Odd Things About Wisconsin

Living in New York my entire life, I grew up believing that the way I referred to things was pretty much the same as how most people referred to things.

Boy was I wrong.

For example, I call a car a car. In Wisconsin, it’s a vehicle. And it’s mostly women that call it that. Every syllable is clearly enunciated, too — making the word resemble the sound made by a cat coughing up a hairball. Why would you want to take the extra time to call something a veh-ic-le, when you can just say “car.” Think of all the time you save sticking with the one syllable here.

I grew up calling Italian bread, Italian bread. In Wisconsin, it’s called a loaf! What the hell is that about? Don’t all breads start out as a “loaf” before you slice them up and make sandwiches and french toast with them? To me, a loaf is someone who doesn’t like to do stuff. Kind of like a bum, or a person with no ambition. But hey, what do I know?

Now, let’s talk about the thing that everybody has on top of their house. I call it a roof. Again, I find an alarming difference, this time in the pronunciation of what appears to be a simple word. In NY, we say roof, like “roooof.” Here in the frozen tundra that is Wisconsin, they say it more like “ruff.” What the heck is a ruff? Sounds like someone’s dog is barking if you ask me (which nobody did by the way).

This brings me to the biggest, worst and most ugly difference of all.


Now here’s the weird thing. In Wisconsin, they say pizza just like I did in New York. But what they call pizza tastes more like the cardboard box that NY pizza comes in! It smells familiar, like cheese and sauce and bread (or a loaf). But that is where the similarity ends.

Why-o-why does the pizza have to suck so bad out here?

There are varieties like pizza with potatoes and veggies on it. Just what America needs. Pizza with an extra starch. We’re not fat enough. Meat-lovers pizza has bacon, sausage, beef, ham and pepperoni. And it’s guaranteed to clog your arteries! And then there’s the mid western classic  Cheeseburger Pizza. Now there’s an image that makes me want to yack! But I’m afraid to because somebody might want to make “Cheeseburger & Yack” pizza!

At least a loaf still tastes like bread, even though they call it the wrong thing. But the pizza? Somebody needs to hold a seminar or something to help them get it right. Big money making opportunity for you pizza makers in NY.

My final quibble concerns the potato. Where I’m from, a potato is part of a meal. A side accessory so to speak – the starch part (remember, it’s not a vegetable). It is usually served with a topping (like butter or sour cream), next to a piece of MEAT and a healthy portion of VEGETABLES (the darker the color, the more healthy).

But here in Wisconsin, the dairy state, a potato is a meal in and of itself.  Top it with enough crap and people go crazy like it’s a four-course dinner! Here, they just lump everything into it – cheese, meat, veggies, a ground up tire from their ve-hi-cle… WHATEVER THEY CAN FIND! And they call it a meal.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Wisconsin. Especially the days when I don’t have to leave the house. But this stuff just bothers me.

And remember, you are not alone…

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21 Replies to “Odd Things About Wisconsin”

  1. As a recent transplant to Wisconsin, I have to agree with you. I moved to Northeast Wisconsin back in 2006 from Michigan and though geographically the States are close there is a large difference in how people view the world and how they do things.

    Some of the things that I have had to come to grips with:

    That a water fountain here is not that, but instead it is a bubbler. This is not only a Wisconsin thing, but it is pretty isolated to Northeastern Wisconsin.

    Then there is the whole Packer backer syndrome that grips the State. Not to say that I cannot be ameniable to back a team like the Packers, but even being from Michigan where people are loyal Lion fans…the fans in Wisconsin go to extremes and are loyal beyond compare… and a person wouldn’t dare not watch the game for fear that they could not talk in the workroom the next day about the highs and lows of the past night’s game.

    A small thing, but I have had to adjust to calling any type of carbonated beverage soda… in Michigan it is pop. Again, not a big thing but it is something that one has to get used to.

    It has amazed me how much of a culture of alcohol there is within the State. With Wisconsin being one of the few States where parents can legally buy alcohol to their underage child at restaurant/bar…I was a bit shocked. Even in my town the number of bars far outnumber other types of establishments.

    Finally, in being in he dairy state, I have never been surrounded by more ways to find cheese. Cheese curds, Fried Cheese Curds were just two new items that I had never eaten nor heard of prior to moving to Wisconsin.

    It’s nice to see I’m not alone!

    1. I am from Wisconsin, and really you have it all wrong. All over the state a bubbler is a bubbler, not just the northeastern portion. We take pride in our support for the Packers, and frankly it’s fun to paint our bodies and wear ridiculous hats to show it. We enjoy our football and our beer, thank you very much. Just a suggestion about the cheese: in my opinion Port Wine Cheddar is the best. Thank You!

  2. I guess in Wisconsin they pile their trash on potatoes rather than the New York practice of piling it on the sidewalks.

    BTW, some people from the Boston area also call water fountains bubblers. I believe the term was originally identified with a specific water fountain manufacturer (heard that on NPR, I believe).

    Enjoyed the blog, by the way.

    1. Yes, the term bubbler refers to the brand name of one of the first “water fountains.” No one laughs when people say Kleenex instead of tissue, so leave our bubblers alone!

  3. I just came across this blog post while I was looking up deadly things found within Wisconsin…e.g. spiders. I’m happy to report that there are only two deadly snakes (both rattlers) in Wisconsin and Brown Recluse spiders are NOT native in Wisconsin and reports of them are very few and far between…no bites.

    Now, I am from Wisconsin and I feel that I need to defend her at times. I appreciate your New York heart, but there are obvious reasons why Wisconsin is not New York.

    You complained about our pizza. Let’s make no mistake about it. Wisconsin is a Germanic/Scandinavian stronghold. You want great cheese, sausage, and stuff like that…we can do that. Major metropolitan areas like Milwaukee and Madison will most likely have your pizzas that are more authentic due to their Italian populations…but outside of that, go to Pizza Hut.

    Do we call things by different names or say things in a funny way compared to the East Coast? Yes…and this again is our Germanic/Scandinavian heritage. Is that a bad thing? No. It’s just a slightly different dialect…I mean, we aren’t the deep south here.

    Bubbler is a Wisconsin thing as far as I know and it’s more specifically a Milwaukee thing. A bubbler is a water fountain that shoots the water upwards continuously…so it’s like the water is bubbling out. Obviously with sanitation standards now, these fountains are no more…it is a thing of the past that stayed with us in our language.

    Soda/Pop/Soda Pop…all three are found in Wisconsin. It just depends where you are…just like I’m sure some things are different in Michigan if you are in Detroit coming from Grand Rapids.

    The drinking culture in Wisconsin is something that is very evident from every town that you pass through. It is true that we have more bars/pubs/taverns/etc. per square mile then any other place in the US. I haven’t seen proof, but it’s been argued that we have more per square mile then any place in the world (more then Ireland, London, Germany, etc.). I’d love to be the person who tried to find out if that was true. Again, it goes back to the Germanic/Scandinavian culture and the old mead halls where people used to gather before and after events to discuss everything and anything. Yes, we allow kids to drink if they are with their parents…and kids can be in bars. I have been in many a bar where babies have been present…usually for birthday parties and such and not to help pick up a nightly lover.

    New York (city proper) has a reputation for being rude, and I can’t blame New Yorkers for being rude if they are because I couldn’t live in a city where there are so many people on top of each other. You appreciate your space when you get some and you want your privacy…plus with so many people, there is a lot of crime. Wisconsin isn’t like that. We are much more spread out and thus we are more friendly because life would be pretty boring for us if we couldn’t talk to anybody. It’s just a slower lifestyle here…but don’t take that for us being slow. We have a wide range of public and private universities for people to attend and we have one of eight public “ivy” universities…which is good for a state that wasn’t established as a state until far after those on the East Coast were established.

    So, let me just say…when you are here try these things:

    Usingers, Klements, or Johnsonville brats boiled in beer and onions, and then eaten with saurkraut and a spicy mustard.

    Cheese curds, both fried and traditional.

    Sprecher, New Glarus, and Leinenkugel beer.

    Wine from Door County.

    Frozen custard from any place that makes frozen custard in house.

    Drink a brandy old fashioned, either sweet with cherries or sour with olives.

    Go to a fish fry…especially the fish fry at Serb Hall in Milwaukee, or a fish boil in Door County.

    If you are a fan of football, spend a day at Lambeau Field doing the tour and going to the Packers Hall of Fame. If you are a super fan of football…find a scalper outside of Lambeau and pay $100 bucks for a ticket to get in to a game and just walk up to anybody who’s tailgating, offer them a few bucks and eat and drink yourself full of greatness.

    Attend Summerfest, the largest music festival in the world…no joke, it really is. Eleven stages, eleven days, eleven hours a day of pumping music. Or, go to one of the many ethnic festivals Milwaukee has (Irishfest is the largest Irish festival outside of Ireland…again, this is not fictitious; Festa Italiana; Germanfest…those are the 3 big ethnics).

    We also have great fishing, hunting, and other great outdoor activities.

    Hey, we may not be New York or Michigan, but we certainly aren’t Arkansas.

  4. It’s funny how you say that WE say certain things wrong. Although I hate the midwest pronumciation of words like “Roof” as “Ruff”, it is still the way most people in Wisconsin and IL say it. That makes it a “midwestern accent” and not wrong by any means. I have taught myself to say ROOF instead, by practice. I don’t understand NY terms like “a slice” meaning pizza. A slice of what?? Pie, cake…ohhhhhhhhh…pizza, I see!
    And other things like “soda” instead of pop. Soda is a fizzy water used in making ice cream floats in my experience. And, by the way, the NY pronunciation of CAWFEE is incredibly wrong if you want to get technical. Say it with me now…COFFEE…
    …and a loaf of bread is just that. There is just no other term for it.
    Words that BUG the heck out of me when people say them wrong are:
    the famous “coffee”
    valentiMes day instead of valentiNes
    waRsh instead of waSh…
    like NAILS on a blackboard!!!
    2 guzinta 4 2 times…ew ew ew…
    JMO of course…

  5. ya know, i just have to say, i love wisconsin pizza, beats the hell out of california pizza. and potatos are my favorite food no doubt. and one last thing, it is POP

  6. I went to DC with my parents, and when we went to a Wal-Mart in Maryland to buy some booze, they told us to go to a liquer store, this isn’t wisconsin. I nearly doubled over in laughter… I couldn’t believe that the grocery stores didn’t carry anything!

    As for the roof, loaf deal, I pronounce it ROOF. Like a normal person. Another thing, it’s COO pon not Q pon. For the soda thing… It’s soda. I’m sorry, you say pop and I think of pop-eye punching someone.

    Someone in WI invented the bubbler. We have the right to call it what we want. Everyone else says it wrong.

  7. If I were in NY I would have an ” I-d-er” My wife is a “flatlander” from IL and she says “melk” not milk, I grew up in Milwaukee and drank from a “Bubbler” and my wife used a ” Drinking Fountain” I drank “soda” in Milwaukee but started to drink “Pop” when I moved to the Northwoods I also had to start drinking from a water fountain up here. I knew a girl from LA and she drank ” Coke… cherry, orange, grape, it didn’t matter, everything was a coke…just had to ask for which one. A friend of mine from Nebraska pours “Ceeeement”, not cement or concrete. And if I listen to myself, I sound like the Yoopers…ya-ayyy! I don’t say Yaalll, but may be heard saying you guys, sometimes heard as “use-guys” There are those that go “acrost” the street… I just go across the street. And yes, let’s not forget our dearly beloved bars, gin mills, saloons, taverns…what can you expect from those that grew up “down the street” from Miller Brewing, PBR, Schlitz, Blatz, Old Milwaukee, Rhinelander, Marshfield, and a thousand other breweries in WI If I were to think about this in Dallas, I would be “fixin” to think about it. Everyone comes form somewhere and talks funny to everyone else, but when you listen to the National news, weather and sports…admit it, they usually sound like Midwestern People… we speak English…at least I think we do!

  8. I dont know where the heck this dude visited, but I’m from Wisconsin and I call a car, a car and a roof, a roof not a ruuuff. not to mention, I’m a female. this guy is full of bolony- or I’m sorry do you in NY say shit??

  9. I used to say ruff I will give you that… I’ve taught myself to not do that anymore. I LOVE WISCONSIN! In my opinion it’s one of the best places to live… Minnesota is pretty awesome too. I can’t even express how amazing WI is in the fall its pure magic. We do have some weird things that we say, but it shouldn’t be annoying? I don’t understand why a states uniqueness would be considered annoying?

    I actually love our pizza, I’ve been to Texas, Oklahoma, California and a few other states and I still find WI to have the best pizza. As a woman who’s mostly German and Scandinavian I love how many northerners still embrace our culture. Beer and brats and cheese are delicious and probably the most perfect Sunday night football meal.

    And also the Packers are the best team by far in the NFL and we the fans own them. Not someone with deep pockets. They are also the only football team that’s based in a smaller town… which in that case if you live in Green Bay it’s very likely you’ve had some interactions with a Packer.

    It’s a down to earth state, with people who are brought up with manners towards strangers and neighbors… I feel lucky to live here.

    1. They say the way we talk is the most proper. When we say something you can understand what we said, people from the rest of country sound funny. People from NY and Boston with their caas instead of cars.

  10. the other day, someone here in south carolina asked me if i was from wisconsin. i immediately looked to see if i had something on the said wisconsin or badgers. i didnt. i asked how do you know? she said it was the way i talked!!!. i lived in wisconsin my first 18 years. i am now 64 and have lived in wis., michigan, massachusetts, new hampshire, pennsylvania, the middle east, and now south carolina. i still have my wis accent and still say those funny words and i am proud of it!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. Born and raised in Wisconsin. You’re pretty much right on all counts. Creek is ‘crick’, that is ‘dat’ (though it’s subtle where I’m from), across is ‘acrost’. I’ve also read that we are pretty much the only state that sells brandy. It’s funny because my favorite drink is a Brandy Old Fashioned Sweet and I’m only sixteen. I went to Illinois once and sat down at the bar with one of my parents and the bartender asked me to leave. I was like, ‘Why?’, it’s not as if I’m going to hop over the bar. I’ve also read that some people come here and wonder what a brat fry is or what friday night fish fries are. Up until I was around fourteen, I thought everybody ate fish on fridays and broasted chicken on sundays because that’s just what you do. I do call some cars vehicles, mainly SUV type things. It’s true that we get off school for the start of the hunting season, wear hunting gear year-round, get fresh cheese curds every morning, drink whole milk, make our own butter, and we think five above is extremely agreeable in the middle of winter. In fact, I don’t even wear a winter coat, just a sweatshirt. Oh, and there’s that tell tale, ‘You coming with, er what?’ I am guilty of saying ‘errrr’ at the end of my sentences quite a bit- otherwise ‘eh’ or ‘yeah’ (which I’m told we pronounce ‘ja’ like real Germans). We talk from our noses quite a bit, as well as from the back of our throats- so it comes out sounding nasally and guttural. It’s not noticeable to me unless there’s someone from somewhere else talking as well, then it’s just terrible.

  12. Okay, ive lived in wisconsin my whole.life and ive never heard anyone that i know say veh-ic-le without kidding around. Another thing is we do say roof the same its just we have a wisconsin accent not a NY accent. And why wouldnt you like cheese burger pizza? And people from Wisconsin are amazing … Like right now im reading this and eating a “loaf” on top of my “vehicle” and thats all on top of my “ruff” lol just messin with ya

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