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Friday, May 8, 2015

Westby is the Uff Da capital of the world

Erik’s Butikk proclaims Westby is the Uff Da Capital of the world in 1972.
Ralph Johnson and Russ Hanson are standing in the doorway

Uff Da, pronounced “Off Ta” is an all-purpose expression that Norwegian Americans can hardly do without.

Uff Da are words which can save us all. Two simple ethnic words contain the sum of human existence. Two simple words which rumble up out of the Northlands, charge their way out of the fjords, boldly grow and build until they deafen mortal ears. “Uff Da!”

What would the Scandinavian chant if he sat lotus-position contemplating his navel: Why, “Uff Da”, or course. For Uff Da is all. It identifies with everything and everybody. It is the phrase for all persons.

What does it mean? In 1972 the Westby Norseman Youth club sponsored a contest for the best definition of “What Uff Da Means To Me” with mayor Ivan Schye as the deciding judge.
A spokesman for the Norseman Youth Club said at the time of the contest. “We doubt if Uff Can can be found in any dictionary, or it’s a noun or pronoun, but we’re sure that Westby and area could not exist well or be happy without it!”

Where remembered, the following Uff Da definitions gives the name of the person who submitted the entry.

Uff Da is waking yourself up in church with your own snoring.

Uff Da is eating a good sandwich and finding out that you’ve used cat food. Louise Bergtold.

Uff Da is getting swished in the face with a wet cow’s tail. Norma Haakenstad.

Uff Da is when your two steady girlfriends find out about each other. Phil Bice.

Uff Da is finding your hair brush in the refrigerator. Tip Lund.

Uff Da is overflowing the toilet when you are a guest.

Uff Da is sneezing so hard that your false teeth end up on the bread plate.

Uff Da is having Swedish meatballs at a lutefisk dinner. Eric Leum

Uff Da is forgetting your mother-in-law’s name.

Uff Da is trying to dance the polka to rock and roll music. Colette Skundberg.

Uff Da is eating hot soup when you have a runny nose. Mary Flemming.

Uff Da is walking way downtown and then wondering what you wanted. Sarah Bland.

Uff Da is looking in the mirror and realizing you’re not getting better–you’re getting older.

Uff Da is eating at a church dinner and noticing a “foreigner” using lefse for a napkin.

Uff Da is to a Norwegian what “Good Grief” is to Charlie Brown. Kathryn Buros.

The winner, Harry Hills of Tulsa, Okla., wrote that “It means oops, yech, eek, nuts, oh-oh, heck, darn, snafu, gosh, man, shucks, tarnation, whoops, shoot, ouch, cripes, criminy, gol darn and jeepers.”

Winner of the high school division, Sarah Bland, said: “It comes in handy why your mother finds out how you spend your Friday nights.”

The grade-school winner, Jeff Hagen, said: It’s the expression your mother uses when she looks at your room after you’ve spent two hours cleaning it.”


  1. I remember it being pronounced "oof da" not "off ta," but there were at least two dialects used in and near Westby, so maybe that accounts for it.

  2. Yea, not one Norwegian I know pronounces it "off ta". Of course, they're not from the old country either, ha!

    Do THEY use the term or is it only Norwegian Americans?

  3. They may say "off ta" in Fargo like on the TV series, but growing up in Folsom, we all said "oof da!" Some even added "nigh" at the end.