restricted access 5. Words Used in Wisconsin
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chapter 5 Words Used in Wisconsin luanne von schneide me sser 68 When my daughter was a freshman in college, studying in the state of Washington, she called me one night and told me she had said to friends that they should go buy some bakery . She explained, “Everybody laughed at me. What’s wrong with that?” Nothing is wrong with that, except location. While many people use this term in Wisconsin to mean the pastries or baked goods bought in a bakery, for most people in the United States the bakery is only the building where sweet rolls and breads are sold. I am the senior editor for the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE), a project housed at the University of Wisconsin–Madison for which we have studied the lexicon of speakers of American English throughout the country and written about it in a five-volume dictionary recording not only regional but also folk speech.1 In the course of this work we have shown many words to be what I call Wisconsin words. But not all of them are labeled as Wisconsin words. Bakery, for example, in the sense “baked goods, esp sweet baked goods,” is labeled chiefly Ger settlement areas. In Wisconsin you can go into many bakeries , some in grocery stores, and see signs announcing “Fresh Bakery.” But not in the state of Washington. This chapter discusses words used in Wisconsin English. Many terms still used today came with early immigrants groups, discussed in chapter 2. Other terms of course originated in English. And as has been said elsewhere in this volume, language changes. Our stock of words continues to develop: some are added, some are changed, and some are lost. Some of the words used in Wisconsin are used only in part of the state. I’ll give examples of all of these aspects of language change. One point should be made clear at the outset, however: whether we say Wisconsin words or words used in Wisconsin, we mean the latter. They are used in Wisconsin, but usage of words does not usually stop at state borders. Wisconsin has a system of trunk roads, but evidence for use of trunk in this sense can also be found in neighboring states, as well as scattered usage in California and Nebraska, for example (see fig. 5.1).2 Usage of the term sweet soup, a fruit soup, is shown by DARE to be largely confined to the Upper Midwest and Wisconsin, the areas where large numbers of Scandinavian immigrants settled. Both terms are Wisconsin terms, even if not used exclusively in Wisconsin. Words from Immigrant Languages The introduction to this volume reproduces the famous “Hill map,” which attempts to represent the ethnic makeup of the state of Wisconsin around 1940. This geographical pattern has not changed greatly for these ethnic groups: Kazimierz Zaniewski and Carol Rosen say that “even today the geographic patterns of ethnicity in Wisconsin are remarkably distinctive, and the state remains a place where the association between ethnicity and place is strong” (1998, xv). The Germans were the largest group of immigrants to Wisconsin (see chapters 2 and 3). In 1990 over 45 percent of the Wisconsin population ,roughly2.2millionpeople,claimedGermanancestry(Zaniewski and Rosen 1998, 73). The immigrants at first spoke German in the communities where they settled (most heavily in eastern Wisconsin but also in central and southern Wisconsin); with time and more interaction with their non-German neighbors, however, they slowly switched to English (chapter 2). But their English retained terms from German , which their neighbors also picked up, and which spread, many widely in the country: sauerkraut, kaput, coffee klatsch, borrow ‘lend’, dummkopf. Others remained closer to home, in all or part of the German settlement areas: pfannkuchen ‘pancake’; pfeffernuss ‘a highly spiced Words Used in Wisconsin 69 Christmas cookie’; rutschi ‘slide, slip’; sauerbraten ‘a dish of beef marinated in a solution with vinegar’; schnibble ‘a small piece or scrap’; hand cheese ‘cheese formed into balls using one’s hands’; oma ‘grandmother’ and opa ‘grandfather’; and once used in an emphatic or limiting way, such as Come here once! (see the introduction). And a few are used or known mainly in Wisconsin.3 Bratwurst ‘fried or grilled sausage, usually made of pork’, has very wide usage in Wisconsin; the term started in areas of heavy German settlement but is especially frequent in Wisconsin . Johnsonville Sausage Co. in Johnsonville, Wisconsin, sells its products to every state in the union now, so...


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