Why Being From Pittsburgh is Like Being an Immigrant


Hey readaz.

My dad recently proposed the theory mentioned in today’s title. Here’s why it’s true:

  • Pittsburgh has a large diaspora. Pittsburgh has a large population, with more than 2.3 million people living in the Greater Pittsburgh metropolitan area. That said, one look at this graph will tell you that that’s less impressive than it sounds. Why is this? Well, it’s a lot like Ireland back in the day: people gotta eat, and with no more mills or other replacement industry, off the population goes to Washington, Florida, Chicago or wherever else you find displaced black-and-gold-clad people wondering why they can’t buy chipped ham at the local deli.
  • We have a weird language. Yinz knoew abaht the big business we dooew sell(w)in mugs ‘n ‘at with Pittsburghese quoots on ‘ere (confusing lowered-tonal questioning inflection)? Moost of ’em gooes to people ahtside Picksburgh.
  • Also, distinctive food. French fries on sandwiches? You know how we do. French fries with gravy? Yup. French fries on salad? What.
  • When two Pittsburghers meet outside of Pittsburgh, they will inevitably talk about Pittsburgh. “Oh, for real? Where’d you go to high school?” is always my first question. Then, I make a joke based on the stereotype of their high school, say “for real though, that’s cool,” wait for them to ask where I went to school, say “Woodland Hills,” wait for the awkward silence / “Are you going to rob me?” joke, then commence the conversation about the state of the hometown today and how much I miss Primanti’s.

    This isn’t limited to the first meeting, either. Ask anyone who’s been around me when I’m with my friend Greg.

  • We all say we’d love to move back, and mean it, but we likely never will. You may have a great love for your homeland, but sometimes you take a look around and realize that no matter what your original plans, you’ve made a life for yourself elsewhere that means a lot to both you and the other people in your life, and your desire to recoup your own memories starts to lose its prominence in the grand scheme of things. Sad, but also selfless.

Keep the faith, yinzers.

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4 Responses to “Why Being From Pittsburgh is Like Being an Immigrant”

  1. Pat,
    About six years ago my wife (then girlfriend) and I decided to drive the entire length of the Ohio River. Because it was there. Anyway, as you know, the Ohio starts in Pittsburgh, so we stayed there with a non-native local we knew from school.

    The ‘burgh is a tremendously underappreciated city. Primanti’s was great, but so was the brew pub in a former Catholic church in Homestead, the Ethnic Classrooms at Pitt, and Polish Hill. It was mad tight.

  2. I actually had a great time both times I was in Pittsburgh. Once for a wedding, once visiting a friend at CMU.

    What’s a “yinz?”

  3. I think yinz is the same as “youse” in NY.

    The only way I’d move back to Long Island is if I had kids, because it’s a really good school system there. But even just typing that makes me want to roll my eyes so maybe not.

    With people from LI, the phrase is “What town are you from?” and THEN the high school question. I’m still in the habit of asking people here in SF what town they live in and always forget to rephrase to “What neighborhood are you in?” until I get a weird look.

  4. Thanks for the name check. I very much agree with the theory, though, especially when I consider the differences between the people in my family (Italian immigrants) and the other people in Pittsburgh (“Americans”); I feel about as separated from non-Pittsburgh Americans as a Pittsburgher. And when I meet them–per your comment–we talk like paesani.

    Posted by Greg | August 2nd, 2007 at 9:38 pm

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