Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Kowsit Lats

Another of the many, many reasons I love the western Upper Peninsula and set my Steve Martinez mysteries here is the distinct flavor given to the Yooper version of English by Finnish immigrants at the turn of the 20th century.

There is, according to Doug Karttunen, my friend and resident expert on all things Finnish, a high byway near Hancock, Michigan, called Kowsit Lats Road.

Finlanders gave the name  to a broad meadow at the top of a hill where local farmers grazed their cattle. They had trouble pronouncing the English combinations "sh" and "fl," so in their "Finnglish" argot they called the place Kowsit Lats.

There's even a local craft ale called Kowsit Lats.

This gem will, of course, appear in a future Porcupine County whodunit. I can see it now: Steve and his deputy Chad cool themselves off after work on a hot day with a couple of Kowsit Lats, and Steve (a comparative latecomer to Porcupine County) wonders aloud what the name means. Chad, being a native, fills him in.


  1. My father, that late Wilbert "Wimpy" Salmi was the one who put up the original sign for the area. Some people objected, but the local police said that that was the only sign in the area identifying the road, a while later, through the mysterious workings of the government, the road got its own official sign. He had a lot of fun with such things, putting a sign for "Go This Way to Agate Beach" as "Ko Tai Vai Ageet Pech" a few miles away in Toivola, Michigan. A short distance from there, at a fork in the road, were two signs "Dis Vai" and "Dat Vai"!

  2. In what might not be an amazing coincidence, the February 2014 Michigan Tech University alumni magazine continues the discussion: