What are examples of Wisconsin 'inside' jokes or statements?
March 4, 2017 11:16 AM   Subscribe

What are some things that only someone from Wisconsin or Milwaukee would know?

I have been given a project that I am not well suited for, but cannot delegate. I must write a short play involving two- three characters who find one another in California. They meet because one of them is wearing a brewers cap so the other person goes up to say hi- and boom. Conversation ensues where they find out they both (or all) come from Wisconsin.
I have never in my life been to Wisconsin and don't know anyone who has... so I basically have no idea what to write in their dialogue.

There should be things in it that only someone from Wisconsin would know so that the Californians around them don't necessarily fit into the conversation. I thought of mentioning cheese or something, but then I realized that's probably only something that non-wisconsinites associate the state with. I know for example that people outside of new york often have this idea that everyone speaks with an old italian mob accent and that there is serious crime everywhere, but since I'm from NY I know that real born and raised New Yorkers understand it's not like that. And when I went to Italy there were hand gestures that only native Italians from the town we were in seemed to get. I'm looking for anything at all that I can naturally write into their dialogue that makes the characters understand one another and nod their heads in recognition of Wisconsin (or milwaukee if more specifics are needed) Is there an accent that people speak with there? Any help would be appreciated!
posted by bearam to Society & Culture (112 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Try googling for upper Midwestern culture. Lots of stuff there. Likely the biggest difference between California and Wisconsin would be weather, so if all else fails they can talk about winter gear and air that hurts your face.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 11:20 AM on March 4, 2017

The world "bubbler." I am from Wisconsin and went to college in California and asked an RA where the bubbler was on my first day. She was both shocked and confused. (It means "drinking fountain.")

Also I would never go up to someone wearing a Brewers cap, but regularly approach total strangers wearing Packers stuff, so.

Also we totally associate ourselves with cheese

Making fun of Yoopers maybe? Good-natured making fun, but still.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 11:29 AM on March 4, 2017 [10 favorites]

Other Wisconsinisms:

"Up north" -- probably one or all of them have cabins (or their uncle has a cabin, or their friend's uncle, and it doesn't really matter which of those it is) "up north" where they go on the weekends. Maybe to hunt/fish, if that's the kind of characters they are, or to snowmobile in the winter, or to just hang out. Maybe they are lake people who just get drunk by the lake and sometimes set off fireworks and hang out on a pontoon all day with their friends. They do not have a cabin in Lake Geneva because that is for Chicago people.

People from Chicago don't know how to drive (I literally was not allowed to drive on the interstate on summer weekends in high school because that's when the Chicago people drove to Door County and they didn't know how to drive)

People from Minnesota think they are better than us but they are not.

We eat cheese and brats. In northern Wisconsin (and the UP) we eat pasties. People in eastern Wisconsin say soda and everyone else says pop.

Really though we do talk about the Packers a lot. My hometown newspaper had more than one Packers section during the football season, in addition to the fact that the sports and front sections mostly talked about the Packers.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 11:35 AM on March 4, 2017 [5 favorites]

Cheese curds!

Bend down by Prangy way. = Turn when you get to Prangies (Since turned into "Yonkers?")
posted by leafwoman at 11:42 AM on March 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

I asked my husband, who is not from Wisconsin but hangs out with a lot of us due to his life choices. Things he thinks are weird (in addition to many of the above):
- everyone eats dinner at like 5:00
- we call them "parking ramps" instead of garages and this makes him crazy for some reason
- driving on "county roads" -- counties aren't a big thing in Wisconsin generally but probably if you are going to some random town or up north you will drive on county roads at least part of the way
- your childhood halloween costumes had to fit over a snowsuit so they were always homemade and looked kind of bad

Also going off rock 'em sock 'em, when it gets so cold your nose hairs freeze -- also I think I was like sixteen when I realized people associated balaclavas with crime rather than kids walking to school in the winter.

Also we have more lakes than Minnesota

OK I'll stop now I promise :)
posted by goodbyewaffles at 11:48 AM on March 4, 2017 [6 favorites]

Cheese curds rather than just cheese. Brats. Beer. A combination thereof (I once had a burger with both cheese curds and s brat as toppings). The Packers, for sure.

My wife always talks to her Wisconsinite co-worker about Sprecher, which is a brewery in Milwaukee that also makes the workd's best craft soda.

Bubbler, though, is what you want. That suggestion is genius. If there's one word that sets Wisconsin apart, it's bubbler.
posted by kevinbelt at 11:55 AM on March 4, 2017 [6 favorites]

Bubbler for sure.

The first big ATM network in Wisconsin was from "Tyme" so a lot of Wisconsonians still call them "time machines." ("Hey, is there a time machine around here?" "What ... what conversation am I having?")

FIB is the word for Illinois drivers.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:00 PM on March 4, 2017 [18 favorites]

Cheese isn't particularly unique to Wisconsin and beer isn't particularly unique to Milwaukee, though those are some of the typical stereotypes. They're not that great.

If you want something a little more specific, there are things like the Klements Sausage Racers (I'll let you Google that) or the cream puff drive-through during State Fair, knowledge of which would tend to identify Milwaukeeans. Lots of people travel here to visit Summerfest, which is very Milwaukee, and there are other ethnic festivals held at the park which will be more obscure, but if you're Italian then you've almost certainly visited Festa Italiana, etc. One summer we went to as many of them as we could and it was a blast.

If road travel is involved, major freeway interchanges are referred to as the Airport, the Hale, the Zoo, and the Marquette, also the Hoan (Bridge) and the High Rise (Bridge). Milwaukee is small enough that these names are often used, so one might say that there's construction between the Zoo and the Hale, or that it's crowded from the Hale to the Airport.

Milwaukeeans don't speak with an accent, but everyone else does! Heh. The bubbler and soda comments are spot on.
posted by jgreco at 12:02 PM on March 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

"When you're out of Point, you're out of town" Local beer slogan.
posted by gingerbeer at 12:08 PM on March 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm from Wisconsin.

One of the biggest 'tells' for me? If you ask someone where they're from in the state, and if you don't know where that is? The other person will hold up a hand, and point to where that location is, using the hand as a map of the state.

If you look at the back of your left hand or the palm of your right, it looks like Wisconsin.

That and TYME machines. "Where's the TYME machine, Dwayne?" "Oh, it's on the corner of Gorham and State. Run by a Credit Union." This dialogue wouldn't happen in the other 49 states of the union.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:12 PM on March 4, 2017 [6 favorites]

Supper clubs, Cheeseheads ( both the headgear and the nickname for the fans), or perhaps a mention of one of Wisconsin's many, many eccentric roadside attractions. My favorite is House on the Rock!
posted by lieber hair at 12:12 PM on March 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh yes - Friday Night Fish Frys/Fish Boils are a phenomenon.

Fish Boils are particularly popular in Door County (the thumb of the state), Port Wing and Port Washington, Wisconsin.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:14 PM on March 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

The New Glarus brewery and, specifically, Spotted Cow
posted by hydrobatidae at 12:22 PM on March 4, 2017 [7 favorites]

The correct pronunciation of "Oregon" and "Monticello." Also, frozen custard.
posted by stet at 12:22 PM on March 4, 2017

House on the Rock might take offense at being called a roadside attraction, though eccentric is just as wrong except in the "barely begins to describe it" direction.

Roadside attractions are more along the lines of Mars Cheese Castle, Mousehouse Cheesehaus, the Kristmas Kringle Shoppe, and speaking of Kringles, Danish Kringles are big especially in S.E. Wisconsin. There's also the Wisconsin Dells, with places like Noah's Ark, if you're feeling like wording something that's a little deceptively misleading.
posted by jgreco at 12:23 PM on March 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm from Milwaukee.

Bubbler, for sure. TYME machine is probably only for people over 35 or so.

"down by the lake" instead of "on the lakefront" or "near the lake"

You can tell how old someone is by what they call this building - now it's the US Bank center, but it was called "the First Wisconsin building" in the 70s - 90s

The Polish moon is the Allen Bradley clock tower (Allen Bradley is now Rockwell Automation). So called because it is lighted and shines on the historically Polish side of town.

this rhyme referring to this building:
When the flame is red, it's warm weather ahead!
When the flame is gold, watch out for cold!
When the flame is blue, there's no change in view!
When there's a flickering flame, expect snow or rain!
A proper fish fry contains beer battered fried fish, a slice of lemon, tartar sauce, coleslaw, rye bread with a pat of butter wrapped in foil. THAT'S IT, anything else is heresy. Fight me.

Beer Barrel Polka is played at the 7th inning stretch at Brewers games

we do the chicken dance at weddings - not the one from whatever tv show that is. this one. I don't know if that's strictly a Wisconsin thing.

Pronunciation - "Milwaukee" often elides the "il" so it becomes "M'waukee." South and North are "sout" and "nort." The city of Fond du Lac is not pronounced the French way, it's more like "FAHN-je-lack"

Milwaukee is VERY segregated so everyone knows what kind of people you're talking about when you reference a side of town. North side = black. Near south side = Latino. Just "south side" = working class whites. Riverwest = hipsters, crime. East side = university students
posted by AFABulous at 12:29 PM on March 4, 2017 [9 favorites]

FYI bubbler is also used by people in Rhode Island, as well as parts of Massachusetts. And apparently parts of Australia as well (see also this headline). I did not know the last one! Just so you know it's widespread in Wisconsin, but not exclusive.

I love hearing all these details — it's been a while since I visited and you're bringing back many fond memories!
posted by rafaella gabriela sarsaparilla at 12:38 PM on March 4, 2017 [6 favorites]

Kringle is a very popular breakfast pastry and I discovered to my horror that east coasters think it is something else. If you buy anything other than the Racine brand you are bad and wrong.

Ash Wednesday is a huge thing here and many companies let employees take the morning off of work. It's very common to see people walking around with ash on their foreheads. Mardi gras is not really a thing. Lent is, though, and every fast food place airs 10,000 commercials for their fish sandwiches.

Politics - if your story is set within the last few years, reference "Act 10" and almost every Wisconsinite knows what you're talking about. Very polarizing issue. Or "the recall election."

jgreco mentioned "Wisconsin Dells," which everyone just calls "the Dells." One of the biggest tourist attractions there is duck boat rides.

Note - everything I've suggested comes from my perspective as a Gen X middle class white person. Black and Asian shibboleths are bound to vary.
posted by AFABulous at 12:39 PM on March 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

In the Fox Valley (Appleton/Oshkosh up to Green Bay) Fondulac is usually called Fondy. Stop lights are "stop and go"lights. Lake fkies are a constant pest on Lake Winbebago - which is not much more than a deep swamp. Big sturgeon grow there though, and Sturgeon fishing is popular, as is ice fishing. Much of the summer, lakes Winnebago and Butte De Morts smell of death and decay because Algae blooms.

People who work in paper mills are called millrats. And people who cant pronounce Kaukauna are from out of town. Incidentally, that town smells like ass because of the leech fields used in paper production.

Sconnie is often used instead of Wisconsonite. FIBs are Fucking Illinois Bastards, and they are a thing.

The further North you go, the thicker the Yooper accent gets.

Fish fry is a thing, and all you can eat friday fish fries are my wifes favorite.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:45 PM on March 4, 2017 [4 favorites]

Also, huge numbers of Hmong were settled in the Fox Valley, particularly in Appleton. The inetgration has gone ok, but there are some very stark racist tensions lurking just below the surface.

Kimberly Clark Paper had, dunno if they still do, a program where employees could get free vanity plates if the first letters were KCP or something. You see them all over the fox river area.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:51 PM on March 4, 2017

I guess if I ran into a Wisconsinite somewhere, the actual conversation would be something like this. See how much of it you understand.

-Me: Hey, Packers hat! Where you from?
Dude: Milwaukee
Me: Oh yeah, me too! Where'd you go to high school?
Dude: (if he's male) Marquette
Me: Ooooh *slight ugh face* I went to Pius
Dude: *slight ugh face*
Me: what do you do there?
Dude: I work at NML
Me: oh yeah I'm downtown too, at the First Wisconsin building
Dude: what do you think about them tearing down 794?
Me: it's a pain, I'm gonna miss the Hoan
Dude: yeah but it'll be better for the 3rd ward
Me: and summerfest parking I guess
Dude: I always take the park and ride
Me: (since he clearly doesn't live *in* Milwaukee) oh where do you live?
Dude: Oconomowoc (okay, now I know to avoid any political talk bc an it's ultra-conservative area)
Me: Wow, that's a commute
Dude: eh, whatever, at least I can go up to the cottage on weekends. it's by the U.P.
Me: but then you have the FIB traffic!
Dude: *chuckles* you can't win.

I could go on if you like.
posted by AFABulous at 12:54 PM on March 4, 2017 [16 favorites]

1. I agree with the commenters upthread that current and expat Wisconsinites bond over the Packers far more than the Brewers. I now live outside of Chicago and I nearly stopped a woman in Target who was wearing a Gilbert Brown jersey a couple of years ago from pure excitement. He's a Packer who was huge with Wisconsinites, but doesn't have much name recognition among non-Packer fans.

Seriously, it made my day.

2. Some other Milwaukee-centered colloquialisms:

"Turn at the stop and go light" -instead of traffic light or stoplight

I've also heard people say their buddy "drives truck" instead of drives a truck.

3. If your characters are from outside Madison or Milwaukee, the annual gun deer hunting season is a BFD. This year, it goes from Nov. 18 to Nov. 26. It provides tourist dollars for smaller towns and it provides venison for people to eat off of during the winter.

4. I didn't know I had an accent until I left the state for college. I can pick out a Wisconsin accent at 40 paces now.

5. People in California may recognize the Norske Nook, which is famous for their pie.

Oh man, I could go for a Spotted Cow right now.
posted by princesspathos at 12:56 PM on March 4, 2017 [6 favorites]

Also, Madison and Milwaukee can have horrendous winters, but the weather there can be much milder and less snowy than Green Bay or Wausau or Eau Claire. The cold and snow is much more consistent the further north you travel.
posted by princesspathos at 1:01 PM on March 4, 2017

Lake effect snow.
posted by AFABulous at 1:02 PM on March 4, 2017


*squints real hard at Eyebrows McGee*

I spot an imposter. We're Wisconsinites.
posted by AFABulous at 1:05 PM on March 4, 2017 [13 favorites]

One more thing: you can get Sprecher outside of Wisconsin. New Glarus's beer line is only available in the state of Wisconsin (cursed beer distribution laws!)
posted by princesspathos at 1:10 PM on March 4, 2017 [4 favorites]

There's also a funny Wisconsin usage of the words "yet" and "once." Yet sort of means "still" or "anyway," and once means "please," or "if it's not too much trouble." Both come at the end of the sentence. As Wisconsin icons Peter and Lou Berryman sing, "Get me a beer once. As long as you're up yet."

People drink either beer or brandy Old Fashions (occasionally bourbon or rye). Bloody Mary's come with enormous piles of food (whole burgers, small pizzas, etc.) as garnishes (Google "Wisconsin Bloody Mary" for proof).

If you need a weird bar in Milwaukee, try the Safe House.

Fun fact: TYME stands for "Take Your Money Anywhere."
posted by carmicha at 1:19 PM on March 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

The big multi-lane roads carrying thousands of vehicles per day at high rates of speed are called Interstates.
posted by princesspathos at 1:26 PM on March 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

I did the reverse of your characters and moved from California to Wisconsin (Eau Claire) for a couple years before moving to Michigan last summer. Things I noticed as cultural markers:
1. Yep, there's an accent, but its strength will vary among speakers. It felt to me like a combo of a stereotypical Minnesota and Canada accent - I never heard anyone say Uffda or anything like that, but people definitely pronounced words like "bag" as "bayg" (like a body of water with a g at the end); "th" sounds more like a t or d; the "ou" diphthong is pronounced a bit weird, like, I heard "house" pronounced frequently like "ho-oose" instead of "howse". If people said the word "know", there was a hint of an "uh" sound in there. If you can find any interviews with Tony Bennett, the head coach for the University of Virginia's basketball team, he has a medium strength accent.
2. One verbal cue I heard a lot was, when someone made a request of you, they'd ask you to do it "once". Like, one time my boss asked me to "go see if Robbie can come in here once". There was never going to be a situation where I'd ask Robbie to come in twice, but only asking for it once is a signal that they're not trying to put anybody out by doing a favor for them.
3. I don't know how you'd convey it in a play, but cheese is definitely a thing. In Michigan and back in California, if I go to the store to get a block of cheddar, I have a choice of mild, medium, or sharp, and there are probably 3 manufacturers or so (Kraft, store brand, something else). In Wisconsin, I'd have all that, plus 3-year aged cheddar, 5-year aged cheddar, and 10-year aged cheddar that all come in opaque wax wrappers, and then the store will have 5-10 manufacturers selling all of those, plus a bunch of other kinds of cheese in addition to the regular three brands from any grocery store. Some of those kinds I never saw in California, like brick cheese or farmer's cheese. Cheese curds are definitely a thing - I was in a bunch of people's houses who had a bag of curds sitting in the fridge. You generally want fresher ones, and the fresher ones "squeak" against your teeth when you chew them. And these are just the regular uncooked curds, not the battered, fried ones you get at restaurants or the fair.
4. One of my bosses went on vacation, and while he was out he went to a bar and ordered a brandy old-fashioned. The bartender asked him where exactly in Wisconsin he was from, since it's kind of a signature state drink.
5. I lived on the border of "up north" in a not-too-big town, but I had a bunch of coworkers with portraits of themselves with dead deer up on their walls.
posted by LionIndex at 1:44 PM on March 4, 2017 [6 favorites]

Brands/things that are popular in WI that may be hard or impossible to find outside of the state, the kind of thing that Mom would ship them or that they'd fill their trunk with before leaving:

Sprecher (root beer and other sodas)
Klarbrunn (sparkling water in a ton of different flavors, I don't even care for carbonation and I miss Klarbrunns)
Spotted Cow / Blue Moon (beer) for sure
Leinie's aka Leinenkugel beer. We have some flavors available in NY but not the good ones dammit
Brandy in the form of brandy old fashioneds (which in my experience just get called old fashioneds there): WI drinks something like twice the brandy of all the other states combined.
Kringles for sure, I almost got beat for calling it a toilet seat cake the first time I saw one.
Brats, pronounced brahts, NOT like a naughty child. There's a Bratfest and everything.
Cheese curds so fresh they squeak.
posted by tchemgrrl at 1:44 PM on March 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

We don't name our interstates (also called freeways) like those weirdo FIBs. They're just I-94, I-43, I-90, etc. I think they have names, but no one I know uses them. We do name our interchanges, generally named after nearby landmarks (Zoo, Marquette, Hale, etc.)

I almost got beat for calling it a toilet seat cake the first time I saw one.

you would have deserved it.

More seriously, my Chicagoland-raised ex-husband (a Gen X white guy) was shocked at the openly displayed racism. In the absence of people of color, many white people will say horrible things. Mostly about Black people and "Mexicans" (referring to all Latinx). If your characters aren't of the same racial group, they would probably not interact beyond very slight pleasantries. If your characters are over 40, I cannot imagine a white person walking up to a Black person wearing a Packers hat (or vice versa) just to say hi unless they were, like, trapped alone in a confined area and the white person needed medical help. Possibly if the Black person were famous.
posted by AFABulous at 2:01 PM on March 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

Oops - TYME is Take Your Money Everywhere.

Also, in case it's not clear, FIBs (or FIBbies), are Fucking Illinois Bastards.
posted by carmicha at 2:02 PM on March 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

I've lived here a few years. The only one I didn't notice upthread is that they tend to use the German "by" when other Americans would use "at." So you'd say you're by the supermarket instead of at the supermarket.
posted by gerryblog at 2:12 PM on March 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

Just a note from a Minnesotan - we also say "parking ramp" here, and also had to have halloween costumes that fit over a snowsuit. So these are Wisconsin things, but not uniquely Wisconsin things.

One thing I will note is that our EBT program doesn't cover cheese curds, but the Wisconsin one does. Cheese is huge. Even Minnesotans like me respect Wisconsin cheese.
posted by bile and syntax at 2:17 PM on March 4, 2017 [7 favorites]

Bubbler is still common in New England-- I'd be confused if that was meant as the WI signifier.
posted by kapers at 2:23 PM on March 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

Fish frys and sponge candy are all over the US Great Lakes area.

Brats are often patties rather than links.

Butter burgers (inside the meat)seem to be local to WI.

The working-class Roadfood places I went to in Milwaukee had an integrated clientele, which was not the case in IN.
posted by brujita at 2:30 PM on March 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Former coastie, have lived in Wisconsin 12 years.

Definitely the fact that "brat" rhymes with "spot," not "cat" was one I got wrong at first. And nobody says the full word "bratwurst" ever. It's not a specialty food, it's a basic thing you have at a barbecue along with hot dogs and burgers.

I have never heard anyone say "bubbler" unless they were being performatively folksy. I have, on the other hand, actually heard people say "uff da!"
posted by escabeche at 2:48 PM on March 4, 2017 [4 favorites]

"Fish boils" are a big thing in Door County, the peninsula northeast of Green Bay. And there is a restaurant with a grass roof and goats who munch on it.
posted by megatherium at 3:21 PM on March 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

People from Minnesota think they are better than us but they are not.

Flagged for wishful thinking.
posted by wenestvedt at 4:00 PM on March 4, 2017 [9 favorites]

Speaking of fish boils, friday night fish fries at any decent bar in a city, or any bar in a small town, while you're playing pull tabs.
posted by Theiform at 4:03 PM on March 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

At the Dells, isn't that Mystery House just up the road?
posted by wenestvedt at 4:04 PM on March 4, 2017

while you're playing pull tabs.

Or shake-a-date.
posted by LionIndex at 4:07 PM on March 4, 2017


Fuckin' Illinois Shithead Towing a Boat
posted by theraflu at 4:24 PM on March 4, 2017 [6 favorites]

I've found most people don't say bubbler anymore.
"Pop" instead of soda.
Boil brats in beer before grilling them.
And sure we like cheese, but is that really a conversation topic? Maybe the characters might remark on if the cheese curds are squeaky.
I enjoy saying time machine for cash machine, but Tyme machines aren't around anymore. I suppose the characters could reminisce about them?
FIB is definitely a good suggestion. A great Madison band, The New Recruits, had a song lyric, "If you're from Illinois, you better f'ing drive like it!" Great song.
One thing that may be midwestern, but I think is mainly WI: ending conversations with "I suppose..." It's shorthand for saying, "I have to leave" and is typically said with a sigh while getting up from a table. Some of my older relatives also say "and so" at the end of sentences. You should read some Michael Perry books for great Wisconsin references and a look at classic Wisconsin nostalgia.
posted by areaperson at 4:27 PM on March 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

"Pop" instead of soda.

Nope. SE Wisconsin is strictly "soda" and people will know you're a hick if you say "pop."
posted by AFABulous at 4:35 PM on March 4, 2017 [4 favorites]

Nope. SE Wisconsin is strictly "soda" and people will know you're a hick if you say "pop."

Not just southeast -- all the way up to Green Bay, at least.

Former coastie

"Coastie" is very specifically a Madison thing
posted by goodbyewaffles at 4:37 PM on March 4, 2017 [5 favorites]

Which is why I quickly trained myself out of saying "pop," but it's still a thing many people say. And you know "hick" is an insult, right?
posted by areaperson at 4:50 PM on March 4, 2017

Bucky Badger

"Leinie's" = Leinenkugel beer (based in Wisconsin and "mostly distributed in the upper Midwest").

Seconding Spotted Cow beer and cheese curds. I know people eat cheese everywhere, but not cheese curds.
posted by John Cohen at 5:00 PM on March 4, 2017 [4 favorites]

And yeah, I spent about 20 years in Wisconsin (mostly Madison but also a year in northern Wisconsin), and I don't think I ever once heard anyone call it "pop." It's "soda." For that matter, I'd always call it a "drinking fountain," not a "bubbler."
posted by John Cohen at 5:18 PM on March 4, 2017

The formulation and popularity of Old Fashioneds here is not getting enough play in this thread. It really tastes nothing like what you think of as an Old Fashioned if you live anywhere else.
posted by juliapangolin at 5:41 PM on March 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: This thread is awesome! You are all literally making me want to move to Wisconsin now. It sounds like a great place to grow up. Some words like Yooper keep coming up and since google doesn't seem to have a pronunciation listed I'd appreciate a mention of it. (I'm guessing it's U-per rather than yuh-per, but with the accent that was mentioned by some, I'm not sure.) Some of you have asked about the ages of the characters and they are likely to be mid 30's to early 40's. Seriously, your answers have been incredibly helpful and they are a joy to read. :)
posted by bearam at 5:42 PM on March 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

The formulation and popularity of Wisconsin-style Old Fashions was explored in depth previously.
posted by carmicha at 5:55 PM on March 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

"Yooper" is "you-per" but spoken quickly, as in it rhymes with and parallels the rhythm of "Cooper."
posted by carmicha at 5:59 PM on March 4, 2017 [4 favorites]

Considering how rural its location is, knowledge of Wisconsin Concrete Park is probably hard to come by.
posted by mr. digits at 6:00 PM on March 4, 2017

Also, your characters would have grown up playing euchre, especially if they had grandparents on the farm, and maybe vacationing in the Dells. As adults they play darts, especially in bars. Ice fishing is also a common experience.
posted by carmicha at 6:04 PM on March 4, 2017 [5 favorites]

It was definitely "pop" in Eau Claire. A bagger at the store once asked if I "wanted my pop out" and it took me a second to realize I wasn't being propositioned, just asked if I wanted the bottle of soda I bought in a bayg or not.
posted by LionIndex at 6:04 PM on March 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

If you need the pronunciation of anything Wisconsin, there's Miss Pronouncer to the rescue! For instance, here's how to say Oconomowoc.
posted by quarterinmyshoe at 6:30 PM on March 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

"I spot an imposter. We're Wisconsinites."

I'm not an imposter! I'm an FIB.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:46 PM on March 4, 2017 [8 favorites]

Everyone else has gotten most of them, but I think "rummage sale" (refers to a garage sale or a yard sale) is pretty specific to Wisconsin.

I'm 35 and I grew up calling them bubblers and Tyme machines. Not sure what the kids say these days...

Deer hunting is huge, and there's often controversy about what the DNR is doing/not doing to regulate it.
posted by Weeping_angel at 7:04 PM on March 4, 2017

New Glarus beer! It's only available in Wisconsin and everyone drinks it by the gallon. Their brewery in the tiny town of New Glarus is gigantic and built to look like a Swiss village, and it's a bit of a tourist destination.
posted by miyabo at 7:16 PM on March 4, 2017

beram: You are all literally making me want to move to Wisconsin now.

Don't do it! Don't be a fool!

Except maybe Madison.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:20 PM on March 4, 2017

Is frozen custard still a thing?

Also, there is (was) a truck stop in a nothing town called Tomah, WI, right on the interstate that means your about halfway between the Twin Cities and Milwaukee. The sign was about a quarter mile high, and it let you know you could gas up and pee on a long road trip.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:23 PM on March 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

Maybe a reference to Dr. Evermor's Forevertron?
posted by miyabo at 7:25 PM on March 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

I just sat between two folks discovering they were both from Wisconsin, and they bonded over how much they missed Friday Fish Fries.
posted by Grandysaur at 7:25 PM on March 4, 2017 [7 favorites]

A lot of people have mentioned alcohol but no one's mentioned that binge drinking and drunk driving are HUGE problems in Wisconsin. The drinking culture here is unique. Your first drunk driving offense isn't even a crime, it's like a traffic ticket. We're 4th in drunk driving arrests and fatalities and #2 in binge drinking. It's really, really normalized here. It's legal for kids to go into bars and have alcohol if they're with their parents. I never got my own but I'd usually have a sip of whatever my parents were drinking, and they were (honestly!) not alcoholics. Church festivals sell beer. People drink at funerals. It's everywhere.

And yet, there are some weird laws. You can't buy packaged alcohol after 9 pm in the city of Milwaukee. Bars close at 2 am. Until a few years ago, grocery stores had to have separate entrances/exits for the liquor section. It's not sold at Milwaukee convenience stores if they sell gas (can't remember if it's city or county). I was pretty shocked a couple years back to find they were selling liquor at Target and Walgreens, but only in the 'burbs.

Anyway, your characters are heavy drinkers, if not alcoholics. Teetotalers are looked at as extremely weird by the vast majority of people.
posted by AFABulous at 7:33 PM on March 4, 2017 [11 favorites]

Is frozen custard still a thing?

Yes....Road food lists several places and Culver's are all over the state.
posted by brujita at 8:03 PM on March 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yeah AFABulous' comment about alcohol culture reminds me that there's a funny dichotomy vis-a-vis laws and law enforcement. In some ways, it's fairly prim and puritanical but in other ways it's live-and-let-live to the point of lawlessness. Like it's prim regarding, say, people who swing, but there's all sorts of half crazy elderly weirdo hoarders living alone and people just let them be. Wisconsin, by the way, is one of only two states that doesn't allow auto insurance companies to factor in offenses in other states when choosing what to charge you and there's no reciprocity on points. If you get pulled over out of state, just pay the fine and it's over; it's a nice benefit for the heavy-footed.
posted by carmicha at 8:04 PM on March 4, 2017

Polka is real. And Lawrence Welk and Liberace both hailed from Milwaukee. Wisconsin still regrets its role in the deaths of Otis Redding and Buddy Holly.

In WWII we had a lot of POW camps where captured German soldiers were gathered and dispatched to work the farms and orchards (see the interesting book Stalag Wisconsin). Some came back after the war.

The best sand for fracking comes from the western part of the state and the mining is creating lots of environmental issues.

Lots of TV shows are based in Wisconsin, including Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, That 70s Show, Agents of SHIELD, Aliens in America, and The Young and the Restless.

Barbie canon has it that she grew up in the fictional town of Willow. The Onion started in Madison. The biggest experimental air show in the world happens in Oshkosh every July. Other unmentioned pop culture icons: Harley Davidson, the early Little House books, Trek bikes, OshKosh B'Gosh. Other big brands: Kohler, SC Johnson, Menards, Carmex, Kimberly-Clark and bunches of paper companies.

More seriously, we have more than our fair share of famous serial and spree/mass murderers, Gun culture is a big issue here. Of the top of my head, there's Ed Gein, Walter Ellis and Jeffrey Daumer and then infamous people like Bambi Bembenek (MKE cop) and Steve Avery and nephew (the Making a Murderer guys), and then, in just the past 10-15 years, the awful slaughters like those at the Sikh Temple (Wade Michael Page), Crandon (Sheriff's Deputy run amok) a weird one about hunting turf (Chai Vang), the Living Church of God murders near Milwaukee, and I know I'm leaving out many, sadly. Plus Dillinger. Oh and those young girls who thought they would impress Slenderman by killing their friend.

Wisconsin contains multitudes.
posted by carmicha at 9:03 PM on March 4, 2017 [4 favorites]

People from Minnesota think they are better than us but they are not.

What do you get if you fail the MN drivers test 5 times? WI plates. If you fail 10 times ? Illinois plates. :-)

One of the weirdnesses of WI is that cities and counties are responsible for their own roads and there really isn't a lot of state oversight. This means a road might be 4 lane, and then it becomes 2 lane at the city/county boundary. And it's not a "merge into one lane" thing, it's a one lane just stops existing thing. Also, in the winter, that road might be plowed/salted right to that border and then... you're on your own, buddy.

Liquor laws vary by city and town, so you can't buy beer after 9 in Madison, but you can in Maple Bluff, which is wholly encompassed by Madison. People above are not kidding about the drinking culture. It is totally legal to give alcoholic drinks to your children or underage spouse. UW-Madison has routinely made it into top-ten party school lists, but other schools (UW-Whitewater, Stout, Stevens Point) all have even stronger drinking cultures.

Ripon, WI is the birthplace of the GOP. If you speed, even a little, on Hwy 26 between Oshkosh and Waupun in the vicinity of Rosendale, you will almost certainly be busted. Everyone there knows this and only non-locals try to speed because of it.

The northern half of the state (roughly north of Hwy 29, which runs from GB to Eau Claire) is owned in joint with the Native American tribes. They have broad hunting and fishing rights and are not at all shy about exercising them. This led to some conflict in the 80s/90s, some of which was violent. The casinos are all native owned and operated as well. There is a lot of anti-NA sentiment among a certain class of people. In fact, there is a strong racist streak prevalent in SE Wisconsin from Waukesha county up through Fondy/Oshkosh/Appleton and into Green Bay.

Pronunciations are also weird. Outagamie county is not the french Wah-te-ga-mie, but Outah-gamie. The La Courte Oreilles, though is la-coot-orey. Lake Butte De Morts is usually pronounced Buh-de-morts - with a strong "tee" (incidentally, across usually gets a t at the end - "the house acrosst the street"). Manawa, Wi is pronounced Man-ah-wah. Weyauwega (way-ah-wega) was home to a large railroad tanker fire in 1996 that resulted in evacuating the entire town for over two weeks.

Deer hunting is a big thing, but so too hitting deer in cars. Usually as many deer are hit by cars as taken by hunters, and sometimes even more. Nearly everyone has hit a deer at a time or two. Deer carcasses along the highway are food for bald eagles and probably the number one way those eagles die. In the northern counties, the cops won't even come out unless your car is disabled - they'll just mail you a form. You are allowed to keep the kill, if you call first. Funny story - last November a friend of mine posted a rant on FB about how there are no deer in WI, because wolves killed them all and the WI DNR sucks. He hit three on his way home from his deer cabin and totaled his new truck, and then he complained about not having gap insurance.

Wisconsin still regrets its role in the deaths of Otis Redding and Buddy Holly.

WI has committed many sins, but Buddy Holly died in Iowa.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:22 PM on March 4, 2017 [5 favorites]

WI has committed many sins, but Buddy Holly died in Iowa.

Yes, but he chartered the plane in part because of his miserable experience touring in Wisconsin, including a breakdown near Appleton and an awful bus ride from Green Bay to the last gig.
posted by carmicha at 9:53 PM on March 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

There is a weird concentration of curling in Madison and just north. Like the US Olympic team trains here. There a a bunch of small towns with rinks and leagues and bonspiels. But you can tell you're not in Canada because you can drink for free at the curling clubs.
posted by hydrobatidae at 10:23 PM on March 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

A couple of other dietary oddities:

1. Custard shops generally make their custard in-house. Consequently, they usually have three machines going - one for chocolate, one for vanilla, and one for the Flavor of the Day. Which they publish on monthly calendars, that people can look at online and/or stick on their fridge. My family and friends would plan our custard visits ahead of time to get our favorite flavors during the month. Here's an example from Kopp's Frozen Custard. You can usually buy pints of previous day's flavors, if they have them in stock.

2. I don't know if this exists outside of the state, but Bloody Marys are always served with a 6 oz beer chaser. Spotted Cow is a common chaser, though some places use Bud or Miller.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:51 PM on March 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

I don't know if this exists outside of the state, but Bloody Marys are always served with a 6 oz beer chaser.

It's also a thing in Minnesota.
posted by deinemutti at 11:58 PM on March 4, 2017

Here is Cheeseheads With Attitudes with "Where the Hell is Neenah?". It was a source of laughter when I was living there 20 years ago.
posted by persona au gratin at 12:49 AM on March 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Iirc 'bubbler' is just around Oshkosh.
posted by persona au gratin at 12:50 AM on March 5, 2017

And your vowels shift up half an octave. Listen to the way someone from Wisconsin says "Wisconsin."

I'm from Illinois (yes, a 'fib') and we always complained about Wisconsin drivers. Too slow.

Wisconsin has a hell of a lot of alcohol. Great beer. And pop. I drank a lot of beer up there.

I grew up close to the border. For a while the drinking age in WI was 19 and 21 in IL. IL kids died regularly in drunk driving crashes. Like one fatal crash a month it seemed. Senseless.

County roads are indeed a thing.

Everyone hunts deer. Well, many do. So many deer. If they didn't hunt them, they'd eat all the crops and then die of hunger.

When I was there, it was full of sensible Midwestern people. The GOPers were relatively sensible, too--think Tommy Thompson. The state has a long history of progressive politics--e.g. Debs and La Follette. But now the same insane post-Gingrich GOPers are in power there, too. The UW, long one of the top public universities in the country, has been savaged by Walker and co. No one before would imagine going after the UW system. It was the crown jewel of the state.
posted by persona au gratin at 1:00 AM on March 5, 2017 [4 favorites]

I went to Summerfest a few years ago to see a concert. I've been in LA for 15 years. And holy crap, it was like I was back in HS in the late 80s. Acid washed jeans. Mullets. Metal t-shirts (and the same bands from HS). Jean jackets.

There is no value judgment here. It just really took me back.
posted by persona au gratin at 1:05 AM on March 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

For 15 years or so at Camp Randall they've jumped up and down after the 3rd quarter to "Jump Around." There was some question as to whether the stadium could handle it. Then they realized it could, as people used to polka at halftime, and it was decided that was far more stressful to the stadium than people jumping up and down.
posted by persona au gratin at 1:08 AM on March 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Last one. Mars Cheese Castle. It's everything you'd want it to be and more.
posted by persona au gratin at 1:14 AM on March 5, 2017

Allow me to add: Sheriff David Clarke, Milwaukee County.
posted by megatherium at 4:53 AM on March 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

(Shit, this thread is the best guide to America's Cheese Kingdom since the WPA Writers Project. Can we get 49 more just like it?)
posted by wenestvedt at 5:06 AM on March 5, 2017 [5 favorites]

Somebody above said Waukesha County us racist. It's not racist, it's classist. nobody cares what color you are but you better have money. It's a bit of island in the state.

soda/pop is definitely a divider between east and west. I think the switch is around I-39.

There is a huge derision for Milwaukee is in the more rural parts of the state.
posted by notjustthefish at 5:15 AM on March 5, 2017

Culver's is the McDonald's of frozen custard (sorry Culver's). For real frozen custard, you've got to do something like your Leon's Frozen Custard (for a historical experience), but there are plenty of others including some small chains, including Oscar's, Kopp's, Kraverz, Bubba's, Murf's, Pop's, etc.

If you wanted a really obscure historical reference for something along those lines, anyone who lived here in the sixties or early seventies would be familiar with Dutchland Dairy, a popular local store-plus-restaurant, and they even had a little jingle that went with the advertising. Between that, Farrell's, Leon's, and others, Milwaukee was the place to be for ice cream and frozen custard.

Ah, Farrell's...
posted by jgreco at 5:19 AM on March 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

I would argue that Madison also gets its share of eye rolling in rural sectors of the state. People call it names like "The People's Republic of Madison," etc. When I was in Berkeley (15 years ago), I found it to be Madison with better weather and without a state government.
posted by princesspathos at 6:28 AM on March 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

I spent some formative teen years there and what I remember are Tyme machines, bubblers, Friday fish fries year round, and in the summer there were carnivals every weekend in the parking lots of Catholic churches, complete with carnival rides and games and beer gardens.
posted by jillithd at 6:37 AM on March 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

The verbal tic that I hear that seems to point to a person who's not from there is pronouncing the 'c' is Wisconsin like a 'c'. It sounds like a hard 'g' to me when I say it.
posted by jillithd at 6:52 AM on March 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

Last one. Mars Cheese Castle. It's everything you'd want it to be and more.
posted by persona au gratin at 3:14 AM on March 5 [+] [!]

posted by carmicha at 6:52 AM on March 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

I recently moved to Madison. The driving thing is real, and I imagine Wisconsinites in California would have a lot to say about California drivers. Wisconsin drivers obey the speed limit. Wisconsin drivers stop, fully, at stop signs. Sometimes they stop for so long that I consider honking. There are roundabouts in Wisconsin, so no one seems to fully comprehend how a four-way stop is supposed to work when they get to one. There's a lot of courtesy waving, regardless of who got to the intersection first. Also, the county roads thing is real, and especially weird because they don't have names, just letters.
posted by coppermoss at 6:55 AM on March 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

A few other things about Camp Randall... It's famous for the Fifth Quarter, which is something the band does after every home game. For fifteen minutes after the game they play a series of songs, including On Wisconsin, a bunch of polkas, novelty songs (e.g., Tequila!) and people sing or dance as appropriate (e.g., the chicken dance). Bucky Badger runs around and interacts with the crowd. There's also the periodically controversial practice (see: alcohol culture) of singing the old Budweiser jingle ("When you say 'Bud,' you've said a lot of things nobody else can say" etc.) except at the end everyone bellows, "When you say Wisconsin, you've said it all!"
posted by carmicha at 7:00 AM on March 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Being aware (without Googling it) of Chris Farley's Wisconsin background, particularly that he's buried in Madison.
posted by John Cohen at 7:08 AM on March 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Onion started in Madison.

Yeah, and as a Madisonian in the '90s, I remember when I would pick it up as a free local paper. It wasn't a website or a household name.
posted by John Cohen at 7:11 AM on March 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

Now, it is not purely unique but meat raffles. I love meat raffles.
posted by jadepearl at 7:31 AM on March 5, 2017

if they're in Milwaukee you can have them talk about the streetcar, which is a polarizing issue due to the budget and perceived as unnecessary. (Note, there are no subways, commuter trains, etc. in all of Wisconsin that I am aware of. Milwaukee County has a bus system, I imagine Madison does too. To get between the two cities without driving, you take the Badger Bus. Almost everyone in Milwaukee owns a car except college students.)

You could have them reminisce about the old County Stadium, which was torn down to build Miller Park (where the Brewers play). Or grumble about the ever-increasing Summerfest ticket prices.

The ACLU recently filed a lawsuit against the Milwaukee Police Department for racial profiling. The sheriff's department is similarly awful because Sheriff Clarke is a dangerous cowboy-hat-wearing Trump-surrogate buffoon, and there has been a recent spate of deaths in the County Jail. Clarke is very excited about being able to round up immigrants for ICE, this is practically Christmas for him. Like the rest of the country, your characters likely have strong opinions on deportation.
posted by AFABulous at 9:30 AM on March 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Meat raffles are A Thing in Rhode Island, too, as well as saying "bubbler." What a weird Venn diagram...
posted by wenestvedt at 9:51 AM on March 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Just a clarification about Kringle. Racine Kringle is the easiest to find outside of Racine. If you talk to people from Racine, the best Kringle is actually from O and H bakery.
posted by drezdn at 10:55 AM on March 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

I say Bubbler and I've lived almost my entire life in Milwaukee County. It's even the name of the Milwaukee bike rental service (bubblr).
posted by drezdn at 10:57 AM on March 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

"One of the biggest 'tells' for me? If you ask someone where they're from in the state, and if you don't know where that is? The other person will hold up a hand, and point to where that location is, using the hand as a map of the state."

Ha! I have won drinks with this knowledge. If learn at a conference that someone is from Wisconson, I will turn to a coworker and say, "I'll bet you a drink that I can walk up to Louise and get her to raise her left hand and point to it in less than 10 seconds."

Works every time. And because I am a behaviorist my coworkers think it is some kind of behavioral trick.

Which it sorta is.
posted by ITravelMontana at 11:20 AM on March 5, 2017 [4 favorites]

That's a big Michigan tell, actually.
posted by LionIndex at 12:57 PM on March 5, 2017 [5 favorites]

We had rummage sales at our synagogue in Michigan, and we said pop, not soda. Also, the hand thing? That's pretty much a Michigan thing, since our state actually looks like a hand.

As a transplanted FIB who lived closer to Kenosha than Wisconsin, the Dells are awesome, but if you leave out Tommy Bartlett, I think you're leaving out the heart of things (bonus points for Tommy Bartlett's Robot World!). Duck Rides are fantastic. New Glaurus really is worth the trip (Mrs. Ghidorah and I not only make the trip to Kenosha to buy their fruit beers, we then smuggle them back to Japan because they're that good).

Every state in the midwest is dead certain that they are the best drivers, and all others are horrible. There is no greater horror in Chicago driving than realizing the car in front of you has a Wisconsin plate.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:11 PM on March 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

I will never admit that FIBs are better drivers, but they are predictable in their assholishness, which perversely makes me feel safer. I know someone with Illinois plates is going to tailgate me or cut me off, so I just let them. I have no idea what the Wisconsin driver is going to do. Go 50 in a 55? Pass me on the right? Who knows!
posted by AFABulous at 8:31 PM on March 5, 2017 [8 favorites]

There are roundabouts in Wisconsin, so no one seems to fully comprehend how a four-way stop is supposed to work when they get to one.

Roundabouts are gaining acceptance but I think are still generally seen as newfangled European technology. The second half of your sentence is irritatingly true even if you got the cause wrong.

It's definitely still bubbler, even in SE Wisconsin.

My grandpa, from a small farm town, says pop, and maybe further up north you'll hear that, but it's generally gonna be soda.

A few of the other linguistic quirks people have mentioned are also more of an up north thing.

Do other places put a full meal on top of their Bloody Marys? It's a ridiculous enough thing I've always assumed it was pure Milwaukee, but I guess I don't know for sure. (It's also a relatively recent phenomenon/arms race, regardless)
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 10:24 PM on March 5, 2017

Did you know that there's a type of smelting that involves neither ore nor a blast furnace?
posted by Nerd of the North at 12:18 AM on March 6, 2017 [4 favorites]

Wisconsin always seemed a very well run state. And it was, pre-Walker. The state-level government was just effective. Though it did change its slogan away from the greatest state slogan ever: Escape To Wisconsin. What a great slogan that was.
posted by persona au gratin at 1:52 AM on March 6, 2017

George Webb is a (wonderful) Milwaukee-area diner chain frequented by the inebriated.
posted by ndg at 9:40 AM on March 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

The best state motto ever is "Eat Cheese or Die." Which, sadly, was never actually ratified as Wisconsin's. But it came pretty close at one point.
posted by miyabo at 10:30 AM on March 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Too fun not to comment, though perhaps you have gleaned most of this from the above:

The southeast third or so of the state is a pretty different beast from the rest, such that lots of the Milwaukee notes are unfamiliar to this (lifelong with a few brief breaks, 30s) resident of western Wisconsin. Here, it's "pop" and "water [or drinking] fountain," and frozen custard is limited to Culver's. Our Big City is "The Cities" aka Minneapolis-St. Paul. We've all been to the Minnesota State Fair and Mall of America, North Stars hockey was big in the 80s. That said, there's an increased, generalized anti-urban sentiment the further you get from "Madison 'n Milwaukee" (usually a derisive term for where all the state's money and decision-making authority is thought to be unfairly concentrated).

Making a Murderer is good for accents, though I don't know if you get to hear someone say "melk" for "milk"...

Definitely Packers over Brewers as broader sports identifier. I theorize that the Bears are the bigger rival in the southeast part of the state; up here, it's the Vikings. Similarly, perhaps, Minnesota Drivers are the FIBs of the northwest.

Yes to drinking culture. Just about all of the postwar homes I lived in or visited in the 80s/early 90s had bar set-ups in the basements, fully stocked and with stools, a separate beer fridge (possibly a "kegerator"), and various real-bar cast-offs like neon signs or lamps. I associate this with my grandparents' generation, but it's not uncommon with younger generations, either.
posted by Leona at 11:14 AM on March 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

The bar in the basement! I forgot about this. My grandparents had one (that went unused) that fascinated me as a child. Chrome barstools and everything. I always imagined a more glamorous 1950's when it might have been used.

My father's family was from Sheboygan, and I remember different uncles/cousins being steadfastly loyal to a specific butcher for their brats. It would divide people just as much as the frozen custard stands in Milwaukee, where different parts of my family were loyal to either Kopps or Gilles, and would never defect. Everyone had their brat and custard tribes.

Echoes of the accent stick with me, especially the "stop and go lights", and the way everyone always said "oh yah," "dontcha know" (with the long "o") and "you betcha".

George Webb and Heinemann's were the lunch counter chains, open all hours. I remember when downtown Milwaukee was all about Gimbels, Boston Store, and Marshall Fields. And maybe don't leave out Usinger's, the German sausage maker, especially for summer sausage, which I've never seen in any other state.

You might find it interesting to read Jim Harrison's Brown Dog. It's about the Michigan UP, but it does a beautiful job of capturing descriptions of the northern woods and the culture of the people who live there.
posted by amusebuche at 12:23 PM on March 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

And maybe don't leave out Usinger's, the German sausage maker, especially for summer sausage, which I've never seen in any other state.

I've seen summer sausage in other states, but not Usinger's, and not to the extent and variety that it can be found in Wisconsin. There's a whole bay of the deli case full of summer sausage.

Similarly, there was a whole freezer bin, like 3'x6', full of just brats, with maybe 10 different varieties. I don't know what specifically is the difference between "Wisconsin Style", "Sheboygan Style", or "Packer Backer" style, but they have them.
posted by LionIndex at 4:06 PM on March 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Milwaukee-specific things:
Pączki eaten on Fat Tuesday. They're everywhere and are missed when they are gone.
A huge number of ethnic festivals during the summer, none of which are terrifically good representations of country x (as the people running it/going had at best grandparents from wherever).
Depending on where in Milwaukee you are, the "Fireworks or gunshots" game.
Local figures, like Milverine or the late Pepperoni Cannoli. There are lots of these.
Fish Fry on Friday is certainly a huge thing.
When being ironically folksy, aina, "Couple Two Tree," and "Ya der hey."
The well-heeled and civically-influential Bartalotta family.
posted by The Gaffer at 12:29 PM on March 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

Oh, people grew up playing and may still play Sheepshead.
posted by The Gaffer at 12:30 PM on March 13, 2017

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