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CULTURALLY UNIQUE: Region host to many phenomenons including the ‘Pittsburgh potty’

The 'Pittsburgh potty' or 'Pittsburgh bathroom' is a common feature in old houses in the area, dating back to the 1940s when steelworkers and miners would clean up after coming home.

By Tara Bailey

-Did You Know-

Did you know Pittsburgh is home to a unique cultural phenomenon? It is called being from Pittsburgh. There are a million unspoken rules encoded into every Pittsburgher’s DNA. Their inability to pronounce “kielbasa” and “North Versailles” just adds personality to the English language. Pittsburghers don’t all speak alike, either; every neighborhood speaks a little differently. Pittsburgh is world-famous for its amazing hospitals, sports leagues, actors, musicians and bridges, but often most notably for its pierogies and distinctive dialect. What is not known worldwide is how complicated Pittsburgh culture can be. Through the years famous visitors, late-night television hosts and web series painted broad strokes of Pittsburgh culture but missed all the intricacies that give Pittsburgh its flair. These are some things you should know if you really want to understand what makes Pittsburgh’s culture special.

Did you know that removing a chair from the street is an act of aggression? At the first sight of snow, Pittsburghers aren’t snuggled up in a warm blanket and drinking cocoa. Standing in the window guarding the chair they placed in the parking spot they shoveled at six a.m. is usually how a Pittsburgher begins the day. It may be a public street, but the chair signifies the spot is reserved. Removal of that chair might cause an altercation.

Did you know that it’s considered being un-Pittsburgh-like to discuss any dissatisfaction about the Steelers in mixed company? In Pittsburgh, “mixed company” means out-of-towners. Love them or hate them, admiration is the only acceptable response when talking about the Steelers in mixed company.

Did you know that a typical Pittsburgh household has a designated news station? Whether it was WPXI, WTAE, or KDKA, parents always had their one-and-only favorite. Fast forward into adulthood, the same news station your parents always chose is now your one station of choice.

Did you know that Pittsburghers are creatures of habit? People tend to live, raise families and retire in the same neighborhood they grew up in. Before venturing to the other side of town, there are always the same questions: How many bridges do I have to cross? Do I have to drive through a tunnel? Is it further than 10 minutes away? Pittsburghers have other idiosyncrasies around travel as well, including the seeming refusal to use street names when giving directions. Pittsburghers are infamous for using landmarks to give directions. “If you passed Eat’n Park, yinz guys went too far.”

Did you know the Pittsburgh toilet has its own Wikipedia page? Seems like it’s not normal everywhere for there to be a toilet in the middle of an older house’s basement! The origin of the Pittsburgh toilet dates back to World War II. To prevent tracking soot and grime into the house, steelworkers and miners would clean up in the basement. For this use there would be a toilet, sometimes accompanied by a shower, with no walls to serve as a divider. Pittsburgh basements aren’t just for toilets though. From the Westside to the Eastside, Pittsburghers refrigerate “pop” (another classic Pittsburgh term) in basements.

Did you know that Pittsburghers measure time differently? If a Pittsburgher says, “I’m down the street,” it usually means “take your time, I’ll still be a little while.” This person is not dressed and probably still in bed. If they say “I’m putting my shoes on,” get comfortable, because they won’t even be ready to leave the house for another half an hour.

Did you know how important food is to Pittsburgh culture? If someone asks you to buy some ketchup, you should know that only Heinz ketchup is acceptable. Primanti Bros. is the most imitated but never duplicated king of sandwiches. A pound of Isaly’s thinly sliced chipped chopped ham, also known as “Pittsburgh style,” has served as a beloved comfort food since 1833.

Did you know perception is an aspect of the Pittsburgh culture? Some believe there is a monster perched on top of the Squirrel Hill Tunnel, forcing motorists to slow down before entering and drive below the speed limit upon exiting. Rubbernecking is inevitable, and if there is traffic, rubbernecking is the first to blame. Not faulty lights, construction, train derailment, or a bus stuck in a sinkhole, just “nebby” people twisting their necks.

Did you know that performing random acts of kindness, no matter how small, is the essence of Pittsburgh culture? Saying hello to strangers, flashing headlights to signal a police cruiser is near, lending your Giant Eagle card while standing in the check-out line, shoveling your neighbor’s walkway and leaving coupons for shoppers on grocery shelves all are caring acts that come naturally to Pittsburghers. Pittsburgh is a charming city of diverse people and communities that contribute to its culture. You can live anywhere in the world, but there is no place like home, and there is no place like Pittsburgh.


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