10 Philadelphia Jargon Terms Everyone Should Know
October 22, 2019
Going to a new city can be intimidating. You might ask yourself, how easy will it be to navigate? (Philly's easy — our streets are laid out on a grid.) How will I get around? (We have great public transportation.) Will the food be ok? (Philly food is amazing!) Will I understand the accents and the lingo? That one could take a little more time. But, never fear! I'm here to help.
Here is a guide to Philly jargon and what it means. I've also included a pronunciation guide at the end for some uncommon regional names and then some very common words that Philadelphians pronounce in a very different way.
Philadelphians have a great accent and slang, and you'll pick up on them quickly.
- Jawn (rhymes with fawn, dawn, etc.) – this could literally mean anything:
- "Hand me that jawn." Translation: Hand me the thing I'm pointing to (ice cream cone, remote control, small child, etc.).
- "We went to Chickie's and Pete's last night. That jawn is fantastic." Translation: That place is fantastic.
- CHOP – Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. If a friend says, "I got a co-op at CHOP!" that does not mean they're working at a restaurant, a barber shop, or a knife store. It means they're going to work at the country's first hospital dedicated to helping children.
- HUP – Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. If someone mentions HUP, they're not talking about a military march, they are talking about the closest hospital to campus.
- Birds – Philadelphia's NFL team, the Eagles. If you see your friends walking around campus with their Eagles gear, make sure to yell "Go Birds!"
- Shore – the beach, typically referring to New Jersey's beaches. Often you'll hear it phrased a certain way: "I'm going down the shore this weekend." Translation: I'm going to the beach this weekend.
- Wit/Witout – with or without fried onions, used in reference to ordering a cheesesteak. This is a classic discussion (some might call it an argument), and you can try it both ways at multiple places around the city. Personally, I believe that onions are absolutely necessary in order to create the perfect cheesesteak. I'm sure others would disagree. But they would be wrong.
- Note the Philly attitude used above. This is necessary if you want to truly fit in.
- Hoagie – a sandwich on a long roll which typically includes meats, lettuce, tomato, onions, and oil and vinegar; known in some other regions of the country as a "sub." Never, and I mean never, let a Philadelphian catch you saying the word "sub" unless it comes before "way" and you're referring to the Broad Street subway line.
- Montco – Montgomery County, PA.
- Delco – Delaware County, PA.
- Youse – the plural of "you." Here are some examples:
- "Did youse see the Birds crush the Pats last night?"
- "Did youse guys get my hoagie?"
- Schuylkill is pronounced "SKOO-kil". It could refer to the river that runs next to campus or a local expressway known for its traffic.
- Water is pronounced "wooder". If someone says "Do you want ice in your wooder?" they're asking if you want ice in your H2O.
- Bala Cynwyd is pronounced "BA-la KIN-wid". It's a town in Montco.
- Eagles may be pronounced "ig-gles" depending on the speaker's origin within the Philadelphia area.
- Erin is pronounced "UR-in" and Aaron is pronounced "AAH-run". In many other places, they're pronounced in the same way; this is not the case in Philly.
- Merry is pronounced "MEH-rry" and does not rhyme with "Mary".
- Bury is pronounced "BURR-Y", not to be confused with "berry," which does not rhyme with "Mary" but rather with "Merry" (see above).
This may sound confusing but, I promise, it's not. It's awesome. Philadelphians have a great accent and slang, and you'll pick up on them quickly.
(One final note — the only Philadelphia-ism you're not allowed to use is the regional pronunciation of my name: Cheryl often turns into "Shurl". Please stick with the two syllable version — "Share-ul". But spelled with a C, of course.)
Cheryl Tevlin is an Associate Director of Undergraduate Admission at Drexel University. She is a Jersey girl based in Northern California who loves to read and play the guitar in her free time.