Remember Ray Lyman, whose disjointed rants at Scranton City Council meetings once earned him an invite to appear on the comedy video-clip show “Tosh.0”?
Well, he’s back, at least on video. He hasn’t appeared at a council meeting in a while, but Ramblin’ Ray is cited in Gawker’s America’s Ugliest Accent Contest.
Scranton is the number 2 seed. Other contenders include Pittsburgh, Philly, Chicago and Baltimore.
Check it out here.
A few years ago, I wrote a column about “Coalspeak” that some folks didn’t like, so naturally I dug up and posted it. I also include a mea culpa column I filed the next week poking fun at the linguistic quirks of my hometown.
A ‘kupple-two-tree’ tips for newcomers to Scranton
Publication Date: July 13, 2002 Page: 01A
Four new faces joined our reporting staff this week. As a seasoned professional, I felt it was my duty to pass on some of the invaluable knowledge I’ve amassed in nearly seven years of producing inspired, informative and 100 percent biodegradable journalism.
After pointing out the coffee room and candy machines and explaining that looking busy is as simple as walking briskly with a sheet of paper in hand, I couldn’t help but think there was something more I could share.
After all, these people aren’t just new to the newspaper, they’re new to Northeastern Pennsylvania. And that’s when it hit me — a huge spitball, possibly hurled by one of the new kids.
When I moved here, my biggest hurdle was the language barrier. I’d ask for a chili dog and get a Texas wiener. I’d ask why there was brown mustard on my chili dog, and be told, “We don’t serve chili dogs.”
I’d ask for directions, and get, “Take da first left after da Onion Church. If ya see da pizza joint, ya passed it out.”
Surely the new reporters will face similar linguistic conundrums. Say, for instance, that a fire has gutted a local tavern, and a man who barely escaped the blaze has agreed to an interview.
NEW REPORTER: “What happened, sir?”
STANLEY MICHAEL PAUL XAVIER STASH HALUPKI: “My kuzzints and I was schwaggin’ a couple, two, tree kortz at da beer garden before headin’ over to da St. Nick’s Pitnick when some jabrodie runs in and says, ‘Looka! Da place is on fire! Get outta here before yuz all end up in da corpse house!’
“I taught we was all gonna get kilt, burnt up in da fire or drownded by da fire hoses. I’m a good Catlick, but nobody wants ta go dat way, henna?”
NEW REPORTER: “What happened, sir?”
To help our new reporters survive such scenarios, I visited www.coalregion.com on that newfangled Internet thingy. The Web site, created by natives of the region, offers “The Official Coal Region Dictionary.” I consulted it and a few locals to compile the following primer on what coalregion.com affectionately calls “Coalspeak.”
Afterlater: Later. “I can’t go witcha now. Howz about afterlater?”
Artics: Winter boots.
Bridal Dance: Also known as the “Dollar Dance.” Everyone coughs up a buck for a dance with the bride.
Beer garden: Bar or tavern.
Corpse house: Funeral home or mortuary.
Couple, two, tree: A few. “We kin go down the beer garden fer a couple, two, tree beers.”
Drownd, drownded: Drown, drowned. “Be careful you don’t get drownded down the crick.”
Et: Past tense of “eat.” “Jeet yet? No, d’joo? Yeah, I et aready.”
Upda Eynon: To go up Route 6, almost always to the former Sugerman’s.
Fill-um: What you put in a cam-ra.
Frick: A toned-down version of Ozzy Osbourne’s favorite four-letter word.
Ferxactly: Where “Fer sure” and “Exactly” collide.
Gawd Love Ya!: Synonymous with, “Oh, what a beautiful baby,” and “I’m sorry your house burned down.”
Gothemall: Go to the mall.
Hayna, heyna, henna and haynit: A request for affirmation, like, “Ain’t it so?” or “Isn’t that right?” “It sure is cold tonight, henna?”
Hatchy Milatchy: A popular children’s show on WNEP-TV in the 1960s and ’70s. Hosted by “Miss Judy” and “Uncle Ted.”
Hunnert: Hundred. “I musta spent a hunnert dollars at the beer garden last night.”
Jabrodie, jabronie: Slang for a stupid person.
Jahafta: Did you have to? “Jahafta put yer shoes up on da coffee table?”
Kortz: Thirty-two liquid ounces, always used when referring to quantities of beer.
Looka, lookit: Look or look here.
Mango: Here, a green bell pepper. At Wegmans and in the rest of the world, it’s a tropical fruit.
My-un: Belonging to me. “That mango is my-un.”
Nave: Naive. “Youz tink that I am so nave …”
Onnacowna: On account of. “I got pulled over onnacowna I had too many kortz at da beer garden last night.”
Onion Church: Greek Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches, which have steeples shaped like onion bulbs.
Pitnick: Picnic. “I tink St. Nick’s pitnick is next weekend.”
Panked down: When your hair is flattened down.
Q (See K)
Rooned or roont: Ruined. “I fell in the crick and now my hair is roont!”
Redd, redd up: To make ready. “We have to redd up the house before the comp’ny gets here!”
Sammich, samwich, sangwich: Sandwich.
Scra’un, Scran, Scra’in: Scranton, commonly pronounced with the middle consonants skipped.
Tray: Measurement used to describe a whole pizza. “Gimme a tray of da red.”
Texas wiener: A chili dog with mustard and onions.
Tree: Da number between 2 and 4.
Da burro of Troop: The borough of Throop.
Da U: The University of Scranton.
Unenjoyment: Unemployment compensation. “Bob’s been on unenjoyment ever since he got laid off.”
V (See B)
Wimpies: Sloppy Joe sandwiches.
Weeka: We could. “Weeka gothemall!”
Yooj: Huge. “I caught a yooj fish in the crick, but I left it go.”
Youze, yuz, yooz and yiz: Plural of you. “Will yooz please stop trowing spitballs?”
Seriously. I’m trying to work here.
CHRIS KELLY the Times-Tribune columnist, is fulla canal water.
This is a great place, let’s get that chip off our shoulder
Publication Date: July 20, 2002 Page: 01A
“Ask not wah yinzes country can do fer you n’at. Ask wah yinz can do fer yinzes country.” — John F. Kennedy, translated at www.Pittsburghese.com.
Bulletin to the babushka counters over at the U.S. Census: There are roughly 1.5 trillion people of Polish descent living in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
This is a conservative estimate, based on the number of irate Polish-Americans who have called, written or hurled flaming kielbasas at me since last week’s column on “Coalspeak.”
While crafting (frantically tossing together) what was intended as a lighthearted look at the local lexicon, I inadvertently gave an imaginary man outside an imaginary beer garden an imaginary name that sounded really Polish.
It was an honest mistake (I have a daily quota), but it gave some the impression I was singling out people of Polish ancestry as ubergoofs who can’t pronounce the letter H and who climb trees to rake leaves.
Dave Falchek, business writer and unofficial Polish ombudsman of the Times-Tribune newspapers, was one of them.
DAVE: “What if you were writing a column about drunks, and you named the guy ‘Seamus O’Mick?'”
ME: “Leave my family out of this!”
But Dave did have a point. Poles have historically suffered an inordinate amount of abuse, and while I’ve never been timid about offending people (Mom always urged me to use my God-given talents), I generally prefer to do it intentionally.
Dave said it doesn’t matter that I didn’t mean it, and maybe he’s right. Then again, I suspect Dave is the type who thinks people who park at the Mall at Steamtown with no intent of shopping are hardened criminals who should be detained, questioned about possible links to al-Qaida and executed on pay-per-view.
No matter. It was a bonehead play on my part, and I apologize. Przykro mi! Przepraszam! Still, it’s a mistake I’m almost glad I made, because the resulting row raised a thorny subject in these parts — the collective inferiority complex that plagues this region and its people.
It’s not like everybody hated the column. Most people enjoyed it, especially natives who have moved away. They saw the piece as a humorous look at a part of the area’s character they miss more than they may have realized.
But others, (non-Poles included) saw it as a slap in the face. Some called it condescending. Others said it was mean-spirited, unfair and “disgusting.” There were even letters from locals claiming they’ve lived here all their lives and “have never heard anyone talk that way.” I’m holding a fund-raiser to get these mole people basic cable for their bomb shelters.
My favorite slam came from a pair of women who compared me to a former reporter who is now a convicted child molester. Maybe I’m a total jabroni, but that seems like a stretch, hayna?
By and large, the negative responses were reminiscent of last year’s lambasting of Gene Weingarten. Besides nearly crowning Scranton the “Armpit of America,” the Washington Post humor columnist said it was “impossible to get a good meal” in the city.
Disgruntled readers and diners freaked. The outpouring of outrage roared on for days. “Scranton’s no armpit, buddy,” protesters yowled, “and if you were looking for a good meal here and couldn’t find it, you had your head up your –.” You get the point. The righteous indignation was a surprising and welcome sign of life, but when the controversy ebbed, so did the show of community and personal pride that fueled it.
Pride is a full-time proposition, not something you drag out when some smart-ass from the Washington Post ashcans the local cuisine or suggests you live in the near-armpit of America.
And if you think I’m a loudmouthed jerk who’s lucky to write for a newspaper (which, incidentally, I am), why let anything I say (or seem to say) get under your skin?
Because you’re not always comfortable in that skin. I don’t know anyone who is, and it’s been my experience that the jabs that sting most are those that people perceive on some level to be true. I didn’t criticize those who use Coalspeak. Turns out I didn’t have to. They’re self-flagellating.
I’m from Pittsburgh. There is no sillier-sounding localese anywhere than the twisted tongue of the Monongahela Valley. There, “youse” is “yinz,” “yunz” or “yoonz,” and “Picksburghers” go “dahntahn” (downtown) to “pahnd sum arns” (drink some Iron City beers) and root for the “Stillers” (Steelers) and “Buccos” (Pirates).
A ritual for me on trips home is pulling off the highway in Dubois (pronounced “Doo-boyz”), about 100 miles shy of “Da ‘Burgh.” That’s about where the yinzing begins, and it’s music to my ears. It lets me know I’m almost home and my roots are right where I left them.
When I got here, I was routinely ribbed for my accent. It didn’t hurt a bit. Pittsburghers know they talk funny, and they’re not ashamed of it. They embrace the local lingo as something uniquely theirs. It gives them a sense of community and identity and yes, an excuse to laugh at themselves — something we all need now and then.
I was once at Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and a couple who moved there from Pittsburgh overheard me say “See yinz later” to my friends. They introduced themselves and we hung out for hours, laughing about how easy it is to pick a “yinzer aht in a crahd.”
Some say I have no business commenting on local custom because I’ve only been local for seven or so years. Hooey. I live here, I work here, I pay my taxes here and (gasp!) I like it here. I wasn’t born and raised here, but if I was, I’d say so with pride.
This is a good place, filled with good people. I may not always say it the right way, but I care about both. And why not? I’m one of those people and part of this place. I dropped the “t” from “Scran’un” a long time ago, and I don’t miss it at all.
What this region needs to drop is the huge anthracite chip on its shoulder. It’s a lot heavier than anything a loudmouthed jerk who’s lucky to write for a newspaper will ever lay on you.
You have nothing to be ashamed of but shame itself. Get over it. It’s the only way you’ll ever get on with it.
CHRIS KELLY, the Times-Tribune columnist, would like to take yinz all dahtahn fer a kupple arns.