Sunday, February 1, 2015

Last fall Pittsburgh took the prize for worst accent in the U.S

An accent identifies where you came from. Sometimes it’s best to lose one.

Today is the Super Bowl, so both the Steelers and Pittsburgh get some respect. (Those Steelers won six Super Bowls in 1975, 1976, 1979, 1980, 2006, and 2009).

Most people demean the Pittsburgh accent, which just is spoken in a relatively small geographic region.  Tim Niklas demonstrated it in his Ignite 9 Denver presentation Pittsburghese - A Dialectical Primer. Last fall it was named the worst accent in the U.S.

I grew up and lived in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh for over two decades, so I’m very familiar with it. (My English came from hearing my parents, who grew up in Cincinnati, so I don’t usually speak that way).  But I understand that:

Yunz gwan dahntahn? means Are you going downtown?

Yunz gwan up Murray? means Are you going (shopping on) Murray Avenue?

I’d like an ahrn, a chipchopped sammich ana gumban means I’d like an Iron City beer, a chipped-chopped ham sandwich, and a rubber band.

Yunz is single word version of the Irish English second-person plural “you ones.” Over in Philadelphia they say youse, and in the South they say y’all

The Post Gazette had newspaper articles titled A Fresh Look: Speaking Clearly in Pittsburghese and Is yunz or is yinz ain’t from Pittsburgh? There is an informal Pittsburghese web site, and a serious one, Pittsburgh Speech & Society. Barbara Johnstone even wrote a scholarly book, Speaking Pittsburghese: The Story of a Dialect.

Southern accents didn’t used to get much respect. Lenny Bruce once said that:

“As bright as any Southerner could be, if Albert Einstein ‘tawked lahk thayat, theah wouldn’t be no bomb.’ ‘Folks, ah wanna tell yew bout new-clear fishin-’...”

More recently Jeff Foxworthy joked that when some heard his accent they mentally deducted a hundred IQ points.

In November 2013, Time had an article titled Hey, Y’all: Southern Accents Voted Most Attractive. It reported results from a survey by

Rank and percentages

1st Southern – 36.5% (45% male/28% female)
2nd New York –16.5% (10% male/23% female)
3rd Western – 13 % (16% male/10% female)
4th New England – 10.5% (8% male/13% female)
5th New Jersey –7% (4% male/10% female)
6th Canadian –7% (3% male/11% female)
7th Midwestern – 5.5% (8% male/3% female)
8th Mid-Atlantic – 4% (5% male/3% female)

So, keep that sexy and widely spoken Southern accent.

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