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.
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.