A crash course in the Minnesota accent

Ed and Peggy Blumquist
Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst put on their best Minnesotan selves for the second season on "Fargo," despite being from Texas and New Jersey, respectively.
Courtesy of FX

There are three things everyone remembers about the movie "Fargo," Colin Hanks told The Wire last year: "Everyone remembers the snow, everyone remembers the accents, everyone remembers the woodchipper."

Hanks appeared in the first season of Noah Hawley's television adaptation of "Fargo," and while the woodchipper was absent, the snow and the accents came on strong.

The second season of "Fargo" is no exception: plenty of snow and plenty of Minnesota "yahs" and "hons." As in, "Yah, hon, I got the Hamburger Helper." Okay, then?

This season features Ted Danson, Kirsten Dunst, Nick Offerman and more taking on Minnesota's trademark sound — with mixed results. Some have said the show's accents are spot-on. Some have said they're over the top. Some have said they had to use subtitles to understand what the actors are saying.

So what's the key to nailing the Minnesota accent?

(Keep in mind the show is set in southern Minnesota in the late 1970s, so current residents of the Twin Cities: No one is claiming you sound like this — not that much, anyway.)

Tips to talk Minnesotan

Keely Wolter, a dialect coach who was raised in Minnesota and earned a master's degree in voice studies in England, said the key is "not moving your jaw as much." There should be tension in the corners of your mouth, she explained.

The closed jaw shapes the mouth in a way that delivers the infamous Minnesota vowels. Try it with the words "tater tot" or "hot dish." You can listen to her full four-step crash course in the Minnesota accent below.

Do I sound like that?

Here's a test. Say the words "lot," "cloth" and "thought."

Are you using the same vowel sound for all three words?

In standard American English, Wolter explained, "lot" is one sound, while the vowel sound in "cloth" and "thought" is a "a little bit darker and farther back."

How'd ya do?

Get more behind-the-scenes details on this season of "Fargo" from the Aw Jeez podcast.

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