Je’et jet no jew

Man, Je’et Jet No Jew would be a kickass band name.

My December column is up over at PittsburghMagazine.com and this one is all about Pittsburghese, but more specifically, when does Pittsburghese become obsolete in ex-pat Burghers?

It all started when my Texas sister Tina Fey came home over the summer and I realized how very very Texan she had become when her son didn’t know a single word of Pittsburghese.

A snippet:

“What is the thing you push around in the grocery store?” I asked while warily eyeing Marcia, who was trying to sink into the brick wall of the house—knowing full well that Daniel was about to swing and miss my thousand-mile-an-hour fastball over the plate.

“Grocery cart!” he shouted triumphantly.

My mother clicked her tongue. Strike two.

“Buggy,” I said. “Buggy is the answer we were looking for.” Now, the final question. If Daniel got it wrong, that meant it took 16 years to completely suck the Pittsburgh out of a girl. I underhanded a slow ball right over the plate, letting it practically sit there for an easy homerun.

“What do you call the stretchy things that you use to hold things together?”

The column also includes some stories that Burghers emailed me regarding their own experiences with Pittsburghese once they moved away. I only had 800 words available to me, so here are a few awesome stories that didn’t make it to the print edition:

Reader Gina Spinelli wrote:

It has been decided in my Philadelphia office that I say my “O’s” funny, and recently it was discovered that I pronounce many words “incorrectly.”  Examples:  Toll is not pronounced like Tool  (allegedly) and Bull is not pronounced like Bowl (allegedly).

My sister Tina Fey married a man whose father’s name is Don and whose sister’s name is Dawn and my whole family, including Tina Fey, was informed those two words are not pronounced the same. I call bullshit on that. Just like poll, pole, and pull are pronounced the same.

Molly from Florida wrote:

I teach elementary school (3rd grade) and had a tough time when reading a story to my students about a boy who went fishing in the creek.  NOT the crick as I wanted to say.  I had to make a concentrated effort to pronounce it creek.

Reader Tammie wrote:

He was my boss, and he came into the room all happy go lucky, with his zipper down.  So I very quietly and politely informed him, “Kennywood’s open.”  Hoping to remedy the situation in the way I had countless other time through my life.  My male co-worker, having also grown up in the Burgh, knew exactly what was up when he heard this quiet advice.

The boss man, having grown up in The Mistake by The Lake, immediately retorted, “Yeah, so’s Cedar Point!”  My jaw hit the floor, and as I tried not to laugh in his face, I made desperate eye contact with the co-worker, (who wasn’t even trying not to laugh!) and backed out of the room to allow him to handle the explanation.

Reader Karen wrote:

I’ve lived in Florida since ’93. I’ve gotten weird looks for saying common Pittsburghese words such as “warsh-rag” and “gumband”, but it was also pointed out to me that sometimes everything sounds like a question. Our Pittsburgh voices have a way of going uphill at the end of our sentences.

Hmmm. I’ve never noticed THIS?

Michael from Richmond wrote:

An old woman stopped me once in the Costco parking lot and asked what my “YINZ” euro sticker meant.  I had a hard time explaining it to an older genteel southern lady.  After trying my best to explain the cultural heritage, the woman (who probably used “y’all” in everyday conversations) shook her head in confusion and walked away.  I felt lucky not to be driving my wife’s car with the “JAGOFF” sticker.

Go read the whole column and fun stories from Burghers far and wide!

Also, from now on, forever and ever amen, when anyone tells you that Kennywood is open, your response shall be, “Yeah? So is Cedar Point!”

 





45 Comments

  1. Dawn
    November 29, 2011 4:37 pm

    I cannot tell you how many times that I’ve gone to a new job or something and people are shocked when I introduce myself as Dawn. They all think I’m Don instead and are quite confused. Apparently they all are wishing for men instead. Jagoffs.



  2. Larry
    November 29, 2011 4:51 pm

    Is “gumband” a regional thing here in the ‘burgh? I grew up near Kennywood, but it was always a “rubber band” in my family.

    (Other than that, I’m really bad with my Pittsburghese, but for some reason, that one word was never part of my vocabulary…)



  3. empirechick
    November 29, 2011 4:52 pm

    Agree that pole and poll and Don and Dawn are pronounced the same, but pull is the same as pool to me.



  4. bluzdude
    November 29, 2011 4:54 pm

    “Yeah, so is Cedar Point… and you should see my Demon Drop.”



  5. PittinDC
    November 29, 2011 5:46 pm

    Wait… if Dawn and Don are not pronounced the same… how are they pronounced???

    The word that people look at me like I am a crazy person for is “pop.” No one knows what I’m talking about. I use it more and more whenever I’ve been home for a few days. By far the favorite Pittsburghese word of everyone I’ve ever met that isn’t from da Burgh is nebby. That could easily become a part of the national lexicon.



  6. Heather
    November 29, 2011 6:04 pm

    I left the Burgh in ’93 and now live in northern NY. People always accuse me of sounding like I’m asking a question when in fact I’m making a statement. I never noticed other Burghers doing it until I watched the Pittsburgh Dad episodes the other day!



  7. gunnlino
    November 29, 2011 7:11 pm

    While living in Los Angeles for many , many years I was in and out of more courtrooms than I care to recall . Many , many times a judge or attorney would ask was I asking a question or providing an opinion .
    Never did figure out the problem until returning to the ‘Burgh and comparing notes with others who had travelled far and wide .
    The lilt at the end of speaking has it’s drawbacks .



  8. Eileen
    November 29, 2011 7:33 pm

    While in college I had to talk into a tape recorder for a Speech Professor. It was how NOT to talk.
    Howard is hired.
    Of course i pronounced it like any other Pittsburgher out there!
    Haaarrrd is haaaarrrd .
    Also I have a lovely friend from England who asked if I had been to the new Finnish restaurant in Lawrenceville called Je’ets
    I almost fell off my chair. She said she couldn’t figure out what language the name was and her friend and her came up with Finnsh some how!



  9. heather
    November 29, 2011 8:57 pm

    My mom just asked me yesterday what jagoff means…and we’re from PA! Not sure if it’s a Pittsburgh thing or not, but I hate the way she pronounces the name Harry. I’m still not getting the difference between Dawn and Don though. A lot of what some have pointed out as Pittsburghese are things that my husband from northern CA also says, and when I lived out there for a while no one really ever mentioned anything about the way I talk.



  10. Noelle
    November 29, 2011 9:42 pm

    The other day I got my 2 year old niece to say “Kitty Cat’s a Jagoff!” over and over and over and I was so very proud, I’d been priming her for months. I’m not a native but I’m a proud transplant.



  11. YinzerInExile
    November 29, 2011 9:53 pm

    Dropping the infinitive gets me laughed at most frequently — car needs washed, dishwasher needs unloaded, lawn needs mowed, etc., and suddenly everyone’s in love with “to be” :P



  12. ali
    November 29, 2011 10:58 pm

    Yes, YinzerInExile! I’m back in Pit now, but while living in NY and Boston, it was frequently pointed out to me that I was missing an important part of my sentences. Apparently, it took my now husband so long to figure out what the hell I was talking about, it was then years before he was able to explain to me that I was missing the infinitive. Then I had to go about making a concerted effort to NOT change it.

    My assessment is that it takes about 10 years before pop, pull/pool, and ‘the car needs washed’ start to naturally fall out of your speech patterns. So I moved back home.



  13. Beatrice
    November 29, 2011 11:46 pm

    Someone please explain the Don vs. Dawn thing.



  14. Laura
    November 30, 2011 12:57 am

    Born and raised in the Burgh and have now lived in upstate NY for a dozen years…

    According to my husband, there’s a different way to pronounce Erin and Aaron –I have honestly have no clue how they’re said differently. And, I never say “to be” which is apparently not correct — as in “the clothes need washed” vs. “the clothes need to be washed.”

    His favorite Pittsburgh word that he now uses? Gutchies! :)



  15. bucdaddy
    November 30, 2011 1:06 am

    After four years in southwest Virginia, it was:

    yinz-all.

    After 3+ years living in New England, bucdaughter has not (yet) succumbed to the local dialect but she is endlessly amused by “lawn guyland” — the real estate across the sound — and “cwahfee” — that hot stuff people drink.



  16. Bitter
    November 30, 2011 2:11 am

    Tried several times and cannot for the life of me figure out how Dawn and Don can possibly be pronounced differently.

    But when thinking of the raising inflection at the end of a sentence? Pittsburgh Dad immediately came to mind.



  17. SpudMom
    November 30, 2011 8:14 am

    I’ve said before that I’m a transplant to the Burgh and when I was first dating my husband he pulled the “kennywood’s open” thing on me. I gave him the stare of complete incomprehension. First, he had to explain what Kennywood WAS and I said “What does the hours of operation of an amusement park have to do with anything?!”

    And then he proceeded to explain what it meant. I told him that was the dumbest thing ever.

    We don’t use Pittsburghese in this house because I didn’t grow up here and my husband doesn’t seem to have absorbed the usage (he knows the words, just doesn’t use them). I’m determined that my children will at least not call it “Picksburgh.”



  18. NicoleinTallahassee
    November 30, 2011 8:21 am

    When we first moved to York, PA, while I was in high school, I once asked my teacher for a ‘gunband’ and he responded “Is that a weapon?!”. Never even knew until that point that it was called a rubber band, ha!

    I not live in FL and saying “pop” definitely always causes some type of remark.

    It’s also been pointed out to me that I use the word “So” a lot. I never noticed it until it was pointed out to me and now I notice my friends and family back home who say it all the time as well …



  19. Butcher's Dog
    November 30, 2011 8:25 am

    Here’s a shot at explaining Dawn and Don. Dawn, the girl’s name, has the “aw” sound in the middle. Like, @Noelle, “Awwwww…kitty’s a real cute jagoff.” Don, the guy, well… the middle sound comes out a lot like “Dan” said by someone from Buffalo or such. Sound comes from the back of the mouth up near the nose than from deep in the throat. Likewise, “horrible” doesn’t start with the same sound as “whore”. Employ the same nasal sound as “correctly” pronouncing Don.



  20. Transplanted in Pitt
    November 30, 2011 8:53 am

    The phrase “je’et jet. No, jew” is also very commonly associated with people from the NJ area. I wonder if it spread or if both occurred simultaneously. For people from NJ, its mostly because not pronouncing “d” is very common.



  21. Sylvain Lantreaux
    November 30, 2011 8:57 am

    On our honeymoon in St. John, my 800 verbal SAT wife and I are on a snorkeling boat with an older German man who spoke no English, and his Scottish wife who translated everything to/from him. About 3/4 into of the trip, the woman looks to my wife and says “You speak such lovely English, where are you from?” to which she replies “Pittsburgh”. We like to think that there’s a small circle of people in Germany somewhere, friends and children of this couple, when they see tourists in Steelers gear, telling their kids “Go practice your English with them…”



  22. T
    November 30, 2011 9:23 am

    The whole Dawn vs. Don and Aaron vs. Erin thing has me at a loss… I’m sitting in my office saying them out loud and I’m sure my co-workers think I’m insane.



  23. Shannonsharpe
    November 30, 2011 9:40 am

    When I was completing my internship in florida, my report had “gumband’ in it. My boss called me into her office, sat me down, had my report and pointed to that word and said “what is this?” LOL…Hadn’t been out of pittsburgh ever in my life before that but it was a wake up call to my Pittsburghese. Gumband and pop are the dead give aways that you are from PIT! Love the column Ginny…..no one likes a nebby jag off-pure gold!



  24. Moxie Bestos
    November 30, 2011 9:46 am

    So as a Daughter of Satan, your band name sounds like it’s specifically saying that there are no people of Semitic origin in the lineup and none are allowed. That’s just me, I know you don’t mean it that way. Never been a fan of the expression. I have no better suggestion, though. Extra apostrophes don’t help.

    Meanwhile, I think it’s better if we sound like our sentences are going up a hill. If they sounded like they were going through a tunnel, we’d slow down and then stop talking mid-phrase for no apparent reason.



  25. Michelle Smiles
    November 30, 2011 9:58 am

    We moved to Nashville a few years ago. My husband delights in swapping language lessons with his new southern friends. They teach him the weird southern expressions and he teaches them Pittsburghese (which amuses them endlessly because they never knew it existed).

    I’m originally from Ohio. Before I moved to Pittsburgh, I would make the trek every Friday after work to spend the weekend with my now husband. I’ll never forget a few months in, I walked into his apartment and he said “Je’et jet?” After asking him to repeat himself 3 times, I finally got annoyed and asked him to speak English. He inform me my response was to be “No, jew?” And I laughed so hard at what sounded like a politically incorrect phrase to my ears. It is now a permanent joke our family.



  26. Lesley
    November 30, 2011 10:24 am

    I never noticed it until recently but there is a contingent of people here that when they are asking, “How are you?”, it comes out, “How you?”.



  27. bucdaddy
    November 30, 2011 10:54 am

    When I was in college, we could easily identify the Philly/New Jerseyites if, in ordering a soft drink, they asked for a “sorda.”

    Also by the bad smell.



  28. bucdaddy
    November 30, 2011 10:55 am

    Also, why wasn’t it “White Swan’s open”?



  29. Paul
    November 30, 2011 10:58 am

    I’ve always had some Pittsburghese in me, even though I grew up in Central PA. My Dad is from Aliquippa.

    My wife grew up in Pittsburgh. She only has a slight Pittsburghese “accent” (dahntawn, etc.) except when she’s mad at me. Then it becomes full blown Pittsburghese.

    There is no such thing as soda in our house. Pop only.



  30. SpudMom
    November 30, 2011 11:55 am

    Pop is not a strictly Pittsburgh thing. It’s midwest/east coast thing. I grew up in Michigan and it’s ‘pop’ there but my mother grew up in Jersey and it was ‘soda’ in our house so I got all the weird looks.



  31. Jaime
    November 30, 2011 1:20 pm

    I definitely fall into the category or not being able to distinguish pull/pull or Dawn/Don. They’re synonyms, right?



  32. DG
    November 30, 2011 1:30 pm

    @Dawn – my pet peeve is when I’m giving my name to someone and they ask, “D-O-N?”. I’ve been known to respond, “No, jagoff, I’m a girl.”



  33. UTHISPAR
    November 30, 2011 1:49 pm

    Don’t think I’ve laughed so hard in a while. Great post! My family moved to Orlando when I was 13 and I will never forget how smug I was sitting in history class that year listening to my new classmates stumble over names like Duquesne. They were pretty amazed when I flawlessly pronounced the names of the three rivers. Then I started reading out loud about steel mills and they made me repeat myself at least three times. I had no idea it was supposed to be pronounced “steal” and not “still”. It’s been 14 years and I still can’t pronounce steel correctly unless I visualize the word “steal”. I’m not complaining, I’m quite proud about that fact. :)



  34. Magnus Patris
    November 30, 2011 2:12 pm

    I was a Communications major at Duquesne and my professor had me read a story about a fire at Myer’s tire store on the South Side. Of course I said, “There was a fahr at da Mahr’s Tahr Stir onna SahSide.” It took me one semester to loose a lot of my Pittsburghese. Although I did ask for a box of “gumbans” at my first job in DC. They looked at me like I was crazy. It took 22 years for me to stop saying “pop” there and now back for 4 years trying to remember to not say “soda”.



  35. StacyfrPgh
    November 30, 2011 2:41 pm

    Our family has moved around a lot, but thankfully, we are back here where we all belong. When my youngest was very small, he would ask, “Mama hole ja?” imitating me who would say, “Do you want Mama hole ja?” It was so sweet! I never realized my pronunciation of that phrase until I heard it from his mouth



  36. Jaime
    November 30, 2011 2:42 pm

    The word that gets me the most is Carnegie. When people say “Carn e gee” is drives me bonkers!!



  37. jeb
    November 30, 2011 3:02 pm

    My favorite was when I told a friend that Kennywood was open – he replied with, “yes and rides are free all day”



  38. PensFan024
    November 30, 2011 4:27 pm

    @Jaimie

    Being from Carnegie that is the one that gets me the most too. It’s “Car-nay-gie” people.

    Try asking where the nearest MAC Machine is next time you are out of town.



  39. LuAnn
    November 30, 2011 5:00 pm

    I pronounce Aaron and Erin differently… but cannot for the life of me do the same with Dawn and Don.



  40. Paul
    November 30, 2011 5:04 pm

    You guys are stumping me with Dawn and Don. How are they supposed to be pronounced differently. Also, Phil and fill and feel are supposed to be pronounced the same, right?



  41. SpudMom
    November 30, 2011 5:36 pm

    Dawn: d-awwwwwww-n
    Don: D-ahhhhhhh-n



  42. Virginia
    November 30, 2011 5:38 pm

    Pretty sure Bluzdude won way up there in #4, but SpudMom also brought the LOLZ.



  43. Amber
    December 1, 2011 9:39 am

    I honestly did not know that “redd up” was a Pittsburgh word until I went to college. I can’t think of anything else that replaces it – tidy is too formal, and redding up isn’t actual cleaning. I have a very hard time explaining that phrase to non-Pittsburghers!



  44. oldgraymare
    December 5, 2011 12:07 pm

    My sister now lives in Canada. A few weeks ago, her husband told her that they had to go visit my parents, who still live in Pittsburgh, because my sister had lost her Pittsburghese and things she said were becoming too Canadian, eh? lol



  45. Jill M
    December 5, 2011 2:41 pm

    OMG these are hilarious. We are from just “over the line” near Youngstown and other than the accent, most of the terminology is exactly the same. I credit my dad’s parents who were from DuBois/Brookville.

    @Yinzerinexile: I read your comment about infinitives 3 times and couldn’t figure out what was wrong with “the dishwasher needs unloaded”…

    I do have a sister that has moved “northwest” i.e. Cleveland and has the nasaly “aaarrr” sound in everything.