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. Dec 10, 2018 at 23:57
  • Oh nice. That's the sort of thing I'm looking for - you could make that an answer
    – Cullub
    Dec 11, 2018 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, 2018 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, 2018 at 1:44
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    Apparently saying "Oh, for cute!" is a part of speaking Minnesotan.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 11, 2018 at 1:47

5 Answers 5


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!"


An educated guess:

"For" exists in both English and Norwegian - identical spelling and pronunciation, mostly. Obviously it's used as a preposition in English, but in Norwegian, it means "too" as in, "too much" or "too expensive". So, maybe this odd little habit of saying things like "for cute" or "for fun" is based on the original Norwegian "for" and not the English preposition "for"?

  • Generally, we prefer answers that are less than 100% speculation, with the ideal amount being 0%. Oct 31, 2019 at 16:12
  • Given that Norwegian at one time saturated "Minnesotan", assuming a Norwegian influence is not at all out of order.
    – Hot Licks
    Feb 23, 2023 at 23:30

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, 2019 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, 2019 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, 2019 at 23:17

For = too in Norwegian. That is where this use of "for" comes from in Minnesotan dialect

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    Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Feb 23, 2023 at 23:21
  • Hi Riley, welcome to ELU. Please provide sources for your claims, and read through existing answers before posting your own, as this has already been mentioned in larger detail.
    – Joachim
    Feb 24, 2023 at 6:52

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