Bob Bestler | Do Yoopers belong in the dictionary?

May 23, 2014 

I see that Merriam-Webster has just entered “Yooper’’ in its dictionary, saying it is a reference to those who live in Michigan’s all-but-forgotten Upper Peninsula.

I always believed the new-word gurus based their judgments on the wide, general usage of a word. Hence we now have, as of this year, “selfie,’’ “hashtag,’’ “tweep’’ and “fracking.’’

Yooper? Seriously, has anyone heard of a Yooper except the few thousand Yoopers in the UP?

Having lived in nearby Wisconsin for almost 15 years, working as an editor for The Milwaukee Journal (now Journal-Sentinel) I can assure you I never heard the term until I read about it in The Sun News.

The fact is that the Upper Peninsula is actually attached to Wisconsin, not Michigan, and at The Journal we claimed a certain journalistic responsibility for it.

The Journal at the time was an afternoon paper, but we also published a much smaller morning edition for those in the far reaches of Wisconsin – including the Upper Peninsula.

That morning edition was called the WUP – and the people in the Upper Peninsula were called, naturally, Wupsters, not Yoopers.

I’ll admit usage of the term Wupsters was confined to the newsroom, but I still think Wupsters is a better word than Yoopers. And now that I think about it, doesn’t Yoopers sound a bit derogatory?

Well, so it goes. The word authoritarians at Merriam-Webster have decided on ”Yoopers’’ without, I’ll bet, even a sniff at “Wupsters.’’

But I think even they wonder if they did the right thing.

One Miriam-Webster editor tried to insist “Yooper’’ was recognized beyond the UP, but he quickly added, as if in apology: “Plus, it’s a colorful word.’’

Colorful? Hey, are we talking about Yoopers or crayons?

Reach BOB BESTLER at bestler6@tds.net.

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