Pittsburghese. You’ve probably heard about it but as a newbie to the area, you might wonder when (or if) you’ll actually experience it.
As native Pittsburghers, we are a little sad to say that Pittsburghese seems to be a dying “language.” You certainly don’t hear it as much as we did when growing up; and it’s even less likely to be heard in suburbia. But every once in a while, you’ll still hear a magical “yinz” that should perk up your ears and transport you to the mystical land of Pittsburgh-talk.
Let’s start with the basics. What’s a yinzer? According to Pittsburghese.com, it’s someone who grew up here and is fluent in Pittsburghese. See, that was easy. Now it’s time to dig deeper with some of our favorite words. You’ll need to practice the accent—get it right and you’re all in like a secret handshake. Botch it, and you’re in the corner with the rest of the jagoffs.
Yinz ready to learn more? Here are some of our favorites, courtesy of the Pittsburgh City Paper:
Crik = creek
Used for just about any flowing body of water smaller than a river. “Just have the kids go play near the crik.”
Gumband = rubber band
Western Pennsylvania term; use of the words ‘rubber band’ might just be illegal here. “There are extra gumbands in the top drawer.”
Image: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Loaf = hang out: Not officially on the City Paper’s list, but a critical word to know.
N’at = and that
An oft-used extender to just about any sentence. “We were watching the Pirates and drinking beer, n’at.”
Nebby = nosy, prying
Used to describe your most gossip-loving coworker, primarily used when referring to personal, yet trivial details. “Stop being so nebby about my date last night.”
Slippy = Slippery
Simple and used all the time in winter. “Careful: The sidewalk is slippy.”
Image & Book: Heinz History Center
Now that you have the basics, we recommend that you try some “Pittsburghese Calisthenics.” I’m not joshin’ ya, this is critical to language mastery. The key is to forget everything your English teacher ever taught you. Articulation is overrated in Pittsburghese. Relax your mouth muscles. Let the words fall out.
So how did it go? We bet you already feel more connected to your new city. Don’t be ascared if it takes yinz time ta werk on yer Pittsburghese. We all bin ‘ere. Yinz jus needs practice n’at.
Additional resources –
Pittsburgh speech: https://pittsburghspeech.pitt.edu/
Pittsburgh City Paper: https://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/pittsburghese-dictionary-how-to-talk-like-a-yinzer/Content?oid=19623370
Image and mug: Amazon.com