The following list is just a small sample of the many Wisconsin dialect words listed in the Dictionary of American Regional English. Thanks to Luanne von Schneidemesser from DARE for her help in selecting these!
commonly known as: noun; a drinking fountain
distribution: especially frequent in Wisconsin
details: Kohler Company, makers of plumbing fixtures, and located in Kohler, Wisconsin, produced a nickel-plated brass self-closing bubbling valve, which was used on many models of drinking fountains beginning in 1914. In some instances, the terms ‘bubbler’ and ‘drinking fountain’ are interchangeable, though many in Wisconsin either maintain a difference between a bubbler and a drinking fountain or adamantly insist on their regional term.
commonly known as: to step in front of someone in a line
origin: Upper Midwest, though there are multiple variants
distribution: Upper Midwest, Canada
details: There are plenty of variations: budge, butt-in (with some people hearing ‘bud-in’), barge, push-in, or cut. The individual who steps in front of another person in line is known as a ‘budger’, a ‘cutter’ or a ‘butter’.
commonly known as: a stew
origin: Belgian, from French ‘bouillon’ or ‘bouillabaisse’. The term came into English roughly around 1905, arguably in Green Bay (See Green Bay Press-Gazette, October 29, 1976).
distribution: Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota
details: Typically, booya does not seem to have a specific recipe, but is often times made in very large quantities in large kettles at church or community activities.
commonly known as: baked goods; that which you buy from a bakery
origin: Wisconsin, mostly in areas that were heavily settled by German immigrants.
distribution: Wisconsin, primarily
details: This is an example of ‘Metaphorical Extension’, a linguistic process whereby the meaning of a word is expanded to refer to an idea or object that is like the original referent. Therefore, when a speaker from Wisconsin says that he or she would like to eat some bakery, it means that they are interested in eating that which comes from the bakery—the extension of the term, not literally expressing an interest in ingesting parts of the building.
commonly known as: a fresh pork sausage typically topped with condiments, including sauerkraut.
origin: Originally German, the bratwurst was brought to Wisconsin with German immigrants.
distribution: Mostly German-settled areas of Wisconsin, though the term has spread widely recently.
details: While the term ‘bratwurst’ (or the shortened form, ‘brat’) was known only in German-settled areas as recently as the 1980s, the popularity of the food - and the term - has become widespread due to the success of Johnsonville Sausage’s Johnsonville Brats. The company is based in Johnsonville, Wisconsin.
commonly known as: originally ‘an awkward or stupid person’, but has changed to mean ‘Wisconsinite’ or ‘Green Bay Packers fan’, due perhaps to the dairy industry in the state. By extension, it can also refer to the cheese-shaped hats sold at Packers’ games.
distribution: Typically refers to Wisconsinites, but may be used by those outside the state
details: This was originally a pejorative term, but is no longer such.
commonly known as: chalina, charnina, czarina; a type of soup made from duck’s blood.
distribution: Primarily Wisconsin, in areas settled by Polish immigrants.
commonly known as: the day on which your age in years matches the day of the month on which you were born, ie turning 21 on the 21st day of one’s birth month.
origin/distribution: primarily Wisconsin
details: This term is entering widespread use via Hallmark’s recent incorporation of the golden birthday into their line of birthday cards.
commonly known as: julebokk(e), julebukker(s); ‘a Christmas fool’
distribution: Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, in areas settled by Norwegian immigrants
details: Julebukkers are people, typically young people, who dress up in masks and costumes and go visiting neighbors between Christmas and New Year’s, seeking food and drink.
commonly known as: kermes, kirmes; a community fair or festival, often hosted by a church.
origin: Dutch kermis; BelgianFr kermesse, German Kirmes
distribution: primarily Wisconsin
commonly known as: chilbi, kilbi; a festival held near the end of the Summer, at harvest time.
origin: German, a variant related to Kirmes
distribution: Wisconsin, primarily in areas settled by Swiss immigrants.
commonly known as: ludefisk, lukefisk, lutefish, lutfisk; a dried fish that has been prepared for cooking by soaking in lye
origin: Danish, Norwegian, Swedish
distribution: Upper Midwest, primarily Minnesota and Michigan
commonly known as: paczski, poonchka, poonchkey, punchkey; a filled doughnut
distribution: Areas settled by Polish immigrants, primarily in Michigan and Wisconsin
details: This doughnut is typically filled with jelly, and eaten on the Tuesday before the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday. This Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, is also regionally known as ‘Fat Tuesday’ or ‘Paczki Day’.
commonly known as: an elevated, multi-leveled, often urban structure where cars may be parked.
distribution: Upper Midwest, though there is variation
details: Many Wisconsinites will use parking ramp generically for any parking structure, though often times it is used to designate an elevated parking structure. Therefore, the term ‘parking ramp’ might be used less often in rural areas where elevated parking structures are less common. Further North, Canadian English often uses ‘parkade’. Further West, ‘parking structure’ is more common, and in the Southeast, ‘parking deck’ is more commonly used to refer to an elevated parking facility. ‘Parking garage’ is often used to refer to an underground car-parking facility, though this term might also be extended to all parking structures, as shown by the Seinfeld episode ‘The Parking Garage’, which first aired on October 30th, 1991.
commonly known as: soft drink; any variety of terms relating to > carbonated beverages
distribution: Wisconsin is strongly divided (see maps).
details: The use of either “pop” or “soda” to refer to carbonated beverages varies largely by region, and has generated a good deal of discussion. Interestingly, Wisconsin is split down the middle of the state from north to south in the use of these two terms.