You might be a Yinzer if ...

Bill Cowher once said: “I’m one of you. Yinz know what I mean?” Of course, using a word that’s meant to foster camaraderie with Pittsburghers. It worked on me.



Illustration by Patrick Neil

In 2007, Bill Cowher held a press conference to announce his retirement as head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. As he stood in front of the media wearing one of his signature Bill Cosby-like, eyeball-shattering sweaters, he said something I’ll never forget: “I’m one of you. Yinz know what I mean?”

He wasn’t just saying he was one of us; he was saying it while using a word that’s meant to foster camaraderie with Pittsburghers. It worked on me.

I hated that he was leaving Pittsburgh. I prefer that my sports heroes stick around—atrocious sweaters and all. But with that one word, it felt OK. Yinz. He wasn’t going to forget his hometown of Pittsburgh. He wasn’t going to change or stand sobbing in a shower in North Carolina, trying desperately to scrub the ’Burgher off himself. He was and would remain one of us.

He didn’t. But that’s another column. The point is: Just by saying that one word, I bought what he was selling—so much that I purchased three Cosby sweaters in every shade of late-’80s chic.

Fast forward to summer 2010, and we find Ben Roethlisberger giving an interview to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, just a few months after his bad-boy shenanigans in Georgia resulted in an NFL-sanctioned, four-game suspension and a general loss of respect from many fans. In the midst of much hand-wringing over the possibility that Steelers fans would boo him at training camp (they didn’t), Ben said, “I’m a Yinzer. I don’t say it, but I am a Yinzer.”

I read the quote. I rubbed my eyes and read the quote again. I put the paper down thinking I was having an aneurysm. I wasn’t. There it was. Ben was calling himself a Yinzer.

The image of the quintessential Yinzer, as I personally define it, appeared in my mind’s eye, and it was a cheap-beer-drinking, jort-wearing, multiple-tooth-missing man sporting a lush mullet and a tattered Steelers jersey while being interviewed on the 5 o’clock news, saying things like “them there” or “we was” or “dahn ’ere” or “we was dahn ’ere with ’em ’ere.”

I compared this with the mental image of Ben—a wealthy man who travels with a posse, dates famous women and drives cars worth more than most Yinzers make in a year—and I laughed. Oh, how I laughed.

The only thing remotely Yinzerish about Ben was the unfortunate manner in which he chose to arrange the hairs atop his head during his apology press conference—the half mullet, half mohawk hairstyle that I refer to as the “mullethawkenberger.” It’s mine. I own it. Send me a dime for every time you’ve said it.

Reading the newspaper quote, I was incredulous because Ben seemed to think being a Yinzer is a good thing. It was as if he took a page out of Bill Cowher’s Book of Ways to Endear Yourself to Pittsburgh but just skimmed the pages instead of actually reading it.

Wondering if perhaps the rest of Pittsburgh holds a more positive view of the word “Yinzer,” I began an exhaustive investigation, conducting research using foolproof scientific methods to ensure a proper sample size and an acceptable margin of error: I Tweeted. Oh, I hit up my Facebook friends, too.

The responses were generally in support of my belief that “Yinzer” is a derogatory term: Only 12 percent of the respondents indicated that they feel it’s a positive descriptor, while 60 percent think it is negative.

Another substantial number, 28 percent, said it is contextual—that it depends on who is saying it and whom he or she is referring to. The respondents feel that if a Pittsburgher calls another Pittsburgher a Yinzer, it’s a sort of humorous barb; here’s one such example:

“Did you just belch the chorus of ‘Renegade,’ you Yinzer?” However, as I interpret this data, if an outsider calls a Pittsburgher a Yinzer, it’s an insult of the highest order, indicating a perception of entirely too little class and entirely too many Steelers tattoos.

Armed with my percentages and a feeling of vindication, I then got in touch with the most intellectual, smarty-pants entity in Pittsburgh that I could think of: the mayor’s office.

No, not really. Carnegie Mellon University, of course. I asked resident linguistics expert Barbara Johnstone what she thought, and she wrote, “I think your correspondents are right—that it depends on who is calling whom a Yinzer, whether it’s negative or positive. It’s like ‘redneck’ in that respect.”

Ah, so Ben was trying to pull a Bill Cowher (who said “Yinz”) but with the addition of two little letters (when reciting the word “Yinzer”). Ben pulled a Jeff Foxworthy, likely in an effort to put himself on the level of the everyman, hard-working Pittsburgher.

But I don’t call the everyman, hardworking Pittsburgher a Yinzer; I call him a ’Burgher. And if he’s sporting a mullethawkenberger, I don’t call him anything because it’s hard to speak when you’re laughing that hard.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Best of the 'Burgh 2017

Best of the 'Burgh 2017

Host an event in Pittsburgh’s urban sustainable homestead. Join a club for mushroom hunters. Tour a coal mine. Listen to some banjo music. We list our new favorite experiences, food, drink, personalities, stores, items and activities in the ’Burgh.
Daytripping: The ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Daytripping: The ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Fourteen years ago this month, the mighty Kinzua Viaduct met its match.
Restaurant Review: The Café Carnegie

Restaurant Review: The Café Carnegie

The restaurant, run by Dinette’s Sonja J. Finn, boosts the dining experience at the Carnegie museums in Oakland.
Thrive: Smooth Moves While Getting Lost in the Music

Thrive: Smooth Moves While Getting Lost in the Music

FASTER Pittsburghʼs Hip Hop Cardio promises to get your workout into a groove.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Watch: Pittsburgh Penguins Video Tribute to Marc-André Fleury

Watch: Pittsburgh Penguins Video Tribute to Marc-André Fleury

With a tear in our eye, we bid the “Flower” Au Revoir.
Finally, a Faster Way From Pittsburgh to Oakland and Beyond

Finally, a Faster Way From Pittsburgh to Oakland and Beyond

A proposed route for new electric buses will connect 30,000 people throughout 24 neighborhoods.
Extras Wanted: Cate Blanchett Shooting Movie in Pittsburgh

Extras Wanted: Cate Blanchett Shooting Movie in Pittsburgh

“Where’d You Go, Bernadette,” a movie based on the best-selling comedic novel, will begin filming in the ‘Burgh next month.
What We Know about Anthony Bourdain’s Visit to Pittsburgh

What We Know about Anthony Bourdain’s Visit to Pittsburgh

While Bourdain and his crew aren’t talking, they left plenty of hints about what’s likely to be in the Pittsburgh episode of “Parts Unknown.”
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Best of the 'Burgh 2017

Best of the 'Burgh 2017

Host an event in Pittsburgh’s urban sustainable homestead. Join a club for mushroom hunters. Tour a coal mine. Listen to some banjo music. We list our new favorite experiences, food, drink, personalities, stores, items and activities in the ’Burgh.
Daytripping: The ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Daytripping: The ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Fourteen years ago this month, the mighty Kinzua Viaduct met its match.
Restaurant Review: The Café Carnegie

Restaurant Review: The Café Carnegie

The restaurant, run by Dinette’s Sonja J. Finn, boosts the dining experience at the Carnegie museums in Oakland.
Thrive: Smooth Moves While Getting Lost in the Music

Thrive: Smooth Moves While Getting Lost in the Music

FASTER Pittsburghʼs Hip Hop Cardio promises to get your workout into a groove.
Curling in Pittsburgh: ‘It's Basically Golf and Chess on Ice’

Curling in Pittsburgh: ‘It's Basically Golf and Chess on Ice’

On the eve of its largest annual event, the Pittsburgh Curling Club has plans to increase Pittsburgh’s appreciation for its intricate sport.
Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in June

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in June

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Watch: Pittsburgh Penguins Video Tribute to Marc-André Fleury

Watch: Pittsburgh Penguins Video Tribute to Marc-André Fleury

With a tear in our eye, we bid the “Flower” Au Revoir.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Pusadee's Garden Will Close at End of Year (But Not Forever)

Pusadee's Garden Will Close at End of Year (But Not Forever)

Look for some big changes at the Upper Lawrenceville restaurant, which is expected to shutter for at least a year.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Best Places for Kids on Rainy Days in Pittsburgh

Best Places for Kids on Rainy Days in Pittsburgh

Read on for some under-the-radar ideas on how you and the kids can survive a rainy day this summer.

Comments


High-Wire Acts at Carnegie Science Center

High-Wire Acts at Carnegie Science Center

The North Shore landmark's new ropes course is a draw for adults and youths alike.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
History Can Wait Until Penguins Are Done Making It

History Can Wait Until Penguins Are Done Making It

The desire for more a year ago helped fuel the Penguins’ quest to repeat this season. Should their thirst for yet another Cup prove as unquenchable next season, there’s no limit to what they might yet achieve. Even a Three-peat.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Make the Cut with Jonathan Moran Woodworks

Make the Cut with Jonathan Moran Woodworks

The Strip District-based woodworker's cutting boards can be custom made with the wood of your choice.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Buckle Up ... Again, as Cars 3 Hits Theaters

Buckle Up ... Again, as Cars 3 Hits Theaters

Reviews of "Cars 3" and "47 Meters Down," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Enchanting Summery Trends to Illuminate Your Wedding Palette

Enchanting Summery Trends to Illuminate Your Wedding Palette

You’ll definitely want to pin these new summer wedding trends to your Pinterest board.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Blooming: Pittsburgh Botanic Garden Hosts Town & Country Tour

Blooming: Pittsburgh Botanic Garden Hosts Town & Country Tour

From a forest of Japanese maples to a rocky urban sanctuary, the annual tour covers 14 very different gardens across the East End.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Visit Thiel College for a Summer BBQ

Visit Thiel College for a Summer BBQ

On three days this summer, the college will host visit days for prospective students.

Comments

Edit Module