Friday, June 19, 2009

Having a Norwegian moment

The other day when I was at the lobby desk at the clinic, two young women came down in the elevator, looked out the front windows and saw that the sky had turned dark and ominous. One said to the other, "Uff-da!"

Having grown up with a Norwegian mother, I knew exactly what she meant. Actually, it is one of the nicest expletives anyone can use. It's a regionalism, with connotations of oops, ouch and holy cow! Uff-da is also folksy, quaint and fun.

A lot of Scandinavians settled in Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota because there was good farmland and lots of lakes to remind them of home. They were salt-of-the-earth people who adapted to America within a single generation. However, uff-da apparently said something that no other American exclamation quite covered. As a result, more than a hundred twenty years later, folks are still saying it.

I googled Wikipedia and here are some of the entries listed:

"The following are some examples of how Uffda has become established in parts of the upper Midwest of the United States, often in a humorous way.
* There is an "Uffda" store in Red Wing, Minnesota selling various Scandinavian-Minnesota souvenirs, craft, gag gifts, and folk art .
* The "Uffda Mountain Boys" is a band from the Fergus Falls, MN area, playing Scandinavian and bluegrass music.
* In Westby Wisconsin there is an "Uff Da Mart".
* The New Glarus Brewing Co. in Wisconsin markets a brand of beer called Uff-da Bock.
* Yogi Yorgesson's "I Yust Go Nuts at Christmas" with a studio group called "The Uff-Da Band" is still popular (around these parts) after 60 years.
* The logo of the Fargo ND Marathon includes the phrase "26.2 miles...Uffda!"
* According to one edition of Red Stangland's book of Norwegian jokes, "Uff da" expresses one's feelings on dropping a sack of garbage; "fy da" or "fee da", getting one's hand in it.
* Uff Da Airport (2WI1) is located in Stoughton, Wisconsin.
* In Grand Forks, ND
, there is a stand that sells Uff-Da tacos. " (Oooh, I wonder if an uff-da taco is lefsa filled with lutefisk.)


Olde Dame Penniwig said...

LOL...the Norwegian connection...Norwegian friends and in-laws got me hooked on saying Uff-Da. There's an Uff-Da shop on the western coast of Washington, too, a whole batch of Norwegians settled there, along with the Dutch.

One of my favorite thinkers, Brenda Ueland, was also Norwegian. Minnesota is stuffed with Norwegians and it is sure a fine state.

Ms Sparrow said...

Well Penniwig, seems like you would make a fine Minnesotan! I must say that I'm quite surprised that Uff-Da resonates with a Texan!
So are you into lefse and lutefisk too?

Thank you for turning me on to Ueland! Even though I'd heard of her, I hadn't read any of her stuff. I see why you refer to her as a thinker.

Sparrow chic said...

Just have to comment on the Uffda Mountain Boys, since I am from Fergus Falls and the lead member belongs to my church. The are an excellent group and perform all over Ottertail County.