Saturday, January 28, 2012

"Y" The Word Irks Me

"I think it's cute," the very pregnant thirty-something woman at the Squirrel Hill coffeehouse table next to mine said of the Y-word, or "yinser," as I tried to argue with her and Gary, a fifty-something New York transplant and acquaintance of mine who'd just used the slur to rip on someone.

When I’d called him on it he began arguing with me that the Y-word is appropriate as a slur, and that it's OK to use because it's also embraced by many Pittsburghers, who claim it represents a working class ethos of which they are proud. (Never mind that most of those same people have never painted their house on their own, repaired their roof, or picked up a wrench to fix their cars).

Ms. Preggo, a city native, folded her hands over her full, eight-months-pregnant belly and smiled smugly. "I don't mind it," she insisted.

Prior to the turn in conversation she had been complaining about what she was going to do for the next few weeks before giving birth, since she was off from work on maternity leave. Gary's suggestions that she go to Phipps Conservatory, or to Scaife Art Gallery or the Carnegie Museum fell on deaf ears, then somehow Gary brought up the word which triggers the chip on my shoulder like a sledgehammer to a sore toe.

I should explain.

Don't use the slur "yinzer" around me, even if you spell it in a way I think is phonetically correct--"yinser." I don't like the Y-word and never have, never will, and I won't accept people trying to embrace this stupid, derogatory tag.

People are surprised by the hostility I express when they use the Y-word and some no doubt are amused. But I must admit, it all goes back to the elitist schools I attended--Kiskiminetas Springs School (located about an hour drive from Pittsburgh) and Carnegie Mellon University. Growing up in mostly blue-collar Bellevue, there was very little elitism in my childhood world, since most of us didn't have a whole lot and most didn't look down on the rest as being inferior for having less. We were pretty much all in the same boat.

Then as an adolescent, I got into trouble and into the court system and Schuman Juvenile Detention Center, and my life changed. My parents sent me to a shrink of dubious character--a minister's wife, no less--and the smartest thing she ever did for me was suggest that a change of environment might be very helpful to keep me away from my hell-raising friends. So I ended up at Kiski--one of the last boy's boarding schools in the nation, run by a hard-ass guy named Jack Pidgeon, who was uncompromising in his expectation that every one of his "Kiski boys" would get as much as possible out of their boarding school experience. I became good friends with kids from the more affluent suburbs of Pittsburgh and some of those fellas introduced me to the "Y-word," using it as a pejorative for people from working class areas of Pittsburgh, like Dormont, for instance, who some of my high school friends claimed always had thick Pittsburgh accents.

On I went to Carnegie Mellon, receiving a partial athletic scholarship for football and a partial academic scholarship, since I'd worked hard at Kiski. I ended up becoming friends with some talented and kind individuals who I will simply refer to as Trustafarians, since they were (as I was) longhaired neo-hippie types, but unlike me, they were trust fund kids who never had to work but always had money with which to party. "Scooby" was one of them, and we became very close for a time, though he and I in some ways were as different as Caketown is from Greasertown.

"Jonny Yinser," he dubbed me, laughing when I’d say something in what he perceived as a particularly thick accent. "You're such a Yinser!" Scooby would say, cracking up. I put up with it because I liked him and knew he meant it with love, and I enjoyed hanging out with him. But Scooby was from Boston and he also liked to use to Y-word in its most negative sense, like when he was trying to get some paperwork through the CMU administration or do something elsewhere and a person with our proud Pittsburgh accent angered him and he’d say, "F-ing Yinsers can't do anything right!"

Some things never change, or rather, sometimes stupid things become the norm, like white suburban boys calling themselves the N-word while akwardly trying to rap, or suburbanites feigning a love for a working class ethos they’ve only heard of and never experienced.

And there's the rub. Almost without exception, the intelligent people who use the Y-word want to use it in both senses: They want to call it a badge of honor and they want to use it in the elitist sense as well, as a bludgeon to insult people whom they think they're above. And when they are called out on this incongruity, and on the fact that many Pittsburghers detest the Y-word, they, like Gary, obstinately refuse to change their ways and refuse to accept that other people’s feelings matter enough for them to stop using one word in the English language.

I am talking about one single word here—I am not sayin you shouldn’t use “hat” or “mouse” or “pussy” or “wimp.” I am insisting that you be a real down to earth Pittsburgher, by not using a very specific slur to look down on your fellow burghers. And if I were talking about the “C-word”—a nasty slur used by some to refer to women—all the gals in the audience would agree. If the “N-word” were the axe I was grinding here, all the African-Americans reading these words would have my back. But since I am using an elitist word, based in class differences, many women and Blacks would disagree with me as stubbornly as people defend their religion and their children. That’s because in America, Land of the Fee and Home of the Knave, it’s always open season on lower class people. God may bless America, but the Deity leaves Americans to curse it on their own.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Burn This Blog

You may think I am a flake, a wing-nut, a corner-chattering wacko, but maybe I still inform or entertain you some here on Barnestormin, so you check in from time to time. Whatever your reasons for reading, I am glad that you do. But would you like it if this blog were shut down because I am not in full agreement with the way things are run locally, statewide and nationally in the good old US of A? Probably not, even if you often disagree with me. Most of us would recognize I have a Free Speech right to say what I think here on my blog.

But not Big Brother, who’d rather the Political Elite and Corporate Elite get to control what I can say, especially if it goes against what they think about things like drug use, income disparities, or other unpopular topics. I am completely opposed to the Drug War, because it is a war of sanctioned human rights abuses, in the name of safety but truly waged for the safety of the elite.

Why all the preaching? Because a would-be law could result in Barnestormin going dark, since the legislation would allow the government to shut this blog down for taking any of a number of unpopular stances, or even for linking to copyrighted material, such as the following:

“Why is the U.S. government working so feverishly to crush independent, truthful information on the internet? Because the globalist controllers realize that the internet is the last bastion of freedom in a world run by global elite corporatists.
“While the global elite own and run the mainstream (corporate whore) media, and they own Congress, and they own all the influential non-profits such as the wholly corrupt American Cancer Society, they do not yet control the internet!”

But we don’t have submit to this oligarchy, and we don’t have to yield to this proposed draconian law. We can kill SOPA before it’s passed. Contact your legislator and tell him why you hate this bill and that you will vote to fire him if he votes for it. Let’s make this legislation a hot potato that politicians fear to touch.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Slim's been everywhere, even played Sedona

Because I value your readership, my friends, I must crow a bit more about Pittsburgh's Country King--Slim Forsythe. Following are several links to tunes he's played including old time originals and covers "Jambalaya," "Jackson," "Angel Band" and more. Yins have great taste so I know you'll like 'em:

Jambalaya, by Hank Williams (played in Sedona)
Down on my knees at Nied’s Hotel, by Slim Forsythe

Oh Come, Angel Band, by Jefferson Hascal
(This is an old gospel played by Slim and his current band, the New Payday Loners—turn it up so you can hear every part of the harmony or it doesn’t sound as great!)

I’ve been everywhere, by Johnny Cash
(Slim changes the words some to reflect his Bradford, PA background and his adopted hometown—Pittsburgh, PA. I was at this show it was wonderful—Johnny Cash Day, it’s a benefit held yearly!)

Jackson, by Johnny and June Carter Cash
(This was the same show at the Elks in Northside as above.)

Allegheny Mountain Queen, by Slim Forsythe and Craig Roberts
(very old timey tune, yessir)

Monday, January 02, 2012

One Sweet Stara Baba

Ruth Zofchak, keeper of the guard at Clairton's Croatian Fraternal Union Club (where I was a member as a kid), recently passed away. She was as sweet a stara baba as you could ever meet. We were lucky to know her. Rest in peace, sweetheart.