A Yooper is not a Hodag, nor is it a Wykon.
A Yooper is real.
In fact, it is a word in the new Merriam-Webster Unabridged dictionary.
Known throughout the region as a friendly reference for someone who resides in the Upper Peninsula, the word "Yooper" will officially be entered into the 2014 copyright printing of "Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition."
Merriam-Webster officials made the announcement this week at a press conference in Escanaba.
Emily Brewster of Merriam-Webster said she first learned of the word in 2010 after receiving a letter from a Clayton Parks, and later, several letters from a Claymore Parks, who urged including the word in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
She later learned that Steve Parks of Lower Michigan was actually the driving force behind the campaign get the word "Yooper" included in the dictionary for more than 10 years.
"I certainly had fun with it - the letter writing was fun and a nice diversion away from just the rigors of day-to-day work," Parks said in a story in The Escanaba Daily Press. "It was an escape for me, but there's more to it than that."
Parks said his father grew up in Munising, and he recalled traveling north to the U.P. with his family, always waiting in anticipation for his father to roll the window down and yell "Yahoo" as they crossed the Mackinac Bridge.
"I didn't quite get it at the time, but I get it now. There's just something about crossing that bridge and stepping foot on this hallowed ground that makes us all feel home, even if you're four hours away from where you need to be," said Parks. "It's just a feeling and the word, to me, is synonymous with good work ethic, community caring about others, being honest, integrity, all those things."
Thanks to Parks' letter-writing campaign, the folks at Merriam-Webster got the message. Brewster investigated the request and found that the word Yooper is also used outside of the U.P. area.
That made it official.
Brewster plans to visit the Upper Peninsula in August, and Parks wants to have a community celebration in Escanaba for Yooper's inclusion in the dictionary.
As for Rhinelander's Hodag, and Iron County's Wykon, it's believed that Merriam-Webster officials will need a bit more convincing before they become certified.