Do It Right: Be Wary of the ‘Uff Da’
There’s an old adage (a dadage?) men-in-the-know subscribe to: It is what it is.
To that I’d add: especially when it tells you what it is.
To which I’d also add: when all of that fails, listen to your wife. Because nearly always, she knows what it is. And is only too happy to tell you.
In this case, she tried to tell me. The novelty mug I’d picked up during a work Christmas exchange just struck me as hilarious. Maybe because it embodied the midwestern/Scandinavian culture I’d married into.
Maybe, also, because I’m an idiot.
It’s all about the uff da
My wife offered her assessment of the mug almost as soon as I’d opened it: better to just throw that away.
But I cackled with glee and took to hiding it behind my clothes so she wouldn’t get her wise hands on it.
Eventually, I decided it was safest at work, among my collection of coffee mugs there.
In Scandinavian culture, uff da is equivalent to an oy vey, or bluntly, oh shit. And I’d heard it often enough in the 20 years we’ve been together that, while I don’t say it myself, I don’t blink when I hear it in all its incantations, especially in the six years since we’ve called Sioux Falls, SD home.
A definition, for the uninitiated:
Uff da can be used as an expression of surprise, astonishment, exhaustion, relief and sometimes dismay. Within Scandinavian-American culture, Uff da frequently translates to: “I am overwhelmed”, somewhat similar to the Yiddish phrase oy vey. The phrase has become a marker of Scandinavian heritage, particularly for people from Minnesota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, Wisconsin, northern Illinois, Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and Western Washington.Rutland, ND holds an annual October Uffda Day Scandinavian food festival with parade that was a date on the state political calendar in 2018. Uff da can often be used as an alternative for many common obscenities.
Let’s just say this mug lived up to the saying, and then some.
One morning I pulled it from the work cupboard, chuckling to myself even then, and placed it atop the tray beneath the Keurig’s spout. I cued up my usual large, Monday-size pour and wandered back to my desk for something or other.
I returned to find coffee spilling over the sides and spatter in roughly a two-foot radius. UFF DA! And then resorted to caffeine forensics: dismantling the Keurig and wiping and disinfecting all surfaces, cursing the mug as I went.
Fast-forward a month or two later and, yeah… I had to try it again. With the same messy result. UFF DA!
The faithful rendering inside the mug of the “crumpled” design on the outside meant that automatic pouring devices, like the Keurig, would sent coffee shooting off of every angle, and that the volume inside the diminished mug attained real-word similarity as well — more like 6 or 8 ounces than the 10 any decent mug can handle.
So, the Uff Da! mug has returned home, for now. More easily accommodating the hand pours from our home brewer. While I’ve taken to breaking out the giant, handy mug I acquired at Many Point Boy Scout Camp over the summer. 10 ounces, 16, 18 — it’s good to go. And no uff da.
So, moral of the story? As the scorpion once told the frog that faithfully carried it at least halfway across the lake, before scorpion stung him and doomed them both: “it is in my nature to do so.” Translation: I am what I am.