“That looks warm.”

In a land where snow-bearing winter days can stretch from mid-October to late April, folks value anything that keeps the cold at bay. Whether a sturdy coat, a car that starts by remote control, or a steaming beverage fortified with a splash of hooch, complimenting successful guards against low temps will be sure to raise the internal thermostat of any Minnesotan.

“Looks like she’ll start in January.”

Cars and winter have been locked in a fierce duel since the first Model T crunched over a blanket of fresh snow. Anti-lock brakes battle ice-slicked roads. Ice binds car doors, sometimes requiring a hair-dryer to gain entry. And, of course, snow and sleet strive to dodge the rhythmic assault of the windshield wipers. But the fiercest battle occurs between the ignition and cold itself. On many a frigid morning, Minnesotans have felt the demoralizing click of a key turned over to silence. After bundling ourselves from top to toe and girding our innards for a treacherous drive to work, a frozen battery and dead ignition can ruin your day before it even starts.

Acknowledging that a Minnesotan’s choice of vehicle will prove reliable (if not fashionable) is a most-kind gesture and a nod to our good sense, which we tend value over most everything else.

“Great deck! Did you build it yourself?”

While in certain situations–especially those concerning clothing or haircuts–implying a DIY scenario might be insulting, many Minnesotans like to work with our hands and enjoy being outside whenever the weather allows. For us, building a deck is cause for gathering buddies and brews. Not to mention a decision that, in theory, could save you several thousands of dollars. A well-built deck, crafted by the homeowner’s hands, is a monument worthy of praise.

“Love your scarf/hat/mittens.”

Staying warm and staving off frostbite does not mean one must completely abandon fashion, though the parameters for judging attire on a St. Paul sidewalk differ slightly from those employed at a London catwalk. Puffy balls and snowflake patterns feature heavily, but we do our best to look good while waddling around like arthritic penguins. Acknowledging the effort will certainly bring a smile to a Minnesotan’s face, though you might not see it behind her rainbow-colored scarf.

“That’s a great deal!”

Practical to the end, Minnesotans love a good deal and love telling everyone about it. When my grandmother hands out gifts, she can hardly wait for the wrapping paper to hit the floor before spouting out what a great bargain she got on it. Whether it’s a new Viking-themed snowmobile, a pair of choppers (heavy leather mittens comfy up to -87 degrees), or slightly-worn cabin on a lake, we people of the North like to know we got our money’s worth. We don’t often talk about money — unless it’s to show how much we saved.

“The Vikings/Twins look like they’ll be good this year.”

(Note: This compliment may only be given after start of training camp and before the regular season begins, preferably before any pre-season games.)

To be a Minnesota sports fan is to live in disappointment or anticipation thereof. Our Vikes and Twinkies disappoint us year after year, but like Sisyphus and the stone, we keep hoping that one day we’ll get to enjoy the view from the summit. We never do. Long before the Buffalo Bills lost four straight Super Bowls, the Vikings racked up a quartet of losses in the Big Game behind the Purple People Eaters and a quarterback named Fran. The Twins have been perhaps more cruel with two World Series victories and a glimmer a greatness followed by decades of disappointment. But we still love the thought that this year our hearts will not be broken. Time this compliment properly and we’ll eat it up with a spork.

“Great brew!”

Minnesota houses one of the most robust collections of micro-breweries and home-brewers you will find in our great country. We like beer and DIY so why not combine the two? Surly, Bent Paddle, and Summit are just a few local favorites, but many folks enjoy turning their own hand to homebrewing. Careful with some of the home-brews as we also like a stiff one. It helps get us through the second half of the Vikings season.

“Love the Christmas lights!”

When winter lasts five or more months, you need to find ways to keep spirits bright. We make our winter a wonderland with resplendent arrangements of lights (blinking and solid, colored and not), tinsel twisted shapes of candy canes and holly, and Santa, Frosty, reindeer, and other assorted characters rendered in plastic. The electric bill for some of the more zealous decorators can run into the thousands. A bit extravagant, but one worthy of praise for providing a little light in the darkness of winter.

“Oh, for cute!”

I’ve never fully understood the syntactical or grammatical roots of this particular phrase, but it’s tossed around enough in Minnesota that an out-of-stater would do well to appropriate it. And since the amorphous word “cute” is the operative term, you can use this in a wide variety of situations. For example:

“Hey, Barb! Here’s a centerpiece I made for you from pine cones, fresh cranberries, and a re-purposed clothespins.”

“Oh, for cute!”

“You’re so smart/pretty/strong/kind/sexy.”

General compliments work, too. We’re Minnesotans first, but we’re also people! Go ahead, make us blush.

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