Weekend Word Wrap: Pittsburghese
Lots of cities can boast funny accents and unique, geographic-specific words. In the Philadelphia area, for instance, where I grew up, we pronounce water, wuter and call a sub (submarine sandwich) a hoagie—and pronounce it hOEwghie. But I don't know another city in these great States of ours that can match Pittsburgh when it comes to funny dialects. It's so unique (I know, I know, unique doesn't have gradations"¦cut me some linguistic-slack, please), it has its own name: Pittsburghese.
One of the main characteristics of Pittsburghese is the way the monophthong aw is pronounced (a monophthong is a vowel sound with one target tongue position, whereas the more familiar diphthong has two). Words like down, town, and found wind up with an ah sound instead of the proper aw. (If you can't hear it in your mind's ear, wait for it, we'll get to some soundbites in a moment.)
Largely the result of the early Scottish/Irish settler influence in the western part of Pennsylvania, Pittsburghese has developed over the centuries and has come to include phonological borrowings from other immigrants such as Poles, Russians and Hungarians. One of my favorite examples of the Scottish/Irish influence is the use of the second-person plural pronoun, yinz for "you/you guys." Originally, back in the old country, yinz was "you ones," but over time the two words elided and the inner vowel sound(s) (ou-o) became a short i.
If you check out Pittsburghese.com, you'll find a whole pantload of vocab examples, plus a few fun soundbites. But I thought it would be better if we had some soundbites recorded especially for us. So I enlisted my friend Mallory Kasdan, a native "˜burghian and professional voice-over artist, to record the following examples. So turn up those speakers and give the below play buttons a click:
Do you guys want to go downtown to the Ground Round?
Were you guys cold out there at the Steelers game?
mentalfloss.com is real fresh, like a flower.
For the interactive part of the Wrap, I thought it would be fun if yinz wanted to drop your own local version or pronunciation of a word in the comments—something unique to your neck of the woods, or something you heard while traveling elsewhere.
So in Pittsburghese then: