About once a week I run into somebody that can tell I’m from Wisconsin. I used to ask them how they knew, but the answer is usually the same. They usually say they had a friend from Wisconsin and I sound just like them. When I prod them for more information (you never know who you might know), they’ll say it was an eighty-year-old lady…an eighty-year-old lady…AN EIGHTY-YEAR-OLD LADY?!? Now hold on there Baba Looey! I know I don’t have a voice like Sam Elliot, but an eighty-year-old lady? Really?
Usually, we’ll clarify things by saying it’s how I pronounce my words, not the depth of my voice. Well, that’s better…I think. Anyway, I thought I would devote this blog post to how things are pronounced in Wisconsin, at least when I lived there…it’s been a couple of decades I think. Let’s start with how to pronounce “Wisconsin” correctly.
Now, most of you would pronounce “Wisconsin” just the way it’s spelled…but you’d be wrong. Don’t argue with me or bring up Webster’s Dictionary or anything crazy like that, I just happen to be an expert on pronouncing Wisconsin words. The proper pronunciation is WIS-CAAN-SIN. Did you get that? It’s Wis, as in whiskey, Caan, as in James Caan, and Sin, as in, well, sin. Now let’s all say it together as a group…WIS-CAAN-SIN. Very good!
Now the next word we’ll learn to pronounce is Milwaukee, the name of the largest mass grouping of people in Wiscaansin. Most of you would say “Mill-walk-ee”…wrong again. The proper way to say it is MWALK-EE. The I and L are silent. The reason for this is…and remember, I’m an expert…because of the extreme dislike Wiscaansinites have for Illinois. IL is the abbreviation for that place down south. The dislike is similar to the dislike Washingtonians have for the people from California who migrate north. Illinois people are called “flatlanders” or “FIB.” You’ll have to ask around or research on Google what a “FIB” is. If you use the search words, “fib definition Illinois,” you’ll get the answer I can’t print here. Now, let’s all say it together as a group…No! Not FIB! MWALK-EE! Now try it again! MWALK-EE. Very good.
Now it’s time to learn a little conversational terminology. For example, a water fountain is referred to as a “bubbler” in Wiscaansin. As a kid, I would ask for a “bubbler pass” in school if I was thirsty…or just trying to get out of class. Here’s some more…
Bag (as in grocery bag) is called a sack.
This – dis. That – dat. The other – dee udder. There – dere. South – sout. North – nort. Down by the lake – downdadalake. Six-pack of beer – beer. Case of beer – buncha beer. Keg of beer – barrela beer. Cheese – well, that’s universal…it’s just said more in Wiscaansin…it’s still pronounced the same – cheese, but it’s usually followed by the word “Mmmm,” and almost always accompanied by “beer.”
There, that’s actually enough to hold an entire conversation with a Wiscaansinite, unless you’re talking sports, then every team in Wiscaansin starts with the letters DA. You know, da Packers, da brewers, da Bucks, da Badgers, etc. With this knowledge, you might even make friends with the Wiscaansinite and can look forward to a lifetime of Christmas presents consisting of sausage and cheese, unless, of course, you’re a flatlander… Anyway, sausage and cheese are good, right? It just costs too much to send a barrela beer to everybody.
But Mr. Dazeodrew, you ask? This is all well and fine, but how are all these words used in a conversation? Good question! I’ll provide an example using two friends I knew as a kid…
SKI: Wanna head downdadalake?
SKI: Buncha beer.
WICZ: Barrela beer?
SKI: Naw, buncha beer inna sack. Dat good?
Do you understand now? It’s a very simple language that comes in very handy after that buncha beer. You can’t even tell if anybody is slurring! How convenient is that? It’s a great way to get out of a speeding ticket if you’ve been drinking. The cop can’t tell if you’re slurring.
COP: Where ya headed in such a hurry?
COP: You sure look familiar…you from da nort side?
SKI: Naw, I’m a sout sider.
COP: Well, ya need ta slow down dere, kay? We got laws in Mwalkee, kay?
SKI: Sure thing.
COP: Hey! Do I smell beer on da breath?
SKI: No Sir! Dat’s why I’m headed downdadalake!
COP: Ya sure? I taught I caught a whiff of some Spotted Cow cut wit some Colby cheese?
SKI: Ya got da Colby cheese right, but maybe it’s last night’s Spotted Cow? Hey! Is dat a FIB dat just sped by?
COP: Where? I hate dem flatlanders! Have a good day downdadalake, hey, while I chase down dee udder car!
But wait, you ask, isn’t that Dahmer guy from Wiscaansin? Absolutely not! No, no, no, no! He was a transplant from Ohio! He just came to Wiscaansin to drink beer and kill people, just a tourist, I think. Sure, his grandma lived in Wiscaansin, but rumor has it that she was originally from Illinois! Now you see why we dislike those flatlanders? They’re all evil!
Disclosure: Except for my wife’s Aunt Betty…she’s not evil. Love you Aunt Betty!
Anyway, at least I’ve given you a pronunciation primer for my home state. Now all you have to do is find yourself a Wiscaansinite to impress with your new-found knowledge. Of course, you’ll be fine until it comes time to pronounce their last name. A good number of Wiscaansinites possess last names that are a hundred letters long and end in “ski” or “wicz” or some other unpronounceable ending. Good luck.
What? You’re asking me why it’s so easy to pronounce “Dazeodrew?” That’s because I shortened it. It’s really DAZEODREWZAWALLAWICZSKI. You asked…