No Fancy Name
Friday, July 02, 2004
sprechen sie Pennsylvanian?
UPDATE: Welcome, Salon readers!

Because I do, and I used to get a lot of grief for it when I moved to California (I lived for a chunk of time in Virginia and North Carolina, but no one there ever noticed. I suppose they have their own language-related issues...). pjm pointed out this link to CoalSpeak, which includes many of the things I've been known to say. I offer it to my friends in my continuing effort to show that it's not my fault! The specific coal region referenced by the guide-writers is a whole 70 miles east of where I'm from, but it's enough to tip the scale toward us being more PA Dutch than PA Polish.

Some wonderful examples that I personally use, which often lead to blank stares from my friends. Kind of like when I referenced the "pot stick" that my Mom used (sorry, Mom) to give me a spanking when I was small (I'm sure I deserved it). Pot stick. As in, "the stick used to stir a pot." I was recently informed by my California friends that this is actually called "a wooden spoon". Huh. Go figure.

Anyway...I'll just hit the highlights (or lowlights, depending on your point of view):

- "buggy", not as in "horse and..." but instead of "grocery cart". I swear I've heard this elsewhere, though.

- "Coal Cracker", which in the guide is used to describe a person from the coal region, but to me, it's the name of the fake-logs-in-the-water ride at Hershey Park.

- "crick"...that would be "creek". I know this isn't PA-specific.

- "differnt", "ignernt", etc...the whole gamut of words that should have another syllable at the end but we feel the need not to spend our time saying "differEnt" or "ignorAnt".

- "dippy egg", thank god it's in the guide. I was beginning to think it was just my family. It's really difficult ordering eggs at a diner outside of central Pennsylvania, when all your life you've just ordered "dippy eggs". It took me years to learn the difference in the levels of "over" (easy/medium/hard) and I still don't think I understand. Omelets and scrambled eggs for me -- much easier to explain. The actual definition of a dippy egg is "an egg, such as a soft-boiled or sunnyside-up egg, into which you can dip your toast", meaning it doesn't correlate to any particular level of "over". frustrating.

- "down the shore", meaning "to the beach", when the beach is either in New Jersey or Maryland. If you go to a beach in a different state, e.g. Virginia, North/South Carolina, "down the shore" doesn't apply. To me, going to the beach meant going to Greenwood Furnace, which had a whole 300 yards of sand dumped at the edge of a tadpole-infested lake, which scared the hell out of me and I never went in it. The sandy recreation area really had nothing to do with the fact that Greenwood Furnace was an iron furnace in the 19th century, and thus the surrounding area was all historic buildings, etc. Did your childhood swimming hole have a cemetery next to it? Mine did!

- "four-ways" for your car's hazard lights. This can't be PA-only.

- "Gawd Love Ya!" ... I do not say this, and never have, unless I'm making fun of my grandmother, who DOES say this for real. It's an "exclamation that can mean anything from 'Oh, what a beautiful baby' to 'I'm sorry your house burned down'". Yep.

- now, "gumband" is not in the list, so I'm still on my quest to figure out where I got this from (besides the obvious "your dad"). gumband = rubber band. Anyone?

- "Knoebel's" is an amusement park, but the thing is, you pronounce the K and the N. Kinda like "knnnnniggets" but not really.

- "lightening bugs"...does EVERYone else call them fireflies?

- "long johns"... think "eclair" but longer, more rectangular, and filled with cream, custard, or jelly. My aunt owned a doughnut store for what, thirty years? and we still don't know why they're called long johns.

- "macadam", the asphalt pavement on the road.

- "outen" (one of my favorites) as in "turn off". "Outen the lights" = "Turn the lights out". It's PA Dutch, what can I say. Right up there with "red up", as in "to make ready", such as "Red up your room", meaning "clean your room, or no allowance".

- I'm leaving out "worsh" instead of "wash" because, thank god, I never picked it up from my Dad (sorry, Dad).

Now, if someone could just tell me how I explain "Lebanon bologna" to people out here, so that I can make a decent sandwich, I'll be ok.


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