Scrabble Game Helped Officially Land “Yooper” In The Dictionary
Things keeping looking 'up' for the Upper Peninsula. After recently being the victim of a few geography mishaps on maps and even being labeled as part of Canada on a local television station, Yoopers can rejoice. Why? The word "Yooper" was featured as Miriam-Webster Dictionary's 'Word Of The Day' recently.
But have you ever heard the story of the struggle to actually get the word Yooper officially into the dictionary? It all stemmed from what else, but a simple board game about 20 years ago.
According to a 2014 report from UpperPeninsulaBiz, the effort began when a County Prosecutor in the U.P. named Steve Parks made it his mission, and that's an understatement, after trying to use the word in a game of Scrabble.
I was playing an old friend of mine in a game of Scrabble. I tried to use the word ‘Yooper’ and he called me out on it. We looked it up and he proved to me that it wasn’t in the dictionary. From then on, I started a quest to have it put in the dictionary. - Parks speaking to UpperPeninsulaBiz
So starting in 1999, Parks wrote several letters using very creative techniques including pretending to be a cranky old man named Clayton Parks. He even took it further by having the fake cranky Parks pass away and then pretended to be his son, continuing the effort in a more diplomatic fashion in honor of his father's memory. Once it became likely the word would make it into the dictionary, the real Parks came clean about his identity.
The official definition for Yooper is “a native or resident of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan – used as a nickname.”, according to the article.
Here is the official acceptance letter in 2014 for Yooper in the dictionary via UpperPeninsulaBiz:
It is with no small amount of relief and happiness that I write the following words: I have been informed by our Director of Defining that Yooper will be entered in the 2014 copyright printing of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition. There it will be defined as “a native or resident of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan – used as a nickname.” I am also told that Yooper is slated for entry in Merriam-Webster Unabridged, at www.unabridged.merriam-webster.com, as well.
I like to think that Yooper would have made it into the Merriam-Webster’s dictionaries without your dogged determination, but in truth it might have languished undefined in our files for some time. Thank you for your persistence. Our dictionaries are better for it.
With best regards,
In case you're wondering, "Yooper" played in Scrabble would be worth a minimum of 11 points.