Carol Tenny wrote in a recent study that, "Verbs describing psychological states often form passive structures in the English spoken in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania." (Tenny 1998-page 591) She also states that there is no prohibition on verbal passives for non-agentive psych verbs produced by universal grammar principles, but English verbal passives are more felicitous as the verb becomes more eventive.
By speaking in a more verbally passive style, Pittsburghers are quite distinct in their word usage. Pittsburghese includes words that may or may not be recognized in other locales or by people traveling to or through Pittsburgh. Words such as; gesundheit, a word used to express goodwill to a person who has sneezed, or gumband, another word for rubberband are examples of Pittsburghese.
Words that are included in Pittsburghese but are also used throughout the area surrounding Pittsburgh (eastern Ohio and northwest West Virginia) includes; berm, which is the shoulder of the road, and grinnie which is more commonly known as a chipmunk.
Many of the words used in Pittsburghese concern types of foods. Two examples are; golumpki, which are known in other areas as 'a pig in a blanket' (a hot dog wrapped in a biscuit) and butterbread, which is exactly as it sounds, bread that is buttered. Other examples of Pittsburghese as it pertains to foodstuffs are; dippy, which means any food that you can use to dip in (ie; coffee, gravy, eggs etc.) and cruds or crudded milk, which is cottage cheese.
Many of the Scot-Irish that immigrated to the Pittsburgh area not only brought their own unique pronunciation of the English language, but brought diverse and tasty foodstuffs with them as well. Pittsburghese reflects these foods and ties the food and language together and to the area. It is rumored that during the Depression era immigrants to the Pittsburgh area brought with them city chicken, which is scraps of pork or chicken fashioned into a make-shift drumstick. Other words for food found in Pittsburghese includes; chipped ham, very thinly sliced ham for sandwiches and a hoagie, a sandwich sometimes referred to as a sub-or a submarine sandwich. Interested individuals can also sample pierogies, a filled, and usually boiled dumpling, or a kolbassi, another word for sausage, or even jumbo, which is what Pittsburghers call bologna lunchmeat. One of the easiest ways that a person can tell if they are being talked to by a Pittsburgher is when they say "yinz" meaning, of course, you all, or all of you. Individuals from the south may say "yall" but Pittsburghers will not recognize it, since "yinz" is their correct way of saying it.
Other word usage common to Pittsburghese includes; nebby or neb-nosed, meaning that a person is nosy, or slippy which is another way of saying slippery. It is not only the words used that defines Pittsburghese, but the way common words are replaced as well. Oftentimes, Pittsburghers will use short phrases such as "n'at" which is sometimes used to say "you know what I mean, even without me saying it." or, they will reverse the meaning of 'leave, let'. An example of this would be 'leave me go now," or "let the flower vase on the table." Most dialects turn these two words around in their usage.
William Labov conducted a telephone survey that was published in 2006 by Mouton deGuyter that explained many of the idiosyncrasies of many dialects and in particular "Pittsburghese." The sounds of many of the words associated with Pittsburghese were explained by long-term residents of Pittsburgh during the survey. The study broke down the dialect primarily based on the / ay / vs. The / aw / sound and particularly the / ah / replacing the / ow/. An example of this is dahtahn replacing downtown.
Explaining how the Pittsburgh dialect retained its Scots-Irish originality but was accepted into modern day usage as well, Andrus suggests "that social and geographical mobility during the latter half of the twentieth century has played a crucial role in the process." (Andrus pg 79) Initially Pittsburghese was likely to be used to distinguish between social classes.
With the huge influx of immigrants at the turn of the 20th century and the general acceptance by the media of the dialect, it has morphed into something much more concrete and acceptable.
Other experts agree with Andrus, including Barbara Johnstown, a noted expert on Pittsburghese. She says that other sources that influence the way Pittsburghers talk includes the fact that Germans made up a large part of the earliest European population of western Pennsylvania and cites words such as 'gesundheit' and 'sauerkraut' as proof that many of those words still survive in Pittsburghese to this day.
Johnstown agrees with Andrus concerning the Africans that moved to western Pennsylvania and the other immigrants that arrived at the beginning of the 20th century which included Italians, Poles, Slovaks and Jews who brought with them words from their languages including 'babushka', 'salami', 'pierogi', 'halushky' and 'flanken'.
Johnstone states that the more recent influx into Pittsburgh society of Russian immigrants will, at some point, means that their contribution to Pittsburghese will happen in the not too distant future and will add to the colorful dialect already in existence. At that time, Pittsburghers will likely have added even more words from more immigrants, but nonetheless most of them will recognize that Pittsburgh, as it was first established will accept them all graciously.
When the following phrase was penned, "Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in General Assembly met, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, That the said town of Pittsburgh shall be, and the same is hereby, erected into a borough, which shall be called the borough of Pittsburgh for ever" (Carnegie 2006) it is fairly certain that most of the inhabitants cheered and may have even used such a phrase as "yinz are no longer slippy, whenever you did the deed we are redd up for it."
The inhabitants of Pittsburgh at that time probably feasted not only on the words that made them an official city (or borough at least), but may have also feasted on a wide variety of items that are well-known for that area. Some of those foodstuffs have survived unscathed until this day, and many more have been introduced and have become synonymous with Pittsburgh. One of the area favorites is flanken, or in other words, short ribs or flank steak. Flanken is Yiddish for side of beef. This can be prepared over open flames or slow pressure-cooked and covered with special spices.
If the restaurants in the city are any indication, then many of the favorites found in Pittsburgh can also be found in other locales as well. Recently a restaurant was opened at the Pittsburgh airport that featured "local cuisine." This local cuisine included; "salads, panini sandwiches, Chicago-style pizza, beer and wine." (Creative 2005-page 28)
One of the other favorite restaurants touts their desserts and the fact that they use only local ingredients to create their masterpieces. The Cafe at the Frick Art & Historical center in Pittsburgh "boasts an array of mouth watering artisan desserts. The desserts showcase intense flavors composed from, traditional and - most uniquely - strictly seasonal ingredients." (Lefebvre 2006-page 72) Using local ingredients does not set this particular restaurant apart as much as might seem likely, since many of the restaurants in the area tout the same principle, but it does signify an advantage enjoyed by the business' and people of Pittsburgh. That advantage is that much of Pittsburgh unique local flavor, including food, is grown and harvested locally, making it easier, cheaper and more efficient to create the foods that Pittsburgh citizens enjoy.
"The vast majority of fruits and vegetables prepared and presented at the Cafe are either grown in the organic garden on the Frick grounds or on local farms." (Lefebvre pg 72)
Along with the fruits and vegetables grown by local farmers are the chefs who combine the ingredients into fare fit for kings. Many of the chefs are well schooled in their craft and they realize that their creations are what keep the Pittsburghers happy and returning for additional fare. The head chef at the Frick Art & Historical Center in Pittsburgh even goes as far as to pick certain dessert creations to bake at certain times of the year.
John Muth, cafe manager states, "We are committed to a philosophy of culinary traditionalism, using simple cooking techniques to combine seasonal ingredients and flavors in new ways," (Lefebvre pg 72).
The key for Pittsburghers, and others lucky enough to enjoy the cuisine, are the seasonal ingredients. The executive chef at the Cafe, Patrick Laird asks "Have you ever made an apple pie, using the same recipe and the same ingredients first in the fall, then again in the summer...The pie tastes incredible in the fall -- tart and flavorful -- but can taste like cardboard in the summer." (Lefebvre pg…