I was warned to be cautious of the residents when I first came to work in the Upper Peninsula in February. I was told “They aren’t happy bumpkins up there in the north. They have their own brand of misery from being cold and isolated too long.”
I will admit Yoopers are “special.” But in Florida I’ve run across kooky people who want to have themselves cryogenically frozen when they die in hopes they’ll be thawed out (and looking young) sometime in the future. What you may not know is that they experimented in the U.P. long ago to see how far they could deep freeze people and not kill them. Behold the Yooper!
When thawed, every Yooper has a layer of permafrost just beneath the skin. The ice chills all normal human attributes. The technical term for this condition is hypothermia of the spirit. This freezing and thaw means the local residents have never really gotten warm, perpetually tight lipped.
Being tight lipped and isolated by geography over the years, Yoopers have evolved in unusual ways. One that I find amusing is the suspicion of those “from away.” I’ve been asked, “Do you know how miserably cold it gets here?” “Did you come here to have some laughs and then go home and tell jokes about us quaint local yokels?” No, I’m not waiting until I get home to write jokes.
A few Yoopers have warmed up to me, and I’ve had to train my ears to understand what they are saying. The melody pattern of their speech has strange up and down swoops. They substitute D and T for TH sounds: “Dis, day and da udder ting.” An emphatic “eh” is added at the end of most every sentence, and I wonder if a basic sentence is now some sort of challenge. But the most disturbing of all is a strange inhaled “Yeehup” when silent intervals occur in the conversation. They occur often.
It’s fun for me trying to decipher if these quasi-verbal manifestations are affirmations, expressions of disgust, or symptoms of a rare respiratory illness caused by breathing mine dust, tree pollen or too much cold air. I’ll let you know if I figure it out, but I haven’t come to a firm conclusion yet.