Ope Meaning and 8 Midwestern Sayings That Outsiders Find Strange

by John Amato

Some sayings are uniquely Midwestern, don’t cha know? 

At Jupmode, we’re all about the Midwest. We make apparel and gifts that celebrate the region’s landscapes, culture, and charm. There’s nothing we love more than a classic turn of phrase that reminds us of all the people and things we appreciate in our special slice of America. 

Today, we’re embracing nostalgia and recounting our favorite Midwestern sayings.

Here’s what you’ll learn in this pleasant stroll through the language of our people:

  • 9 sayings that delight Midwesterners and confuse outsiders
  • Fun facts and origin stories behind Midwestern slang
  • Where to find Midwestern-themed apparel that features your favorite regional phrases

1 - Ope!

Ope, meaning “oops” on a black and white unisex shirt from Jupmode


You won’t find the Midwestern use of this little word in standard dictionaries, even though it’s uttered countless times every day throughout the region. Ope may have originally evolved from “oops,” but it grew into the Midwest’s trademark utterance. 

Ope is a mild apology, an expression of surprise, and an all-purpose filler word. Ope is especially useful after making unintentional contact with someone, as in “Ope, didn’t see you there!” or for avoiding such contact, as in “Ope, let me just scooch past ya.” 

Of course, catchy words like Ope tend to filter into all sorts of situations and conversations. These days, you won’t often complete a day in the Midwest without hearing a few opes.

2 - Knee High by the 4th of July

gray “knee high by the 4th of July” shirt

Corn makes the world go round, and the world can thank the Midwest. Iowa and Illinois combine to produce around one-third of the entire US corn crop

It’s no surprise that there’s some special Midwest lingo with corn-based origins. Among corny sayings, none is catchier than “knee high by the 4th of July.” 

The phrase refers to a corn crop reaching knee-high length by the midsummer holiday. For prior generations of farmers, that was considered a good sign. 

These days, corn grows faster and taller. Today’s Midwest corn farmers shoot for “corn as high as an elephant’s eye.” However, “knee high by the 4th of July” will always be fun to say, and it’s a cultural catchphrase that’s known throughout the rural Midwest.

3 - You Betcha!

Do Minnesotans have the world’s most delightful accent? Oh sure, you betcha!

The “betcha” is a mashup of “bet you.” So, technically, that second “you” is redundant, but hey, who’s counting? It’s a delightful phrase that turns a simple “yes” into a cheerful show of solidarity.

4 - Pick It Up, I’m Going Alone

gray and white “pick it up, I’m going alone” shirt

If you’ve ever said “pick it up, I’m going alone” then there’s a darn good chance you hail from the Midwest. 

Midwesterners know that this cheeky phrase comes from Euchre, the classic card game that’s known by all in the Midwest, yet nearly invisible in other regions. 

Euchre has been bringing Midwest families and friends together for generations. Like any great game, Euchre is rich with slang and catchphrases. 

At Jupmode, we love putting Euchre lingo on t-shirts. The phrases are like secret flags to other Midwesterners. See below for a few of our favorite Euchre-themed designs.

gray “pass on a bower, lose for an hour” Euchre shirt

Bower Euchre

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gray and red “in the barn” Euchre shirt

In the Barn Euchre Shirt

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gray and white “here for the Euchre” shirt

Here for the Euchre Shirt

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“Such a fun gift for my Euchre-playing dad! I waited until he said these words in a game, then brought out the shirt! Haha, epic family memory created. Thanks, Jupmode.”
Kat M., ★★★★★ Verified Jupmode T-Shirt Buyer

5 - Midwestern Goodbye

midwest goodbye shirt


Ah, the Midwestern goodbye. Kids grow up thinking the outrageously slow process of concluding social gatherings is unique to their own quirky families. However, the phenomenon occurs throughout the Midwest. 

Some say the Midwestern goodbye occurs in a series of stages. The walk to the door, the hugs, the doorway chat, and so on. 

We’ve all occasionally wished a Midwestern goodbye could wrap up more quickly. However, an extended goodbye is a sign of affection, and most Midwesterners have a soft spot in their heart for the folks who drag out their goodbyes the longest.

we make apparel and gifts that celebrate region's culture

6 - Schnookered

Wasted? Hammered? Trashed?

Those terms are rather crude, aren’t they? 

The Midwest has its own preferred adjective for describing someone who’s had one too many “brewskis” (another regional gem). That word, schnookered, is perfectly goofy, charming, and Midwestern.

7 - The Cold Builds Character

blue “the cold builds character” unisex shirt from Jupmode

In the classic comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin asks his dad why they can’t turn up the heat. He replies, “Consuming less fuel is better for the environment and it saves money.”

He pauses while Calvin considers this response, then follows up with “... and being cold builds character.”

It’s no surprise that the strip’s author, Bill Waterson, was raised in Ohio and based his “character building” jokes on his own Midwest upbringing. 

When it comes to building character, there’s nothing like cold weather. Turn up the thermostat on a frigid evening? Midwestern parents know better—never let the kiddos miss out on a chance to build character.

8 - If I Had My Druthers…

You’ve heard people talk about having their druthers, and maybe you’ve uttered this odd phrase yourself. But did you know that the phrase comes from “would rather”? 

An early usage by Mark Twain in his novel Tom Sawyer, Detective sheds light on the phrase’s evolution:

“Any way you druther have it, that is the way I druther have it,” says Huck Finn to Tom. Tom replies: “There ain’t any druthers about it, Huck Finn; nobody said anything about druthers.”

Today, the word “druthers” is generally only used as part of the entire phrase “if I had my druthers.” It means “if I had my way.” 

Talking about how things would be if you had your druthers is a politely Midwestern way of noting how things aren’t quite as they should be and that they might be better if you were in charge.

Celebrate Midwestern Culture With Jupmode Apparel

young woman in white “Go Midwest” crew sweatshirt from Jupmode

If you talk like a true Midwesterner, Jupmode apparel is perfect for celebrating your favorite words and phrases. We love highlighting our favorite lingo, places, and cultural quirks on shirts, hoodies, and gifts.

”Great company, great shirts… I live in Michigan and I buy the ones that mean something to me. Thanks, Jupmode!”
Vickie, ★★★★★ Verified Jupmode T-Shirt Buyer

Our Midwesterner Apparel and Gifts Collection has something for every Midwesterner. We also have special collections for these places and institutions of America’s heartland:

For more Midwestern cultural tidbits and Jupmode apparel buying guide, visit our blog.

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