Musings and Amusings

Y is for Yooper

Y Letter

Yooper: the newest official Scrabble word!

Unless you live in Michigan, you’ve probably never heard of a Yooper. You will now because it is being added to the 2014 edition of the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Michigan, for those not familiar with US geography, is the state shaped like the back of your left hand. We Michiganders have an easy time answering the “where in Michigan?” question – we simply hold up our left hand and use a finger on our right hand to point to a location.

michigan map

This “mitten”, as Michiganders call it, isn’t the whole state. Far to the north, across the Mackinac Bridge lies the Upper Peninsula – the U.P. – the relatively undeveloped, beautifully forested part of Michigan where the Yoopers (derived from U.P.) reside.

Yoopers are a crusty, hardy bunch with a strong work ethic and a fiercely independent streak. They have to be in order to survive the brutal, long-lasting winters that ravage their land. They pride themselves on their quirky reputation – speaking their own peculiar dialect, sometimes threatening to secede from Michigan, and continuing a long tradition of feasting on Cornish pasties, harkening back to the 1890s when Scandinavian immigrants flocked to the UP to work in the mines.

Yoopers call the residents of the lower peninsula Trolls because they live ‘under the bridge’ that connects the watery divide between the upper and lower peninsulas.

In 2000, Jeff Daniels directed and starred in a movie called ‘Escanaba in da Moonlight’ about a deer-hunting Yooper family. It’s well worth a watch for those interested in outliers in our society’s lore.


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Comments on: "Y is for Yooper" (38)

  1. Great post – it’s now my new secret scrabble weapon, lol!! I’m going to look for that film too, I like Jeff Daniels 😉

  2. Brilliant post, thanks for sharing it! I love getting to know the world a little better through these blogs, never ceases to amaze me 🙂

  3. We used to ski up in the U.P. and so I know how daunting the winters can be! (Try minus ten degrees with minus fifty degree wind chill!) But what a fun bunch of people! Everyone we met was helpful and cheerful, and we had a lot of good times up there with the Yoopers. 🙂

    • That’s great! We took an autumn road trip through the u.p. a few years sgo when we were back in Mich. visiting my folks. The colors were drop dead gorgeous, and visiting lighthouses on Lake Superior was so interesting.

  4. Hey, now that’s a cunning move – a brand new word and definitely one to remember 🙂

  5. It’s my new secret word too. Now there is no way they can beat me at Scrabble. I have never heard the term so I will look up the movie for a better understanding.

  6. I love your description of where Michigan is. Thanks for letting us in on the inside information — I, for one, have never known that’s how it’s done, and done right. Great word!
    Silvia @

    • Yup (slaps my mittens together) that’s the scoop 🙂

      Thanks for the follow. Glad I caught your blog before Z brings us all to a screeching halt!

  7. I think it is possible I might be a Yooper! Thanks for that description

  8. This post made me smile – I’ve never heard the word Yooper, but I do know a few northern types that fit into that description. I used to live in Michigan (Ann Arbor) and I’m aware of how those winters could be, even from that fairly southern locale (relative to the UP). I’m wondering if Words with Friends will include Yooper in their dictionary as well??? 😀

    • Ann Arbor is a great college town -did you go to UofM? I grew up about 40 miles directly west of AA!

      I spent a lot of time in northern Michigan, but not the U.P.

      Thsnks for stopping by! One more day !!

      • I actually was in Ann Arbor for 2nd and 3rd grade – my dad got his MS in engineering there. I remember the snow though…and how cold it got! I don’t think I ever made it up to the UP though. 🙂

      • I see! Winters used to be awful there, but have become quite mild until this winter when the whole midwest and east coast were continually slammed. I would have gone bonkers!

  9. Another Y I didn’t think of! Loved reading this. I have a friend who’s a (now-transplanted) Yooper–she gets very excited whenever anyone starts talking about pasties. (Something many don’t know: pastie is pronounced past–ee. Not paste-y. But I’m sure you knew that!)

  10. hah wow that so doesent sound real, did you meet one yet? grins…great word for scrabble and boggle, did you ever play that? x

  11. Unsurprisingly I had never heard of Yoopers (I’m French, grew up in the UK and now live in Hong Kong – somewhat far removed from Michigan 😉 ), but they sound like an interesting bunch, although I was pretty surprised to hear that they enjoy a good Cornish pasty!

  12. AND, I learned something! Will look at Jeff Daniels movie too.

  13. Learned several new things from this post! Nicely done. I play Words with Friends, a scrabble-type app, but it often doesn’t even have words I know are real so I doubt they’ll allow Yoopers…I will definitely give it a try though. Gail

  14. I have to say I never really heard of the word of the folks. I’m enlightened, thanks. Whenever I hear the state of Michigan I think of the winters and all that cold and ice and huge inland sea which has always fascinated me.

    • It is an absolutely beautiful state – other than the winters, as you say. I do love going back for visits in the other 3 seasons.

  15. I’ve heard of “Yoopers”, but never really knew what or who they were, until now. Interesting! Must be a rugged life.

    • They have a couple colleges ip there with awesome hockey teams. The forested land is so beautiful ans snowmobiles are the mode of transportation all winter.

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