ESCANABA, Mich. (WWJ) – It took more than 10 years to make it happen, but a man from Escanaba in the Upper Peninsula has finally convinced the people from Merriam-Webster to include the word “yooper” in their dictionary.
The new edition of the dictionary will come out in April, with yooper — which is derived from the initials U.P. — defined as “A native or resident of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.”
Steve Parks of Escanaba told WWJ Newradio 950’s Rob Mason how the push began.
“I was playing Scrabble with a friend, and he called me out on the word yooper, and to my amazement he was absolutely correct — it wasn’t in the dictionary,” Parks said. “And so I began this quest to make it happen.”
Through letters and conversations, Parks says he built a relationship with a woman from the dictionary company; and when she started to believe that yooper belonged, Parks began a full-court press to try to prove that it’s not just a local expression.
“Along the way I communicated with her, sent her everything that I could find with yooper on it: chocolate bars, magnets for her refrigerator,” he said. “It was just my yooper way of telling her that I appreciated her work and she was being a proponent of yooper.”
Parks said his decade-long effort can be described in these terms: “Strong work ethic, integrity, resilience — all the things that yoopers are.”
Representatives from Merriam-Webster plan to visit the U.P. August to see what being a yooper is all about.
As for how he should be rewarded for his efforts, Park joked, “When the Upper Peninsula becomes the fifty-first state, I expect that I’m going to be the governor.”