The Most 'Wisconsin' Things Wisconsinites Say

Cabin up North
Fred Fokkelman/Shutterstock/Nick Krueck/Thrillist
Fred Fokkelman/Shutterstock/Nick Krueck/Thrillist

Wisconsinites say some weird stuff... at least to the ears of outsiders. Everything makes perfect sense to us though, so we're not changing. If you find yourself new to the state or just wondering why your friend from New York asks for clarification when you say you're going "up north," this list is for you.

P.S. Don't send to FIBs.


"Congrats on the new baby! Did you put her on the Packers season ticket list yet or no?"

"Or no?" is the default ending to just about every question Wisconsinites ask. Maybe we think it makes us sound more conversational or approachable... or maybe we just like to make things needlessly confusing. Does that make sense or no?

"I have to stop by the nearest TYME machine and get some cash."

Around here, ATMs had a brand name: TYME -- pronounced "time" -- which was an acronym for "take your money everywhere," and popped up all over the state and UP in the 1970s. Though few, if any, of our local ATMs are still emblazoned with that archaic "TYME is money" slogan, the nickname isn't going away... which always makes for an awkward moment when we travel anywhere out of state.

Cubs fans

"I hate it when the Cubs come to town and FIBs take over Miller Park."

Fucking. Illinois. Bastards. Sorry flatlanders, but your sports fans are dicks, you drive like idiots, and no place in Wisconsin is a Chicago suburb. Pro tip: follow an FIB on the freeway because they are definitely going to get pulled over for speeding instead of you.

"Are all of yous good with tailgating opening day even though it's gonna be 35 degrees?"

Generally heard in the more rural areas, yous is slang for the collective you, i.e., when someone is referring to more than one person. It kind of makes sense... since there are multiple 'you's, why not pluralize you? 'Scansin logic at its finest.

"Can yous drive by my house soon so we can go by grandma once?"

No, we're not asking you come drive near us, we're asking you come over, and if you're lucky, that will include beer and brats. This can lead to some embarrassing moments. When we say something like, "Want to drive by dad's later?" we're really not talking about shooting at dad from a car.

water fountain, bubbler

"I need a drink. Where's the bubbler?"

This is perhaps the most well known Wisconsinism, though its origins are murky. The prevailing myth is that a precursor to the Kohler Co. patented the invention and trademarked the name "bubbler," but according to the company, that's just not true. Kohler did use the term to refer to parts of their drinking fountains, though. It may also have been popularized in schoolhouses around the turn of the 20th century, thanks to standard stoneware jugs that held drinking water. When you used the spigot at the base, air bubbled up, just like those water coolers in an office. Sounds like a plausible enough explanation to us, yah know?

"Can you pick up dat dere beer I like at Woodman's?"

A lot of Wisconsinites have a tendency to turn a TH sound into a D sound. It's especially prominent in older folks, and it's what turns up north into the ubiquitous "up nort'." This may stem from the heavy German language influence on the state, especially around Milwaukee.

"I'm at home yet so I'm gonna be late."

Around here, yet often means "still." One of the best sentences to a Wisconsinite's ear is, "We've got some Spotted Cow yet, yous want to come by or no?"

cabin in Northern Wisconsin
Flickr/Jameel Winter

"We're going to my uncle's cabin up north for Fourth of July, want to come with?"

Up north is an universally-recognized place of relaxation in these parts. Generally, the place is a cabin or cottage, usually on a lake with a pontoon boat, fire pit, minimal creature comforts, and lots (and lots) of beer. Friends and family of the cabin owner converge on most summer and fall holidays or maybe even every weekend. Typical activities include bonfires, fishing, drinking heavily, and trying to remember your phone doesn't get signal up here. Note to FIBs: Lake Geneva is not up north.

"Lemme see that once."

This one can probably be chalked up to Midwestern nice. Adding "once" to the end of a command makes it seem less demanding and permanent. It can also imply immediacy without making you sound like a total jerk. "Come here once" generally means you better move your butt.

Piggly Wiggly
Flickr/Mike Kalasnik

"I'm going to Piggly Wiggly to get brats, yous wanna come with?"

For some reason, Wisconsinites like to abbreviate the oh-so-long question, "Do you want to come with me?" While "come with?" doesn't make much sense on its own, if you put it in context it seems self-explanatory. We're just too busy -- OK, more likely lazy -- to say those superfluous words.

"There's a parking ramp right next to the Bradley Center, but they charge an arm and a leg."

This one pops up in other places, but it's ubiquitous in Wisconsin, especially in cities other than Milwaukee (they're also called parking garages here). I suppose you could make the argument that many parking garages feature one continuous ramp up through each level, kind of like a big screw. So it kind of halfway makes sense that the entire structure is called a ramp, not just the incline at the entrance.

"Take a left on Center, then go straight for three blocks and turn right at the stop and go light."

We're just being extra descriptive with this one. The light tells you when to stop and when to go. Duh.

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Lacey Muszynski is a Milwaukee native who had a "where's the bubbler?" T-shirt in high school. Tell her how much of a nerd she is on Twitter @worthhersalt.