Comments about language

Past-E-Mail: Cam Notes - 2003: Jun: Jun 12-03: Comments about language
A separate conversation thread, prompted by
the old yooper exclamation: Holy Wah!

Jim, Twin Cities on Thursday, June 12, 2003 - 11:18 am:

Please excuse my inadequate upbringing (I'm not a Yooper, just a Wannabe), but what is the meaning of "Holy Wah"? I've seen it a lot in these postings but I've never seen or heard it used anywhere else. Is it more than just an exclamation like "Holy Cow"? Maybe someone could post a small glossary of Yooper terms that could help us communicate better with real Yoopers.



By Leslie, Illinois on Thursday, June 12, 2003 - 12:02 pm:

To Jim, Twin Cities: Your post made me smile -- One of the things I love about the U.P. is the language. I have no idea what "Holy Wah!" is all about, but I certainly do know "Holy Cow!" (I'm a Cub fan/Illinoisan.) My guess is they're similar in meaning and that someone will let us know soon enough. I'm still trying to use the word "pank," which I learned here this past winter, just because I like it, not because there's any snow around here that needs panking. Check out for a "Yoopanese Glossary."

By AimeeR, Hancock on Thursday, June 12, 2003 - 12:18 pm:

I'm pretty sure WAH doesn't mean anything, along with CRIPES. Holy wah is only one degree of exclamation-- I prefer the family of 'cripes' exclamations: first, just 'cripes.' When things get worse, 'cripes sake' and when things are really bad, you've always got 'cripes sake almighty.' I'd say that washout was a cripes sake almighty moment for sure.

By Leslie on Thursday, June 12, 2003 - 01:01 pm:

"Cripes" reminds me of what my father always used to say: Crimeny. It was his substitute for dxxx. I do like that cripes sequence you got going there, tho. How about cripes sake almighty Holy WAH! That would cover not only the washout, but maybe driving into the black hole, too!

By bob-b hubbell,mi on Thursday, June 12, 2003 - 01:33 pm:

Holy WAH!,extreme suprise,wonder,amazement,holy S--t!,sorry!

By bob-b on Thursday, June 12, 2003 - 01:41 pm:

i pank my burger before i grill it,compact it,to flatten my sandwich so that it fits into my mouth

By Jkwills Nv. on Thursday, June 12, 2003 - 01:47 pm:

Cripes sake! Holy Wah! Waiting for some new WOW!
Beautiful green. Do not see much of that out here.

By Jim, Twin Cities on Thursday, June 12, 2003 - 02:10 pm:

I think that I didn't ask the right question. I assumed that "Holy Wah" was an exclamation like "Holy Cow", "Holy Mackerel", and now, "Cripes". They are mostly substitutions for words that would get us in a lot of trouble when we were little kids; and maybe as adults too. I just hadn't run into "wah" before becoming a Pasty Cammer. Does it mean something in Finnish? I'll probably get the real story soon. I am ordering the Yooper Glossary from DA Tourist Trap at Da Yoopers. I think that it should be scholarly enough to give me all the information that I need. BTW, I got the tip about the Glossary in an email from one of our fellow Pasty Cammers. Thanks.

By just thinkin' on Thursday, June 12, 2003 - 02:53 pm:

Jim -- A scholarly text from Da Yoopers? Well holy wah, why not?

By bob-b,hubbell,mi on Thursday, June 12, 2003 - 03:08 pm:

Cripes!-Christ-we used Cripes instead using Gods name in vane,likewise fricken'for you know what so we wound not get our mouths soap or slapped!

By D from Lake Linden, MI on Thursday, June 12, 2003 - 03:27 pm:

Jim, Twin Cities, you are more than right on track. Feel free to use " Holy Wah!" any way you desire to express yourself. If I want to use holy wah, not, holy cow, I do, and sometimes holy sh.. or maybe holy wah. Enjoy the yooper term. How about this one, "Are you's guys going with us?" instead of, " Are all of you going with us?" I choose not to use you's myself and rather say three than tree. Or other instead of udder. Oh, well, I ain't no better dan da rest of'um.Cause nuttin is better'an da U.P. and I ain't got no udder place I'd a radder be.

By Missin the UP from NJ on Thursday, June 12, 2003 - 03:35 pm:

When I was a little girl playing "trucks and cars" with my little brothers, we would "pank" the sand to make the roads for our little vehicles! Or I would "pank" the mud for my mud pies. Haven't used that term for over 3 decades, cause as cool as the New Jersyians can be, they just don't understand yooper talk. ALWAYS had something to say about the way I pronounced words. Even the word, about. 'Course, I've never taken any offense since they pronounce the word dog as "dawg". After all this time away, at least once a month, some person asks, "Are you from the Midwest or Canada?" And just as often someone tells me they enjoy listening to me talk, because of my "accent"!!! ;)

By yoopertransplant on Thursday, June 12, 2003 - 04:02 pm:

Holy wah eh? You betcha, dose people out east think there is a "r" in idea and Washington! Pank dem down!

By BCT,Mi on Thursday, June 12, 2003 - 05:52 pm:

Somma dem der Warshington ballitisions could use a lil' PANKING.

By Dave - Colorado on Thursday, June 12, 2003 - 05:56 pm:

A couple of my personal favorite yooperisms from around Marquette were:
"geet?" and "Squeet" which meant "Did you eat?" and "Let's go eat."

Of course you can see where my priorities are...

By Stefani, IL on Thursday, June 12, 2003 - 09:06 pm:

We always pank down da snow to make a good fort.

15 days til I'm back home!!!

By J, the u.p. of course on Thursday, June 12, 2003 - 09:08 pm:

How about "let's go Pamida" or "go mall" or "go Green Bay". I have heard there are no prepositions in the finnish language therefore no need for "let's go to Pamida" etc......Anyway, gotta love da u.p., bugs and all!

By Maija in Seattle on Thursday, June 12, 2003 - 11:05 pm:

Hey yous guys... my favorite Yooper word is "pank" and I even taught it to my husband who is a native Washingtonian (born in Walla Walla). The first time he visited the Copper Country with me, he became so puzzled at how quickly my speech changed. He heard my mom and I discuss plans to "go town" (which meant we were going to Calumet--from Ahmeek), or that we could "go bluff" (meaning we could hike up to the bluff behind Ahmeek). He'd be shaking his head at his former English-major wife, wondering "who are you and what did you do with my wife?!"

I also taught him some good Finn words that we use all the time like "makkara" (but pronounced "mah-kah-dah") for sausage, and, of course, "kiitos" (but pronounced "gee-dose") for thanks.
There's a bunch more, but you get the idea.

By Ken from da UP on Thursday, June 12, 2003 - 11:40 pm:

Anyone in the Lake Linden area say "'Skwinkline?" any more? That meant, "Let's go Incline Dam." (to swim) It was behind LL on the way up Calumet Hill. To the left of the highway just as you made the turn towards Calumet. Nice swimming and lots of thimbleberries.
'Cripes' and 'Jeez' were substitution things that would get your ear pulled or your mouth washed. Far as I know, Holy Wah and Holy Cow are 'bout the same. We kids panked lotsa snow in our day. I 'bank up' the house with snow to keep the wind out from under. It helps.

By Mike, Kalamazoo on Thursday, June 12, 2003 - 11:46 pm:


Isn't it fascinating how quickly we Yooper transplants fall back into the lingo once we get back into the environment. Here in Trolland, its hard to speak Yooper, but once I get across the bridge it just flows. Glad to hear it happens to others, even English majors!

By Lowell MO. on Thursday, June 12, 2003 - 11:51 pm:

How about what in "FINN" common word in the UP been many years since I left but once in a while I catch myself saying the Finn word for what.

By Catherine--Holland, MI on Friday, June 13, 2003 - 12:16 am:

"We're goin' up ta Houghton--you wanta come with?" And you can't forget "Eh."

By Mary Lou on Friday, June 13, 2003 - 08:48 am:

"You's guys going bush,eh?" " we go sauna".........when in Georgia one gal said... "Ya'll say you's guys".....holy wah, what kind of English is that?

By Jim, Twin Cities on Friday, June 13, 2003 - 10:19 am:

Holy wah! This is great! I learned a lot. Guess I gotta go UP ta really get inta it, eh? See you's guys soon.

By bob-b on Friday, June 13, 2003 - 11:02 am:

Finnish fish fry-cookus a minnow. Happy lucky Friday the 13th,hello uncle Dan, count the letters in our last name and tell the family i love them,say hello to Paul and Mike if you see them. Happy Fathers Day to all.

By HOLY WHUH on Friday, June 13, 2003 - 11:35 am:

Holy Wah was always spelled Holy Whuh when I was growing up. Bob Skoogan, editor of the Gazzette, back in the late 70's early 80's always had a WHUH at the end of his weekly column. And the old radio station WHUH came from that spelling of Holy wah. So, Holy WHUH!

By mary Lou on Friday, June 13, 2003 - 03:11 pm:

The manner of speaking, in the isolated region of the Copper County came about because of the diversity of languages...when I went to school in Lake Linden in the late 40s many of the children had not spoken English until they attended school. Many of the children were from first generation American families.....mostly French-Canadian and Finnish rural families. It was not unusual to hear French and Finn spoken at family get-togethers. It was fun to be a part of this diversity and try to own French mother only spoke French with her siblings, my German grandmother never spoke husband's Finnish family often spoke Finn....I loved the histories of these good people....lots of history of how they came to leave their native land....and the courage they had....

By John-Canton on Friday, June 13, 2003 - 09:57 pm:

Mr Wheatman-we need you on this one!

By maijaMI on Thursday, February 19, 2004 - 12:13 pm:

to Mike Kalamazoo, unfortunately, I am a troll. Been to the UP every year of my life once or twice, except 2 or 3 years. One when I was hugely pregnant with my daughter. Dad raised in No 4 location, Kearsarge, Mom in Laurium. They came down to get war work. I live, sadly, in Detroit area!! Love the language up there, so expressive and natural!

By maijaMi on Thursday, February 19, 2004 - 12:17 pm:

to Maija in Seattle, Haven't seen another Maija. I guess I answered Mike, Kalamazoo, in the response he met for you.

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