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Obama’s briefing on the U.P.

February 10, 2011
By Andy Heller

FLINT - News item: President Obama will visit Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Mich., today to deliver a speech praising the university's high-speed wireless data network.

Aide: "OK, Mr. President, time for your briefing on the Upper Peninsula - her people and their customs and peculiarities."

Obama: "All right, proceed."

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Andy Heller

Aide: "OK, first, a reminder that while Marquette is small, this is an opportunity to address a key demographic."

Obama: "Democrats?"

Aide: "No, cold people. The U.P. is very, very cold, so if the applause for your speech seems a little muffled, don't be surprised."

Obama: "Winter blues?"

Aide: "No, mittens. Now, for your opening quip, remember that people in the U.P. do not root for the Detroit Lions."

Obama: "They don't? But it's Michigan."

Aide: "Two things at work there, Mr. President. First, the Lions are the Lions. There aren't a lot of doctorate degrees in the U.P., but people know a loser when they see one. Then there's the fact that Detroit is something like 47 hours from the U.P. while Green Bay is just down the snowmobile trail."

Obama: "You mean road."

Aide: "No, sir, I mean snowmobile trail. It's February. And while I'm on the subject, remember not to joke about spring coming soon. Remember, in the U.P. winter starts in September and lasts until, well, near as I can tell from these average temperature charts, June. So they're not even halfway through winter."

Obama: "Got it. They'll be a bit crabby then."

Aide: "Not at all, sir. Exactly the opposite. A few of them may seem a bit, um, giddy."

Obama: "Snow madness?"

Aide: "No sir, Budweiser. Now, when you look out over the crowd you'll probably notice a lot of people in plaid. Apparently it's the official color of the U.P."

Obama: "But plaid isn't a color, it's a combination of patterns and colors."

Aide: "Just roll with it, sir. Now, a word about the local vernacular. First, some terms you should be aware of. 'Chuk' or 'chook' means a stocking cap. 'Yah' means 'yes,' 'dat' means 'that,' and 'dere' means 'there.' So if you meet someone in a funny cap, you could say ?"

Obama: "Yah, dat's a fine looking chuk ya got dere."

Aide: "Exactly, but remember to add the interrogative 'eh?' to the end of every sentence. They do that up dere er, there. Even though it may sound like a question, it's not. It's just an all-purpose verbal tic, and it can mean different things in different circumstances."

Obama: "Yah, dat dere's pretty odd, eh?"

Aide: "Very good, Mr. President. Oh, and one more thing. If someone says 'Holy wuh!' or 'Holy wah!' it's not a religious expression. It means 'I'm astonished!' or 'I'm disgusted!' depending on the situation."

Obama: "Whew, this Upper Peninsula sounds like one strange, complicated place."

Aide: "You have no idea, Mr. President. That's why we rented a copy of the movie 'Fargo' for you to watch on Air Force One on the flight in. Trust me, it'll help."


EDITOR'S NOTE - Andy Heller, an award-winning columnist for The Flint Journal, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. For more of his work, visit his blog at You can e-mail him at



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