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. McSmooth
    June 11, 2008 10:43 am

    Sounds like Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady”.



  2. pgh33
    June 11, 2008 10:44 am

    Seriously? Why do people get so worked about Pittsburghese? Why is it okay for people in the Midwest, Boston, NY/NJ, Valley girls, the South, etc. have accents or dialects?

    But oh because this one is in Pittsburgh (eww dirty steel town)…it must be blue collar, white trash, or hillbilly to talk like this. It couldn’t possibly be considered characteristic like the rest of the accents in the country.



  3. Lyon Advocate
    June 11, 2008 10:49 am

    I have to agree with what you posted from Lynda Stucky, the Pittsburgh accent makes everyone who uses it sound less intelligent; no exceptions. The only worse accents are Baltimore (Getcha a Natty Bo, Hon?) and any Southern accent. I don’t care what level of education you have or what you have achieved professionally, if you have one of those three accents I assume that you are dumb. And the odds are heavily in favor of me being right.



  4. PittGirl
    June 11, 2008 10:53 am

    Lyon, I disagree.

    Having lived in Texas for four years, I know plenty of people with southern accents that are not dumb.

    Having lived in the Burgh the rest of my life, I know shitloads of people with a Burgh accent that are not dumb.

    So I’m not sure you should play your odds.



  5. rb
    June 11, 2008 11:06 am

    The way I see it, a person may be extremely intelligent, but if he or she speaks with a Pittsburgh accent, which clearly blurs the line with a lot of grammar issues, they SOUND uneducated and a lot less than brilliant. It’s about presentation.

    Certain other accents may make words sound differently, but are often still grammatically correct.



  6. dahn norside
    June 11, 2008 11:15 am

    I agree with rb and manage to keep it under control at work, but as soon as I’m around other ‘burghers it comes right back without me even realizing it, which I love :)



  7. unsatisfied
    June 11, 2008 11:15 am

    idiots come in any color, shape, size, religious belief and accent.

    but, I will take hearing a southern accent any day of the week over a pittsburgh one. hell, I still say “y’all” after living down south for four years. I have lived 2/3 of my life here in pittsburgh and not once will you hear me say “yinz” or “red up” unless I’m explaining it to an out-of-towner.

    that being said — hearing pittsburghese doesn’t bother me nearly as much as hearing some eyewitness to an accident on the parkway on the local news saying something like, “then, I SEEN him just cut that other car off….” but, I guess that kind of language abuse isn’t exclusive to the tri-state area….



  8. Michael
    June 11, 2008 11:17 am

    When I lived in Boston, I found it hard to take seriously people with a thick accent. (And occasionally hard to understand, them, too.)

    I considered it a personal failing on my part, not theirs, but I can see why someone might want to sound more “neutral”. And if your boss is a suit in NYC or Chicago, they might hold it against you.



  9. Megan
    June 11, 2008 11:28 am

    I lived in the south for many years and could very easily choke the next person saying/typing y’all. It grates me to no end. Yinz doesn’t bother me so much, because I MIGHT hear it once a month. As opposed to y’all, which was heard every other word.

    I think regional accents are great. The only regional thing I can recall that makes someone sound unintelligent is the ‘Alabama mating call’ (some of you may know exactly what I mean), which has been heard in bars around the country :)



  10. Mitch Cumstein
    June 11, 2008 11:36 am

    I’ve always assumed – rightly or wrongly – that anyone who would want to be an advocate of lyons is a stupid jerkface. Looks like I’ve been right all these years, afterall.



  11. JamieO
    June 11, 2008 11:52 am

    Well, it probably is a good idea for the Yinzer to lose some of the accent, given there are people who want to focus on that.

    I mean, I am involved in the hiring process myself, and I suppose it would matter for certain jobs. But if say I am hiring a writer, and they have a killer resume, a history of success, and a great education, is it really a good idea to think “well, this gal’s has amazing skills and experience, but you know, she says “dahn” instead of down, so I am going with the guy who hasn’t held a job longer than six months with the holes in his resume”?

    What amazes me about the management world is how they focus on something like this and won’t hire a qualified candidate because of it, but will hire a moron just because he knows one of his golfing buddies. And you wonder why some companies go under.

    It’s sort of like focusing on who is wearing flag lapel pins during a time of a war and poor economy. But hey, I guess I have my priorities based on logic. Crazy me.



  12. Bulldog
    June 11, 2008 12:11 pm

    I don’t know but it seems to me that anyone who is going to make a snap judgement about someone’s intelligence, intellect, level of education, worth, etc. based solely on the use or non-use of a regional dialect is so exceedingly shallow and unpossessed of legitimate reasoning skills that their opinion is fairly worthless.

    But that’s just me y’all. Whatever yinz wanna think about such pretentious, pompous windbags is fine by me.



  13. Ex-Pat Pittsburgh Girl
    June 11, 2008 12:14 pm

    I guess Lyons has forgotten about never assuming anything. Face it, there are dumb people everywhere. Your accent has nothing to do with intelligence, and just because you are smart, doesn’t alway mean you are a great employee. It is more about learning to adapt to the environment and speaking appropriately for the situation. You don’t need to lose your accent to present yourself well in a job interview. I can easily switch between my professional voice and my hanging out at the bar voice with friends where “yinz guys want an arhn, n’at” is far more appropriate and comfortable.



  14. bucdaddy
    June 11, 2008 12:24 pm

    Dear Ms. Stucky,

    F*ck yinz-all. And I mean business.

    Sincerely,

    bucdaddy (a Pittsburgh-area native who has spent the past 22 years living below the Mason Dixon Line and has had to make certain accommodations to be understood).



  15. Lyon Advocate
    June 11, 2008 12:27 pm

    Some people assume that they are “not dumb” because they went to college for five or six years and majored in date rape and tailgating (see, e.g., Mitch Cumstein). Of course, they are wrong. The fact is, Ex-PPG, the fact that you adapt by dropping your accent in professional environments demonstrates that you fundamentally agree with me. Dumb people have silly accents and, at work, you don’t want to be perceived as being dumb, right? Otherwise, why the charade?



  16. BIGGEORGE
    June 11, 2008 12:32 pm

    I had a english teacher in H.S. that could
    place where you live my your Pittsburgh
    accent.

    He didn’t care that the Brookline kids
    said …um…. alot. It didn’t matter
    that the kids from Carrick said …ah…

    He might have flipped over some of the
    kids from South Park that said “liberry”,
    but there were none in my class.

    Will this course get the “you guys” out of
    the mouths of people in the Turtle Creek
    area? Is it just Yinz.

    The thing is…oops that is one of my
    speech problems. When I went to college
    I would get asked “what’s a thing” every
    time I said that.

    Oh well, I guess I’m not perfect.



  17. Kelli
    June 11, 2008 12:52 pm

    I guess I’m really lucky then that my boss – and all the big bosses for my company – are in & from Pittsburgh.

    Sure, we deal with folks outside the tri-state area. But, believe it or not, there are some folks out there who are impressed with my “city accent” (and yes, these would be some of the same folks that Buc-daddy had to change his ways for.)



  18. parkingchair
    June 11, 2008 12:59 pm

    I think it all depends on whether the accent is attached to a mullett.

    Like all things, Pittsburghese can be charming in moderaiton, annoying as hell when overdone.

    But it raises an intreresting topic… If I had to limit my Pittsburgh dialect to a few words, i would keep “slippy,” “gumband” and “Sou-side (sp)” and speak proper english the rest of the time.

    Just like our President.



  19. DMac
    June 11, 2008 1:03 pm

    As a recent transplant by way of Nebraska and California, and a language major, I am enjoying the nuances of Pittsburghese…it’s part of the character of the city and the wonderful people I’ve met here.

    I have a formal vs an informal manner of speaking. I won’t say so much it’s an accent, but more of tone and word usage. To me education shouldn’t be measured by how one pronounces their words as much as how they use them…colloquialisms exist in every language.

    So, when yinz talk however you want, just be yourselves n@. ;)



  20. Kelli
    June 11, 2008 1:10 pm

    Parking Chair – I just had that conversation with my boss. We are both down with “gum band” and “Sous-side”. But we both would take “jagger bush” over “slippy”.

    Sadly, there just aren’t enough opportunities to use “jagger bush”



  21. Julie_Gong
    June 11, 2008 1:34 pm

    when i lived in michigan one summer the people i worked with said i had an accent. i think people in michigan are crazy people because slippy is totally a word.



  22. TC
    June 11, 2008 1:44 pm

    Lyon – the irony here is that by complaining about everyone who does not speak in the same manner you do, you are the one whose posts come across as ignorant.

    (TC has slight hints of Pittsburghese, with occasional southern undertones, and enjoys the using the word “y’all”.)



  23. Grad Student
    June 11, 2008 1:46 pm

    It’s amazing how Yinzers will get all up in arms when some criticizes Pittsburghese, but will start dropping the N-bomb when someone “talks ghetto.” There is proper grammar and there is dialect – the workplace is a place for proper grammar, and more relaxed atmospheres are for dialect. When you speak dialect, whether it be Boston, Pittsburgh, or New York, at the workplace, people assume you’re dumber than you are. And Pittsburgh has got to get over this inferiority complex. People aren’t ok with valley girl or South Boston accents at the workplace either, it’s not a slight on Pittsburgh. Besides, I’ve lived here for 4 years, and it’s still hard to understand the Pittsburghese accent when it’s very harsh.



  24. Lyon Advocate
    June 11, 2008 1:56 pm

    Grad Student gets it. And TC, I have no “complaint” with Pittsburghese, I just think that it makes the speaker sound dumb. Use it all you like, it’s actually good short-hand for me (and many others) that you are not to be taken seriously.



  25. Tony
    June 11, 2008 1:58 pm

    I think people regard any accent that’s not their own as dumber, unless, of course, it’s British, in which case it adds about 15 IQ points.



  26. PittGirl
    June 11, 2008 2:01 pm

    Oh, Tony.

    That’s church!



  27. Eric W
    June 11, 2008 2:13 pm

    I’m a transplant from the Philly area, so I’ve been picked on for saying “ahrange” and “farhead”. In my nearly 13 years of being here, I’ve heard version of the Burgh accent that were endearing and others that weren’t like nails on a chalkboard. Folks speaking the latter dialect seem to get on the evening news a lot. I have no problem with funny-sounding accents, but awful grammar drives me nuts (e.g., “I seen this girl…”). We all make mistakes, but a lot of folks don’t seem to make any effort to speak correctly. Still, even the worst grammar is better than a mullet. There’s just no good excuse for having a mullet. Heck, we should publicize pictures of terrorists with mullets instead of waterboarding them. ;)



  28. windy city steel city
    June 11, 2008 2:13 pm

    Sure glad I bought http://www.dahntahn.com a few years ago when I lived in Chi-caw-go. Its funny, when I moved there no one could tell where I was from. I had a burgh accent I guess. However from being an on-air dj in college, I developed a movie phone guy accent. After living in the midwest for 16 years, the nasal tone kinda seeped in like sewage. And I added “-ly” to my adverbs and “to be” to my action verbs. Now that I am back here, noone can figure aht where I am from. I can feel the burghese creeping back though. I always needed a tahl after getting aht of the shahr though.



  29. Ed Heath
    June 11, 2008 2:18 pm

    Look, if you speak in a “neutral” accent, you run no risk of offending anyone with that accent (though there are plenty of other risks to run in conversation). So Lynda Stucky’s service is probably valuable, in the abstract. If you are a car mechanic with no other aspirations, then taking her class would be a waste. If you are going to be selling something, especially out of town, might be worthwhile.

    I think we should clarify, graduates of Oxford and/or Cambridge sound as if everything they say is gospel. Cockney’s not so much, yeah?



  30. Mitch Cumstein
    June 11, 2008 2:40 pm

    Lyon Advocate,

    I did get caught night putting with the chancellor’s daughter in college, but nothing close to date rape. Wait, before I say that unequivocally, is it OK to feed drunk girls Aqua Dots?

    Just as Pittsburghese lets you know who is stupid, your post tells us all we need to know about you, you stuck-up be-atch.



  31. Bulldog
    June 11, 2008 3:10 pm

    It’s really only certain people that make rediculous judgements like people who speak it aren’t to be taken seriously that have an issue with it. Those statements show who is really unfit to be taken seriously. But then again, they are folks enjoyed the Mark Madden show, so that tells you plenty right there.

    The whole issue is about who the target audience is which is one of the first things you learn about public speaking. That really is the focus of Clearly Speaking, tailoring your speech to what is appropriate for the setting. No different than using technical jargon is appropriate when dealing with collegues but entirely innapropriate when addressing outsiders.

    There are plenty of pompous windbags who speak very well, but say nothing. Those are the people who like to label others as “dumb” but haven’t had an original thought of their own in their adult life, and if they weren’t able to parrot other’s judgemental characterizations and generalizations they’d have nothing to say at all.



  32. Lyon Advocate
    June 11, 2008 4:04 pm

    Bulldog,

    That is hilarious, you accuse me of parroting other’s generalizations and lacking original thought in the same post where you so cleverly and originally note that I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Ironic, no? BTW, loathed Madden’s show except for the pure awkwardness of his exchanges with Jim Colony. Finally, Madden is example 1A of a dumb person who spoke Pittsburghese; not helping your point at all.



  33. Mitch Cumstein
    June 11, 2008 4:26 pm

    Lyon,

    Checked out your blog. If there is one irrefutable fact in this world, its that if a blog doesn’t attract comments, it probably sucks. Your blog most definitely sucks.

    Dare I say, you’re giving lawyers a bad name.



  34. Lyon Advocate
    June 11, 2008 4:35 pm

    Mitch,

    Is that you, Mark???



  35. Mitch Cumstein
    June 11, 2008 4:36 pm

    Just wanted to say something cruel and outrageous to make a point. I didn’t have enough time to read to tell you if it really sucks. It could be great! But I doubt it, Mr. Noam Chomsky.



  36. PittinDC
    June 11, 2008 4:43 pm

    I think that there is a difference in using proper grammer and having a different dialect. Being in DC, where everyone is from somewhere other than DC, I work and hang out with people from all over the place. We all have a different accents and dialects, and, often, they will creep into conversation. That never makes me think that someone is stupid. If we’re taking and my friend says that something is “wicked cool” and I note that its “slippy outside,” I don’t think that makes either of us stupid. What does give me pause is the use of improper grammer, such as the comments above that note how grating it is to here someone say, “I seen her…” Uggggh… that drives me crazy. But to judge someone based on their accent or dialect seems to be a bit short sighted, in my personal opinion.



  37. Ex-Pat Pittsburgh Girl
    June 11, 2008 5:04 pm

    Lyon — Bite me.

    When I lived and worked in Pittsburgh, I had no difficulties with finding a job and this was with a “yinzer” vocabulary and accent. When I moved to difference parts of the country, I adapted. To suggest someone is less intelligent or dumb or perceived to be so because of the presence of an accent, or to think the lack of an accent denotes intelligence, in my opinion, is dumb. I’ve never been perceived as dumb or less intelligent because of the way I speak. But because I think you are a pretentious linguistics snob and don’t agree with you (despite the conclusion you’ve drawn from my previous post), I guess maybe I’m dumb. What do I expect from a Penn State fan, though?

    My sister cusses up a storm when she is with her friends hanging out, having a few brews. She doesn’t do so at work, because it’s simply not appropriate behavior for her job as a corporate attorney. It’s a matter of wanting to come off as professional.



  38. Lyon Advocate
    June 11, 2008 6:49 pm

    Charming. Though most people will rarely tell you that your accent makes you sound stupid, they think it. I’m not alone in my snobbery on this issue.



  39. Shibori
    June 11, 2008 7:12 pm

    I could dare to dream of a day when I could call a customer service number and get a Pittsburgh accent. Or any American accent, for that matter.



  40. lovesthenorthside
    June 11, 2008 7:27 pm

    i’m from noo yawk, and i married into a pittsburgh family and i love them all, with their outrageous accents, their flinch-inducing grammar (“i seen that!”), and their made-up words (“he brung the ahrn”). they’re not all the brightest crayons in the box, but they all know what’s important: family and friends, regardless of how they sound. in that regard, they’re the smartest people i know.

    i heart mitch, and you, lying advocate, can go eat a pigeon. better yet, take lynda sucky with you and get some pigeon poop facials. maybe that will detoxify you — your smugness level is way too high.



  41. unsatisfied
    June 11, 2008 7:35 pm

    shibori,

    now, THAT’S church!



  42. Dennis Roddy
    June 11, 2008 8:07 pm

    42.Dennis Roddy said …

    I was — I’m not kidding — close to 30 years old when I discovered that it was considered incorrect usage to drop the infinitive of the verb “to be” in a sentence. I wrote a headline for the old Greensburg Tribune-Review that said “Henry Clay Frick’s Old Home Needs Fixed.” Some reader sent back the clip with the headline circled and beneath it scrawled, “Shame on you.”

    I did not feel shame then and I feel none now. Regional idioms, regional accents, and regional folkways are not only not bad, they are in many ways good, just as it is good that we have regional cuisine, local customs, even multiple radio stations. Variety might or might not be the spice of life, but it is the life of cultures. I do not have a Pittsburgh accent, because I am from Cambria County. I have, when I allow it to seep back through, a northern Appalachian accent. For years I was ashamed of that slight twang and crack in my speech. With age, and a bit of education, I suddenly realized that my accent had little bearing on whether what I said made sense, and, frankly, if Americans don’t complain about a British accent and idiom — in fact, we swoon over it — then why should someone like Lynda Stucky protest that someone from Pittsburgh is unintelligible? It is class-infested rubbish from someone who, if we were to take her at her word, should change her first name to LINDA, to avoid confusing people unaccustomed to non-standard spellings.

    The woman should be tied to a telly pole, it with a tire ahrn, then thrown into a jagger bush.



  43. Eric W
    June 11, 2008 8:18 pm

    I see nothing wrong with dropping “to be”. I’m a fan of Latin, a language that doesn’t have multi-word infinitives. :)



  44. retiredguy
    June 11, 2008 8:32 pm

    This lady must be some kinda jagoff.

    I never even knew I had an accent until I went into the army. People used to ask me “where the hell are you from?” I don’t think our accent is all that bad, but some people do have pretty thick accents. I was just reading about how the Pittsburgh accent and alot of our words are Appalachian Scots-Irish and German. Nebby, redd up, slippy, butterbread.

    And as for southern accents. I was once in a diner in South Carolina where I cound not understand a single word the waitress was saying.



  45. bucdaddy
    June 11, 2008 8:35 pm

    Kelli, Jagger bush, yes!

    jagger bush jagger bush jagger bush

    Hi, Dennis! We dined at Denny’s a couple times when I worked in Greensburg, early ’80s. Good to see you … er, whatever.

    jagger bush jagger bush jagger bush

    Jaggerz! Dahnie Eyers!



  46. pittgirl
    June 11, 2008 9:01 pm

    Dennis,

    I was once told by a reader that I “drop the verb ‘to be’ like phat beats.”

    And I was all, “What? What. WHAT?!”

    I mean, I understood the “phat beats” part, but what’s this shit about the verb “to be” being necessary?

    Why, I never …



  47. Capp's Crew
    June 11, 2008 9:41 pm

    Plus, I wouldn’t trust this woman because she has at least three grammar/spelling mistakes on her first page alone. Normally I wouldn’t be that critical, buttt…

    And, redd up is in Jane Eyre- twice, so technically we speak English that is more true to old English than other places.

    I went to college in MI and my prof in Eng 101 said that an easy way to spot passive voice is if you used to be, so I erased all the “to be’s” from my paper and turned in my rough draft, thinking I was good. Fortunately one of my prof’s best friends lives in Pgh and when we were talking about my rough draft she asked if I was from Pgh, reminded me that the rest of the world doesn’t drop the “to be” and that I was still writing in passive voice.



  48. Susan
    June 11, 2008 9:45 pm

    Ha! Pittgirl, I was just about to comment (and will do so now) that I find Pittsburghese charming, but it bugs me to no end that people leave out the “to be”! When I hear that “the car needs fixed” or whatever I want to scream! “To be” or not “to be” — there’s no question in my mind.

    (For the record, I lived in the NY/NJ area for a number of years and the accents and pronunciations there make your hair stand on end. And, being from Michigan I have a lovely flat nasal tone. Definitely an interesting combination of accents.)



  49. bucdaddy
    June 11, 2008 10:03 pm

    I’d like to raise a cold ahrn in memory of Mahrn.



  50. Goob
    June 11, 2008 11:21 pm

    Leaving out the “to be” -does- make the soliloquy in Hamlet somewhat inscrutable. Plus also shorter.

    There is linguistic theory floating around that American Appalachian dialects are in some ways more evolved, because they increase efficiency (take out the “to be”), steam line and homogenize verbs (have less irregulars lying around), and offer the precision of a second person plural (y’all).

    I’m still (and will probably always be) enough from the Western New England dialect pool that I’ll always have trouble speaking Pittsburgh dialect on purpose. But: it’s the one I always seem to end up using anyway when I’m talking to a cop.