HOW TO TALK MINNESOTAN: A Visitor's Guide by Howard Mohr


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The title is typically understated; this book is not to be confused with How to Speak Southern or any of half a dozen other flimsy books of ""regional"" humor. Rather, it is an intelligent and hilarious meditation on the Minnesotan character. Mohr was a writer and occasional performer on public radio's A Prairie Home Companion, and his book is a Lake Woebegon Days without the pretension. Because there are only so many verbal ticks to make fun of, Mohr wisely relegates the language-instruction format to the role of springboard for various approaches: conversations, travel guides, lists, mock-essays, even advertisement parodies. Throughout, it is high-grade humor, seldom predictable and always original. Minnesotan, explains Mohr, is a language of modifiers. It is, for example, way more interesting than a lotta guys might think. Meanwhile, the cultural parameters of Minnesota are neatly delineated: it is a state where people are not big on ceremony, where poetry is supposed to rhyme, where salads have tiny marshmallows in them, and where things could be worse, though no one is saying that they couldn't be better. It is also a place where an offer of help is generally refused three times before it is accepted. Imagine, for example, that you have slipped off the roof while clearing snow and are hanging by your feet from the gutter. The conversation: ""Want some help?"" ""No, that's okay, I've got one foot worked loose."" ""No problem, I'm fight here."" ""I got into this, I'll get out of it."" And so forth. What sustains the high comedy of this journey through the lake land is Mohr's genuine affection for the characters he depicts. The exaggeration is appealing. Mohr likes people like Bob of Bob's B-17 Park, just south of Deadwood Falls, who saw England, saw France, saw some ladies' underpants, and was still content to come home to Minnesota. A fine entry in the recent boom of jovial humor from the heartland.

Pub Date: Aug. 4th, 1987
Publisher: Penquin