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That Schuylkill Accent
A language course for coxswains, travelers, and diplomats
posted on March 18, 2003

Ever notice how US pilots - no matter where they are really from - eventually all talk with midwestern drawls? Same with coxswains; they don't really sound like coxswains until they sound like Philadelphia coxswains. Such as the German coxswain whose previous closest acquaintance with the Schuylkill had been the view from the plane window during landing, but who elided "Line it up" to "l'nrrp" without missing a beat within an hour of setting foot on Kelly Drive.

There are even special enclitic gerunds in Schuylkill which - used properly - make the boat go faster. For those of us who weren't born under the arches of the Strawberry Mansion Street Bridge, (but who do a lot of coxing there), our special linguistic consultants - i.e. some LaSalle rowers and a former Holy Spirit coxswain - helped us knock together the following language course while huddled under the grandstand eating hot pretzels and waiting for the rain to stop. [Native speakers of Absecon will find it comfortably similar to their own dialect, and may safely omit the oral drills.]

In just ten minutes per day -- in the comfort of your own home or automobile -- you too can be speaking Schuykill confidently and fluently.

Long vowels are either 1) not pronounced at all, or 2) are pronounced as extremely long dipthongs. Extremely long. Nope, keep going. Any word with a long 'o' in it automatically gets extra syllables. Palatalization alternates between the 'o' sounds in "boat" and "house."

wudder - what we row on (ed. Note: alternately spelled/pronounced "wooder")

bridjes - what we row under

Skook Hill - a river, alternately spelled "Schuylkill," "Schulkyll" or "Skookle." There is another river in Philadelphia -- the Del'wurr -- but it's too rough to row on.

innit - verb, interrogative: "The rigger wrench is in the trailer, innit?"

spinnit - verb, imperative, "stop rowing and turn around."

ordy - adv. "already," as in, "Coach, we ordy did that."

dint - contraction, "I dint doit."

ulse - adj, useful for denial, "Someone ulse must have left the coach's tools in the grass."

There's all... - Article/verb/collective-noun phrase used solely for introducing statements of fact. Article and noun are indeclinable and the verb is elipted entirely. As in "There's all food and stuff back at the bus." The careful speaker must avoid plurals in the subject phrase entirely; to use one immediately brands you as being "from somewhere ulse." [Most European languages decline "all" as singular; Philadelphia has simply restored it to its correct case.]

roit - turning roit on red is permitted in Philly

dokk - what we launch crewshells from

fokk -- emphatic fricative used to express surprise, annoyance, or as a general greeting to other drivers

fokkenAY roit! - "You are rowing very nicely today."

rally - "really," "We rowed rally hard today."

Waynff! - "stop rowing"

Editor's additions:
Ohnee - as in "ohnee 10 strokes to go"

Atzit - as in "atzit, now we're movin"




row2k author
Rob Colburn
Rob Colburn coxed for St. Andrew's School and for Columbia University, and currently coxes for the masters rowing program at Carnegie Lake Rowing Association. He is still 3 lbs. under his college coxing weight.
Send Rob Email! Also, check out his new novel The Sultan's Helmsman

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