ESCANABA, Mich. (AP) — After a more than decade-long campaign, the term “yooper” is getting recognition in the dictionary.
Residents of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula call themselves “yoopers.” Officials announced Monday that the term will appear in the 2014 edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, which goes on sale next month, the Daily Press of Escanaba and MLive.com reported.
Gladstone resident Steve Parks began his campaign by writing to the dictionary’s editors about “yooper” in 2002. Parks began the personal endeavor after a friend challenged his use of the word in a game of Scrabble.
“We even went to a dictionary, and he was right,” Parks said. “It wasn’t in the dictionary. And I couldn’t believe that because even then the word was very commonly used and so I sort of started out on this quest.”
Parks, the Delta County prosecutor, was in private practice when he started campaigning for the word. He was told by an editor in 2004 that he might want to try again in 10 years, but he wasn’t deterred. He picked up his efforts again in 2007 and 2009.
Parks, who was born in the Lower Peninsula community of Owosso and became a “yooper” in 1985, sent in documentation of the use of the word and references to well-known Upper Peninsula residents — as well as “yooper” magnets, key chains, mugs and a T-shirt.
“It was just a fun little escape to me and it gave me something to hope for,” Parks said.
“Yooper,” a noun, is expected to be defined as “a native or resident of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan — used as a nickname.”
“We have our own sort of identity,” he said. “It has a broader meaning to me and to a lot of people. To me it’s synonymous with resilience, solid work ethic, community spirit and taking care of your neighbor kind of thing — all those good qualities that are something lost in bigger areas.”