Michigan accents

I know quite a few people that come from Michigan or still live there and I can easily identify at least four distinct accents possibly five. I don’t think I’ve seen as many distinct accents from any other state. Have any others noticed this?

I’m a big fan of John Sandford, and I’m really hoping for a rich thread.


Also from Michigan. There are at least two. The UP accent is very distinct from downstate, and sounds more Minnesota-esq. Many Detroiters (at least when I was growing up) have a Canadian “eh” twang to their speech. These are sort of subtle, not as distinct as a Southern drawl, say, but if you listen for them you’ll hear them.
I once had an intern from England. Everyone loved her accent and thought she sounded like the Queen, but she laughed at us. Hers was apparently a working-class accent; at home, she’d never be mistaken for one of the upper crust. However, she could not hear the UP accent of another co-worker. All of her American colleagues sounded the same to her.

I concur. Yoopers have a very obvious accent. I didn’t think I had an accent growing up in lower MI and didn’t notice a difference when I moved to the west coast, but west coasters noticed mine - I was mercilessly teased for how I said things like “hot chocolate.” After many years out here, I can immediately recognize the UP and LP accents when I go back, but I can’t distinguish anything more granular than that.

I’m definitely aware of plenty of accents here in Arkansas. You have the accent that is basically Sourthern Missourian, You have the more hillbilly rural accent here up north. You have the more Southern rural accent in the south. And there are the urban accents, e.g. Fayettevillians sound different than Little Rockers. It’s probably again the north/south divide.

The International Dialects of English Archive’s Michigan page has examples of 24 different accents for that state. Its Texas page only has 21.

I had the experience of going to college in Michigan, and having them make fun of my accent. And I grew up in Milwaukee, only a lake away.

Soon I’d have friends of my friends coming up to me: “Say SORRY!”
Guffawing ensued… they all said “Saaaaahrry” with a long, flat “ah” sound.

Didn’t the New York City area have at least as many? E.g. Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, Lawn Guyland, whatever the hell thing FDR and George Plimpton used (“Locust Valley lockjaw”), to name a few.

Yes you’re right about New York for some reason I’ve always just considered that a local thing

I’m born and raised in Michigan (SE Michigan). I remember when I was working in Chicago, the natives there would mock me for my Michigan accent.

They said I sounded like: “On See-aturday, I’m going to the hackey game and gonna eat a haht dog.” And if you read this sentence while pinching your nose, you get the full effect of how they claimed I talked.

Then, of course, I would counter them with my best Super Fan impersonation talking about sassages and Da Bearsss.

Anyway, I do recognize a UP accent, SE Michigan accent, and now living in West Michigan, people talk a bit more “normal” without anything recognizable from the SE or UP portions of the state (to my ears). West Michiganders’ don’t have a nasal/flat O or drawn-out A like SE Michiganders do.

Born and raised in Michigan (Muskegon), now live in Lansing area. Of course the Yoopers talk diffently than the downstaters (or “trolls” as they refer to us). In the Grand Rapids/Holland area you get a little Dutch influence in the accent but not nearly as pronounced as the Yooper accent. I don’t think there’s a dime’s worth of difference in accent in Detroit/Lansing/Kalamazoo/Flint regions. Of course the minority populations (black, hispanic, middle east) have their own accents as well. All in all I think most lower peninsula Michiganders talk like your generic newscasters.

Do you notice any difference around Jackson Michigan

I haven’t been to Jackson in 40 years, can’t say I would know. We share a TV market and when I see Jackson folks interviewed on local news I don’t hear a difference.

Also born and raised in SE Michigan. I agree with Happy_Lendervedder’s description. We used to term the most distinctive SE Michigan accent as a “Wayne County” accent.

In addition, there is an influence of the southern peoples who migrated up to work in the auto plants early/mid-20th-century (Ypsilanti, just east of Ann Arbor, is termed “Ypsi-tucky”). And, as BobLibDem mentions, the non-white populations have their own particularities.

It doesn’t look comprehensive. They only have three for Utah, and miss the most distinctive one, which is Southern Utah, so it looks like they are just gathering samples.

I’m a Michigan boy, but I moved away after high school, so I don’t have a “Michigan Accent” standard near by to check this with.
Everyone in New Jersey says the word “roof” with the “oo” like in “tooth”.
I, on the other hand, say “roof” with the “oo” like “look”. People think it’s funny.

Is that a Michigan thing, or did I get that from somewhere else?

Is it possible that you’re a dog ?

I have considered that. Other evidence is inconclusive.

Are those specifically different accents for each, or just examples of people from the state talking? I see 27 for Illinois, which doesn’t surprise me. Chicago itself has several different accents – I would guess at least five – depending on where in the cit and what your ethnic and socioeconomic background is. I feel the distribution is more along ethnic than geographical lines, though those two correlate a lot here.

Some/many of us here in Chicago say that. I go back and forth between your pronunciation and the /ru:f/ pronunciation (the one you mentioned for New Jersey.) I feel like the latter is the more common across the US. My friends from Buffalo will also often say it as /rʊf/, so I suspect it is a feature of the Great Lakes/Inland Northern American dialect. (Wiktionary’s entry on “roof” does corroborate that, as “common in the Great Lakes region.”)