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Guest Opinion

What’s in that Fill-uff-e-ah wooder?


The world-famous Philadelphia accent made its debut on Dec. 25, 1776. As General George Washington approached the Delaware River at McConkey’s Ferry (Washington Crossing), he asked a Continental about the conditions ahead. Half-starved and ¾ frozen, the soldier meant to say that the river was frozen and crowded with sheets of ice. All he could manage through shivering lips was “WOODER ICE.”

Travel around the world and it’s easy to spot somebody from the Philadelphia FILL-UFF-E-AH) region. How? Aside from the fading Super Bowl LII Champions attire, the unique pronunciation of the King’s English is a dead giveaway.

I once realized I was among Delaware Valley expats when I heard a man yell to his friend in the Florence Cathedral: “Hey! YO! Billy, DIS guy’s from back HAEOME!”

A few grammatical points to start: The plural of you is YOUSE (Rhymes with booze). AIN’T is the requisite contraction. The double negative contradiction (AIN’T GOT NO) and double subject (My MOM, SHE went to the store) make sense in local parlance.

English teachers may cringe, but ending a sentence with a preposition is standard: Where YOUSE AT? Who YOUSE WID? Former IGGLE Ricky Watters once earned the ire of IGGLES fans for properly inquiring, “For who? For what?” when questioned about his poor effort on a pass over the middle of the field. Had Watters replied, “Who FOR?” and “What FOR?” it just might have blown over.

DIS, DAT, DEES, DOES, and DEM, which can be here or OVER-DARE, are local demonstratives. Other telltale local words include LOPSTER (crustacean), BE-YOO-TEE-FUL (very pretty), ARNGE (The fruit or, mixed with black, the Flyers colors), AWFEN (frequent), and UUGE (big).

Lights have AWN and AWF switches. Want to sell your HAEOME? Don’t waste time with a Realtor. You need a REAL-A-TOR.

We hate MUNDEES. And Dallas. And sometimes BOF of DEM for the same reason if the IGGLES lose.

JAWN is as 215 as using a beach chair to claim ownership of a snow-cleared parking spot. JAWN has more versatility and personality than widget and thingamabob combined. In fact, a JAWN can be the cleared-out parking spot, the car that owns the spot, and the interloping car trying to take it. A hundred million widgets can’t do that.

YO may be a small word but it’s a 15-point triple word score in Scrabble and packs the universal punch of the fictional southpaw pugilist who embodies the soul of the region. Hey! YO! Rocky! YO can be employed to greet, warn, encourage, express surprise, disgust, and agreement, and all the aforementioned, simultaneously. YO, YOUSE got a problem WID DAT?

Every Joseph is JOEY, Paul is PAWLIE, every Michael a MOIKE, and there are so many options with Anthony. YO, ANT! And while I have no official data to support this hypothesis, there are more women named PEG, DENISE and CATHY in the Philadelphia region than anywhere else in the world.

You wake up with a CAWFEE and a BEG-L and end the day with a YUENGLING and a hoagie. For clarification, submarines are boats and heroes are Nick Foles, Harry Kalas, Benjamin Franklin, Wilt Chamberlain, Bernie Parent, and Betsy Ross. A hoagie is a regional cold cut institution.

When ordering a cheesesteak, it’s best to have your wits and WIDS (and WID-OUTs) about you.

The accent is a treasured part of the Delaware Valley. Even Hollywood loves it. If you can say PASH-YUNK and SKOO-KILL, you pass. If not, consider moving to YOUSTON, BALDYMORE, ALANNA, or BALLSTON. AH-IGHT?

Paul Bradley lives in Washington Crossing.

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