• yooper •
yu-pêr • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A resident of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
Notes: Dr. Goodword does not make a habit of bringing a word from such a narrow patois up for examination, but this brings back memories of my wife's and my years in Michigan. We spent a week in the fall driving the length of the Upper Peninsula of that state, enjoying the colors and waterfalls. Besides, Merriam-Webster now seems committed to add this word to its database.
In Play: The Upper Peninsula is famous for its deer hunting. So famous that stories abound about it. Here's one: A man dressed in brand new camos walks into a bar and asks the bartender if he has a picture of a deer. You know he's no yooper. He must have been a 'troll', a person who lives 'under' (south of) the Mackinac Bridge connecting the Lower with the Upper Peninsulas. It was reported while we were in Michigan that someone spotted a truck with a fox, rather than a deer, tied to the fender. A scorecard was reported every day on the local news of the ratio of deer to cows that had been shot: the score was always close.
Word History: The history of this word is pretty straightforward. It comes from the initials of the Upper Peninsula, UP, pronounced [yu-pee]. Simply remove the final double E, replace it with the personal noun marker -er, and voila!—yooper. The claim has been made that yoopers speak their own language or dialect. My wife and I coming up from the Lower Peninsula and, beyond that, North Carolina, understood yoopers without a hitch. (Today's gratitude is owed Gail Smith, a dyed-in-the-wool yooper, for recommending today's Good Word.)