Car-mll. CARE-ah-mel. CAHR-a-mll.

If you’re interested in how Burghers are pronouncing caramel or if we refer to our athletic shoes as sneakers or something else, then you’ll want to check out part two of my “Etymology of Pittsburgh” column on

Not only do I delve into sneakers/tennis shoes, you’ll learn the following:

Dibs or shotgun?

Root or rout for route?

Roly poly or potato bug?


A snippet:

This one is crazy because THEY ARE ALL PRONOUNCED THE SAME. My family sat around the dinner table the other night trying our hardest to make “Mary,” “merry,” and “marry” sound different, and we all failed. I thought my father was going to have a stroke trying to do it.

Go have a read.

Oh, and speaking of our previous cyoo-pon versus coo-pon debate. Still no clear winner.

YouTube Preview Image

I love Ellen. She would SO get a self-united card.

(h/t Zach)


  1. Magus Patris
    February 27, 2012 11:09 am

    How about color: cuh-lor or kell-er

    • AngryMongo
      February 27, 2012 11:57 am

      My Father-in-law is from Indiana County (Cherry Tree) and he says Kell-er. He also says someone’s got sugar, too. And continually calls the Browns the Baltimore Colts. So we have arguments because half the time I’m not sure he means Indianapolis or Baltimore. If he’d just call them the Browns, I’d know he meant The Ravens.

  2. bucdaddy
    February 27, 2012 11:49 am

    I’m confused. This is the insect (and the only insect) I know as a potato bug:

    But when I Google for images of “potato bug,” this is the first one that comes up:

    That looks more like what I know as a pill bug, but I have never heard it called a potato bug. And I have lived within 100 miles of Pittsburgh all my 54 years, except for a four-year sojourn into deepest, darkest SW Virginia.

  3. PA Girl in VA
    February 27, 2012 11:58 am

    To me, “marry” sounds quite different from “Mary” and “merry”. Marry has a shorter “a” sound as in the word “at”. The “ar” in the other two words has a longer “a” sound as in “air” or “mare”.

    • Silica
      February 27, 2012 12:58 pm

      For me it’s about the same, but honestly if I say all three in a row the differences are barely perceptible. It’s probably more in how I think about the words – I think I say “marry” differently than “Mary” or “merry” but no listener would ever know that. I’m also one of those weird people who pictures every word in my head when I say it.

      If I could figure out how to do the phonetic alphabet on here, I’d go all-English major all over the place (upside down “e”s and such like in dictionary pronunciations…those symbols do mean something to language nerds!), but for everyday purposes, they do sound the same.

      • bucdaddy
        February 27, 2012 3:35 pm

        Explain the “schwa” sound to me, please. Why it was called that was incomprehensible to me in elementary school. Nothing in English sounds like “schwa” except schwa.

        • Butcher's Dog
          February 27, 2012 3:43 pm

          The schwa exists as a last resort for English teachers who have tried everything else including sentence diagramming to break the spirit of unruly students, failing miserably every time. That is all. It has no other use, aside from contributing to making upper level college courses more boring than they otherwise would be.

          • bucdaddy
            February 27, 2012 3:52 pm

            “Break spirits”? It worked on me. That explains a lot.


            • Butcher's Dog
              February 27, 2012 5:08 pm

              No problem. Just another instance of your tax money in action (even when yours particularly was paid in WVA).

      • PA Girl in VA
        February 27, 2012 4:53 pm

        Language is so odd. To me, MARRY sticks out like a sore thumb against the other two. I’m an Eastern Pennsylvanian, so maybe that explains it. My poor 8 year old gets so frustrated when we do his reading/writing homework – he is constantly commenting about how words sound one way but are spelled totally different. And you know what? I’ve got nothing for him except, “That’s our weird language, buddy.”

        • Butcher's Dog
          February 27, 2012 5:10 pm

          If you really want to confuse him, tell him things would be a lot different if the Anglo-Saxons had defeated the Normans in the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Because they would have been different.

          If a leaf falls in the rain forest…. ‘N ‘at.

          • PA Girl in VA
            February 28, 2012 11:34 am

            I will get to that when he learns about that battle in school – I do like to elaborate on what he learns in school (using the watered down versions they get from their lousy textbooks as a starting point). I love it when he goes to school and tells his teacher, “Yeah, but my mom said….” I’d love to see the looks on her face some days :)

            • Butcher's Dog
              February 28, 2012 12:01 pm

              If he learns about the Battle of Hastings much before his second or third year as a college English major, I’ll be surprised. If you really want to bulk up on the history of it, though, get 1066: The Year of the Conquest. Awesome book on what transpired back then.

  4. empirechick
    February 27, 2012 3:18 pm

    #6 I didn’t care much about the ‘new and improved JCPenney’ when it was announced, but Ellen’s commercials are great!

  5. Butcher's Dog
    February 27, 2012 3:24 pm

    Record my votes for car-mll, root, and shotgun. I appreciate what PA Girl in VA says about the three merrys, but the difference is miniscule at best.

    By the way, it would be “paper rout”, but “what’s the best root downtown”. Just sayin’.

    • empirechick
      February 27, 2012 4:22 pm

      Birds of a feather, Butcher’s Dog: I live on Root 8, but I work near Rout 19.

    • bucdaddy
      February 27, 2012 10:52 pm

      Why do you put your periods and commas outside your quote marks? Isn’t that British style?

      You’re not a Tory, are you?

      • Butcher's Dog
        February 28, 2012 8:12 am

        OK, today’s English lesson is on punctuation. If what is inside the quotation marks requires the punctuation, the mark goes inside the quotes. If not, it goes outside. In the above example of the question about the root downtown, I could have put a question mark inside the quotation marks because it’s a complete sentence question and then put a period at the end outside the quotes because the whole thing was a complete declarative sentence. Aren’t you glad you asked?

        No Tory here, bucdaddy. Born in da burg, raised on a ragweed farm in Mercer County from age 4.

        • bucdaddy
          February 28, 2012 11:04 am

          I suppose you are technically correct, but it’s rare that I see it in print that way outside of UK publications.

          But then, I often think everyone else in the world is wrong too.

          • PA Girl in VA
            February 28, 2012 11:40 am

            I don’t think it’s all that rare; perhaps you just don’t notice it. Mr. B. Dog is using proper English when he punctuates in that way.

            • Butcher's Dog
              February 28, 2012 12:03 pm

              Thanks, PA Girl! I guess those 37 years I spent teaching English weren’t all wasted, eh?

              And bucdaddy, as long as I agree with you (which is most of the time) the rest of the world is probably wrong if they disagree. You’ll have that in these promiscuous times.

  6. toni
    February 27, 2012 6:47 pm

    All the same:


    pull/pool -try this 1 on your dad next dinner

    I’ll/ owl / ow ( as in ouch)

  7. aunt penny
    February 27, 2012 11:43 pm

    soda or pop?

  8. Jennifer
    February 28, 2012 12:23 pm

    Late to this, but …

    Pittsburghers and the name “Cheryl”— for 20 years I thought someone’s name was “Shirl”

  9. Tirzah Griffin
    February 28, 2012 3:57 pm

    this is why I have the Yinzer App, so I can understand my husband’s family when we go to functions.