Ya, I guess I do have an accent then

Swedish Egg Coffee, as prepared in a useful recipe posted Iron Buzz. Actual Swedes don't talk about egg coffee anymore. It's mostly an immigrant thing.

Swedish Egg Coffee, as prepared in a useful recipe posted at “Iron Buzz.” Actual Swedes don’t talk about egg coffee anymore. It’s mostly an immigrant thing.

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

Folks, it’s been brought to my attention that I have a Minnesota accent. It’s true. I didn’t believe it either. But last month I toured with a Swedish journalist researching mining in Northern Minnesota. In English better than most of my relatives, he concluded by saying he just had to ask me about my accent. Where did it come from?

Ya, well, pretty much from everyone I know, you know.

He said, it sounds like a drunk Swede learning how to speak English.

To which I could only reply, yes. That is exactly how this happened. How many generations of drunk Swedes does it take before you start to sound that way all the time? The answer is four. We think. Most families lost track in the ‘70s.

I don’t have to tell folks here this. One-hundred years ago the Iron Range was settled by a huge population of Scandinavian immigrants (among many others). They brought their language with them and melted it on the stove with a pound and half of English. 

The Scandinavians also imported their food, which is mostly terrible fish recipes, their cold weather tolerance and their emotional distance from the ones they love most.

Most second or third-generation Swedish-Americans I know speak with glowing reverence for something called “Swedish egg coffee.” The premise here is to make coffee in one of those big urns, but to put a raw egg or two on top of the grounds. It flavors the coffee and the egg keeps the grounds at the bottom of the pot for a perfect pour. I’ve tasted Swedish Egg Coffee. It tastes like coffee.

The reason I bring this up is one time I was talking to a person from Sweden and used what I thought was a witty reference to Swedish Egg Coffee. She reacted as though I had casually taken a pair of underwear out of my pocket and put them on my head. 

Get this. People in Sweden don’t put eggs in their coffee. At least, not anymore, if they ever did.

Moments like this are a good reminder that when people came to America from other parts of the world there lies the possibility that their neighbors back in the old country might have been relieved.

“Can you believe it? The people who put eggs in their coffee finally moved. Now let’s implement a full year of paid maternity leave.”

I went to school for journalism and have worked in broadcasting off and on since I was 16. They try to pound regional accents out of you. Everyone needs to talk like they’re from Omaha. Modulate. Resonate. Articulate.

Oh, but then you move back home to work at the paper, see, and they put you on the radio to talk about the mines and such things, and pretty soon, you’re right back where you started then.

They’ve done studies and it turns out that the Minnesota accent is widely believed to be the least sexy accent in America. But it’s also the most trustworthy. Jeez, who needs a study? Any girl from my high school could have told you that.

I don’t mind, though. I managed to get married and have kids anyway. Most of us do. So it goes, on down the generations.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune and is based on a radio monologue from the Nov. 7 Great Northern Radio Show.


  1. Accents. Until one leaves home in their late teens, they wont even know what they are. I’m Swede/Scotch-Irish, middle of the state, married to a Dane/Irish/Norwegian; S central blackland farm country. When tornadoes threaten, everyone is “gone down basement”…while up “nort'” tornadoes are closer to a freak occurrance folks try to catch a glimpse of.

    Scandihoovian not sexy? Which version? to whom? As a callow youth, I dated a girl from S. Illinois and one from Texas. The non-local-accent-as-attractive thing worked both ways, but the unwillingnness to pull up regional roots did too. When Nordic blondes become an endangered species, I’ll buy in. Until then, call me skeptic.

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