How to Sound Like a Local When You Move Minneapolis

Minneapolis is a great Midwestern city with a dynamic economy, hip music scene, the great outdoors with oodles of recreational options, and award-winning restaurants.

And where else can you order an authentic “Juicy Lucy” (the burger with melted cheese on the inside)? Two restaurants in south Minneapolis both claim to have invented it—Matt’s Bar and the 5-8 Club. You can decide which is best.

Minneapolis and its neighboring city St. Paul — which together make up the Twin Cities — often rank in the “Best of” lists for everything from jobs and fitness to restaurants and parks. While Minneapolis certainly has a lot to offer, breaking into the local scene for outsiders can be challenging.

Yahhh, you betcha!

We know we have an accent, but it’s not that bad.

Minnesota’s accent is distinct with its “forward o’s and flat a’s, a nasal tone and a singsong lilt,” reports the city’s newspaper the Star Tribune. Anyone who’s ever seen the movie Fargo (or now the TV series) easily recognizes this unique dialect. But of course, Hollywood exaggerates it.

However, here are some pronunciations that you can work on to sound more like a native:

  • Minnesota is pronounced with a “soft d” – “Minnesoda.”
  • Words like bag and rag are pronounced with a long “a”, as in “I brought my own baayg”
  • Crayon is “cran” like “ran.”
  • “Have to” is “hafta”
  • “what are you” is “wat-cha.”
  • “Don’t you know” is “dontcha know.”

You are saying it wrong.

If you’re a transplant, you will probably mispronounce a lot of city and town names, which would be a dead-giveaway.

Cities and towns:

  • Shakopee is pronounced Shock-o-pee
  • New Prague is New Pray-ge
  • Wayzata  is Why-ZET-a
  • Edina is ee-DINE-uh
  • Mahtomedi  is Ma-doe-MEE-die
  • Lutsen is LOOT-sen
  • Ely is ee-LEE
  • Faribault is FAIR-ih-bow
  • Cloquet is CLoh-KAY
  • Lowry is LAH-wr-ee

There are also a couple of street names you need to know how to pronounce if you’re a newcomer. Nicollet Avenue is a major street that runs through downtown and several well-established neighborhoods and districts. They include Eat Street and Nicollet Mall where Mary Tyler Moore infamously tossed her hat.

It’s pronounced “Nic-lett” – not Nick-OH-let.”

Also, Xerxes Avenue, which runs on the west side of Minneapolis, is pronounced “Zerk-zees.”

Other things we say in Minneapolis

Here it’s a drinking fountain, not a water fountain. It’s a parking ramp, not a parking garage. It’s kitty-corner, not caddy-corner. And we say garage sale, not rummage sale.

More tips

We’re big on small talk, especially about the weather including the brutal winters. (Yes, it can plummet to negative 30 degrees, but we’re a hardy bunch and tend to have the attitude that “It could be worse).”

You might hear, “This is nothing compared to the Halloween blizzard of 1991,” the record-breaking storm that dumped more than 28 inches of snow on the metro. In fact, if the weather is nice, there might not be a whole lot to talk about –- except sports.

We do love our sports. “How bout those Vikings?” Or Twins, Timberwolves, Wild and Gophers? And you better know about the huge rivalry between Minnesota and the Green Bay Packers.

Food you should know

“Hot dish” here is casserole to everybody else in the world, and specifically, tator tot hot dish is the best comfort food ever. It’s basically a casserole made with cream-of-chicken or maybe cream-of-mushroom soup, ground beef, and frozen or canned vegetables topped with tator tots and lots of cheese.

Also, it’s always “pop” here, never “soda,” and Coke, Sprite and Pepsi, etc. are all simply pop.

Things to do

Every summer weekend, people go “up north” to the cabin.  Up north is not necessarily a “directional phrase.” It’s more a place where all Minnesota cabins are. So when we say we’re going “up north,” it could be in any direction within an hour or two of the Twin Cities that has a lake – which is actually everywhere!

And by the way, they aren’t really “cabins” but more like second homes.

When we say we’re going to the “lakes” in the city, it’s the beautiful chain of lakes—a destination for joggers, in-line skaters, and bicyclists, and where you can also rent canoes and kayaks.

If we refer to “The Mall” it’s likely the ginormous Mall of America or “MOA,” which is so big that you could fit seven Yankee stadiums inside. However, it’s not where most locals do their daily shopping. In fact, of MOA’s 40 million annual visitors, about 40 percent are tourists coming from outside MOA’s 150-mile radius. 

Speaking of shopping, we can browse homegrown Target for hours.

If we say we’re going to a concert at “First Ave,” it’s obviously First Avenue, the venue that local artist Prince helped put on the map. He made it his testing ground for new music and now it’s infamous.

What the heck is a meat raffle?

Finally, believe it or not, we have “meat raffles.”

Yes. They’re exactly what they sound like. You go to bars or VFW clubs, buy tickets, and they spin the wheel and raffle off meat -– steaks, ribs, pork chops, etc. Of course, you also have a few beers just for the fun of it, and the proceeds go to charity.

Some of the hot spots for meat raffles are in “Nordeast” (Northeast Minneapolis) and include Jimmy’s Bar & Lounge and Grumpy’s Bar. So spin that wheel and welcome to Minneapolis!



Liz Wolf