Friday, October 5, 2007

Youz Going To The Liberry After You Eat Your Hoagie?

Okay, I'm from the Delaware Valley, and I am guilty of each and every one of these "language violations". I admit it. Which is why I had to laugh when I read this gentleman's take on them, and why I decided to share. (Isn't random surfing of the web wonderful?)

If you aren't from the Tri-State area, it may not seem as funny, but maybe you'll think about how you express things where you're from that makes the rest of us look at you and say, "Huh?" Like around here, it's soda, but my friend from Ohio took forever to unlearn pop. =)

Now excuse me while I take my banned book back to the liberry...

Language Pet Peeves
by Art Wolk
Delaware Valleyisms

Here are just a few of the expressions used in the Delaware Valley that are my personal pet peeves:

“Let’s go down the shore”:

Say this to people who live more than one hundred miles from Philadelphia and you’ll get blank stares. “Where,” they might wonder, “are we going exactly? To the foamy water at the edge of the ocean? And when we get there, do we dig below the sand until we’re “down” the shore?

“I want a hoagie.”

Non-Delaware Valleyans are likely to ask: “Are you talking about a small hoe for a small garden? Or perhaps you’re asking for anyone with the same given name as Hoagy Carmichael [composer of hits like ‘Georgia on My Mind’].” The last thing they’ll think about is a sandwich.


Everyone in the Delaware Valley (including all of New Jersey) knows what these eateries are. But use this term on non-Delaware Valleyans and they’ll assume you mean people in the act of eating (dining). My wife and I once ventured to Virginia Beach and asked where we could get “diner food.” Everyone, without exaggeration, everyone had no idea what we meant.

“youz” or “yehz”:

The first of these two is pronounced exactly like the plural of female sheep (i.e., ewes), but has nothing to do with them. In the Delaware Valley, these words are used instead of the word “you.” The reason is obvious: the speaker thinks that “you” is only used when referring to one person. So, obviously, a pluralization is needed, hence the “z” or “ehz.” A typical use would be, “What do youz (or yehz) want?” Go to almost any diner in Southern New Jersey, and at least one waiter or waitress will use it.

“hon” or “sweetie”:

Speaking of waitresses, it’s obvious to me that I must have had a romance with most of them, because they call me “hon” or “sweetie” the first time I enter their domain. I have to admit that I didn’t call my wife, “hon,” until we were dating for three months. Even so, the first time I used the word, I braced myself for a possible rebuff, then was tremendously gratified that she allowed me to use it. But Delaware Valley waitresses, especially those in diners, use this word the first time they clap eyes on you and have no fear of rejection. Perhaps in my next incarnation, I’ll be lovelorn and will eat in diners every day, if only to hear the intimate name they’ll use on me because I’m their special “sweetie.”


As a librarian, this pronunciation is particularly grating. After all, when I earned a masters degree in library science, I wasn’t taught anything about berries, let alone “truth” berries or “lie” berries.


This refers to the liquid put in car tanks that makes the vehicle run. If someone from the Delaware Valley pronounces this word like people living in the rest of the United States (i.e., “gahs”), Delaware Valley listeners will think he or she is trying to sound affected or high class.

“Alls I know”:

Does the speaker mean that he or she is a carpenter and is familiar with every type of “awl”? Well, no, it doesn't. In this case, a Delaware Valleyan means, “What I know about that subject...,” as in, “Alls I know is that Ben Franklin started the first liberry here in Philly.”


If one looks at changes in English words or phrases over the centuries, the most noticeable alteration is that the expressions or words become shorter and/or simpler. For example, two hundred years ago the place where things were manufactured was a manufactory. Of course, the latter term was changed to “factory,” the word in use today.

And, then there's “jeet.” This Delaware Valleyism is three words in one, specifically, “Did you eat?” The conversion is a masterstroke of simplicity: we've gone from nine letters and two spaces to just four letters. This would make “jeet” an obvious word for inclusion in new dictionaries, if it weren't for the fact that Delaware Valleyans would be the only people who'd use it.

There's one other reason: after first seeing “jeet,” the people who put together the Oxford English Dictionary would need smelling salts to regain consciousness.


If this word is used on a Delaware Valley news station or web site any time between November 1st and May 1st, hysteria on an unimaginable scale ensues, because virtually everyone assumes they won't be able to get out of their houses to purchase food until July. One day last year, I happened to be in the egg section of a supermarket, but there was not a single egg to be had…unless you wanted the twenty-five eggs on the floor. I immediately knew that a newscaster somewhere in the Delaware Valley had used the three consonants “s,” “n,” and “w,” with an “o” precariously placed in the third position. I was right: 2-4 inches of snow was predicted (hence the egg/food fight). This begs the questions: Didn’t most of these people live through the 31” snowstorm in 1996? And, why doesn't the memory of that storm help them remain calm whenever less than half that amount of snow is predicted? The obvious answer: they’re from the Delaware Valley!

Here’s an addition from Bill Price (South Jersey Writers member):

“If you axe me…”

(I’ll be dead or horribly wounded!)


*Thankfully brought to my attention by librarian Marie Schultz.

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