"How yinz guys doing?"
Depending on your familiarity with Western Pennsylvania's culture and language, phrases like that might cause you to shake your head in confusion. Don't worry, though… We're here to help you with a brief guide on the history, usage, and significance of one of the most famous multipurpose Pittsburghese words.
The word yinz is a word that's part of what's known as Western Pennsylvania English, aka Pittsburghese. Centered around Pittsburgh, the dialect stretches throughout Appalachia. Speakers range from Erie County, New York; Youngstown, Ohio; and Clarksburg, West Virginia. Commonly associated with the white working class of Pittsburgh, it's definitely one of the coolest regional accents in the nation. We say it's the thinking man's Boston accent...
Yinz, aka "you all," is a second-person pronoun. In other words, it's basically equivalent to "y'all,"... Just a bit weirder sounding.
Yinz can be used in place of "you" (plural), "you guys," "you all," and "y'all"... Yinz get the idea.
Just kidding. Yinz can pronounce it however yinz like—though it's typically pronounced so that it rhymes with "bins."
According to historians, yinz is believed to be derived from the Scots-Irish phrase "you ones." As explained by the scholars of Wikipedia, when Irish speakers began speaking English, they used "you ones" to differentiate between singular and plural form pronouns in the second person since English only has separate singular and plural forms in the first person and third person.
Over time, the Irish "you ones" became pronounced "yinz" in Western Pennsylvania. Elsewhere in the United States, a similar process happened to result in the form "yunz," "youse," and "y'all" in other parts of Pennsylvania, New York City, and the South, respectively.
"Youse," not to be confused, of course, with the similar word "yous" of Atlantic Canada, also derived from speakers of Irish and Scottish roots. We know that keeping track of all these second person pronouns can be a bit challenging.
Personally, we're glad the transition to yinz happened... "You ones" just really doesn't roll off the tongue the same way.
As mentioned, yinz is often used instead of "you" or "you all."
For example, one might say to a group of Baltimore Ravens fans, "Djew catch da stillers game lass nite? Yinzes might as woll have been da O-line da way TJ got to yinz alls."
Translation: "Did you catch the Steelers game last night? You guys might as well have been the [Ravens'] offensive line the way TJ got to you all."
Keen observers might notice some different forms of yinz used in this example. "Yinzes," the extra-plural form of yinz, is a double dose of colloquialism for when yinz just isn't Pittsburghese enough.
Likewise, "yinz alls" contains a plural redundancy for reasons only known to the Western Pennsylvanian mind.
Sometimes yinz can be used as a singular second person pronoun to confuse matters, replacing "you." For example, one might ask, "Is Fred home?" and someone from Pittsburgh would answer, "Yinz jest missed him. He jest left fer work."
This usage is less common than the standard second-person plural, but keep an eye out for it if you plan on genuinely blending in on your next visit to Pittsburgh.
Starting to get the hang of it? Good. One more thing to remember: the term can also be used as a noun. A "Yinzer" is—you guessed it—a person from Pittsburgh.
If you've made it this far, great job. That concludes our grammar and etymology lesson.
In the Yinzer dialect, saying yinz is just the tip of the iceberg. Here are some other common manifestations of Pittsburghese:
Many traditional quirks of the Western Pennsylvania manner of speaking have largely gone by the wayside anymore. Some argue that yinz is used more ironically, or at least in a self-aware way, than younger Pittsburghians reflexively use it.
The needs washed construction, however, is alive and well. Everyone from ya buddy dahntahn (downtown) to your doctor will tell you it's a dialect that needs recognized. And if you make enemies of one of them, they're still likely to call you a "jagoff."
We could go on with a more in-depth linguistic analysis of Southwestern Pennsylvania, but we'd rather not bore you to death. Instead, let's give examples by translating famous literary passages into Pittsburghese.
Dr. Seuss (Oh, the Places You'll Go): "Yinz have brains in yinzes head. Yinz have foot in yinzes shoes. Yinz can steer yinzesself in any direction yinz choose. Yinzes on yinzes own, and jano wah jano. And yinz are da guy who'll decide wheres abahts to go."
James Joyce (Ulysses): "…and Gibraltar as a girl wheres abahts I was a flahr of da maahntin yes whenever I put da rose in my hair like da Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he smutzed me under da Moorish wall, and I thought woll as woll him as another..."
If that's not enough Pittsburghese vocab for you, here are some bonus terms:
"I hafta redd up (tidy up) the place with da sweeper (vacuum) before yinz come ovah. Careful, da stairs are slippy (slippery)!"
Many visitors to Pittsburgh are taken aback by how friendly the locals are. The region is known for its hospitality—always ready to converse or help out a tourist. Besides their sunny disposition, Yinzers have a few other things that make them famous: their food. Here are a few highlights:
Primanti Brothers sandwiches. Started in 1933, this sandwich chain serves sandwiches with sides (fries and coleslaw) inside the sandwich. Legend has it the tradition began for their trucker customers, who would only have one hand free to eat while driving—therefore, putting the sides inside the sandwich allowed them to eat on the road.
Pittsburgh Salad. Not just a salad with fries on top... it's a cultural institution. The Primanti Brothers seem to have been (at least indirectly) behind this tradition as well of putting fries on damn near everything.
Heinz Ketchup. Started in Pittsburgh and now worldwide—the Heinz ketchup company started in the Steel City. Although it's no longer produced in Pittsburgh, Yinzers can claim responsibility.
Pittsburgh-style pizza. This one might baffle pizza traditionalists. Restaurants like Beto's Pizza are famous for putting cold toppings on their pies, including shredded mozzarella, sausage, tomatoes, and mushrooms (straight from the can, no less!). The dough and sauce are cooked in the oven. Toppings are added to the customer's specifications and charged by the "cut," or 4" square of pizza on a gigantic 28" tray. Whether it's ingenious or pizza sacrilege is a hot debate until now.
So, try one of their classic joints next time in Pittsburgh. Just don't call it a "jawn"... that's a Philly thing. Instead, say, "jeet jet?" ("did you eat yet?"), and head to the nearest spot for some chipped-chopped ham. Preferably say it in an accent so thick it's unintelligible to outsiders.
Feel free to take a picture of your meal and post it with Yinztagram. And yes, that's a real thing. Yinztagram is a genuine iPhone photography app that allows you to superimpose pictures of Pittsburgh landmarks onto yours. Ever wished you could include Dippy the dinosaur in your family portrait or make it look like you're eating a Primanti Bros. sandwich? Well, now you're in luck.
We'll get straight to the point: unless you're from Pittsburgh, we're not convinced you can. Sorry—we don't make the rules. You can try your best to fit in with them, but considering their friendly reputation, that shouldn't be a problem.
While many people's mental image of Pittsburgh is steel mills, smokestacks, and concrete jungle, the Pittsburgh of today is much different. This diverse, thriving, green city often surprises visitors with its beauty.
The factories and mills have primarily closed down, and in their place are world-class institutions, Fortune 500 companies, and great culture. Yinzers are proud of where they're from, and rightly so—nowadays, it's known as one of the most desirable cities in the country to live in!
Dressing the part is one surefire way to earn a Yinzer's respect. Besides head-to-toe Steelers gear, we recommend something from our line of awesome Pittsburgh shirts. We've got t-shirts memorializing iconic moments in Pittsburgh sports history (like the "Immaculate Reception"), forgotten hockey teams (the early 20th-century Yellow Jackets), and even just the word "yinz" in big, bold font. If they were any more Pittsburgh, they'd have fries on them... just saying.
If you're lucky enough to be from Pittsburgh, you'll need no convincing reason our apparel screams Iron City pride. We're not so sure, though, why you're reading this blog post on what yinzer means.
We've got men's, women's, and unisex gear in styles from t-shirts, hoodies, raglan, and crewneck (no tossle caps yet, unfortunately). In other words, something for every occasion. Plus, if you're the type who likes to accessorize, you'll find pretty awesome flags and maps too. And before you ask, yes... they heavily feature the city's favorite colors of black and gold.
Our clothing is printed on high-quality cotton, designed to become your instant favorite in your wardrobe. Incredibly soft and made to last, they're printed in the USA too. So grab one for yourself, or gift a couple to the Yinzers in your life!