Jan 192012


Took a short walk around the neighborhood today and I feel so much better about my life. Oh, Brookline. Please don’t ever change.

And before you ask, “WTF is a paczki?” I am no authority. I’ve had them once and it’s some weird, seasonal fried dough bullshit that Polish people eat. And there are a lot of Polish people in Pittsburgh. In fact, I think I even might be Polish after 32 years of drinking the water.

I have a real love/hate relationship with my city. Love the hockey team, hate the football team. Love the blossoming art scene, hate the pathetic music scene. Love the architecture, the history, the quirky independent restaurants and shops, but sometimes I REALLY hate the people and their fucking Yinzer-speak. (Yinzers are Pittsburgh natives who speak Pittsburgh English.)  I must have grown up just far enough south in the suburbs to escape it (though I know some people who grew up in neighboring boroughs that are practically drowning on the dialect), and for that I am thankful. I do say gumband instead of rubber band; and growing up, I would totally choose “pop” in lieu of “soda,” but now I reject them both and just say “beverage.”

Yesterday at work, some of my co-workers were having a conversation which quickly nose-dived into fake Yinzer-speak. “I officially hate this conversation!” I declared, walking away. Don’t get me wrong, I was laughing about it, not being some overly-sensitive bitch. It’s not like my co-workers are now afraid to talk around me, like I keep shivs with the word “Yinzer” on them taped beneath my desk for that one day where I hear one “jagoff” too many.

And it’s not that I hate the people who live here. I just hate the impression of ignorance that this dialect gives off. It literally sounds like everyone is drunk ALL OF THE TIME. And I know they can’t help it! Their parents spoke that way, and their grandparents spoke that way, etc etc. One of my co-workers has a daughter around Chooch’s age, and she told me yesterday that she is actively working to prevent the dialect from cropping up in her.

Even when people are just mimicking it, while it is pretty funny, it still goes right through me like the cries of a colicky baby.

I was making a video of things around town for my friend who lived in Ireland. One night, I was forcing my favorite gas station work, Mitul, to contribute something to the video. Just then, a drunk man in his late 30s/early 40s came staggering into the Pleasant Hills Sunoco to purchase cigarettes and I knew, I just KNEW, he would agree to be filmed. I was right, and what came next was the most ridiculous, stereotypical “commercial” for Pittsburgh. First of all, he sported a Pittsburgh mullet and was wearing some random landscaping company t-shirt. LIterally all he said was, “If you like to drink beer and have a good time, come to Pittsburgh!” in the most grotesque, throat-scraping Pittsburghese of all time. I stopped recording and thanked him for being the perfect representation of our city.

I never did send her that video.

When my friend Matt stopped over in Pittsburgh a few years ago during a road trip out west, he teased me mercilessly for days about how backwards Pittsburgh is. That was his perception, in two short days: that people wear Steelers-logo’d Jamz and Crocs to the grocery store, eat nothing but Primantis, and women still wear banana clips in their feathered, frosted manes. And I imagine that this is the general conception for people who don’t spend enough in this city to realize that there is more to it than just Yinzers. In fact, that stereotype probably doesn’t even make up that much of the population, but it’s unfortunately what stands out. Never mind the fact that we have fantastic universities (hello, Annie on 90210 is going to CARNEGIE MELLON so you know it’s elite), museums, cathedrals, HEINZ KETCHUP WAS BORN HERE YOU GUYS. And let’s not forget the goddamn Bayernhof Music Museum!

I guess all I’m saying is that, like most other cities I’m sure, Pittsburgh has some shit working against it, but it really is a pretty charming place. If you can get past the fact that people want to call you “yinz” and verbally assault you for not liking the Steelers.

[Disclaimer: I did not wake up this morning with any intention to denigrate my city, nor do I hate anyone based on how they talk—except for the ones who tell me I don’t belong in this city because I hate the Steelers—but these are just some of the things I was thinking about when I was walking around Brookline this morning. And now you are subjected to it. Thanks! I feel so much better now.]

  10 Responses to “It’s poonch-key time, “yinz””

  1. holy shit i loved this. I am guilty of using the worst fake yinzer accent I can whilst in public but its mostly when I’m really drunk so people may not know the difference. but so true one of my best friends is from San Diego and the accents would KILL her. I somehow lucked out and have no accent at all(people for some reason can never figure me out and when I tell them I’m a yinzer they’re shocked.

    • Thank god! I posted it and then thought, “This will surely piss off a TON of people. Can’t wait!”

      I can’t even FAKE the accent! I’ve tried and I always end up sounding Southern. One of my co-workers is from Ohio and he has PERFECTED it for comedic purposes. Plus, he’s way funnier than that Pittsburgh Dad bullshit.

  2. Seriously almost died when I heard someone say it my last trip back…I thought you were just making that shit up!!
    I have a great affection for that place now, even though Dick and the music boxes almost killed me!

  3. I have to live hearing the infamous Boston accent which will always sound super trashy to me. I grew up sans accent, but my dad and James both have it.

    Pittsburgh is on National Geographic’s list of Best Trips of 2012 (although they fail to mention the dialect in their description of the city):


  4. What does “yinz” mean?

    I’ve got the Northern Inland accent aka “almost Canadian” since I live north of Canada.

    You should get some paczki for you, Chooch and yes, even Henry. Depending on where they’re made, they can be total crap or manna from heaven. I recommend apple filled. We even have chocolate ones here in the Detroit area, made by little old Polish ladies in Hamtramck. ;)

  5. Loved this story I could almost insert Utah, Zoobies, fetch, heck, and a list of other words that drive me crazy about my own state. I have never bee to Pitts but I need to go now and experience it in it’s true form. I’ll have to start compiling reasons why I need to come visit now. Seriously, great story Erin, love it!

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