So I'm from Minnesota, and while most of our English is fine, we're known for a few -- shall we call them -- adaptations. One of these is the phrase "oh for <insert adjective here>".

It's used as an exclamation if I have my terminology down (which I might not). For example, maybe I pull out my scarf (it's Minnesota, remember). My grandma thinks it's a cute scarf, so she says, "oh for cute!"

Obviously it's a compliment (in this case), and the meaning is clear enough, but I'm wondering if (1) it's grammatically correct, and (if not), if there's a way to stretch the English language to make it not quite correct maybe, but almost fit in.

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    It’s obvious grammatical in Minnesota. I’ve never heard it before, and it wouldn’t be grammatical for me (but I’m not from Minnesota), but it’s easily understandable. The only parallel I can think of that exists in my English is “for shame”, which much more uncontroversially uses a noun. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Dec 10 '18 at 23:57
  • Oh nice. That's the sort of thing I'm looking for - you could make that an answer – Cullub Dec 11 '18 at 0:00
  • I'd never heard the expression "Oh, for cute!" before I moved to Minnesota and became engaged to a Fargo girl (who has since, for 42 years, been my wife). She did not use the expression, but her neighbor friend used it regularly. It is easily understood, even to an "outsider" such as I was, so I don't think it needs much rigorous analysis. – Hot Licks Dec 11 '18 at 0:10
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    I'll note that I've occasionally heard "Oh, for cool!" It's probably a hair more common than "Oh, for cute!" (Well, maybe not!) – Hot Licks Dec 11 '18 at 1:44
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    Apparently saying "Oh, for cute!" is a part of speaking Minnesotan. – Hot Licks Dec 11 '18 at 1:47

I've lived in Minnesota for over 30 years. Here is my theory about "Oh for cute" (although I have scant evidence to back it up). Years ago, I often heard the phase "Oh for cute" with a pause between between the words "for" and "cute," as if the person were saying "Oh, for ... cute!" I believe the missing words are "... goodness sake, that's ...." The speaker at first intends to say "Oh, for goodness sake, that's cute!" But after getting the "Oh, for" out, they are overcome with emotion and cut straight to the adjective, "cute." Over time "Oh, for goodness sake that's cute!" morphed to "Oh, for ... cute!" and morphed again into "Oh for cute!"


Most universal equivalent I know is "Oh for sure" https://tenor.com/search/oh-for-sure-gifs

Used to be an affirmation but now a term that kids use sarcastically when talking https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Oh%20for%20sure


Having lived in Minnesota now for 5 years, I can say definitively that the word "for" is used in place of the correct word, "how."

Using your example, "Oh, for cute!" ought to be grammatically said, "Oh, how cute!"

Another example would be "Oh, for fun." instead should be "Oh, how fun."

  • How do you prove that it’s how and not “now that’s” or Matt’s “goodness sake, that’s” that should be substituted? – Jim Oct 8 at 18:18
  • I like this answer actually. It's another word that effectively means the same thing as Matt's answer, but it still works well. – Cullub Oct 8 at 20:43
  • @Cullub - While this answer does give a reasonable way of interpreting what's meant. It by no means is definitive in its assertion that this is the "correct" word. – Jim Oct 8 at 23:17

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