South Philadelphia

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South Philly-speak (How to talk like a local W/O)

May 21, 2002 (Updated Apr 7, 2008)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Great food, wonderful history

Cons:The food is most unhealthy, the history is far better than the present

The Bottom Line: If you're going to wander around the streets of South Philly, know the language...

Okay, I got in late for this write-off, so I hope I am following the guidelines and adhering to the rules. As far as I can tell, I am to write a glossary for a country or place wherein members might want to visit. Well, South Philadelphia is almost like a country, and I would he happy to act as a translator. I believe this write-off is the brain child of Fyvel, an excellent Epinionator, and that it was open to all. Well, I'll dispense with the introduction and step aside, allowing the following to speak for itself.

Or, what the hell is that guy talking about

Yous – (n.) Plural of you; usually referring to a group whom one is addressing. Usually pronounced 'yizz," except when standing alone or followed by the word 'guys,' in which case it is pronounced "use".
“I’m warning yous; I’ll bust yous all in the head!”

A’ite – (adj.) Well; not bad.
“Yea, I’m a’ite. Yous?”

Jeet – (question) Literally ‘Did you eat?’

Joo – (question) Literally ‘Did you?’
“No; joo?”

You got a problem? – (phrase) Though posed as a question, this phrase is used to point out a dislike one has for another. May be used as an invitation to a fight. Often times it precludes a ‘sneak.’
“Hey, you got a problem?”

Sneak – To throw a sucker punch; the act of sucker punching someone, or the punch itself. Often made ridiculous by the announcement of the upcoming act.
“Yo, you got a problem? Get outta’ my face or I’ll sneak you!”
Also, Snuck.
“I didn’t lose that fight, I got snuck.”

Fair one – A fight wherein both parties agree that there will be no weapons, no interventions by well wishers, and no sneaking.
“A’ite, I’ll give you a fair one.”

Cuz – (n.) Term of endearment; friend. Often used sarcastically.
“Yo, cuz, you got a problem? You want a fair one?”

Skeeve – (v.) Also ‘Skeevotz’ – to repulse; to be sickened by.
“That’s disgusting; I skeeve!”
“That’s disgusting, it skeeves me out!”

Skeezer – (n.) Unsavory person, usually female.
“You still datin’ that skeezer? What’s a matter with you?”

Ac-a-me – (n.) Supermarket chain known elsewhere as Acme.
“Yous ever look at the floors in the Ac-a-me? Skeevotz!”

N’yi-mene – (question) Literally, “Do you know what I mean?”
“That girl was too hot, n’yi-mene?”

Fat Bastid – (n.) Response to a verbal lashing; a grasp at straws after the fact. Not contingent on actual weight problem.
“Yea, a’ite, you should talk, you fat bastid.”

Coalbin – (n.) Sewer; Any area inaccessible to children where an item may be lost.
“My pimple ball rolled down the coalbin.”

- A-looch – (suffix) Added to a Christian name to show affection; literally means “little.” Works on all names except Bob.
i.e. Michael – Mick-a-looch.

Bob-a-looch – (v.) Also Bobbalooch; to know in the Biblical sense; the act of having relations. From “little Bob.”
“I know that skeezer; she likes to bobbalooch!”

Joke – (adv.) Used to answer in the affirmative; to answer ‘yes.’
“Did I Bobbalooch his sister? Joke!”

Other affirmatives - ‘Please,’ ‘C’mon,’ ‘Whaaat?’
"Did I? Whaaaat? C'moan, please!"

Here y’are – (phrase) A negative response - considered vulgar.
“You want me to say I’m sorry? Yea, here y’are.”

Steak American, without – (n.) One of the standard orders given when purchasing a cheesesteak. In this case, one would receive a cheesesteak with American Cheese, hold the onions. Variations include – Steak Provolone, with, and Chicken whiz, broccoli rabe. The last order requesting a chicken cheesesteak with cheese whiz, onions, and a spinach-like substance.

Pidercle; Peeshy – (n.) Terms used to describe certain parts of the anatomy when talking to children. Sadly, these terms stay with most South Philadelphians well into their adult lives.
"Don't touch your pidercle, it'll fall off!"

Halfball – (n.) A game designed like baseball wherein a rubber ball (preferably a pimply ball) is cut in half and the halves (halfies) are lobbed underhanded toward a batter who attempts to hit the halfie with a broomhandle. It must be played across a narrow street due to the nature of the scoring system. If a batter ‘roofs’ a halfie, it is considered a homerun.

* Other games indigenous to South Philly – Wall Ball, Step Ball, Chink, Handball, Baby in the Air, Buck-buck, Jailbreak, Run the Bases, and Kill the Man. Unlike New York, you will NOT find chess boards in South Philly parks, as the game is virtually unheard of there.

Most of these games require little more than a ball and a willingness to battle your friends to the death. Jailbreak, one of the greatest games ever created, uses no ball at all. Two teams are on the hunt for one another, hoping to arrest members of the other team by grabbing them by any part of their body and chatting the magic words 'One two three, you're my man, no breaksies!" Once the incantation is complete, the prisoner is taken to jail, the home base guarded by other members of the apprehending team. The only way out of jail is if another teammate breaks through the line, avoiding the outstretched arms of his enemy, and touches any part of the jail, while screaming 'Jailbreak!" However, if that daring soul is held onto and the chat is rendered, it is one more in the jail. The game ends when all of one team are in jail. But do games like that ever end?

The games of South Philly speak volumes about the people who live there. Hard working folks who weren't educated enough to get a fair day's wage for their sweat, they had kids who found a way to play without the need for equipment. A pimple ball, once had for two bits but now extinct, held the promise of a thousand games.

And the brutal nature of games such as Buck-buck told another chapter of the story of South Philadelphia. In Buck-buck, one kid would stand against a wall and bend forward at the waist. Another kid, facing kid #1, would band over and lock his arms around the waist of the child in front of him. A third kid would stand behind #2 and bend over him, locking his arms around the waist of that kid. Then it got interesting. A line would form about ten feet away from the wall where these kids were locked up, and one at a time, they'd run and jump, leapfrog style, landing on the backs of the kids interlocked. If they couldn't break them up, they had to join the lineup, falling in behind #3 and so on. This went on, with kids flying into each other, until the whole pile dropped face-first into the concrete sidewalk.

I suppose times are changing somewhat, but the games are still similar, if not as primitive. But South Philly remains a hard-working neighborhood, still uneducated and unforgiving. But don't judge it too harshly. There was something to be said for the street-smart education that the kids got. Most of the kids would rather drop than quit, and many learn to appreciate the finer things in life for the sheer poverty they know. There are patches of South Philly where the homes are expensive and actually have driveways, but they are few and far between. It's a poor area, and that's the charm. The flavor. That's why you can find wonderful restaurants and unique shops.

So, if you are planning a trip to South Philadelphia, I hope this glossary will come in handy. South Philly can seem nasty and rude if you don’t speak the language. Other advice to the wary traveler – South Philly-ites do not enjoy eye contact. If you make eye contact too long with any true native, you’ll likely hear the ever popular “You got a problem?” and, pending on the neighborhood where the eye contact occurred, you may get snuck. Also, the term “Yo” is not a popular greeting. Rocky Balboa lived in the Kensington section of the city, not South Philly, and when the pug overused the precious saying, he left an entire section of the city with the constant barrage of the term. Though it is still incorporated in the native language, I would suggest that visitors fend off the urge to say it to everyone in view and simply say hello. Or, better yet, say nothing and don’t look at anybody.

There are some sights that you shouldn’t miss in South Philly. Not many, but a couple. One is at 17th and Jackson. It’s a little shop called Cilliones(sadly, this shop is no more), specializing in Italian goods. Mostly cheeses, the place has some of the best imported cooking goods. Worth a visit. Also, just east of Front Street on Oregon Ave. sits a sandwich shop called Tony Luke’s. It is a South Philly institution and shouldn’t be missed, but be warned. It doesn’t look like much, but it does get crowded. If you go during the lunch rush, be prepared to stand in line for the better part of an hour. Of course, when you finally have your roast pork sandwich, or you veal cutlet hoagie, you’ll think the hour was nothing at all. The sandwiches annually take honors in the Philadelphia Magazine “Best of Philly” awards. Tony Luke's is far superior to Geno's and Pat's, the most commonly known steak shops in the area. And one other place serves up a great meal with a heaping side order of South Philly flair, the South Philly Grill(even more sadly, this South Philly favorite has closed its doors as well). Located on 12th Street, just north of Snyder Ave., the Grill has great Italian food and a cheery attitude. The waitresses may ask "Whatta' you need?" when taking your order, but isn't that what South Philly is all about?

I'm not a big fan of the Italian Market. Having lived most of my life in South Philadelphia, I have reason to "skeeve" the whole area. It's kind of nasty, but I guess if you're visiting, you may want to see it. If you, don't say I didn't warn you. You'd do better checking out the Mummer's Museum!

Please check out Fyvel's w/o submission, as well as those of all the others who took park. Thanks, and thanks for taking the time to read this!

Fyvel, great write-off! Thanks for leaving the open invitation. In addition to Fyvel (writing about Canada), these are the other participants...

Alena (America: Southern Dialect)
copernicus (Australia)
Darkmistress (Pennsylvania)
hollynz (New Zealand)
joecooper (Australia)
megugrrrl (Japan)
nscanuck (Canada)
paulyoungotti (England)

Recommend this product? Yes

Best Suited For: Friends
Best Time to Travel Here: Sep - Nov

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