How to Recognize Someone from NE Ohio

B is from northeast Ohio, near the border with western Pennsylvania. And while I’ve lived in this region of the US (the Midwest) for ten years and in eastern Pennsylvania for another four, I’ve found that people here have unique characteristics. If you ever need to spot someone from this part of Ohio, here’s what to look for:

  1. Needs Done: People in this part of the US use a language construct that most other Americans consider grammatically incorrect. It is the omission of “to be” in the phrase “needs to be done.” For example, people here will say that “clothing needs washed” or that “grass needs cut” or that “furniture needs cleaned.”
  2. City Pronunciation: Lisbon, OhioMany cities in this area have the same names as cities in other parts of the world: Vienna (Austria), Ravenna (Italy), Medina (Saudi Arabia), Lisbon (Portugal), Parma (Italy), Navarre (Spain), Calcutta (India), and the list goes on. This is not the unique part, since the US loves borrowing place names. The unusual part is the pronunciation: “Vienna” is pronounced “vai-AN-uh,” and “Medina” is pronounced “meh-DAI-nuh.” It’s unclear whether they are unaware of the correct sounds in the language of origin, or if they’re attempting to make it their own. Presumably the latter, since the towns of Johnston (pronounced “Johnson”) and Campbell (pronounced “Camel”) originate from the English language.
  3. Street Names: Many of the roads up here don’t have names like Jefferson or Miles. Instead, they’re named for the two farms or the two towns they connect. Youngstown Kingsville Road is one thing, but Bradley Brownlee (Road) just sounds like a political campaign to me.
  4. Street Endings: And while we’re on the topic, I’ve never heard people so dedicated to saying the type of street when they say it’s name. For example, I’ve never heard anyone refer to Broadway (in NYC) as Broadway Avenue, nor does anyone insist on explaining that Market (in SF) is a Street. But here, when describing something or giving directions, you must specify that something is on East Market Street or Elm Road. (I have yet to see an Elm Street, in case you’re wondering if that’s the reason for the specificity.)
  5. Braking: While this isn’t the first place I’ve seen signs urging me not to use my “Jake Brake” or “Engine Brake” or “Brake Retardant,” it is certainly the most prolific. The truck traffic has to (have) be(en) immense for this kind of ubiquity.
  6. Grocery Wheels: While tutoring an ESL student last week, I pointed to a picture of a woman in a grocery store and asked her the name of the wheeled, metallic item she was pushing her groceries in. “Buggy!” she said, and I figured that she must have learned some British English. Turns out that no, this is a common term in this part of the US. This joins my mental list of word quirks, like NYC’s use of “on line” to mean in line or in a queue, and Wisconsin’s use of “bubbler” to mean drinking or water fountain.

A few things from Ohio in general carry over too: the obsession with buckeyes (both the cookie and the sports team), the commitment to visiting amusement parks each summer, the guarantee of fried heart-attack-inducing foods at every event and restaurant, the need to spell out the state name using bodies (YMCA-style), the addition of an “r” into “wash,” and the use of B-Dubs to refer to Buffalo Wild Wings.

So, come visit already! If you pronounce every place name the opposite of your natural inclination and ask if a car needs washed, you’ll fit right in.

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5 thoughts on “How to Recognize Someone from NE Ohio

  1. Ha! Yes to all of these things. And I am from medina. We ARE aware it’s wrong… But it is what it is 🙂 also I don’t say warsh but my older relatives do. And toi(r)let. And an S at the end of stores (targets. Walmarts. Kmarts.) 🙂

  2. After living in Austria, I would say Vienna, OH like Vienna, Austria – much to the amusement of my dad. But Vienna is called Wien in Austria so it shouldn’t have interfered at all. I blame Lizzy 🙂

  3. didn’t realize the letter r added to wash was an Ohio thing, seeings how I get “made fun of” all the time for pronouncing it that way (since I was born and raised in the south). I thought spelling out OHIO with bodies was referring to support of OSU not the state itself. The same with referring to being a Buckeye. hmmmmm, learn something new everyday

  4. Pingback: How to Recognize a New Yorker - Novelty Buffs

  5. I grew up on a farm next to Pymatuning Lake and lived in Ohio for 40+ years.
    BTW, adding “r” to wash happens all over the US, especially in Appalachia, etc. It’s not necessarily just an Ohio thing. Throughout the MidWest there is a definite tendency to pronounce all vowels as long vowels, hence the long “i” in Vienna, Medina, Lima, etc. Another MidWest example off the top of my head is a little burg named El Paso (yep, just like the one Texas) in central Illinois … the residents pronounce it “El PAYso.”
    There is also a tendency to accent the first syllable of each word. For example, you will often hear “UM-brella” and “IN-surance” as opposed to “um-BRELL-a” and “in-SUR-ance.”
    Also, there is a beautiful old Italian town in Lombardy, Italy named Mantua (pronounced “mahn-TOO-ah”). The village of the same name in Portage County, Ohio is pronounced “MANN-a-way” by the locals!
    You also forgot “rid up the house,” (or red up the house) for cleaning your house – also quite common in PA – esp. around Pittsburgh (Pitts-bahrg!). Don’t even get me started on THAT accent, yuns! You could start an all-out war between Browns fans and “STILLERS” fans!

    Thanks for your post!

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