a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A feeshy tale

This $5 find at Black Rose Antiques & Collectibles in Washington Crown Center mall, Washington, Pa., reminded me of my father's funny way of mispronouncing words.

By Scott Beveridge

The origins of my father's hillbilly accent has been an amusing subject for decades.

Jim Beveridge didn't eat fish sandwiches on fish fry Fridays during Lent. He ate "feesh" sandwiches.

And when the Webster, Pa., steelworker wasn't in the mood for bread with cod, he ate his "feesh on a deesh" at home or the annual fire hall fish dinners here in the middle reaches of the Monongahela River Valley, about 30 miles south of Pittsburgh.

His dialect certainly wasn't Pittsburghese. Most of us here seem to know how to correctly pronounce fish, but we have earned a famous reputation for screwing up the plural you, by turning it into "yinz," and also saying "wersh," rather that wash, when its time to do the laundry or redd up the house.

I heard a hint of where my late father learned how to talk like an Appalachian misfit a couple weeks ago while meeting with a Marcellus Shale executive in Washington County, Pa. That guy didn't sound like the Texans who hold many of the jobs around here working in the booming industry, especially when he turned the word, flash, into fleesh.

"I'm from Steubenville," the Ohio man revealed.


My dad spent a good part of his childhood in that Ohio River town during the Great Depression.

A subsequent Google search provided a second source that loosely confirmed that he hadn't learned how to talk like an outsider in these-here parts of the mountains.

The search engine led to an excerpt from a book, "Me and Orson Welles: a novel," by Robert Kaplow, and a passage about the comical way in which Ohioans say, "feesh on a deesh."

Mystery solved.

No comments: