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.
“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.
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!”