Ope! The Midwest Accent & Slang Terms

Updated on March 6, 2018
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Melanie was raised in New Buffalo, Michigan. She just finished her honors BS in physical science at Purdue University Northwest. (Hire her!)

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Ope

If you're from the Midwestern United States and you've accidentally run into someone or made a minor mistake, chances are you've said, "ope!"

It's a "surprise word", a variant of "oops", often said with a sudden start as if you've been taken aback. For example, if you turn a corner and bump into someone when you didn't expect anyone to be there:

"Ope! I'm sorry!"

Just your typical bubbler
Just your typical bubbler | Source

We only just noticed it!

Interestingly, the exclamation only recently gained recognition. In fact, we've all been saying it, but weren't really aware of it! A tweet, by @Alex_but_online (posted in October of 2017) recognized this phrase. The tweet then went viral as other Midwesterners realized they've been saying all along (and yes, it's kind of strange!)

It's only said during a light inconvenience and users from all over the Internet are sharing that it's only a Midwestern thing. In fact, it's been hailed by Mike McKelly and Kalamazoo radio station, 1077 WRKR, as "The Sound Michiganders Make Instead Of Saying Excuse Me." According to McKelly, "You bump into someone and yo go 'ope'. You fumble something you're trying to give someone and you go 'ope'. You simply get in someone's way and you go 'ope'."

McKelly goes on to say, "Apparently, other parts of the country don't use this little 'blutterance'." Is this true? Does anyone outside of the Midwest say this?

Senior staff writer for The Huffington Post, Todd Van Luling, wrote "The Story Of The World’s Most Annoying ‘Word’ You Can’t Stop Saying”, citing that it was both ubiquitous and terrible. Van Luling noticed the phrase while speaking with The Late Show's Jon Batiste, when Baptiste said, "You open the box and ― ope ― there it is!"

Weigh In:

Do you say "ope"?

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Is it truly Midwestern or does everyone say it?

Despite it being heavily referenced as a "Midwestern thing", Reddit users from all over the world have shared that they also use the phrase. For the record, "Midwestern" states are defined as Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

Many describe it as not quite sounding like "ope", but more like "oh" with a very quiet p at the end, heavily on that glottal stop. Sometimes it a similar sound (more like "up") is made in place of ope.

So is this a Midwestern utterance or is this just a weird sound a lot of us make (and somehow never noticed)? Please weigh in and take the poll below!

Party food? You can't go wrong with puppy chow!
Party food? You can't go wrong with puppy chow!

Midwestern Slang

Of course, "ope" isn't the only terminology to come from the Midwest! There are other terms ubiquitous to the area as well!

Bubbler - This is another word for a "water fountain" or "drinking fountain." The term is most commonly heard in Wisconsin, but can occasionally be heard in the bordering states of Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois.

Doncha Know - Anytime anyone knocks on the Minnesota accent, the phrase "doncha know" is used. Of course, it's mocked with that thick Fargo-esque accent!

Where at? - We love our dangling prepositions in the Midwest! For example, I'm headed to Detroit. Would you like to come with?

Hot dish - This is a casserole-like meal popular to Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. There is no exact recipe, but it usually is made with a can of cream of mushroom soup as a base with corn, green beans, and beef. The topping is the best part, usually comprised of tater tots or cheese (or even better, both!)

Behold! Authentic tater tot hotdish!
Behold! Authentic tater tot hotdish! | Source

Jeet? - This is another term that seems to be heavily used all over the Midwest (and is heavily outlined by "The Michigan Accent & Slang Words". It's a quick and dirty mish-mash of "did you eat".

Pop - In the Midwest, we don't drink soda. Soda is for your laundry! We drink pop.

Cornhole - A backyard game played at every summer barbeque.

Duck, Duck, Gray Duck - In some areas of the Midwest, "gray duck" is said instead of "goose" when playing Duck, Duck Goose.

Puppy chow - The Midwest equivalent of muddy buddies.


The Midwest invites you to enjoy pop, not soda!
The Midwest invites you to enjoy pop, not soda!

Where are you from?

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In the Midwest, a hotdog with "just ketchup" should be punishable by law.
In the Midwest, a hotdog with "just ketchup" should be punishable by law.

Annnnnd, of course, there's the Michigan accent!

Are we missing anything? Comment below!

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Melanie Shebel

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      • Peggy W profile image

        Peggy Woods 2 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        I spent the first 12 years of my life in Wisconsin and then an additional 4 years as an adult. I definitely remember calling water fountains bubblers and soda was called pop although we never drank much of that. As to the rest this was enlightening and fun to read.

      • melbel profile image
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        Melanie Shebel 2 months ago from Midwest USA

        Very much so!

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        TJ 2 months ago

        I've always thought of "ope" as a variant of "oops" or maybe even of Homer's "doh".

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        S Maree 2 months ago

        I think part of your article didn't download the other day.

        I'm glad to read the "rest of the story!"

        I've heard some of these & use a few. Having a mother who was a stickler for enunciation & good grammar, I'm slowly breaking away from her expectations in my late middle age.

        I never dared "chew" a phrase, so instead of "don'tcha." I say "don'tyoo." Still a contracted contraction, but not breaking the "chew" taboo! Sis does the same. I do hear a lot of folks happily chewing all kinds of phrases. Some I heard recently were "Don'chis stand there!" for "Don't just stand there!" Another is "Choocumin?" for "You coming?" The last was "M'chokin!" for "I'm joking!"

        Also use "pop" for soda. "Soda," for us, refers to the stuff that makes pastries rise. Or, specifically, for the fizzy stuff IN pop. We're hearing more of that due to the rise in popularity for plain or flavored sodas. There seems no confusion with the heavily flavored soft drinks.

        "Jeet" is spoken as "d'ju'eet". My mother failed to stop the substitution of "j" for "y". This seems to coincide with the Anglo-Saxon trend that's been going on for centuries.

        The rest don't seem to be heard much in northern Indiana. I think we're in a border area, mixing with more general Americanisms. Being in a belt that includes Cleveland, Ohio, Chicago, Illinois, and Omaha, Nebraska, we are a bit more homogenized. Sad! I know we've lost a lot by this!

        Nice questions you've been posing! Any more?

      • RTalloni profile image

        RTalloni 2 months ago from the short journey

        So enjoy posts like this one. Never heard the expression ope before but now it's ringing in my head. Jeet is hysterical, just like many of our southern sayin's, such as "Mommernem (Momma and them) are expectin' me for dinner (lunch).

        The word lick having two meanings that are zero to do with ice cream–"Since that hard lickin' (whoopin') he had in that high school rastlin' match he ain't had a lick (bit) uh sense" – is also quite funny.

        I grew up in Florida thinking I was in the deep south until I moved to the Carolinas...ha. In spite of a pretty good (and fun to really put to use) mastery of a smooth southern accent I had to learn what seemed to be a new language up here in the cold north.

        Viva colloquialisms! :)

      • BlossomSB profile image

        Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 months ago from Victoria, Australia

        I've never heard of this expression before, but it is interesting that, although we speak the same language, there are usually several saying that give away the secret of where we come from. Interesting article.

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        S Maree 2 months ago

        Hello Ms. Shebel!

        I never realized I did this until I read your article! Don't seem to do it often, according to family. Hubby never does, though he's a midwest farmboy.

        I must use it as other cultures use "em," "er," & "um." Now that I'm aware of it, it's hard to catch myself. Hubby thinks I'm self-conscious now. When I relax I might say it more often.

        How nice to know colloquial speech is still alive & kicking! Here I thought all American speech was fast homogenizing!

        As with Europeans rediscovering & relearning colloquialisms, American regions still have them, too! Viva la difference!

        Thank you! I think, ope, this was fun! P.S. - - We're Hoosiers!

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