What's in a name?
ESCANABA – A familiar word referring to people who reside in the Upper Peninsula will soon gain more exposure as it has officially been approved to appear in the dictionary.
After years of hard work and persistence, the word “Yooper” will be entered into the 2014 copyright printing of “Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition.”
The news was announced Monday during a special press conference held at Escanaba City Hall.
“Yooper,” a noun, will be defined as “a native or resident of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan – used as a nickname.”
The term is also slated for entry in “Merriam-Webster Unabridged” located at www.unabridged.merriam-webster.com, according to Merriam-Webster representative Emily Brewster who spoke during the conference via video-conferencing.
According to Brewster, she first learned of the word in 2010 after receiving a letter from a Clayton Parks, and later, several letters from a Claymore Parks, which offered a glimpse into life in the U.P. and urged consideration of including the word “Yooper” in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
“The letters were always funny and charming and were often accompanied by Yooper paraphernalia,” she said. “I was relieved to finally be able to tell Claymore Parks a few months ago that his long campaign could come to an end – ‘Yooper’ would be entering our dictionaries in the next publication updates. It was soon after that that I learned that there was a creative genius behind both Clayton and Claymore Parks – Mr. Steve Parks.”
Indeed Steve Parks was the man behind the campaign and had been trying to get the word “Yooper” included in the dictionary for more than 10 years.
“I certainly had fun with it – the letter writing was fun and a nice diversion away from just the rigors of day-to-day work,” said Parks. “It was an escape for me, but there’s more to it than that.”
Parks said his father grew up in Munising, but Parks was raised in Lower Michigan. He recalled traveling back up north to the U.P. with his family, always waiting in anticipation for his father to roll the window down and yell “Yahoo” as they crossed the Mackinac Bridge.
“I didn’t quite get it at the time, but I get it now. There’s just something about crossing that bridge and stepping foot on this hallowed ground that makes us all feel home, even if you’re four hours away from where you need to be,” said Parks. “It’s just a feeling and the word, to me, is synonymous with good work ethic, community caring about others, being honest, integrity, all those things.”
He expressed his thanks to Brewster since, originally, it looked as though it would be an uphill battle for “Yooper” to be included in the dictionary.
“There was someone that preceded her (Brewster) who told me that the word ‘Yooper’ was a regionalism and the chances looked pretty grim that it would be in the dictionary,” recalled Parks. “Six or seven years later I wrote again, and Emily was there, and she was the one who initially researched it…She dug further and there seemed to be more use of the word outside the region, and the rest is history.”
Brewster plans to visit the Upper Peninsula in August and Parks said he hopes to have the community get together to celebrate the word “Yooper’s” inclusion in the dictionary when she’s here.
The origin of the word “Yooper” appearing in print has been disputed over the years. According to Daily Press archives, a Sunday publication of the paper called the Upper Peninsula Sunday Times held a “What’s in a Name?” contest in 1979. Out of 65 entries, voters selected the term “Yooper” to refer to residents of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The winning entry, submitted by Brett Crawford of Bark River, was announced Sept. 2, 1979.
However, the Daily Mining Gazette in Houghton is also credited with the first time the term appeared in print as it was the name of a comic strip, “Yooper Duper” by Dan Rosandich, first printed on May 11, 1979.