Here’s What You Said Is The Most Missouri Thing You Can Say
On Facebook, I recently asked what's the most Missouri thing you can say. Here's what you told me.
Let's start with the obvious. Many people said, "Show me."
In case you're wondering about the origins of our unofficial nickname of the "Show Me State", it either originated from Congressman Williard Duncan Vandiver who declared in a speech, "I am from Missouri. You have got to show me."
Or, as a pejorative phrase used by pit bosses in the mines of Leadville, Colorado in the mid-1890s. Apparently, during a strike by miners in Leadville, miners from the lead districts of Southwest Missouri were brought into work. The Joplin miners were unfamiliar with Colorado mining methods and required frequent instructions.
Next is a term I'm not familiar with and haven't heard anywhere even though its origins are midwestern. I'm talking about, ope, pronounced like hope with the h missing. I had to look that up. Or maybe like oops with the "s" cut off?
Justin Walters used it in a sentence, "Ope... lemme scooch on past ya." Tim Keele used it in a similar fashion, and Darrell Dorr was maybe disappointed that Tim took his answer, maybe just a little bit. Others brought it up too, so it's something that gets said here in West Central Missouri.
When Kaitlyn Ficken cited ope as the most Missouri thing you could say, a discussion ensued about whether it was a Missouri phrase or Wisconsin. Dale Chrystof said it's a Wisconsin phrase, while Kaitlyn says she "100 percent says it."
The definition of ope isn't even close to how Midwesterners use it. A Google search brings up this definition. "Variant form of open" which can be used as an adjective or a verb. Yet, it took going to Urban Dictionary to get a definition of how it's being used by folks in Missouri. "Ope is the Midwestern way of acknowledging another person or thing that they have encountered."
The Oshkosh Northwestern's Daphne Lemke even dedicated a column to the word back in May of 2020. Through talking to linguistic experts, she seems to come to the conclusion that ope may be more of a shortening of oops, and that it usually is used somewhat apologetically. Additionally, while she wants to claim ownership of the word for the upper midwest, or at least Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan. She can't, she says they're starting to use it in parts of the Southwest like Arizona. They're even using it in California.
I'll settle it. While it may be Midwest, and even to me sounds like something a Yooper would say, I think our research, and I use that term very loosely, qualifies the word as part of one of the most Missouri things you can say.
Here are some more nominations for the most Missouri thing you can say:
"I’m gonna be yonder holler if you need me." - Katelyn Laster
"Git er done son!" - Zucpigu Jerstad
"Missour…e!" - Kathy Jane
"Bass Pro" - Larry Mark Stovall
“It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.” - Adrienne Marie
"Warsh" - Tina Saoo
"Worsh that thing" -Rodney Boyd
"Over yonder on da holler" - Darrell Knox
"Wouldn’t be so bad if the wind was blowing" (or vice versa) - Brady Bishop
"MO is OK" - Patrick Curtis
"Misery not Missouri" (haha) - Marijane Lane
Finally, there was Erika Mileman who suggested "Missourah," and Marla Anderson who provided the counterpoint, "I have lived in Missouri my whole life and can not stand it when they say this."
This is entirely its own can of worms as a Google search showed me.
The Mizzou website, citing professor emeritus Charles Gilbert Youmans from the University's English Department says neither saying Missour-rah or Missour-ee is definitively correct. He points out that the local Native Americans didn't refer to themselves as Missouri, which loosely translated means "people of the big canoes." He says a neighboring tribe probably called them that. Then when the French explorers came through-- they became the first Europeans to use the word, and they may have pronounced it more like Mi-ss-oo-ree."
Then there's the New York Times that tired to figure out which was correct, and found out that perhaps it's an East-West thing. Those in the Eastern part of the state saying Missour-ee, and those West saying Missour-rah. Or maybe it was generational.
According to the New York Times article, in 2002 Secretary of State Matt Blunt polled people at the State Fair on which pronunciation was correct and Missour-ee won in a landslide.
I don't know what the most Missouri thing you can say is, yet I know Matt Blunt's poll at the State Fair may be the most Missouri thing ever. Ope.