(Illustration by Christina Lorey)
(Illustration by Christina Lorey)

The Washington Post scoured hundreds of thousands of listings to pinpoint the most-used words in America’s heartland.

Renovated or rehabbed? Asphalt or blacktop? Dinner or supper

They seem similar enough, but which word you choose says a lot about where you’re from, at least according to data analysts from The Washington Post. And if you frequently talk about eating supper after a busy day rehabbing blacktop, you’re undoubtedly from the Midwest.

In a quest to find “The Most Midwestern Things on Earth,” analysts tracked data from Airbnb to determine which words are most commonly used in our part of the country, when potential vacation rentals are being described to the rest of the world.

Where is the Midwest?

Before they could analyze words, The Washington Post had to draw its map and determine which states were most likely to consider themselves part of the Midwest. Analysts found 12 that mentioned the region “to an unusual degree.” 

When ranked by the percentage of Airbnb listings that use Midwest to describe their location, the region is made up of Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, and South Dakota.

Then, with boundaries established, analysts compiled a list of the most commonly-used words in those states’ Airbnb listings. Their only two rules: Each word had to be mentioned in at least 300 different listings. And no brand names (sorry, Hy-Vee!)

What words do Midwesterners use most?

These are the most uniquely “Midwestern” words, according to The Washington Post, and how frequently they’re mentioned in Airbnb listings:

  1. Walleye (mentioned in 82% of listings)
  2. Heartland (65%)
  3. Conservatory (63%)
  4. Lutheran (62%)
  5. Rehabbed (61%)
  6. Bluegill (59%)
  7. Blacktop (57%)
  8. Glacial (56%)
  9. Smallmouth (55%)
  10. Supper (53%)
  11. Orchestra (52%)
  12. Largemouth (49%)
  13. Snowmobile (48%)
  14. Amish (47%)
  15. Paddleboat (46%)

What does this tell us?

Midwesterners love their fish. Four make the list, with one clear standout: the walleye. The Post goes to great lengths to try to explain its allure. The state DNR calls the breed “one of the most highly prized game fish.” Several Midwestern towns claim to be the “Walleye Capital of the World.” Shell Lake is a bit more humble, happy to advertise itself as the walleye capital of Wisconsin!

Hospitality is alive and well! Whether it’s eating “supper” in their “rehabbed” home, or enjoying a nearby “conservatory” or “orchestra,” midwestern hosts want to make sure you’re enjoying your time here.

The Midwest is a mix of past and present. “Amish” made the list, which might seem like a surprise, but outside of Pennsylvania, Indiana and Ohio are home to the largest Amish populations in America. Wisconsin is fourth, with an estimated 12,000 Amish in the Badger state.

The cold never bothered us anyway. To borrow a line from “Frozen,” Midwesterners never let weather get in the way of having a good time. Despite sometimes “glacial” forecasts, we’re always up for a “snowmobile” ride ‘round the “heartland!”