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Mark Stroup

Good point about most Pittsburgh-ese being spoken in the Mon Valley. Although I would say you can find Pittsburgh-ese prevalent on the Southside and in the South Hills. I wouldn't vouch for Hazelwood, Greenfield, and Squirrel Hill. Although my guess is that it's strongest within a two-mile radius of a steel mill or coke plant.

I believe most attempts to locate the authentic or traditional Pittsburgh necessarily take things out of context. Its ethnic, Catholic culture is in reaction to its WASP culture, and vice versa. The same could be said of its African-American culture. Pittsburgh's folkways and rites have been fairly malleable, e.g., a marked reduction in the amount of sausage and ziti served at wedding receptions, while performances of the electric slide have increased.

The one thing we have in common, the Steelers, is as much as product of global capitalism as anything else. As Jerry Seinfeld reminds us, "We're rooting for laundry."

Sam M

Mark makes a great call on the Steelers. Or Stillers. That is, perhaps the cultural epicenter of "Pittsburgh" is Heinz Field, eight Sundays a year. It offers all of the complexity and charm and corporate-ness and authenticity and phony-ness anf amily friendliness and drunkeness (ask the mayor!) and all the rest. It is pure. It is tainted. It is... everything.

And you can riff on it quite a bit. I think, if you are a charitable sort, you might move the epicenter from Heinz Field on Sundays to St. Vincent's College during training camp. Adds a touch of the aw-shucks, small-town vibe. Or you could locate it in one of the much-discussed diaspora bars anywhere in America.

Etc. Etc. Etc.

As an aside, I might add that not only do very few of my students say "yinz," very few of them offer the whole "dahntahn" thing to any great extent. I think they speak with a Western PA accent, but one not all that unlike mine. There are similarities between that and Pittsburghese, but there are also differences. My wife, who is from Maryland, has always made fun of my accent. But she sees it as worlds apart from the Pittsburgh people she has met. She sees mine as somthing more akin to the way people spoke in the movie Fargo.

Bram R

It struck me that the epicenter of Pittsburgh-ness was actually in Centralia, PA. Null Space linked to a photo journal from there, recently.


Pug's Tavern in Sharpsburg. Go there some Saturday night, especially a karaoke night. Any bar where you can see more than two generations of a family is a genuine Pittsburgh bar.

I could describe all the ways in which this place makes me think of Pittsburgh, but to do so would kind of defeat the purpose, since (IMO) the essence of Pittsburghers is that we defy description. Just go there, and I think you'll see what I'm taking about.

Ed Heath

A lot of Morningside, Stanton Heights, Bloomfield, Lawrenceville and Polish Hill seem to have an authentic Pittsburgh feel. Ditto Greenfield and the Southside, away from Carson. Of course, I am talking from a pretty biased racial perspective, I guess. Your mileage will vary.

Sam M

Interesting stuff. Thanks.

As for Centralia, I think that might be a pretty pessimistic selection. That's a fair way to lean, maybe, but if I were tilting in that direction I might pick Braddock. For a lot of reasons.

Wrongo Starr

Yeah, ask the students about the accent--from their striving middle-class perspective, they are bound to think it's a quiz and give an "unbiased" answer.
All of this academic talk about the Pittsburgh accent is blatantly condescending.
To suggest that the accent is specific to the Mon Valley, as opposed to Arlington Heights or Brighton Heights, is to not know the first thing about the people of this area.


Hmmm .... I sort of feel like that's a challenge from Wrongo Starr, so let me add a little more to my comment.

The reason I think Pug's is a great example of what it means to be a Pittsburgher is that the people who go there don't really seem to give a shit what people think about the circumstances of their lives (how they look, who they associate with, how old they are, etc.). If you're easy to get along with and have no interest in making yourself the center of attention, you'll have a good time there. I don't think that's condescending in the least for me to say that.

What's blatantly condescending is telling those of us who were born and raised in Pittsburgh that we don't know anything about the city without telling us why. It leaves me with the impression that some people think they can be "more genuine" Pittsburghers by being anti-academic.

Sam M

Ha! Academic? I've been accused of a lot of things, but...

Yeah, I teach at Pitt. But I see what I do as more like craft instruction. Especially next semester, when I get switched over to journalism.

Besides, I am not discussing this as an academic exploration. I would leave that for the linguists, sociologists, etc. I am speaking more as an interested observer.

As as for my students as "middle-class strivers," I think they would plead guilty. I see no reason why not. There are worse things to be, surely.

And to be honest, I never noticed a hint on condescension. At least in most of them. They were genuinely curious about such things. Like the cultural remnants they have taken on without question. Keep in mind that most of them were born about a decade after Homestead closed.

They never knew anyone who worked there. I have not yet had a student who's dad worked in a mill.

But they still like Hines Ward and Jerome Bettis. Why? Whtn I ask, they say, "Because they're blue-collar players. it's what Pittsbrugh is all about."

Which must mean it's true. In some way or another.

Sam M

I should add, if it is not clear, that I admire the way they think these questions through.

They really do.

Amos the Poker Cat

Jerry was close. Pug's is just one example. You want to find the center of "Pittsburgh-ness", look at any one of nearest authentic neighborhood bar. Clearly, they will complain about smoking ban, even though they qualified for the delay/exception because of the small number of "employees", mainly the wife/sister/daughter/cousin of the owner. It will be small, dark, limited beer selection, food either fried or cold, and a jukebox with nothing newer than '77 in it. The "Pittsburgh-ness" will start to kick in about the time you wonder exactly how many beers you did have, and why it is suddenly so dark outside. Not all the "Fangbang Road"s are open to the public. I think there are probably more small ethnic/service after-hour places with membership be available only by hereditary voucher here than anyplace else I have seen.

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