That's Soooo Cincinnati

Please? Please?

Jan 14, 2004 at 2:06 pm
Ryan Greis

We call pork "city chicken." We throw around phrases such as "what not" and call soda "pop." We pronounce Cheviot as Chiviot, Mariemont as Marymont and Buttermilk Pike as Buttermelk. And we call Coney Island "Old Coney," but there's no New Coney.

There is a definitive Cincy Speak, a collection of expressions and idioms that couldn't happen anywhere else and forever define the speakers as native or longtime Cincinnatians. Nowhere is this so true as in the phrase "please?" It's a unique piece of the local vernacular, a linguistic idiosyncracy for which there's little explanation (until you consult a linguistics and language expert).

It boils down to this: We have this thing for saying "please?" when we really mean "pardon?" or "come again?" We say "please?" when we didn't quite hear what the other person was saying or want them to repeat it. But whatever happened to simply saying "excuse me?" or "could you repeat that?" You can blame the town's Germanic heritage for this regional dialect: Longtime Cincinnatians say "please?" exactly the way the Germans say "bitte?" — a word that can be translated as both "please?" and "excuse me?"

The dialectic ritual has caused many a confusing moment. Tales abound of out-of-towners and newcomers visting Cincinnati restaurants and leaving convinced that this town's waiters are obsessed with good manners. It's not that the waiters were demanding the patrons say "please," it's just in a noisy restaurant the waiters couldn't hear the order being placed.

Having our own private language and catchphrases. That's soooo Cincinnati.

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