I love the tv show King of the Hill. I grew up in a small town in Texas and it’s portrayal is sometimes frighteningly accurate. “Revenge of the Lutefisk,” the episode where a “Lady Preacher” from Minnesota comes to Arlen encapsulates my family’s own culture clash perfectly. Lutefisk vs. Frito Pie, Cowboys vs. Vikings, Aggie jokes vs. Ole jokes. And then there are accents, I’ll tell you what.
I’m a Texan, my husband is from Minnesota. For the first few weeks after we met, we understood each other maybe 50% of the time. We understand one another better now, but cultural differences still appear from time to time. They are more apparent when we visit his family. Minnesotans do funny things to vowels, particularly the short a. Bag, Flag, Nag are pronounced “beg,” “fleg,” and “neg.”
If a Minnesotan and a Texan both see something odd, say a cow riding down the road in the back of an El Camino, the Minnesotan will say “That’s different.’ and continue on his way. The Texan will laugh til he cries, then tell everyone he meets about it, embellishing the tale with each telling. By the time he gets home to tell his family, the cow will be Queen of the County Parade, dressed in a tutu and tiara and accompanied by a court of ducks. The Minnesotan might say the following at dinner, “Pass the butter. I saw a cow in an El Camino today.” And his wife will say, “That’s different. Here ya go,” and hand him the butter.
Minnesotans also eat “food” that scares the willies out of me (see lutefisk, which one commentator described as “ghost fish.” Also, hotdish, which isn’t scary so much as bland. The other main ingredients in the Minnesota diet are butter and flour. I’m fond of spice and flavor and I favor foods best described as “bold.” Minnesota cuisine is not bold.
One of the differences between Minnesotans and Texans (and the rest America, IMO) is the use of the phrase “Oh, for.” In Minnesota, “Oh, for” is followed by an adjective. Among women, you’ll hear “Oh, for nice,” “Oh, for cute,” “Oh, for sweet,” etc. Among men, you’ll hear “Oh, for dang.” But in Texas (and most other parts of the country), “Oh, for” is generally followed by some variation of the following:
- Crying out Loud!
- Pete’s sake!
- the love of all that is good and holy!
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It may seem a minor difference, but it symbolizes the major difference between my Minnesota Norwegian family and their Texas in-law. Where Minnesotans are understated and subdued, I’m overstated and brash. Where they are vague, I am pointed. But despite these differences , we manage to get along pretty well. I’m almost positive that this is due less to my charming, if a bit overwrought, personality than to my family’s unshakable Midwestern calm and habit of not drawing attention to the odd woman making faces at the klube.