Developing a Character With That Midwest Attitude

A few years ago, we purchased our prescriptions from a pharmacy located inside a grocery store. One day, we were the next in line. As the customer in front of us finished, a guy rushed over and took her place. The pharmacist, much to my surprise, waited on him. When he left, I told the pharmacist what I thought of her and that guy then I told my husband to get our prescriptions while I picked up a few grocery items.

He caught up with me later and immediately asked, “What’s a Midwest attitude?”

“Huh?” I asked, not paying attention.

“The pharmacist asked if you were from the Midwest and when I said yes, she said she knew it because you had that Midwest attitude.”

I laughed, and I know that all of you from the Midwest are laughing too.

First, let’s do a geography lesson. The U.S. is divided into regions.

Map courtesy of National Geographic

The midwest involves quite a lot of states. The Midwest Region is from the Rocky Mountains to Allegheny Mountains, North of Ohio River and southern border of Missouri and Kansas: Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

We’ll concentrate on the area that I grew up in – the Great Lakes Region. According to Wikipedia: he Great Lakes region of North America is a bi-national, Canadian-American region that includes the eight U.S. states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin as well as the Canadian province of Ontario. The region borders the Great Lakes and forms a distinctive historical, economic, and cultural identity.

It’s easy to know the names of the Great Lakes:

H     Lake Huron

O     Lake Ontario

M    Lake Michigan

E     Lake Erie

S     Lake Superior

I grew up in Ashtabula, Ohio, in the very northeast corner (third one down), right on the border of Pensylavania and right on Lake Erie.

Much of the Midwest is farmland and so it is in Ohio too. There are large towns with big industries and small towns.

That being said, just what is a Midwest attitude.

What are the people like? They are friendly yet hold tightly to tradional values and are dutiful. They tend towards conservatism, are less open about certain subjects and are stoic. And tend to call a horse a horse. Which is what I do when angered by someone.

When I moved to the West, the biggest difference was in the spoken word.

Common in the Midwest back then were ‘yep’ ‘you betcha’ and ‘ainna?’ (much like the Canadian word eh). Ainna = isn’t it? Right?

I’d say, “Looks like rain, ainna?” and Westerners would stare at me not understanding.

Pronounciation was different too. At a restaurant, I’d ask, “Do you have any pop? (pronounced pahhp). I’d get the same answer.

I’d say bag as in baig, egg as in aigg. My son’s kindergarten teacher informed me I was pronouncing them incorrectly.

Some Midwesterners would say ‘warsh’ for ‘wash’, ta for to (goin’ ta the store), ya for you (how ya doin’), and even you guys (I still say this – what are you guys up to).

My stepmother from Illinois said Chicaga instead of Chicago.

Some say hard g’s, such as hanGRR, hunGRR instead of  haŋ-ər, həŋ-gər (I got teased for these pronouciations).

In a linguistics class in college one day, the professor asked if anyone was from the Midwest. I raised my hand. He wrote two words on the board and asked me to read them:

caught and cot. In Western speaking, they’re indistinguishable, but in the Midwest:

kAt and kat. Either – some would say Ither, some would say e(long e)ther. I still say Ither and nIther.
Common in the Midwest is ain’t. Sometimes an a’ before the verb – I ain’t a’goin’ ta tell ya again (agin).

Hold up there meant slow down

From my years in the Midwest I developed one of my favorite characters, Gerri. Gerri uses a lot of the speech patterns that the Midwest used years ago, and trust me, you don’t want to anger her or she brings out her midwest attitude.

Here is an excerpt from one of her stories:

Embarrassed, Pastor James took out a hanky and wiped his face. “Speaking of seniors, aren’t you supposed to be calling out bingo?”

“Durn, yer right. Let’s go, Snookums.” Gerri pushed the buggy to the front of the men and women waiting with their bingo cards. “We got some right nice prizes this year, so pay attention.” She lifted Snookums out of the buggy.

The cat’s face brightened when he saw the Bingo rotary cage and he gave it a spin, watching the balls go round and round. Gerri stopped it and pulled out a ball, holding the cage while Snookums tried to spin it again. “Not yet, Snookums. B4,” she called out.

“G4?” asked Farley.

“Put yer hearing aid in,” said Gerri.

“O4?” asked Sadie.

“B4. B4,” said Gerri louder.


“There ain’t no G4. There ain’t no O4, and there ain’t no N4. B4.”

“Before what?” asked Stanley.

Just then, Snookums spun the wheel so hard that the balls went flying everywhere.

Here’s another example:

“Now, who’s that comin’ our way? He best not want money ‘cause I don’t give hand-outs to lazy good-for-nothings what don’t attend church.” Gerri clutched her purse tightly under one arm as she eyed the stranger.

Walking towards them was a twitchy young man dressed in tawdry clothes. His hair was tousled, he was grungy, he looked like he hadn’t slept in days, and he kept sniffing in short quick bursts as if he had a cold or an allergy. He watched each direction as he approached Gerri.

“You got the money?” He rubbed his nose and shivered uncontrollably.

“What’s it to you if I got money?”

“Don’t play around, lady; I’ll give it to you when I see the dough.”

“Give me what? Why, I’m a God-fearin’ woman and ya want me ta pay ya for some sinful act? Are ya askin’ me ta do the hokey pokey with ya like I’m some kind of common hurr?”

The man snorted impatiently. “Sinful act?” He shook his head. “Look, pay me and I’ll show it to you.”

“You pervert!” yelled Gerri, smacking him with her purse in which she kept a rather large bible along with wrapped coins. “Help!” yelled Gerri, “Help. There’s a pervert here a’wantin’ ta show me his doodly parts.” Gerri continued to hit him while he tried to grab her purse away from her.

Yes, Gerri reminds me of many women I met while growing up. Look for Gerri’s stories to be published this year.

As for my Midwestern attitude, I’m proud to be called a Midwesterner and proud of my midwest attitude.

Love, Honor, and Respet, ainna?


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