Posted by: Jack Henry | March 23, 2021

Editor’s Corner: Minnesota, Part 2

Hello! Today is part two of Midwestern and Minnesotan phrases, from these two articles: 9 Phrases Only Minnesotans Use and 14 Midwestern Sayings That The Rest Of America Can’t Understand. Part one is here, and without further ado—here is part two:


If you’ve been to a Vikings game at the newly built U.S. Bank Stadium, or even at the old Metrodome, you’ve most definitely heard people scream and sing this word. This Norwegian word used by vikings actually means “cheers” and “to good health.”


You might call this a casserole or something like that, but in the upper Midwest, it’s a “hotdish.” This usually contains a type of starch, a type of meat, frozen veggies, and a can of soup. The most common type of hotdish here in Minnesota is Tater Tot Hotdish. [KC – You can’t go wrong with tater tots!]

“Up North”

Even though this might seem like a completely normal directional statement, this saying doesn’t have anything to do with direction. When a Minnesotan says “Up North” what they’re really referring to is their cabin or to the woods, but those don’t need to be in that direction. So, no matter where they are going, they’ll say they’re going “up north.”

"Oh, for cute!" or "Oh, for fun!"

Unlike Southerners who like to stretch sentences out, Midwesterners love to shorten theirs. And sometimes, things are just so gosh darn cute or fun that you don’t have time to make grammatical sense or even get out a full sentence. That’s why after seeing a newborn or a puppy, "Oh for goodness sakes, how cute!" is suddenly condensed into "Oh, for cute!"

"That makes as much sense as government cheese.”

For several decades starting in the 1960s, the U.S. government provided processed cheese to those on welfare, food stamps, or Social Security. The processed cheese was a mishmash of cheeses and emulsifiers that didn’t taste (or smell) all that great.

In short, people really hated it. So, saying "That makes as much sense as government cheese" means something is a truly terrible idea. [KC – It must have been truly horrible if they messed up cheese. That’s just sad.]

"He’s got the holler tail."

If someone’s in a bad mood or doesn’t feel well, then "he’s got the holler tail." People used to believe that when a cow was sick and wouldn’t get up that was because it literally had a "hollow tail." The farmer would cut the tail open and put salt or turpentine inside and wrap it up.

And lest you think they were crazy, it actually worked. But it was not because the tail was hollow—most likely it was because the cow got some much-needed rest and extra food during treatment. [KC – Poor cows. No wonder that 1960’s government cheese was bad.]

"Duck Duck Gray Duck"

The rest of America knows this game by its alternative moniker, "Duck Duck Goose." But every Minnesotan knows that "Duck Duck Gray Duck" is the far superior way to play.

Not only do you have infinite psych-out options ("Red Duck," "Purple Duck," "Gray Moose," etc.), but it’s also just much more fun to say out loud. Trust us.


A condensed version of "Let’s put her going," or essentially "Let’s get going!"

The "eh" is tacked onto the end as a verbal exclamation mark.

"Dontcha know."

"Dontcha know" means "don’t you know," but it’s not a question — it’s said as a statement.

Particularly used in Minnesota, this phrase can be placed at the end or beginning of literally any sentence: "The Minnesota State Fair starts next week, dontcha know." "I’m stuck in traffic, dontcha know." "Dontcha know, I was at the store today and saw your uncle." Et cetera.

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

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