Pittsburghese is a form of Midland American English covering western Pennsylvania, eastern
Ohio, and northern West Virginia, centered around, of course, the Burgh. No one is quite sure
where the language of Pittsburgh came from. When English is spoken on the streets
of Pittsburgh's many ethnic neighborhoods, its speakers often borrow many words from their
Pittsburgh saw a huge influx of immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries, largely from countries in Eastern Europe. These people were often of the working-class and took on jobs as coal miners and steel workers in the hills of western Pennsylvania. And these men and women were often quite poor; their limited education prohibited them from learning the language of the older, more established Americans already here. From such countries as Poland, Serbia, Italy, and Russia, they formed their own largely isolated communities in the area, speaking their native language in daily life and passing that language down to their children. With an already-substantial Scotch-Irish/German population, the result was to make Pittsburgh the melting pot of melting pots, and a pure molestation of the English language.
Here's a handy guide to speaking, or maybe just interpreting, the language of a yinzer. For some examples, check out our line of Pittsburghese bumper stickers n'at.
- First and foremost, when addressing a group of people, always use the term "yinz". (ex: "Yinz guyz goin' to da Stillers game?")
- Never pronounce the "th" at the beginning of words such as "the", "that", and "there".
- Drop the "to be" in most phrases where it would be appropriate. (ex's: "Da grass needs cut." or "I need drunk.")
- Words like "out" and "downtown" are pronounced with a short "Aaah" sound.
- Words like "dollar" and "flower" are pronounced with a long "Aaah" sound.
- Add the word "down" to all directions, despite geographic relation. (ex: "You needa ga dahn to Sliberty n' keep goin' up.")
- Add the contraction "n'at" at the end of all lists. (ex: "I'm goin' to da store to git pop and chips n'at.")
- Heavily and ridiculously emphasize syllables in unusual places. (ex's: "Andrew Car-NEG-ie lived 'here." or "She lives in LA-trobe.")
- The phrase "Kennywood's open" is a friendly warning to zip up your fly.
- "Red up" means to clean up. (ex: "Red up dis room n'at.")
- It's pop, not soda.
- It's also a sweeper, not a vacuum. Tennis shoes, not sneakers. Crick, not creek. Cellar, not basement. Hoagie, not sub. Guchies, not underwear. Buggy, not shopping cart. Still, not steel. Gumband, not rubber band. Jaggerbush, not thornbush. Worsh, not wash... etc.
All images on this page Copyright © Jim Judkis for Pittsburgh History & Landmarks