Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Guide to Ann Arbor: Understanding Michigan Accents

So you're new to Michigan and maybe you are a little confused. You may have noticed that the natives pronounce the names of cities and towns in this fair state differently than you would have expected. You may have heard of "SuhLEEN", its neighbor "MYlun", "Lake OReeyun" but been unable to find them on a map.

The Michigander dialect has a subtle and unique pronunciation owing to diverse influxes of Northern European immigrants and a smattering of southern transplants. The resulting accent is one part Nasal Chicago, one part Minnesota with a dash of Canadian and a bit of southern twang. Or as Eric Weaver puts it, "The resulting mix is similar to a pirate from Kentucky with a head cold..." Which brings us to Weaver's humorous Michigan Accent Pronunciation Guide. The guide covers everything from speech patterns, to pronunciations unique to Michigan and even has a section on the names of Detroit streets.

From the guide:

Let me tell ya, it is DAMNED cold in Michigan, so you have GOT to conserve energy. Consequently, the right way to speak "Michigin" is to

1. talk fast,
2. slur your words together, and
3. clip all your hard consonants, like "t". Someone smarter than me calls this a "glottal stop".

This guide is a must-read for both natives and anyone who has been confused by their first "Michigan Left."


  1. When I lived in New York, people were always surprised to hear I was from Michigan. When I asked where they thought I was from, they'd answer "Flushing?" Probably because I was brown. I think the fact that I talk like a speed demon makes my accent not even recognizable.

    I do say "pop", though - can't believe you didn't bring up the pop v. soda debate.

  2. Soda v. Pop probably needs its own article.

  3. @GH : You "were" brown? What happened then?

  4. I got all ashy from the harsh winters of Michigan. Now I'm more of a grey.

  5. GH: Saying "pop" instead of "soda" isn't just a Michigan thing - it stretches across most of the Midwest and a good part of the Pacific NW, too (though Milwaukee and St. Louis are rather glaring exceptions): http://tastyresearch.files.wordpress.com/2006/10/popvssodamap.png.

    If anything, the really important question is, why isn't anyone outside of Michigan familiar with Euchre (let alone how to play it)?

    1. We play Euchre in Minnesota (also Skat and Schapskopf), so it's not just a Michigan game

    2. I played Euchre in Illinois. I lived in a medium-sized town, if that makes a difference. I just mean that I don't know how widespread it's popularity was. It was super-popular among high school students when I was a high school student. That and Risk, as well as the D&D crowd.

  6. I'm so glad that company names as possessives was addressed. Every time my mom and grandma are in town, they get super excited to "visit Plum's!" That's Plum Market, for anyone that doesn't fit every single thing mentioned on this site.

  7. Sounds like a slight variation of Jessie speak

  8. I'm from Ann Arbor, Michigan and I never realized that I had an accent, I always thought that everyone else had the accent. :)

  9. melk=milk
    and if your really into it start adding S's to store: Targets, Walmarts, Mijers...

  10. In Michigan, "now" has two syllables

  11. eastcoast people make fun of the way that we say words like fire, hire, etc... well whatever, i know how to say words like milk and dog at least. not MELK or DO-AWG. i aint scared of no coast. THE MIGHTY MIDWEST!

  12. Want to know what really makes me cringe?
    It's when I hear longtime Ann Arbor residents refer to the city just east of here as YIP-suh-lanti.