The Midwest is one the least politically predictable parts of the United States. It's a blend of different communities, some of them extremely diverse and others more monochrome. In the Midwest, some of America's most important cities swim in a sea of corn. The Midwest has some of the most economically vibrant parts of the nation, with cities like Chicago and Cleveland where the opportunities just keep growing. It's also tragically home to many of the towns most ravaged by the economic downturns of the last generation, as the industrial manufacturing base that once provided the economic engine of the region was outsourced to the Far East and elsewhere. On the upside, new technologies like renewable energy and the rise of the internet have brought new jobs and businesses to the region.
Despite the variety of people within the region, there are some slang terms that cover several Midwestern states, or perhaps even all of them. They're sometimes used in other parts of the USA, but many are specific to the Midwest alone. That means you'll need to know them if you want to travel or even move there and make yourself understood. It's time to check your Midwestern slang knowledge. Let's get started!
It's an interstate, a highway, or a freeway elsewhere in the USA. But in the Midwest, it's an expressway!
A bubbler is just a water fountain, anyplace else. In the Midwest, it has a much more fun name!
There's an old superstition in the area that cows that were sick literally had hollow tails. Hence, a holler tail is what you have if you're not well.
A sweeper is a vacuum cleaner. It's really a fancy modern broom, hence the origin of the name.
Puppy chow is not dog food. It's a regional snack involving rice, peanut butter, chocolate and a lot of deliciousness.
Pop doesn't just mean Coke, Sprite or any specific drink. It's the generic term for any fizzy or soft drink in the region.
Just say "did you eat" quickly enough and eventually you will get to "jeet?" If a Midwesterner is trying to feed you, this is what they'll say.
Cornhole is a bit like boules mixed with hackeysack. It's a summer game played on a lawn at parties in the region.
Gym shoes are the shoes you wear at the gym. Of course, these days you might wear them almost anywhere.
Hotdish is a kind of casserole that has a mushroom cream sauce. You can vary the other ingredients according to what you prefer. One of the classics uses tater tots.
This is a contraction of "oops". It's what a Midwesterner says to indicate that they realize they have screwed up!
In the UK, a pasty is the same thing as it is in the Midwest. It isn't the rather cheeky thing that a New Yorker might think it means!
If you're schnookered, you're very drunk. This is reminiscent of how, in snooker, you are possibly unable to function if you are in fact snookered.
It's a light that tells you when to stop, and when to go. Thus, it's a stoplight or a golight!
It comes from a Norwegian expression meaning "goodness me!" This is most common in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
A restroom is a gender-neutral and entirely G-rated way of saying you need a bathroom. It will also be understood across the rest of the USA.
This is mainly a Minnesota term. It's a more literal translation of the original Swedish name of the game.
It's a term that will be understood in most of the USA. However, "front room" is mostly only used in the Midwest.
Corn should be knee high by the Fourth of July so that you can harvest it on time. Plus, it looks good in the barbecue pictures!
This is a tradition from local farmers' markets and fairs. It's not very common these days, which is a shame.
Leaving out a few keywords is a regional idiosyncrasy. Don't worry if you don't remember the missing word after a while; people will understand you.
A coney can mean a rabbit or an island off New York City. It also means a particular kind of hotdog!
This nonsense word is part of a local superstition. You're supposed to say it while you pat the roof of the car. Last one to do this is in trouble
This delicious snack or dessert is basically the same as a donut. However, its name shows the Midwest's strong Eastern European cultural legacy.
The devil's strip is named because it belongs to no one. One of the things that makes froniter life work - which the Midwest once was - is knowing who owns what, so you don't fight over it and someone takes care of it. Hence, unclaimed land is a place bad things happen.
"Oh, for cute" is similar in construction to a variety of other Midwest sayings. For example, if something is very fun, you might say "Oh, for fun!"
Tough tomatoes are bad luck because tomatoes shouldn't be tough. It means you picked them before they were ripe, which is a shame.
A forecast usually just means the weather. In Indiana in particular, it means a prophecy that is not going to come true.
Crawdads are freshwater crayfish. They look like sea lobsters but they are much smaller. They are just as yummy, though.
A lightning bug is actually the same thing as a firefly. However, in the Midwest, it has this even more awesome name. Fortunately, it's just pretty and doesn't bite.
A rummage sale is what you do when you're thinning out the useless things in your house. It's a great way to get rid of stuff you don't need and remember that your trash may be somebody's treasure!
Caramel has only two syllables in the Midwest, with the first being emphasized. It tastes the same however you say it, of course!
A hair binder is the same thing as a hair tie. It's just a slightly more descriptive way of saying the same thing!
It's similar to "put up or shut up". If you put something up, you've put it away - which ironically means you probably had to put it down too!
This is a gender-neutral expression that people all over the US understand. It's most common in the Midwest, however.