Wisconsin's Most Distinctive Slang Word

Brian Sheridan

Image: Lisa Larson-Walker, SLATE
Image: Lisa Larson-Walker, Slate

If you have a craving for a refreshing strawberry cabinet, you’re either psychotic, or from Rhode Island. To an outsider, a state’s slang words can cause a lot of confusion, like when you say you’re drinking a cabinet but mean a milkshake. Some Wisconsin words could sound familiar, like pop for soda, but those other state dialects can get pretty outlandish.

Luckily, Slate put together a map of their favorite slang words from every state, with definitions so you know whether you should be offended or not. It’s not a comprehensive list, nor may you agree with their chosen slang words, but it’s a fun map to interact with, and it may even help you fit in with the locals. Slate basically tried to identify each state's most distinctive phrase.

When I looked at Wisconsin, my initial reaction was “what’s a tyme machine?” I was outraged at the shame brought to my native word ‘bubbler’. But just like that, the memories came flooding back. I remembered all the times I’ve heard ATMs being referred to as Tyme Machines.

Gonna Go Back in TYME

TYME is actually an old brand of ATMs in Wisconsin, which stands for Take Your Money Everywhere. This became so commonplace that Wisconsinites would ask locals in other states where the tyme machines were, only to be dismissed with looks of bewilderment. It’s not much of a slang word since it’s in the same vein as why we call tissue paper Kleenex or adhesive bandages Band-Aids. The brand just took over the product. The TYME network merged with the Pulse network in 2002. While it wouldn’t be my first choice of a Wisconsin word, it’s definitely something I’ve never heard anywhere else.*

Because we’re in such close proximity, I’ve heard the Minnesota “UFF DA” sound and have fond memories of making fun at dat der Michigan yooper accent. Others make more sense like Texans using the word “hoss” to describe a friend or Californians saying things are “hella” awesome.

Here’s a weird one: Alaskans use the word “sourdough” to describe older Alaskans. Sourdough is food, not people, Alaska.

It makes you realize we use a lot ridiculous words to describe things, some of which look like they were thought up on the fly and happened to stick. I guess I’ll be able to impress my Florida friends next time I notice a real toad-strangler going on.

*Psssst. Tyme Machine is also a fun-lovin' Canadian cover band.