Yah dere: U.P. accent reminder of home

Writing an article last week about the “Say yah to da U.P. eh!” bumper sticker turning 30 got me thinking about accents. It’s always been fascinating to me that you can identify where in the world people live just by hearing them speak.

I may be somewhat of a Yooper transplant – we moved to Hancock when I was 11 – but I came here soon enough to glean a little bit of that Yooper accent into my own speech.

These days I don’t hear it too much, but when I was younger it became painfully obvious that the Yooper dialect was sneaking in every time we visited my grandparents in Buffalo, New York.

My family would often tease me about my accent, but one moment will always stick out above the rest when I think about those visits.

We were out at the local King Cone – their version of Frosty Treats – and I was talking with my aunts and uncles.

By this time in my life, the Yooper dialect was beginning to take a strong foothold, but I didn’t even notice it, kind of like the way you don’t notice you’re getting taller as a kid until someone who hasn’t seen you for a while points it out.

They began to razz me about my so-called “accent,” so I played it up a little.

“Yah yah, dis stuff is so good eh,” I said, my family laughing. “When you put da chocolate der wit da vanilla, wah is dat good!”

I kept on like for this a little while, until I noticed these two older ladies absolutely gawking at me. Their eyes were wide, their mouths slightly open, uneaten ice cream dripping on their picnic table. They were clearly trying to conceal their laughter but having a difficult time. So I upped the ante.

“We should go back soon dere eh?” I said between bites of ice cream. “We gotta get ready for da boat show.”

I looked over at the ladies who immediately looked away. I could tell they were embarrassed for having been caught eves dropping, but they were laughing. I couldn’t stop.

“Wah is it hot out today,” I said. “We should prob’ly go so we can take a dip in da water.”

The whole thing ended when we got into our car at roughly the same time as the old ladies. We had driven my parents’ car – with the Michigan plates – to the ice cream shop. I saw the women exchange a knowing look and I rolled my window down.

“I know what you’re t’inkin!” I yelled as my father pulled away, my mother crying from laughing so hard, my dad admonishing me with a stern “Jaclyn!” but smiling nonetheless. Just then, I wished I could have worked the word “pank” into a sentence.

I absolutely love my Yooper accent. When I hear other people speak with one, it puts me at ease. It makes me think of my family and friends, and growing up in Hancock. It helps define who I am and where I’m from.

I’m proud to have dis little accent, eh, and to be from da U.P.

Because – and I truly believe this – there’s no better place in the world.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jackie Stark is a Chocolay Township resident and a staff reporter at The Mining Journal. Her column appears bi-weekly. She can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.