AAAAAAAAAAT.

Local company Clearly Speaking, LLC, run by Lynda Stucky, offers a course to help you lose your Pittsburghese accent:

You have been told that your charming accent–Pittsburghese isn’t so charming after all. Your colleagues make fun of it and your customers don’t understand it. Although this accent makes you unique, you might just be hurting your chance of a promotion if you hang on to it much longer. Find out how you can lose it all together or at least turn it off when needed.

Once his awareness was raised, he readily agreed to change his behaviors. In a short couple of weeks, John was no longer producing “n-that” or saying “Stillers” in conversation with his colleagues.

1. Where are the morons that cannot understand a Pittsburghese accent?

2. Are there people in New York, Dallas, and Boston trying to lose their accents, too?

3. MOST importantly, lady, it’s not n-that, it’s n-at. At. Aaaat. AAAAAAAAAT.

On her blog, she goes into further detail about the horrors of the Burgh accent, particularly the “AH” sound in place of the “OW” sound.

People who pronounce this sound incorrectly are viewed with a skeptical eye. Here are three reasons:

  • It is not a standard form of pronunciation.
  • It sounds “uneducated”
  • It can confuse the listener.

Right. Because this totally happens every day:

Service Associate [on the phone with Mr. Baker]: “Mr. Baker? I just got that part I needed for your computer repair. I’ll run it dahn this afternoon to install it, if that works for you?”

Mr. Baker: “Dahn?! DAHN?! I’m very skeptical of this. What’s this dahn you speak of? You sound so uneducated. This is not standard. I’m so confused right now. I have to hang up.” [click.]

(h/t DW)





87 Comments


  1. xena
    June 12, 2008 12:02 am

    The ticket is to be able to speak fluent “yinzer” but switch over to Standard English when the occasion requires. I grew up with a mother raised in the midwest who railed against “yinz” and other Pittsburghese expressions and then encountered college roommates who (being from Philly) didn’t understand what an iggle is. corrected me when I said “My hair needs washed,” and laughed when I ordered “pop.” So I learned to switch back and forth.

    Dennis Roddy is right; the different ways we speak are nothing to be ashamed of. (And we shouldn’t get worked up with ending sentences with prepositions, either.) For yinzers and speakers of other non-prestige dialects, like Black English, the challenge is to know how and when to use Standard English because that can open career doors and make social interaction with people who speak differently more comfortable. And ignoramuses won’t write them off as stupid and “not to be taken seriously.”

    But it is absolutely not true that using a regional dialect (including the ways that words are pronounced, syntax and regional terms like “gumband”) indicates that a person is less intelligent. Standard English is just a preferred dialect. People learn the language(s) and dialect(s) of the communities into which they are born.

    I teach English and would never dream of correcting or criticizing another person’s speech–unless I am in the classroom teaching students to use Standard English when they speak and write in professional situations. And as I get older, I get a lot of pleasure from letting loose my inner yinzer. Makes it easy to spot a bigot.



  2. pittgirl
    June 12, 2008 7:35 am

    Goob, the cop line. HAH!

    Xena, well put.



  3. BIGGEORGE
    June 12, 2008 8:03 am

    xena, pop is correct.

    before there was coke and pepsi, people
    had drinks with soda in them.

    You could actually get lemonade with soda
    in it.

    Pop is the name for the pre-mix drinks
    that come in a bottle or can. Even if
    that can is tied to a dispensing system.

    BIGGEORGE



  4. bucdaddy
    June 12, 2008 9:01 am

    Sorda, if you’re from Philly.



  5. Nellie
    June 12, 2008 9:19 am

    When I went off to college, I was so stupid, I didn’t even know people had different accents.
    Someone in my dorm was doing a paper for a speech class and they used me as an example. They gave me a list of phrases to say into a tape recorder.
    Such as “Howard is hired.” Which is “hahrd is hahrd”, of course.
    “How now brown cow”
    “Haw naahl braahn caaw”
    Needles to say after that little experience I tried my hardest to loose some of it atleast.

    Someone once told me that Michael Keaton calls someone a Jagg-off in every one of his movies. Usually under his breath. I found it in Night Shift and Batman. Never checked the others though. Its hilarous.

    Has anyone also noticed that Dan Marino tries his hardest, but when he gets excited, it comes flying out of his mouth.



  6. Zsa
    June 12, 2008 9:35 am

    Hey Dennis Roddy, I didn’t know you were from Cambria County. The accent there and in Somerset County is definitely different than Pittsburghese – as you said, northern Appalachian. And while some terms are the same (like gumband and redd up) some aren’t used at all, and there’s a lot more Pennsylvania Dutch (as in actual German words) used there than there is here.

    But you can still hear people saying “I seen the cop” on the Johnstown or Altoona news. That’s bad grammar, NOT Pittsburghese or a dialect. And it makes me insane wherever you hear it.

    Oh, and I don’t know who this Lyon Advocate person is, but yeah, um, eat a bag of hair or something.



  7. Mitch Cumstein
    June 12, 2008 9:38 am

    As Winston Churchill said, this is a bunch of bull#@*! up with which I will not put.

    BTW…Pop.



  8. Dennis Roddy
    June 12, 2008 9:45 am

    Hello Zsa. Yes, you are right on all counts. One very Cambria way of speaking (and one I was happy I did not acquire) was to use the present tense and not conjugate:

    “So, he says to me, ‘I dunno.’ And I says to him, ‘Oh yeah you do.'” He says/I says is one of the worst.

    Redd Up the Room is pure Ulster Irish. I grew up thinking that, as well as the dropped infinitive, were handed down via the Pennsylvania Dutch. One day I stood in a livingroom in Belfast and my hostess said, “I’m going to redd up now.” I gasped. She laughed and said, “Oh, I’m sorry, you wouldn’t know what I mean.” I told her I knew exactly what she meant and that I’d grown up saying it. She also said the car needs washed and the wheelie bin (trash can) needs replaced.

    I responded with “outen the light,” and was relieved to confirm it remained of Germanic origin.

    And I grew up hearing my Irish father refer to the sofa as the davenport. Not sure about that one, unless the American sofa industry was once based in that town in Iowa.



  9. Gumby
    June 12, 2008 9:45 am

    I love that I have a Western PA(Westmoreland Co.) accent. I meet people all the time from back home when they hear me speaking. Last year on vacation in Italy a very nice older lady came up to me and asked where I was from. I told her and she was from 15 minutes away. She said she heard it in my voice. That’s happened quite a few times over the years.



  10. toni
    June 12, 2008 9:59 am

    I dated a Mt. Lebo guy once that made a comment about my Pittsburghese. I told him if I make a grammatical error…say, using the wrong tense, please DO correct that. Do NOT correct my dialect…THIS is who you are dating, and where I am from…and if you don’t like it …Philly is in that direction….

    We dated 3 more years and he never attempted an accent correction again. I’m not ashamed I’m from the Burgh.

    That also being said, I worked my way thru college telemarketing for Time/Life. I got alot of compliments from out-of-stater’s on my “cute accent”. Hey, it paid for college and sold a heck of alotta books…



  11. Sarah
    June 12, 2008 10:05 am

    I grew up in Erie. It wasn’t until I came to college at Pitt that I even was alerted to the “to be” question.

    The house needs cleaned. The car needs washed.

    They never even told us this was not correct english grammar. But we have no accent to speak of, so it comes in all kinds



  12. spoon
    June 12, 2008 10:25 am

    That’s not correct English? Man all of those years of catholic school in Erie and I had no idea.

    I feel ripped off.

    There is an accent with Erie people, just havent figured out what it is exactly. Kinda mix between yinzer and New York.



  13. c
    June 12, 2008 10:50 am

    Speaking from an outsider living here, I would suspect that most harshest critics about the local dialect would come from perhaps a native that let’s say moved on up from Greenfield to Squirrel Hill or Mckeepsport to Peters – a trading spaces of sorts. My mate stayed put here in his strata, has a bit of the inflection that certainly must be German influenced since we all live in hauses. Even his 100% pure Italian friends go to their hauses. The recent Wtae story about food shortages divulged a new family favorite of ours -flauwer (flour)retorted by a certain enthusiastic sports fan type.
    Lighten up and love your city while you try to improve it.



  14. PittinDC
    June 12, 2008 11:06 am

    As a history major/law student, I have learned how to type in the “to be” when using passive voice.. of course.. I then always get yelled and and told to use active voice. But I cannot use it when I’m speaking.. it just is not in my way of thinking.

    Also, I have to REALLY think hard to say “soda” instead of “pop.” Usually, pop is what comes out. Especially if I’m drinking. The more alcohol, the more the Pittsburgh comes out:)



  15. Eric W
    June 12, 2008 11:27 am

    Anyone else hate the sound of the midwestern flat ‘a’ (e.g., “they-at” for “that” and “fay-at” for “fat”).



  16. Lyon Advocate
    June 12, 2008 12:09 pm

    Eating a bag of hair as I type … but seriously, pride in your ignorance is pride misplaced. Its’ a common problem in Pittsburgh. It’s like nobody wants to appear to be smart and polished, lest they be labeled a “striver” or untrue to their roots. I particularly like the guys (and girls) who think it’s ok to talk this way because Pittsburgh WAS a blue-collar, manufacturing town. You work in a law firm (for example) and your clients in Palo Alto or Hong Kong could not care less about what used to fly when Pittsburghers only spoke to each other. That’s why we don’t let yinzers talk to clients from outside the area. Firm policy you know; page 32 of the employee handbook.



  17. Kelli
    June 12, 2008 12:10 pm

    I think I’m going to start randomly commenting “jagger bush” on all different Pittgirl posts – just to make Bucdaddy’s day.



  18. Mitch Cumstein
    June 12, 2008 12:23 pm

    Lyon,

    There’s a lot more to being smart and polished that what accent someone has or what colloquialisms one uses! Why you little…

    /leaps across www to strangle smug man with terrible blog.



  19. Lyon Advocate
    June 12, 2008 12:41 pm

    Mitch (er, Mark),

    Can’t we just agree that I am better than you? It will make the medicine go down much more easily, I promise.

    Sincerely,

    Now go watch Fletch II, son. There are men trying to work here.



  20. Mitch Cumstein
    June 12, 2008 1:49 pm

    You bastard, take it back…Fletch II does not exist. Neither does Caddyshack II. Those movies did not happen.



  21. xena
    June 12, 2008 1:54 pm

    Lyon,

    It’s your ignorance that is showing. It is not “ignorant” to speak a dialect. If you knew jack shit about what language is, how people acquire it, and why some dialects are preferred, you wouldn’t spreading a lot of what Dennis Roddy rightly pegged as class bigotry. Read any introductory linguistics textbook and you will see that your arguments that language use correlates to intelligence are, simply, wrong. And nasty. You also made several usage errors in your post, so get over yourself.

    If you are a lawyer (as you seem to imply), I hope you only work for and with other people like yourself; it is hard to believe that you would advocate very effectively for people that you consider inferior–which appears to be anyone with the heart to love the place in which he or she grew up and the people from that place.

    Pitt in DC–Passive voice if fine if you want to either emphasize what would be the natural object of the sentence by moving it to the more powerful “subject” position. For example: “My bicycle was stolen” emphasizes the bike–and not the probably unidentified person who stole it. People also use it to avoid identifying who did something: “Mistakes were made.” “The lamp was broken.”

    The whole “needs to be” issue is more about the Standard English requirement for an action in the future after “needs”: “My hair needs washing” or “to be washed” implies “in the future.” These “verbals” are sitting in a spot in the sentence that requires a noun and thus a gerund (verb + ing) or infinitive (to + past participle verb). When we say, “My hair need washed,” we are using the participial form (verb + ed) which when alone can serve as an adjective. That is why Standard English fundamentalists decry “My hair needs washed.” I have no idea how that usage came into being, but it may just be a short cut, which is common in English syntax in places where meaning is not altered.

    Signing off. My hair needs washed, and my cat needs fed.



  22. toni
    June 12, 2008 1:59 pm

    [PitinDC]”Also, I have to REALLY think hard to say “soda” instead of “pop.” Usually, pop is what comes out. Especially if I’m drinking. The more alcohol, the more the Pittsburgh comes out:)”

    OMG OMG PittinDC you just reminded me of something…TRUE STORY…

    My gf Kelli and I were up in NYC meeting a gang of people and going to a play. So we’re running around a hotel and as the floors pop machines were outta change for dollars, we were designated as drink runners. So we’re flying from floor to floor trying to find vending machines that would accept bills and give change…Nada.

    So we go to the concierge and I ask where if I can buy some pop…you know Coke. The look he gave me spoke volumes…hes said You want to pop some Coke?

    Kelli was screaming NO NO we want buy some Coke TO DRINK!!!



  23. Lyon Advocate
    June 12, 2008 2:16 pm

    Xena,

    My firm does not keep yinzers in the dark confines of our basement doing document review because they lack heart – though I fail to see how chosing to speak poorly or improperly is a reflection of one’s love of family, region or anything at all – it is because they lack, at a minimum, the fundamental communication skills necessary to interact with the world beyond their front door.

    Sincerely,

    I’ll read a book on linguistics right after you read this one (http://www.amazon.com/Crimes-Against-Logic-Jamie-Whyte/dp/0071446435)

    P.S. – I love Pittsburgh, just not the accent. Oh, and the fatties. I don’t like the fatties either.



  24. Zsa
    June 12, 2008 2:21 pm

    toni – your story reminds me of one my mom always told, of her friend being shocked when a clerk at Penney’s asked if she wanted a poke. (The clerk meant a bag.)

    I had a Mt. Lebo guy tell me one time that they weren’t permitted to have Pittsburgh accents. I’m not sure if he was kidding or not, but when I think about it, none of the people I know who grew up Mt. Lebo (even those who detested it there) have them.



  25. Bulldog
    June 12, 2008 2:58 pm

    xena,
    You rock.

    I think Lyon has already exposed himself as the smug, pompous, pretentious, self-absorbed putz that everyone suspected he was. I also have serious doubts that he actually read the book he recommends based on the reviews found on the website:

    “Luckily, he does not exhibit the most annoying characteristic of many rationalists, smugness; instead, he seems to have a deep desire to get at truth, which I think we are more in need of today than any amount of vague piety.”

    It is also evident that he is totally unfit to make any determination of who possesses fundamental communication skills. I am a proud “yinzer” who has spend decades traveling the world without the slightest difficulty communicating in an effective manner with the local populace.

    One can only wonder why he keeps referring to his “firm” as if they are somehow the ultimate authority on all things civilized. Leave the firm out if it. If your weak arguments supporting your social prejudices can’t stand on their own, using the idiotic business practices of your “firm” does nothing to support your case.



  26. Lyon Advocate
    June 12, 2008 3:28 pm

    As a proud Yinzer, you must also be a fattie. You hardly ever find one trait without the other.

    I read the book. It is one of the many reasons why I can distinguish between your ability to travel “the world without the slightest difficulty communicating” and the fact that a large majority of the people that you encountered in those travels assumed that you are dumb because you speak like a fool. A proud fool, but a fool just the same.

    Sincerely,

    I am totally fit to judge you and I do.



  27. Bulldog
    June 12, 2008 3:41 pm

    That’s exactly what I mean. One might think that as an educated person you would know better than to assume facts not in evidence, but clearly, that supposition would be in error. Everything that you state shows that you quickly jump to conclusions without the slightest shred of evidence. That doesn’t seem to be a very admirable character trait for an educated professional, but then again, you just keep exposing yourself as the fraud that you are.



  28. Kelli
    June 12, 2008 3:44 pm

    Yay! I love when a fool with internet access makes stupid claims and then when he gets called out on it, resorts to making fun of people’s physical appearance.

    Now all we need is for him to Godwin himself by say, comparing Steeler’s fanaticism to Nazi Germany and we’ll have an internet triple crown winner!!!

    I’ll be eagerly awaiting the next installment of silliness.



  29. Lyon Advocate
    June 12, 2008 4:02 pm

    If I told you that I eat lunch at Five Guys at least three times a week, could you make the reasonable inference that I work in Oakland? You should. If I told you that I go to every Pirates game that my work and family schedule permits, could you make the reasonable inference that I have season tickets. You should. You said that you are a yinzer. I made the reasonable inference that you are fat. You have presented no evidence to dissuade me of my conclusion.

    Most educated people do not think that it requires “smugness” or “arrogance” to think that people should speak properly.

    Sincerely,

    Neither of my “facts” are true.



  30. Ex-Pat Pittsburgh Girl
    June 12, 2008 5:19 pm

    Let’s not feed the Penn State troll anymore.



  31. PittinDC
    June 12, 2008 6:20 pm

    toni – that might be the greatest story ever!!!



  32. bucdaddy
    June 12, 2008 10:21 pm

    Jagger bush



  33. maxtalbot
    June 13, 2008 8:02 am

    Dmac, I love you. I was educated by the Sisters of Saint Joseph from k-12 and they didn’t tolerate improper grammar, nor heinous abuse of the language. So for that and many other things, I thank them. However, I love the use of red-up, slippy and gumbands. They give this place warmth, charm and character. Just because somebody has an accent, doesn’t make them stupid or ignorant to the rules of grammar. I would point all of yinz to Myron Cope – the voice and accent that aht-of-tahners didn’t understand – and then go read his feature writing for Sports Illustrated. He was a brilliant writer who was hardly limited by his accented speech pattern.



  34. maxtalbot
    June 13, 2008 8:14 am

    Dennis Roddy, my Scots-Irish grandmother called the sofa the davenport, also. You’re the first person I’ve heard (or read, I guess) use that since she died. Ah, sweet memories.



  35. yinzerinphx
    June 13, 2008 10:52 pm

    I grew up in the ‘Burgh, got moved to Dallas, TX, and would refuse to address my teacher as “ma’am”. My teacher would stop class until I called her ma’am. Needless to say, we didn’t learn much from that crazy lady. Perhaps that is why I swore to myself to never speak with a Texas accent. I still slip into Pittsburghese with the relatives, and I love hearing it – it’s music to my ears. However, you will never, EVER hear me say ma’am or ya’ll. I still say gumband sometimes…just because I love the complete look of confusion it creates. :)



  36. Eric W
    June 14, 2008 9:43 am

    Important internet lesson of the day:

    Don’t feed the trolls.