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The Midwest Accent Explained (With Slang and Examples)

Melanie was raised in Michigan and has been living in the Midwest ever since. She also runs a YouTube channel: The Curious Coder.

Ope! It's the Midwest!

Ope! It's the Midwest!

Ope, You're From the Midwest!

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

"Ope" Was Only Recently Recognized

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 you 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!"

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

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

Is It Truly a Midwestern Thing?

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!

Behold! Authentic tater tot hotdish!

Behold! Authentic tater tot hotdish!

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.

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Read More From Owlcation

  • 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.
  • Come with - A dangling preposition is enough to make many English speakers cringe, but not in the Midwest! Some linguists argue that this phrase is derived from the German verb mitkommen. Mitkommen literally translates to "come along." With the Midwest's heavy German influence, it seems like there's a strong case as to why this phrase is so prevalent!
  • 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 particularly popular within 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!)
The Midwest invites you to enjoy pop, not soda!

The Midwest invites you to enjoy pop, not soda!

  • Jeet? - This is another term that seems to be heavily used all over the Midwest (and is heavily outlined by "The Michigan Accent and 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.
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.

© 2018 Melanie Palen


Laura Bessler on July 09, 2020:

I live in cental Illinois and most are spot on. The casserole "hot dish" is deabted in here as to name, and often referred to as shephards pie or tater tot casserole. However, for some reason many here say soda, rather than pop, with only those from.outside the area, especially Chicago sayjng pop. It seems just this area that says soda in the midwest tho. Some mix it say soda pop. Chicago in a restaurant just say coke no matter what type of soda, it is coke, then they ask what type of coke lol, which makes little sense, but how they do it. Wait staff there have little patience, as well as please and thank you are unheard of words from customers! Had a nephew raised there came down, waitress asked himnwhat he wanted to drink he said coke went back to talking, he was consodered quite rude at age 11 LOL. We had to explain non Chicago lingo to him.Saying please and thank you were used, and the actual soda you wanted, or u will just get a coke, as what u said u wanted. Chicago is an outsider to Illinois, and common midwest lingo.

Katie on May 31, 2020:

i say "ope", but i'm from washington state. my grandparents all grew up in the midwest, though, which is how i probably got it

Marcy Bialeschki from Cerro Gordo, IL on May 04, 2020:

I love it..."soda is for your laundry." LOL. I also drink 'pop.' Great article.

Melanie from Wisconsin on March 27, 2020:

I have lived in Wisconsin my entire life and I've never heard anyone ask for a "pop" - we all say soda. That one seems off to me. The "ope" got me cracking up though because that one is sooooo common. Very funny article, thank you!

May on March 26, 2020:

Everyone I’ve met in Ohio say s some sort of ope for me it’s up

Midwestern Fellow on March 20, 2020:

One more fun Midwest-ism is to call a lollipop a sucker

James on March 05, 2020:

We say bubbler in Australia too so it’s not just a Midwest thing.

Bob Jarvis on March 01, 2020:

Grew up on the east side of Cleveland. We had "tree lawns". Unless you're from there you have no idea what I just said, do you?

"Warsh": first heard this used by my frat brother who hailed from Warshington Court House (as he pronounced it). He asked if other words were like that - they had an "r" in them that wasn't spelled. We initially thought he was being funny - but he was serious. Aw, geez...

"Ope" - nope, never heard of that one. I say "Whoops!" or "Oops!" in similar situations.

Bubbler - never heard of it.

Pop - we were equal opportunity on this one. Both "pop" and "soda" would be heard, as well as "soda pop".

Never even played "corn hole", but *loved* Jarts as a kid. Large, rocket-shaped, heavy, pointy, metal-headed darts! Throw 'em in the air, chuck 'em at each other - YEAH! What could *possibly* go wrong?

Never heard of puppy chow either. Except the Purina kind.

I suppose that if we said if fast enough "Didja eat?" would come out "Jeet?". But it wasn't thought of that way, at least by me. More like "Juh eet?", with a slight pause in the middle.

Matthew on January 10, 2020:

Columbus Ohio here, people definitely call it pop around here. I used to when I was little but for the most part I specify whether it's a Coke Sprite etc. Bubbler is interesting, I've never heard anyone call a "water fountain" a "bubbler". Although I have smoked out of one before. Who the hell calls corn hole bags? That's just weird.

Fawn on January 04, 2020:

Many of these terms are from localized pockets.....I grew up north of the Twin Cities (MN) and in western WI. Never heard ANYONE say "Ope!" Bubbler is a WI term. Hot dish is just a general term for any type of casserole, mainly used in WI and MN. Never heard of "Jeet" either. "Warsh" seems to be more of a southern Midwestern thing (never heard that until I moved to Iowa). "Cornhole" also an Iowa/south Midwest thing, but it seems to be catching on to the rest. "Duck, duck, GRAY duck is totally a MN/western WI thing. You could also add "Tennis Shoes" as a Midwestern thing. They refer to any type of athletic shoe, commonly called "sneakers" or "runners"in other areas of the country.

person on December 03, 2019:

yup! i say ope, puppy show, water fountain, and ima midwestern too! :D

H on October 23, 2019:

“Bubbler“ originated in the Northeast and dangling participles are used EVERYWHERE, but otherwise I agree with the list. “Warsh”, kittywampus and varied references of “more than one way to skin the cat” should be added.

Sidney on October 19, 2019:

Illinois here, and I dont say "pop", pop is a sound. Not a carbonated drink.

Elizabeh on October 15, 2019:

I'm from Illinois and have been saying "ope" all of my life. I didn't know it was just a midwestern thing. lol

Kyle on October 15, 2019:

In Wisconsin we call it Soda, what the hell is pop lol

Noah on October 11, 2019:

I live on the border of ohio and indiana, and instead of saying "ope" i say "oop". Like from "oopsie daisy"

Brian on October 10, 2019:

62 years in Wisconsin and I have never heard anyone say ope.

Ell on September 15, 2019:

I didn't know it wasn't puppy chow until just now. I thought everyone called it that

Bill on August 21, 2019:

I happened to end up on this webpage by accident and happened to see this little article about "ope,"

This is not something I've ever given any thought to, but... it's not just a Midwest thing. I'm almost 70, have always lived the South or Southeast, and I've said "ope" most all of my life. I don't recall where I learned it from. It's just a sound that naturally comes out sometimes if I make a blunder, especially if I accidentally bump into someone... "Ope, sorry!". Never gave any thought as to how it was spelled, sometimes it sounds like "hup," but "ope" pretty much covers it. It definitely means "oops!"

Mary on July 02, 2019: in "did you warsh the clothes" midwestern word for sure!

Rachel on July 02, 2019:

I have lived in Illinois my entire like and have no idea what 90% of this is. No one calls that game corn hole here it's bags (trust me you will get a confused face) soda and pop are interchangeable. I've only heard older people that originally came from the south or southern Illinois call the fountain a bubbler. Never heard ope butt oops sorry or my bad if you bump into someone. Jeet???? Hot dish??? The only true thing in here is the puppy chow

Gary on May 08, 2019:

I grew up in Southern Ohio near Cincinnati, we have a weird southern, midwestern/German lexicon. Imagine Donny Baker from the Bob and Tom show who's really into Octoberfest, biscuts and gravy and Gedda (you may know gedda as scrapple).

Arthom21 on December 20, 2018:

Born and raised in louisville, i have been subjected to southern vs. midwestern my entire life. Everyone i know says ope, white castle is a way of life and half of the companies here are called midwest (metal, etc.)

Andrea Matlak on September 21, 2018:

I grew up in Ohio where we call athletic shoes tennis shoes. Always wondered why.

Miranda on September 11, 2018:

In Wisconsin it's soda. We know you're not from the area if you come into a fast food restaurant and ask for pop.

Jenny on September 05, 2018:

I grew up in Louisiana up until 12 and then WI. I say ope a lot. I still call it water fountain but go back and forth with bubbler. No one I know here calls it pop. Thats Michigan.

Courtney on August 23, 2018:

I was born and raised in Wisconsin. lived there until I was 20 and moved south to Virginia when I got married. it has been 3.5 years and I still say Ope! Let me just sneak right past ya real quick! and bubbler and puppy chow and so many other phrases. Now the southern accent has started to creep in and I have this weird hybrid accent. You can hear more Wisconsin in some lines and more Virginia in others. but people always comment on it

Captian on August 19, 2018:

I've lived in Wisconsin for the past 22 years and I've never once heard anyone make a noise even resembling "ope." We also don't say "pop" here, every Wisconsin native I've ever met says "soda." "Bubbler" for water fountain is totally true, though. Also, the whole Grey Duck game is literally just Minnesota.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 01, 2018:

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.

Melanie Palen (author) from Midwest, USA on February 09, 2018:

Very much so!

TJ on February 09, 2018:

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

S Maree on February 06, 2018:

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 on February 05, 2018:

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! :)

Bronwen Scott-Branagan from Victoria, Australia on February 05, 2018:

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.

S Maree on February 05, 2018:

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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