By Minnie Apolis
OK, so we’ve got you speaking a few common phrases now: you bet, that’s different, hotdish, you didn’t have to do that, it makes you wonder sometimes, and so forth. Just enough to keep conversation going, and hopefully keep from being identified as Not From Around Here.
Equally important is the musical or non-musical impression your speech gives the listener. You’re not singing your words, no, but all speech has some musical attributes. Minnesotans (MIN-eh-SOTE-n’z) have a fairly even speech in terms of rate, pitch, and so forth. It looks like this: __/\_________/\_____/\ ____________/\_________
But not a monotone, like Iowans. Ever hear the Packers’ offensive line introduce themselves? They start off with the quarterback and work their way thru the roster. Then they get to “Bryan Bulaga, Iowa” in the flattest voice you can imagine. So we don’t want to go to that extreme. And we don’t want a sinking pitch either.
Neither do we want to speak with a climbing pitch, which might indicate excitement or perhaps uncertainty, as if asking a question. That would look kind of like this:
/ - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
/\ — — — — — _/
Now there are cases where you might run into a very singsong accent from old-time Norwegian or other Nordic farmer types out in the country. That’s all died out in the cities. But I have to mention this so that you don’t get whiplash when you suddenly hear this strange manner of speaking. Here is a pretty good explanation of the Norwegian accent on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1P7ju1bS7Ck
The ‘w’ becomes a ‘v’ sound, the ‘ohs’ get drawn out a little more, and sentences end on an upswing. She does a pretty good job on that video.
Now, a word about body language. Normally people do not stand too close, unless they have known each other say, at least a year, or are a relative. You would think that with winters being as long as they are, and usually pretty cold, that we would try to sponge some body heat off each other, but no. I guess it would seem rude.
I have read that there is something called the MMDBB – the Minnesota Mean Distance Between Bodies. Someone worked it out and claimed that it is nearly four feet. I have not tried to take any measurements or polls about this, but that could be. People seem to feel most comfortable if there is a desk or counter in between themselves and another person. A guy could spend a whole evening with his girlfriend and they’d sit at opposite ends of the couch while watching TV.
Try to avoid touching people accidentally, especially in elevators or in lines. Handshakes are gotten over with pretty quickly. There are occasions when people might actually hug, but it is best to let the other person initiate that kind of contact or you could find yourself uninvited from the next meeting or study group.
As for content, it seems safe to stick with non-committal statements – at least until you get to know a person better. If asked your opinion, say, “I don’t know. I’d have to think about it.” ‘Thinking about it’ communicates that you are not a rash person. You don’t want to be mistaken for a wildly impulsive sort of guy or gal, y’know.
You wouldn’t want to be mistaken for the sort of person who’d go ice fishing when the lake ice is on the verge of melting, for gosh sakes. A normal person listens to the weather forecast before making big plans like that.
And most of us have researched when the likely date will be for the ice to ‘go out,’ as we say.
Now, after saying all that about keeping your distance from other people, you might wonder why it is that every winter, without fail, most of us manage to come down with “what’s going around.” Those viruses sure do get around, don’t they?
Minnesotans are pretty careful about doing things like washing their hands, eating a balanced diet, and trying not to touch each other or doorknobs too much.
However, there is one source of contagion that we are highly prone to, and that is something we call Hotdish Revenge. It comes from allowing leftovers to sit too long in the refrigerator or not warming it up enough. If something looks questionable, it’s best to give it to the cat, since cats seem totally immune to hotdish that is over the hill. If even the cat won’t eat it, you can be pretty sure that it’s best thrown out.
Well, that’s enough for one column. You bet.
P.S. – Oops, I forgot to mention about the feed cap or seed corn cap. Will talk about that more in another column, but for now, all you need to know is that a nice, clean feed cap can be worn just about anywhere and in any season. A guy could do worse.