How to Speak Midwestern

By Edward McClelland

“A dictionary wrapped in some serious dialectology inside a gift book trailing a serious whiff of Relevance” ―The New York Times

In this book on midwestern accents and sayings, Edward McClelland (Folktales and Legends of the Midwest) explains what midwesterners say and how and why they say it. He examines such mysteries as the causes of the Northern Cities Vowel Shift, explains the nasality of Minnesota speech, and details why Chicagoans talk more like people from Buffalo than their next-door neighbors in Wisconsin. He also provides humorous definitions of jargon from the region, including:

  • squeaky cheese
  • city chicken
  • shampoo banana 
  • the Pittsburgh toilet 
  • Yinzers and Cheeseheads
  • FIB 
  • bubbler 
  • Chevy in the Hole 
  • jagoff .

How to Speak Midwestern includes detailed glossaries of slang and sayings from Buffalo, the Great Lakes, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Wisconsin. 


This delightful romp through the region’s dialects is the perfect gift for midwesterners and the perfect book for anyone wanting to learn more about the region’s diverse, idiosyncratic ways of communicating.

More praise for How to Speak Midwestern:

"An amusing glossary to the lingo of the [Midwest's] more industrial states." ―Washington Post

"McClelland leavens his writing with pop-culture references ... and touches of humor." ―Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

"There is scholarship [in How to Speak Midwestern], a deep understanding of grammar and ethnic history, as he traces certain speech patterns down to a single city. But McClelland, a Michigan native, also has a voice, opinions and a few punchlines." ―Star Tribune

"How to Speak Midwestern is a fascinating read, whether you hail from WOWOland, the UP, Cereal City, or Baja Minnesota." Chicagoist

“A delightful romp through the dialects and vocabulary of the region.” Lansing City Pulse

"In his delightful new book, Edward McClelland argues that the dialect of the Midwest is one of the country’s most linguistically significant ... [How to Speak Midwestern is] a long-overdue study of the middle-American vernacular, and how that vernacular informs our identity. At its heaviest, the book is a socio-economic treatise worthy of a university library; at its lightest, it’s a regionally specific Urban Dictionary." ―Inside Hook

Edward McClelland is the author of Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President and Nothin’ But Blue Skies: The Heyday, Hard Times and Hopes of America’s Industrial Heartland.

See our Midwest Starter Pack.

DECEMBER 1, 2016 | ISBN: 978-0997774276 | HISTORY | PAPERBACK | 5 x 7.25 | 152 PAGES


Next Previous