AskDefine | Define woebegone

The Collaborative Dictionary

Woe-begone \Woe"-be*gone`\, a. [OE. wo begon. See Woe, and Begone, p. p.] Beset or overwhelmed with woe; immersed in grief or sorrow; woeful. --Chaucer. [1913 Webster] So woe-begone was he with pains of love. --Fairfax. [1913 Webster] Woeful

Word Net

woebegone adj
1 worn and broken down by hard use; "a creaky shack"; "a decrepit bus...its seats held together with friction tape"; "a flea-bitten sofa"; "a run-down neighborhood"; "a woebegone old shack" [syn: creaky, decrepit, flea-bitten, run-down]
2 affected by or full of grief or woe; "his sorrow...made him look...haggard and...woebegone"- George du Maurier [syn: woeful]



etyl ang, “woe has beset me”, from wo + begon


  • (UK): /ˈwəʊbɪgɒn/, /"w@UbIgQn/
  • (US): , /ˈwoʊbɪgɑn/, /"woUbIgAn/


  1. in a deplorable state
  2. filled with or deeply affected by woe



in a deplorable state
filled with woe
Lake Wobegon is a fictional town in the U.S. state of Minnesota, said to have been the boyhood home of Garrison Keillor. Keillor reports the News from Lake Wobegon on the radio show A Prairie Home Companion, broadcast live every Saturday afternoon over Minnesota Public Radio and public radio stations throughout the US. (Keillor was actually born and raised in Anoka, Minnesota.)


The name is a play on words, with several possible meanings: The word "woebegone" means "beset with trouble," while the phrase "Woe, be gone" indicates a dismissal of troubles. It can also mean to "appear shabby, derelict or run down", suggesting a town that has seen better days. On the show the town's name comes from an old Indian word meaning "the place where we waited all day in the rain [for you]."


Although Keillor has revealed that his original model for Lake Wobegon was actually Freeport, Minnesota, it also represents many small farm towns in the upper Midwest, especially western Minnesota, North Dakota, and to some extent, eastern South Dakota and northeastern Montana. These are rural, sparsely populated areas that were settled only in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, largely by homesteading immigrants from Scandinavia, especially Norway. One of these, Holdingford, Minnesota, which like Freeport is on Stearns County's Lake Wobegon Regional Trail, advertises itself as the "Gateway to Lake Wobegon" and even hosts a "Lake Wobegon Cafe."


According to Keillor, Lake Wobegon is the seat of Mist County, Minnesota, a tiny county near the geographic center of Minnesota that supposedly does not appear on maps because of the "incompetence of surveyors who mapped out the state in the 19th century". The town's slogan is Gateway to Central Minnesota.
Lake Wobegon is occasionally said to be near St. Olaf, Minnesota, another fictional town referenced in The Golden Girls television series. The town's school and amateur sports teams compete against the Uff-das of Upsala, a real town in southwest Morrison county, and the town residents drink Wendy's Beer, brewed in St. Wendel, a real town in northeast Stearns county. The nearest good-sized town referenced in Keillor's monologues is St. Cloud.

History and character

Keillor identifies the founders of Lake Wobegon as New England Unitarian missionaries who came to convert the Native American Ojibwe Indians through interpretive dance, although most of the current population is made up of members of the Catholic parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility and the Lake Wobegon Lutheran Church.
The 800 residents are proud of the Statue of the Unknown Norwegian (so called because the model left before the sculptor could get his name). Lake Wobegon is in competition with its rival, St. Olaf, for having the most descendants of the same common ancestor. Lake Wobegon became a secret dumping ground of nuclear waste during the 1950s.
The town is the home of the Whippets baseball team, tuna hotdish, snow, Norwegian bachelor farmers, ice fishing, tongues frozen to cold metal objects, and lutefisk (fish treated with lye which, after being reconstituted, is reminiscent of "the afterbirth of a dog or the world's largest chunk of phlegm").

Businesses and organizations

  • Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery; "If you can't find it at Ralph's, you can probably get along (pretty good) without it"
  • The Sidetrack Tap, run by Wally and Evelyn; "The dim little place in the dark where the pinball machine never tilts, the clock is a half-hour slow, and where love never dies"
  • Chatterbox Cafe; "The place to go that's just like home"
  • Art's Bait & Night o' Rest Motel
  • Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility Catholic Church; Father Emile
  • Lake Wobegon Lutheran Church; Pastor Ingqvist
  • Bunsen Motors (Ford dealer), run by Clint and Clarence Bunsen, local Lutherans
  • Krebsbach Chevrolet, run by Donnie Krebsbach, local Catholic
  • The Herald Star, town newspaper run by Harold Star
  • Skoeglin's 5 and Dime
  • LuAnn Magadance's Bon Marché Beauty Parlor and Salon
  • The Sons of Knute
  • The Whippets, town baseball team
  • The Herdsmen, champion ushering team

In literature

Keillor has written several semi-autobiographical books about life in Lake Wobegon, including:

In popular culture

Despite its fictional status, fans have made trips "to" the town. A book of photos, co-authored by Keillor, documents images which could have come from Lake Wobegon.
The Mall of America has a "Lake Wobegon, U.S.A." store which sells products connected with Keillor's program, and also with selected NPR and PBS programs.

The Lake Wobegon effect

The characterization of the fictional location, where "all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average," has been used to describe a real and pervasive human tendency to overestimate one’s achievements and capabilities in relation to others. The Lake Wobegon effect, where everybody claims to be above average, has been observed among drivers, CEOs, stock market analysts, college students, parents, and state education officials, among others. The effect is closely related to the Confirmation bias among others.

See also


External links

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