Pittsburgh, like the cities of Boston and New York, has its own dialect — most recognizable by the word yinz (plural for “you,” derived from “you ones”). Thus the yinzer is a Pittsburgh native who speaks with the accent and vocabulary unique to this area. You can tell a yinzer by the vowels: double Es become I, and Os are always a nasal AH sound. A yinzer preparing for a Sunday out will say, “Hey yinz, I’m gonna go take a shaher before we go dahntahn n watcha Stillers n’at.”
The yinzer is a dwindling breed. My parents are yinzers, yet I am not. Luckily, there are still a few parts of the city where the accent is alive and well. A map of Pittsburgh highlighting yinzer habitat would look much like a bullseye, with high yinzer activity taking place in the city and outlying areas. The suburbs are sadly mostly yinzer-free.
In many of the older city neighborhoods, street parking is scarce, and not many homes have driveways. Simple solution: Claim the space in front of your house with an old lawn chair. Nobody will dare move it. Yinzer code.
In Pittsburgh, we love our fries. But we prefer them not on the side, but on top of our food. On all our food. Of course you’ll see this at Primanti Bros., the most famous dive restaurant chain in the Burgh — imagine chewy Italian bread loaded with grilled meat, melted cheese, crispy fries, and vinaigrette coleslaw. But the Pittsburgh steak salad, found everywhere, also better come topped with a mountain of golden fried potatoes.
You can’t survive socially in Pittsburgh without some knowledge of how our teams are doing. My husband learned this quickly when he moved to Pittsburgh from England. After years of thinking American football was just a pansy version of rugby, he quickly became a fan of our beloved Steelers. Otherwise, what would he talk about on wintry Monday mornings? Soon, that carried over into baseball and (his favorite) hockey.
Most yinzers follow our teams passionately, to the point where most people you see outside are wearing some form of Pittsburgh sports clothing. Added benefit: You’ll never forget where you are.
Heading into the south side of the city from the north, you must cross the Fort Duquesne Bridge. You enter from the left and exit on the right all in about 300 feet. Oh, and there’s also people entering from the right that must exit left. No sweat.
Immediately after exiting the bridge, you then must merge onto the Fort Pitt Bridge from the right, and cross three lanes of traffic to enter the tunnel on the left, while avoiding the traffic entering from the left that needs to exit right. This time, you might have about 400 feet. A true yinzer can do this all with a Primanti’s sandwich in hand and not even drop a fry.
I mean, just look at it.
The name Pittsburgh often conjures images of smog, smokestacks, and steel mills. This is the Pittsburgh of the past. Today’s Pittsburgh is clean and green — there’s mountain biking in the city’s large parks and kayaking on the three rivers. World-class hospitals in the Burgh employ some of the best doctors in the country, and even Google’s moved into the neighborhood.
Though the mills closed a long time ago, my city owns its heritage. The industrial history lives on in the collective personality of the citizens. We’re proud of who we are: A down-to-earth, friendly, great big small town.