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The Language of Pittsburgh
Learn to Speak 'Pittsburghese' Like a Native
 More of this Feature
• Don & Howard - the English Translation
 
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Planning a visit to Pittsburgh? Before you come, make sure to get out your maps, decide what you want to do and see and, if you cannot understand the following exchange between Pittsburghers Don and Howard, you may want to learn a new language!

Howard: Hey Dawn,jeet jet?

Don: What?

Howard: I axst, jeet jet?

Don: Na, j’ew? Hauscome don’t we go dahn dahntahn fer a cut of Vinnie Pie.

Howard: No, lets go to S'liberty or Mahnt Lebo fer a cole Ahrn and a sammitch, maybe some pigs in a blanket or a perogie n'at.

Don: Yea, I love dem hunkey han grenades. Let’s git some chipped chopped ham at Islays n’at too.

Howard: After we eat, we needs to git us a comera. I want to take some pitchers at da Stillers game today.

Don: It’s clahdy and looks like it might rain - make sure yinz bring yinzes rubbers too.

Howard: Shoot, we got a flat. Do yinz have a tahr arn in da car?

Don: Yea, in da trunk under da worsh cloth, next to the gum bands n’at.

Howard: Yinz rilly need to red up this trunk.

Don: Hey, stop jaggin me, Hahrd. Which way do we go to git dahn to Three Rivers, by da way?

Howard: Through da tube... Can we stop at da O? I’m still hungry.

Don: As long as yinz share n'at... I miss da good old days, wit Erboto Clmentee – he was one of da best players da Pa-ritz ever ad.

Howard: Yea... Jano, lets go see da Gwins instead dahn arena. Lah-Muuuuuu is playin.

Don: Oakel-Doakel... Jimminy Christmas, this traffic is whoreible. Wheres we at? East Picksburg?

Howard: No, Sahside stupid. Jest follow that old mill hunky wid is blinker on.

If you aren't a Pittsburgh native, that conversation probably didn't make much sense to you. Well, believe it or not, I grew up in Pittsburgh, and I even had trouble with some of their lingo, known affectionately as Pittsburghese. While not all Picksbergers (oops, that’s Pittsburghers) speak like that, to many long time residents, especially those who grew up in the steel towns along the Monongahela River, this is the Queens English.

No one is really sure where Pittsburghese came from. Much of it is the ethnic mix of Pittsburgh, which is really a quintessential melting pot of the gateway to the west. We have Germans, Poles, Italians, Slovaks, and a dozen other nationalities that all settled where the three rivers come together.

These local idioms are pervasive in all sections of Pittsburgh culture, however, not just in the mill towns. I always make sure I redd up (tidy up) my room. When the floor 'needs swept' I pull out the sweeper (vacuum). I even wash dishes with dish soap (dishwashing liquid). I can’t stand when my neighbors get too nebby (nosy), my mailman uses gum bands (rubber bands) to bundle my mail and I enjoy an occasional Ahrn (Iron City beer). I definitely drive my wife nuts with these and no doubt countless other Pittsburghese. But these are the terms everyone uses, aren't they? Apparently not, as I recently received some quizzical looks and even a few snickers when asking a sales person in a department store in Dallas for ‘rubbers’ (galoshes).

It took me years to realize that wash did not have an ‘r’ in it (we always said warsh – as in warsh cloth). Fortunately, most of my idioms are just quirks, compared to some die-hard Pittsburghers that start every sentence with ‘Yinz’ (you ones), and end them with “n’at” (and that). Then again, I guess I cringe when I hear someone, who wants a soft drink, ask for a soda. Of course, we all know that a soft drink is ‘pop’, and a soda is really a flavored, carbonated beverage (like root beer) with ice cream in it.

Well, scratch my back with a hacksaw, I hope to see you all in da ' Burgh real soon! Learning Picksburgese is easier than you might think. Once yinz guys git into tahn, pump an Ahrn or two, ave some pigs-n-a-blanket and a chipped ham sammich n’at, yizzel be old pros! Well, ‘nuff fer now. Elvis has left the building. Just remember, it’s a ‘Burgh thing!

Don and Howard - In English
If you've been teased long enough, here’s the English translation to Don and Howard’s typical afternoon in the 'Burgh.

Pittsburghese
Learn the language of the 'Burgh with Pittsburghese calisthenics, a translator to covert your English into the unofficial language of the Steel city (Pittsburgh), and a glossary of terms submitted by people around the world.

Next page > Don and Howard - The English Translation
 



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