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Origin and First Use of the Word “Yooper”

Twenty-nine years ago today on August 5th, 1979 the Upper Peninsula’s identity changed forever. That date marks the earliest known publication of the word “Yooper”.

Contrary to popular belief, the term Yooper isn’t very old. Many people who recall going to college in the Upper Peninsula during the ’70s do not recall use of the word. However, there are others that argue the word was still in use earlier than 1979, but there is a lack of evidence to support this. By all means, if you know of additional evidence to support the first uses of the term Yooper, we would like to know.

According to an article by Professor Richard W. Bailey at the University of Michigan, it was The American Heritage dictionary that discovered the first published use of the word Yooper.

On August 5th, 1979 the Escanaba Daily Press hosted a competition for people to come up with the best word to describe residents of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. For those out there who have laughed at the word Yooper, take a look at some of the other nominations that day in the newspaper…

  • Skeeter-eater (as in mosquitoes)
  • Michupper
  • Bush turkey
  • Pastian (as in pasty)

After seeing a few of the other submissions, Yooper seems to be as good of choice as any.

Brett Crawford of Bark River was credited to submitting the term Yooper, and he will forever go down in history as a legend, creating one of the greatest influences in Upper Peninsula history.

Clearly, Yooper is derived from the abbreviation of Upper Peninsula (U.P.) plus “-er”. As in, “He’s a U.P.-er”. Bailey reported that the Pittsburgh Press used the term spelled as U.P.-er in a 1987 edition. That was 21 years ago.

Today, the term Yooper is still being published in mass media and was recently used by Stephen King in his latest novel. It has also been used in one episode of Jeopardy.

To date, The American Heritage dictionary remains the only dictionary to recognize Yooper as an official word…

SYLLABICATION: Yoo·per
NOUN: A native or inhabitant of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
ETYMOLOGY: From UP.

For your entertainment purposes, you can read a ridiculous definition of Yooper here.


7 Wonderful Comments

  1. I was a freshman at Tech in 1980, and “Yooper” was in widespread usage. Those living “under the bridge” were called “trolls”.

  2. Dennis D Hawk , DC
    Nov 8, 2010

    The word ” Yooper ” was in full use in the fall of 1972 at NMU… I have been told by residents of the ” UP ” that term has been in use for year before that date …

  3. The word “Yooper” was quite widely spread still 1979 at NMU!

  4. I have had people ask me what a “yooper” was when I wore my shirt of the hospital (for various reasons, not medical) ! I purchased it before going on a boat-tour last summer on Lake Superior. My shirt says “yooper girl”

  5. Please be advised “da yooper” memorabilia depicts “hillbilly” which is not what it originally meant to mean. I always cringe whenever I see anyone with the wrong impression. Although I am not a resident of the Upper Penninsula of Michigan (I’m under the bridge and sometimes referred to as a troll or fudgie), I think it is Heaven on Earth! My father’s family settled from England in Ishpeming, Negaunee, Marquette, and Munising. The people are the friendliest, most knowledgeable , most environmental minded that I have ever met. I am proud to say: “My father and his family are from the U.P.”

  6. In some circles it also means something totally different:
    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Yooper&defid=2424139

  7. \ˈyu̇-ər\ <<
    is how it is written in Merriam Webster dictionary ..WTH? When did you drop the P, eh.

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