Having watched several movies filmed in Pittsburgh or about Pittsburgh, I am puzzled that there is no attempt to slip in the famous Pittsburgh-eze, that is, at least it’s famous in Pittsburgh. In Fargo, Frances McDormand used the North Dakota accent. Meryl Streep is famous for her mastery of accents, as demonstrated in Sophie’s Choice. In movies about the South, you rarely miss a “y’all” or a Texas drawl, hillbilly slang, or Cajun cadence. Everybody knows that Bostonians say “cawh” for car and New Yorkers say “fugedabutit.” But when it comes to Pittsburgh, “yinz” just “ain’t” there.
It took me many years to lose the “yinz.” Understanding that “jumbo” referred to baloney and not the size of a sandwich, came only after meeting people from outside Pittsburgh. Since I didn’t travel a lot until I went to college, I didn’t have this experience. When I moved out of Pittsburgh to teach Russian in Frederick, Maryland, the “kellers” changed. Orange, green, red, blue, and purple were “colors.” Who knew?
Somehow, after almost 20 years living outside of Pittsburgh, I still retain my Pittsburgh accent. People, who seem to know, are able to identify my region of birth within a few moments of my speaking. My husband, who grew up just outside New Orleans, has completely lost his accent. Why can’t I lose mine?
Michael Chabon writes a lot about Pittsburgh, but he was born on the other side of the tracks, where people are born with silver spoons and they never have to take out their own garbage. Perks of Being a Wallflower was filmed in Pittsburgh about Pittsburgh, but they missed “yinz,” too. What’s up with that? Because it’s Upper Saint Clair, where the hoi polloi live, and not in the southern boondocks, don’t they speak the same language?
Does Hollywood think that the average viewer won’t grasp that “Suthside” is Southside or that “Sliberty” is East Liberty and Duntahn is Downtown? Is the accent that obscure? Are actors too lazy to learn it? Is there no coach for Pittsburgh-eze? Dominick and Eugene lived on the “Suthside” and they didn’t say “yinz.” Don’t they ever go to “Giant Iggle” or watch a “Stillers” game. You can buy a Pittsburgh-eze dictionary in almost any bookstore in Pittsburgh. It doesn’t cost much to pick it up. “Kam on, yinz guys.”