A few days ago, my friend Sarah Mervosh mentioned on Twitter this New York Times Travel feature about her beloved hometown, Pittsburgh.
Sarah noted that many a bright light has emerged from the City of Bridges, specifically mentioning the ever-elegant Mark Cuban; the beloved Fred Rogers, creator of PBS’s universally acclaimed, unwatchably boring Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood; and Wiz Khalifa, the libidinous, over-inked rapper and occasional film star.
What about Charles Bronson? Perry Como? iJustine? Joe Namath?
What about Meghan Klingenberg?
As it so often does, my invoking the U.S. women’s soccer team brought the conversation to an abrupt halt.
But then, by coincidence, just hours later, I was listening to a Men in Blazers podcast in which Klingenberg was interviewed by co-host Roger Bennett.
The interview is 19 minutes long. You can hear the whole thing here.
But the relevant part is at the 6:30 mark. That’s when Bennett tells Klingenberg, “You’re my favorite Yinzer in world football.”
I nearly choked on my Iron City.
I’d heard the word Yinzer — a term of endearment for someone from Pittsburgh — only once before.
From my friend Sarah Mervosh.
It’s derived from “yinz,” a vernacular form used by some Pittsburghers, especially those of the working classes, for the second-person plural pronoun “you.”
The term is believed to have originated in the Appalachians as a contraction of the Scots-Irish phrase, “you ones.” It’s used the way “y’all” is in Texas, or “youse” is in the remaining unhomogenized Italian neighborhoods of Brooklyn, Jersey, or Chicago.
For example, you might hear someone from Pittsburgh say, “Are yinz comin’ up fer Chrissmiss?”
Or, “Yinz goin to da Stillers game?”
Or, to take an example from the Urban Dictionary, “Yinz is jagoffs.”
Sarah — who, I should point out, is exceedingly well-educated, has a flawless command of English, and has never, to my knowledge, told anyone, “Yinz is jagoffs,” — says that strictly speaking, not everyone from Pittsburgh is a Yinzer.
The term more specifically applies to those who, as she put it, “talk in Pittsburghese,” a type personified by “Pittsburgh Dad,” the hilarious YouTube character played by comedian Curt Wootton:
Others, however, argue that Yinzer is as much a state of mind — a state of heart — as it is a matter of dialect and accent.
If you’re from Pittsburgh, they say, and embrace its heritage as a place where people are honest, strong, down to earth, resilient, hardworking and steadfast, then deep down, you’re a Yinzer.
Take Meghan Klingenberg, for example.
She, like Sarah, distinguished herself academically, beginning at Pine-Richland High School in Gibsonia, Pa., a Pittsburgh suburb, where she was a member of the National Honor Society.
She attended the University of North Carolina on a soccer scholarship and graduated in four years with a degree in business administration. While helping to lead the Tar Heels to two national titles, and earning All-American honors on the soccer pitch, she also made the Dean’s List and was repeatedly selected to the All-ACC Academic Team.
But for all that, when the shortest player on the team (at 5-foot-2) makes a save like this in a World Cup game, well, Yinzers everywhere should be on their feet cheering: