Cleveland April 08, 2019
9 Words You’ll Only Understand If You’re From Cleveland
Cleveland is a unique city with a unique language. Our melting pot of cultural traditions combined with our industrious, cutting-edge attitudes has transformed our city into a place that’s unlike any other. To the untrained ear, the local dialect that’s grown out of Cleveland culture may sound strange and, at times, almost impossible to decipher. Here are a few words and phrases you’ll commonly hear in The Land:
Here in Cleveland, we love a good carbonated beverage. While they come in many unique flavors, we prefer to refer to them all as "pop." Step aside, soda sayers... it's pop while you're in our town.
2. Tree lawn
Have you ever noticed that there is a grassy space between the sidewalk and the street? Here in Cleveland, we know this to be a tree lawn. Our neighbors in Akron call it a "devil strip," which is still occasionally heard throughout Greater Cleveland.
3. "Melk" or "pellow"
Let's travel back to an era in American history known as the Northern Cities Vowel Shift. In the mid-1800s, those of us in the Great Lakes region began changing the way we pronounced our vowels. From this point on, each region developed its own particular emphasis on different vowels. It is particularly evident in words like "milk" and "pillow."
4. Polish boy
Tourists must feel startled when they first encounter Clevelanders discussing dining on Polish boys. In reality, Polish boys are larger-than-life sausage sandwiches topped with unique ingredients like coleslaw and french fries.
If you're hearing this word in colloquial use, it's probably not in reference to the Wicked Witch of the West (although the actress that played her in the 1939 movie was a Clevelander). No, it's probably being used in reference to Melt Bar and Grilled, the revolutionary restaurant that made grilled cheeses into a grownup snack.
While this word traditionally refers to speed, it's used more in reference to ease of access when in Cleveland. Here, the Rapid is a form of transportation provided by The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority. The Rapid is best enjoyed after the Tribe won a game, as it will be full of cheering and celebration.
7. You're fine!
No worries, no problem, and you're fine. You've doubtlessly heard these phrases around Cleveland, but what do they mean? In our vernacular, these phrases equate to "you're welcome." Imagine someone scooching past you in the grocery store, muttering, "Pardon me, thank you, I'm just gonna sneak past ya." Here in Cleveland, "you're fine" is an appropriate and expected response.
8. Cuyahoga or
Did you read those in two different accents in your head? Clevelanders seem to emphasize this word differently depending on how it is being used, which is particularly interesting as out-of-towners typically struggle to mimic either pronunciation on their first try. As you may know, Cuyahoga is taken from the Mohawk word Cayagaga, or "crooked river."
9. Any profanity you can imagine
Ohioans, as you may know, swear with more frequency than residents of any other state. Here in Cleveland, we absentmindedly use profanity as sentence enhancers. Don't be intimidated if strangers casually swear in front of you... we're nice people here, we just kind of have potty mouths.
Clevelanders certainly have their own way of talking, and these words and phrases reinforce that. What words have you noticed are unique to Cleveland?
If you’re a lifelong Clevelander, you’ll doubtlessly
understand these bragging rights only Clevelanders have.