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The Regional Accent of Picksburgers April 15, 2008

Posted by lyndastucky in Communication.
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In my area of the country (Pittsburgh, PA), we have a very special way of talking.  People born and raised here have an unusual accent known as “Pittsburghese.” I am frequently asked to eliminate Pittsburghese with mid level and senior level executives.  People who are not from this area instantly hear this accent and detect differences that include:

  • word and phrase substitutions;
  • inaccurate vowel pronunciation; and
  • use of non-standard grammar.

One of the most obvious hallmarks of Pittsburghese is the way the vowel /ow/ is pronounced. This particular vowel is actually two vowels that glide together to make a new sound called a diphthong. In this case, the two vowels are /ah/ as in “pot” and /o/ as in “joke.” Say the two vowels slowly and you will make the /ow/ sound as in “out.” In Pittsburghese, the second sound is omitted so the word “down” sounds like “dahn.”

People who pronounce this sound incorrectly are viewed with a skeptical eye.  Here are three reasons:

  • It is not a standard form of pronunciation.
  • It sounds “uneducated”
  • It can confuse the listener.

How do you know if you are pronouncing the sound as it should be pronounced? Try this:

  1. Record yourself slowly saying: “How about going down town?”
    When you play back your recording, do you hear one or two vowel sounds in the pronunciation of /ow/?
  2. Watch yourself in the mirror to see your mouth open and then round as it glides to the second half of the vowel.
  3. If you feel like you cannot evaluate your own skills, ask someone you trust who will give you honest feedback.

Here are some other interesting words and expressions that are spoken by a Pittsburgher with Pittsburghese. 

  1. Instead of saying the filler, “you know,” or “and stuff,” a Pittsburgher says, “n’at” (“and that”) after his/her sentences (e.g., “We’re goin to see the Stillers, n’at.”)
  2. Yes, a long “e” is frequently pronounced with a short “i” as in bit.  So Steelers=Stillers.  And are we ever proud of our Stillers!!
  3.  Rubber bands are called “gumbands.”
  4.  Being “nebby” means you are nosey.
  5.  “Chip, chop ham”= chipped ham
  6.  “yinz” is equivalent to “you” or “you all” (e.g., “Yinz gotta be rilly nebby to be a Picksburger”.)
  7.  Omission of the verb “to be” (e.g., “Yinz car rilly needs warshed.”  Yes, there is an /r/ insertion, too.)
  8.  Did you eat yet? = Jeet jet?  (There are banners in our mall at the food court that have this phrase on them.) 
  9.  Jaggin=bugging someone (e.g., “Quit jaggin me.”)
  10.   Axed=asked (e.g., “I axed you a question.”)

There is something slightly charming about the regional accent (aren’t we unique??), but it certainly is not appropriate in an executive’s setting.  Since habits sometimes die hard, it does take some practice to eliminate this way of speaking but with time and persistence, it is possible.

 

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Comments»

1. The Burgh Blog » AAAAAAAAAAT. - June 11, 2008

[…] On her blog, she goes into further detail about the horrors of the Burgh accent, particularly the “AH” sound in place of the “OW” sound. People who pronounce this sound incorrectly are viewed with a skeptical eye.  Here are three reasons: […]


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