If there’s one thing I’ve learned since moving to Northeast Wisconsin, it’s that the regional flavor goes far beyond the Packers, beer, and cheese. In fact, there’s a whole host of regionalisms that I’m still learning about after coming up on 3 years. So if you’re new the area, whether Wisconsin as a whole or just to the Green Bay area, here are over a dozen terms that might just have you scratching your head.
St. Nick’s Day
December 6. If, outside of religious traditions, you thought that Santa and St. Nick were interchangeable, think again. This tradition has its roots in Europe, so it may sound familiar even if you’re new to the area. However, for lots of families in the Green Bay area, St. Nick comes a few weeks before Christmas Eve and brings a special treat to kids putting out their stockings. Some families go all out with gifts here, while others include just a few treats.
Although I had never before practiced this, when my son came home chattering about other kids and St. Nick, I knew we had to work it in. Now, in our home, St. Nick picks up the Christmas list to bring to Santa and leaves behind a few candies + a toothbrush. Then Santa comes on Christmas Eve.
The third Saturday in October. Move over Valentine’s Day. This is a special day to do nice things for others, whether they’re your sweetheart or not, but especially if they are!
Friday Fish Fry
Every Friday. Stemming from the religious season of Lent, where people traditionally abstained from meat and other excesses for 40 days, Friday Fish Fries are a nod to the Friday fish dinners frequently served. Now it’s hard to find a restaurant in this area that doesn’t offer some kind of a Friday fish fry meal.
Ok, so cheese curds won’t have you scratching your head so much as rubbing your belly. Because what else could be better than cheese that squeaks? Well, the obvious answer is deep-fried cheese that squeaks.
Admittedly, I’m still trying to figure this out. The idea is that it’s a restaurant, where you go hang out for a while before dinner and enjoy a drink or two before dinner. After food, there may be dancing as well. There are several within a 1-2 hour drive, and recently there was a documentary examining them
Booyah is soup. It’s a popular fundraiser in the area. Organizations cook up a gigantic batch of their favorite chicken stew, and locals eat it up (literally!).
Loaded Bloody Mary
If you’ve never had a Wisconsin Bloody Mary, then you’re in for a surprise. A really really big surprise if you’re new to the area. Here’s why. Although you may find a Bloody Mary that isn’t a meal in and of itself, most bars and restaurants in the area try to outdo one another with the most complex garnishes. You might see cheeseburgers, meat sticks, cheese, and of course, pickles and olives.
Bloody Mary Chaser
Wisconsin is the only place I’ve found that gives you a beer chaser for every Bloody Mary. Don’t knock it till you try it!
These drinks are really something else. A whiskey cocktail that everyone makes just a smidge differently. It’s all Wisconsin.
If you’re picturing a bubble blowing machine, well, me too, friend. Me too. But here, that’s a water fountain. The kind you drink out of.
For reasons unknown, a particular ATM maker decided this would be their brand name. Like Kleenex are facial tissues, Tyme Machines are ATMs. Only, everywhere else, people call them ATMs (or automatic teller machines).
Editor’s Note: TYME = Take Your Money Everywhere!! Now you know!! 🙂
People look at you sideways here if you ask about a parking garage. Not super sideways, but a little bit sideways. Here, those buildings with multiple floors for parking are known as ramps.
Rummage sale makes more sense than garage sale or yard sale if you think about it because people really do rummage through all the stuff you don’t want anymore. But if you’ve never heard it before, you might be surprised to hear people talking about their spring rummage sales or their rummage sale finds.
The bottom line, I suppose, is that every area has regionalisms, but Northeast Wisconsin has a remarkable number of terms that are uncommon just about everywhere else. And, what surprised me even more than the number was how many have to do with food and beverage.
What about you? If you’re new to the area (or once were), were there any terms that surprised you? Or, if you’re from here, are there any of these that you didn’t realize were so regional?