By Annette Dashofy
(No Citizens’ Police Academy this week, due to Memorial Day. Sorry.)
About twenty years ago, I attended a dinner theatre’s production of Don Brockett's Forbidden Pittsburgh. Rarely before or since have I laughed so hard. One of my favorite bits dealt with our rather unique dialect around these parts.
Most days, I forget about our local accent, but my recent trip to Virginia brought a variety of speech patterns to my attention. Surprisingly, not as much southern-fried conversation as you might think. That close to our nation’s capital, you get a mix of everyone from everywhere.
Then I had a friend (I won’t name names, but you know who you are) make the pronouncement that she doesn’t speak with a Pittsburgh accent. In her next sentence, she proceeded to tell me something about her haus. No. No Pittsburgh accent there. Heh heh.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Pittsburghese, let me give you a crash course. We live in hauses. A small rodent is a maus. Before the collapse of the industry, many of our locals worked in still mills and we continue to cheer on the Pittsburgh Stillers. Some of us live in EaSliberty (East Liberty for the uninformed). Others live on the SouSide (South Side). A few even live dauntaun (down town). And any of yunz who haven’t been to Primanti’s just don’t know how to eat a sammich. Speaking of which, you might get asked, y’eat yet? Translation: did you eat yet? If you ate at home, you’ll have to worsh the dishes.
Basically, Pittsburghers only use the front of their mouths to speak. It’s like the backs of our tongues are paralyzed.
Side note: this winter I watched the movie Fargo a couple of times and realized I could do that dialect simply by speaking as if my jaw were frozen (which in the bitter north, it probably would be). Yah. You betcha.
In all honesty, I don’t think I have much of a Pittsburgh accent. It’s been watered down by having so much family from West Virginia. I don’t recall ever saying yunz. Now y’all…that’s a different matter. I did, however grow up worshing clothes and living in Worshington County, but I have since trained that out of my speech. We have a crick (creek) out back, but I’m not sure if that’s Pittsburghese of just countrified.
There is one word from my childhood that I’ve never heard spoken by anyone outside of my West Virginia family. Hoopy. As in a West Virginia hoopy. I did find this definition online, but it’s not the same thing. A West Virginia hoopy is something like a hillbilly or redneck, but not quite that backwoods. All of my dad’s family were hoopies. I’ve heard it used in a derogatory sense by folks who looked down on country folks, but used with pride by self-proclaimed hoopies.
So there you have my little essay on words, accents N' @. And if you have to ask what N' @ means, you obviously aren’t from Pittsburgh. Even our news reporters have started using it.