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Yinzers celebrate: Pittsburgh term 'jagoff' added to dictionary

Megan Guza
| Friday, Sept. 16, 2016, 11:12 a.m.
Marcia Feinberg models a few of the 'Pittsburghese' items, including the jag-off glasses and a puzzle featuring well-known 'Yinzer' words and phrases, Friday, December 20, 2013. Marcia is the president of the Mike Feinberg Company store in the Strip District.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Marcia Feinberg models a few of the 'Pittsburghese' items, including the jag-off glasses and a puzzle featuring well-known 'Yinzer' words and phrases, Friday, December 20, 2013. Marcia is the president of the Mike Feinberg Company store in the Strip District.

Well it took yinz long enough, you Oxford English Dictionary jagoffs.

Uttered for years with affection, in surprise, and at that jerk in the red Camry who cut you off on the Parkway East, the term long loved by Pittsburghers is finally finding an international audience.

The Oxford English Dictionary included “jagoff” on its September list of new words to be added to the more than 600,000 already in its pages.

Pittsburghers were pleased, n'at.

“It used to be my favorite word,” said Mary McGregor of Hays. “I use it all the time.”

“Jagoff, noun: (chiefly in Western Pennsylvania) a stupid, irritating, or contemptible person,” the online entry reads.

Brandon Myers, 37, said the word is so ingrained in Pittsburgh culture that it should be recognized.

“It's the nature of Pittsburgh,” he said. “It's part of life. It's part of being a Pittsburgher.”

Myers of Whitehall said that as he's gotten older, he's tried to incorporate more “Pittsburghese” into his lexicon. He said the word's multiple uses have given it staying power.

“That's the beauty of it — you can love someone or you can hate someone, and you can use the same word,” he said.

A brief but headstrong movement started in late 2014, headed by the folks at yajagoff.com, aimed at persuading the powers that be at Merriam-Webster to add the colloquialism to the pre-eminent dictionary's pages.

The petition garnered 1,734 signatures and acted as a fundraiser for the Pittsburgh Emergency Medicine Foundation.

John Chamberlin, yajagoff.com creator, said Webster's response was that the word needed to be more widely used in the English language than it was at the time.

Enter Mark Cuban.

“This is anecdotal, but I have to think Mark Cuban using it in stumping for Hillary (Clinton) — it went viral at that point,” Chamberlin said.

Indeed, at a July Clinton campaign stop in Pittsburgh, the Dallas Mavericks owner referred to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump as a jagoff, asking, “Is there any bigger jagoff in the world than Donald Trump?”

“Jagoff” remains omitted by Merriam-Webster.

“(Webster) is adding words like ‘emoji' and all these crazy things. Come on, they're not even real words,” Chamberlin said. “Jagoff is a real word.”

And a fun word, he said.

“It's a part of the dialect, it's a fun phrase — ‘ya jagoff,' ” he said. “You hear it, and you know someone has a Pittsburgh association.”

And now, said Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, it finally has a true, inarguable definition.

Peduto threw his full support behind Chamberlin's 2014 movement, recording a public service announcement urging Pittsburghers to sign the petition. On Friday, he praised Oxford's decision to include the versatile term.

“It's taken from the jagger bush and somebody who's jagged — the jagoff is somebody who's that irritable person,” he said. “It has been confirmed; there is no longer any other debate. Now the world understands the true definition.”

Other September additions to the Oxford English Dictionary include clickbait, scrumdiddlyumptious, 'Merica and Yoda-like.

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519 or mguza@tribweb.com.

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