Ope! Are Midwestern people really the only ones who use that word?


This story will stick with you like an earworm.

This tweet from last month touched off an ongoing, viral debate about the word “ope.”

Ope is a tiny exclamation of surprise, a word you would use if, say, you accidentally bumped into somebody. As in: “Ope, sorry!”

People on Twitte swear it’s a Midwestern thing.

The folks who set up the Twitter account, The Midwestern Ope, in September want people to know they were on to the word before it became a recent “thing.”

“This account was created before OPE went viral but no one ever noticed we existed, just like they didn’t notice themselves saying it all the time. notice the irony?” they tweeted.

Irony noted.

Earlier this year, morning radio host Mike McKelly at WRKR rock station in Kalamazoo, Mich., wrote a blog post about “the sound Michiganders make instead of saying excuse me.”

Ope! It was ope.

“You bump into someone and you go ‘ope.’ You fumble something you’re trying to give someone and you go ‘ope.’ You simply get in someone’s way and you go ‘ope.’ I never realized I was even saying it until someone said I was,” he wrote.

“And now I’m wondering how long I’ve been saying it. Apparently, other parts of the country don’t use this little ‘blutterance’ ... Are we too lazy to say oops?”

Some thanks, or blame, for the current spotlight on this nonmusical earworm should go to HuffPost senior staff writer Todd Van Luling, who last week wrote a “story of the world’s most annoying ‘word’ you can’t stop saying.”

He’s created all kinds of fans for this three-letter word.

Way to go, Todd.

“Ope is a mysterious noise that has no concrete definition, but you’ve likely had the displeasure of hearing it when accidentally bumping into someone or otherwise experiencing surprise,” Van Luling wrote.

“It sounds like ‘oh’ combined with a ‘p.’ It’s plaguing our offices and our streets, and it can’t be stopped or even, apparently, understood.”

He heard the word when he interviewed “The Late Show” band leader Jon Batiste in September. Talking about his instant chemistry with the show’s host, Stephen Colbert, Batiste told Van Luling: “You open the box and ― ope ― there it is. I love that, I love that.”

Ever since then, Van Luling wrote, “ope is easily one of the most popular sounds I make everyday.

“When I accidentally step in somebody’s way ― “Ope. My bad.”

“When someone unexpectedly opens a door for me ― “Ope. Thank you.”

“Really, whenever I am slightly startled but feel the need to say something ― “Ope. Yeah.”

He made a Herculean effort to research the word’s DNA, but one linguist after another let him down. They could only guess at the interjection’s origin.

The magic about ope seems to be is that once you hear it, you can’t unhear it or stop using it.

So to every person who never heard of this word before today ... ope!