisk, we don’t do that here” or “3/4 of the people don’t talk like that” when it’s not true. I grew up on the edge of the cities and rural Minnesota and we do in fact talk like that and I have heard of lutefisk. It’s very common, even in the suburbs surrounding the core cities. Besides, our accent isn’t something to be ashamed of. We should be proud of where we came from. I don’t say most of the things but the subtle things in our accent, like our o’s and the way we say Minnesota are VERY stereotypical of Minnesota, even most people in the cities say it that way. I’m very much in love with the cities, but they are not all of Minnesota nor are they the only thing in Minnesota. We’re a very large state and I hate when MINNESOTANS think that the cities are the only thing that exist. They are themselves a very small portion of the state, just because the core of the population lives there doesn’t make it Minnesota.
    Accents don’t make people more or less intelligent, nor do they make people sound more or less intelligent. It’s an indicator of one’s heritage and is something to be proud of. And yes, there are a LOT of people with Scandinavian names. I have known several Svens (EVEN IN THE TWIN CITIES AREA).
    I’m proud of my state and where I’m from and I wish other people would be too.

  31. For everyone who thinks we don’t have an accent or talk like that. You really do and probably don’t notice. I have gone to two music festivals this year (Michigan, Arkansas) and everyone there would talk about or accents and mimack us.

  32. Well I am from Michigan, and have been told by many people that I sound like I am from Minnesota. I guess because I say diet pop, and you betcha, and ding dang, I have never been to Minnesota. I had someone ask me to say Minnesota … I said Minnesoda, and they said I knew you were from there???? I also take my dog for a wok. Since I have never been there, do you ever here “you guys”, when referring to several people ? I have been told that is from Minnesota as well?

  33. I say uff da all the time, i am a 24 year old who says it and apparently that is weird. THe small town of 28 people i lived in after i graduated high school had lutefisk at least once every few months and during x-mas and thanksgiving.

    We say T’s like D’s in some words. such as my name has a T in it but i say it like a D.

    And Often, i don’t say the T…..it;s basically silent in the word when i say it.

  34. The accents are more noticeable in norther Minnesota. Hate to tell you but there is more her than just the cities. I say almost all of these and hear them used almost constantly. I have had lutefisk and yes it is disgusting. Fish should not smell that bad or be almost clear. I remember singing a song that said give me sugar on my lefse. “Fargo” does exaggerate the accent but it still does exist.

  35. I’m from Minnesota, but my accent is not real strong Minnesotan. I was born and raised in the US Army (army brat) and my mother’s side is from Arkansas. I essentially lived in Minnesota from 1961 to 2009 and still spend summers there. I now live in Florida where there are accents from all over the USA.

    My wife was born and raised in rural Minnesota and she definitely has a Minnesota accent, although she never says off-da and doncha, When my wife and her sister are talking together they use “Ya” so much it makes me laugh. I have a little.

    All the New England types around here (Melbourne FL) all coment on my wifes accent, forgetting how heavy their northeastern accent is. They all sound like Archie and Edith Bunker.

    Yet, I think a lot of you are confusing pronunciation with accent. They are separate things, although they are relate to locality. You can speak perfect english and have a french accent. Oof dah or offa may, are expressions and are not accents. Just listen to a hispanic speaker try to say it and you will know what I mean.

    Yes, “Fargo does exaggerate the Minnesota dialect/accent, but it has some truth to it.

  36. I lived in Minnesota for almost 46 years and yes I get told all the time about my accent first moved to Florida and they loved it then to Texas yep a Yankee in Texas and they to have said about the way I speak thos who say they don’t I do believe you just think you don’t and I am proud of mine. My Texas man thinks the way I speak is cute why be ashamed of it? And you betcha I love my lutefisk to!! I have never thought of Minnesota as a state that others thought of being a small town country girl Olivia Minnesota the corn capital until I left there and to see it on the news in Florida and in Texas even on King of the Hill and they had it spot on, my Boyfriend and I laughed so hard watching it and until I moved to Texas I would have never thought much of it but the things I told him before we even saw the show he knew then I was not a kiddin about the way we speak and what we know and love about the State and when I was in Florida I managed a small Motel and when someone from Canada would call they knew I was either from Canada or Minnesota I hope I never loose mine I love it, to me it is the right way to speak and the only way to speak.

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