Yinzer Basics: Pittsburghese for Beginners

By Megan Huerbin

So, you’ve landed yourself in the ’Burgh, huh?  The land of bridges and rivers and a mean, constant hankering to put fries on top of anything and everything edible?

Well then, won’t you be my neighbor? (Do yourself a favor and get friendly with Mr. Rogers fast, because not getting those references will get you kicked atta tahn faster than you can say “scratch my back with a hacksaw.”)

As you first try to navigate our winding hills, mismatched streets, and finicky weather, you’re bound to come across another sort of barrier (and I’m not just talking about stairwells that actually count as streets on the map). I’m talking about the native language of Pittsburghese.

“Oh, pish-posh,” you might say, waving your hand.  But what will you tell the first Pittsburgher who asks if you’d like to “pump some arn?”  Or if you happen to have a spare bumbershoot?  What will you do then?

Pittsburghese is a dialect of unparalleled delight, filled with bizarre phrases, awkward, nearly unintelligible pronunciation, and a tendency to confuse.

It’s (kind of) charming, I promise.

The accent of a native Burgher has a tendency to  disregard the standard English pronunciation of “ou” or “ow” and makes it sound closer to something like “ah.”  The ends of words get lopped off, making words like “north” sound like nore. And grammar isn’t necessarily important (at all). “To be” doesn’t really exist here in the Steel City (FYI, we also slur “ee” so that it sounds like “i”).  The floor doesn’t ever need to be swept, but yinz can bet it always needs swept.

Anyway, here’s a brief overview of your Yinzer basics (click the links and you can watch us pronounce some of this stuff). If you’ve got these down, you’re probably going to be just fine.  Probably.

Important Locations (phonetically spelled with the Burgh accent)

Nore-syde: North Side (where the city’s football and baseball stadiums, new casino, several museums, and science center are located)

Sahth-syde: South Side (where you go to drink—period)

Dahn-tahn: Downtown (home to the city’s theaters and fancier restaurants)

Hahs: House (the place of residence, most commonly seen in a phrase such as “Why don’ yinz guys come dahn the hahs?”)

Gine Iggle: Giant Eagle (chain grocery store that will most likely be in your neighborhood)

Vocabulary

Yinz: You all (Pittsburgh version of y’all)

Chipped-chopped: Thinly sliced deli meat (usually refers to Isley’s ham)

Sweep: To vacuum (confusing, I know)

Bumbershoot: Umbrella

Nebby: Nosy (noun form: Neb-nose)

Allegheny Whitefish: condom (usually floating in a river)

Underguchies: Underwear

Pop: Soda (and we will die before calling it anything else)

Gumband: Rubber band (unlike most of the words on this list, most native Pittsburghers will not know what the generally accepted synonym for this word is)

Jagoff: Asshole (there’s no way to beat around the bush with this one. Once a jagoff, always a jagoff…especially in rush hour)

Stillers: Pittsburgh Steelers (our NFL team—to be safe, you should probably own one piece of team paraphernalia to prove you’re not a Browns fan)

Bucs: Pittsburgh Pirates (our admittedly terrible MLB team…but not rooting for them is a Burgher faux paus of infinite proportions)

Pittsburgh Salad: A salad with fries gloriously dumped on top of it

Worsh: To wash

Phrases

Red Up: To clean up or tidy up a room or one’s appearance.

Pumpin’ arn: To drink beer (refers to Iron City Beer which used to be based out of Pittsburgh)

N’at: And that (used at the end of sentences to replace “and so on” and its counterparts)

These ones/Those ones: These/those (we know it’s grammatically incorrect, but grammar isn’t really important when it comes to talking like a native)

Jeet Jet?: Did you eat yet?

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