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Published February 17, 2022

She’s Not From Around Here: Talk Like a Local

Written by
Amy Allender
| The Dakotan
Amy Allender [Photo: Amy Allender]
Amy Allender [Photo: Amy Allender]

When you move to a new place it’s common to feel like an outsider. Obviously, you expect it to take some time to find your stride and your people – but that stage of relocation is never fun.

I’ve never felt so foreign in a place than when I moved to Minot. Things are different here. From the weather to the shockingly low driving age – life can seem alien to a new transplant. Even the words used in casual conversation can seem strange.

Today, let’s decode ten common words and phrases you’ll hear around Hot Dish Territory. Master these, and you’ll be on your way to talking like a local.

The wind: To everyone else wind is simply the movement of air across a landscape. In Minot, wind is everything. The wind will dictate if a day is pleasant or uncomfortable, what you wear, and sometimes even your mood. The wind is always a safe small talk topic. If you don’t know what to say, comment on the wind. And don’t forget everyone’s favorite windism, “It wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the wind.”

Oh for…: Pronounced, “Ō fer.” This mild interjection precedes a sentiment – especially sadness and glee –when responding to news that evokes a strong response. For example, you may say, “Oh, for sad,” when learning that a friend will need to attend a funeral. If a friend tells you they’ll be going to Arizona for a week in February you may say, “Oh, for fun!”

I’ve found that saying “Oh, for sad” and “Oh, for fun” are the primary uses. However, one may also say “Oh, for gross,” “Oh, for dumb,” or another adjective as conversation deems necessary.

The Cities: This always refers to Minneapolis and St. Paul. If someone tells you they are going to the cities, it is always appropriate to respond with, “Oh, for fun!”

The Flood: In reference to the devastating flood of 2011. This has now become a mark of time used by locals. For instance,

Did you move here before the flood?

Was your house flooded? (When discussing your home with a new friend.)

Was that after the flood?

Oh, I s’pose: Use this phrase to express consent, agreement, resignation, approximation, or a general I-wash-my-hands-of-this attitude. For example,

Person A: Are you coming to the church potluck?

Person B: Oh, I s’pose.

Child: Can I have more lefse?

Parent: Oh, I s’pose.

Person A: We should really get a remote starter on the car.

Person B: Oh, I s’pose.

Lefse: To locals, lefse is a delicacy. To outsiders – like me – it’s a tortilla made of potatoes. The tortilla is then slathered with butter and sometimes sprinkled with sugar, before being rolled up like a taquito and eaten cold. It doesn’t taste bad, but it’s not nearly as delightful as locals will lead you to believe.

Don’t get me wrong – I love lefse. I love the process of making it and I love seeing my local friends light up when they talk about it. If you’re new here, do yourself a favor and get on board with lefse.

[Photo: Amy Allender]

Hot Dish: To the rest of the world, this is a casserole. There are a lot of complicated systems around here to describe what separates a casserole from a hot dish. Something about cream of mushroom soup and if it includes ground beef. I’ve never been able to understand the barrier. When in doubt, just replace the word “casserole” with “hot dish.”

Bars: While this might describe an establishment that serves alcohol, more likely the speaker is referring to any cookie-type dessert baked in a pan and cut into squares. For instance, you may be asked to “Bring a plate of bars,” to a school function. Cookie bars, brownies, and especially scotcheroos all fit the bill.

Ope: A lesser version of oops. Used when an accident takes place or especially if you bump into someone. Example, “Ope, excuse me, I’m just gonna squeeze past you.”

Welp: Pronounced “whellllllp.” Used to signal the end of a visit or conversation. If someone slaps their knees and says “Welp…” you know it’s time to wrap up conversation and head toward the door where the goodbyes will continue for another 15 minutes or so.

Give it some time and soon, you’ll be using these words and phrases flawlessly. And remember – if you don’t know what to say, just talk about the wind.

What’s a Hot Dish Territory word or phrase you use in daily conversation – or one that surprised you when you moved here? I’d love to hear your NoDak-isms in the comments. Or find me on Instagram @amy_allender.

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