Every city in the United States has unique expressions and slang, and Philadelphia is no exception. Here you’ll find there’s a slew of colloquialisms that will make absolutely zero sense to an outsider, and that’s because they’re born from the expansive history and diverse culture of the city. If youse guys (meaning all of you), ever plan on coming to town for a long weekend or want to move here because you love cheesesteaks wit whiz, then here are 10 expressions that will make you feel like a local.
Yes, “yo” is said just about everywhere in the country, but it’s almost exclusively how we say “hello” in Philly. The greeting of “yo” can vary in meaning, though, depending on intonation. Whether it has an angry or joyous tone tells us the kind of day or week you’ve been having. A curt “yo” is mostly used when someone bumps into you on the street. A long, drawn-out “YOOOOO!” is the best way to greet an old friend.
Perhaps the nicest thing your mother or grandma can ask you, “Jeet?” means “Did you eat yet?” The answer to that question is simple as you can always eat more here.
3. Wit Whiz
And speaking of eating, when in Philly, you’ve got to try a cheesesteak. A true cheesesteak connoisseur knows that the chopped steak sandwich on a long roll comes either wit whiz (gooey, bright orange-yellow fake cheese) or without. Choose your camp but don’t look like an outsider when ordering.
4. Center City
In New York or Chicago, people head downtown, but not in Philly — we go to Center City.
Wawa is a chain found throughout Philly, the suburbs, and South Jersey, and you’ll want to memorize this name; it’s basically a religion here. During the summer, Wawa throws its annual Hoagie Festival, where you can get a 12″ hoagie for $5. And if you’re lucky, you can nab a funky tie-dye Hoagie Festival T-shirt to wear when you’re munching down on your footlong.
6. Water ice
Another local favorite treat is water ice — but water is pronounced as “wood-er” — which other states often refer to as Italian Ice. Head to Rita’s or Philly Flavors for a taste of this delightful summer treat.
7. Down the shore
When Memorial Day weekend arrives, Philadelphians go down the shore, meaning, we head to the New Jersey beaches: Wildwood, Ocean City, Sea Isle City, or if you’re feeling lucky, Atlantic City. The shore is the best part of summer. During the day, you crack open a beer and get your summer tan on while kids bob up and down on waves before hitting up the boardwalk at night.
8. The Linc
Lincoln Financial Field, aka “the Linc” is the home of Philly football legends and recent Super Bowl champions, the Eagles. All sports stadiums are in South Philadelphia, but the throne of Philadelphia is the Linc. After a game, you can head over to Xfinity Live, a complex with five bars, including a beer hall and a mechanical bull to either relish in victory or drink away a loss.
9. U City
Philly is a smart city; we’ve got an Ivy League school right in West Philadelphia. The University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), along with Drexel University, is housed in the neighborhood of University City, which is known in Philly as simply “U City.” This mini metropolis is where all the college kids live.
10. The MFL
Philly doesn’t have the best subway system in the world; in fact, not counting the trolleys in West Philly, there are only two lines: one that runs left to right, but veers upwards after Old City, and one that runs up and down. The Market-Frankford Line, known colloquially as the “MFL” runs from West Philly (69th Street station, which is pretty much Upper Darby) to Frankford station in the Northeast. You’ll need to get to know this line well if you want to explore the city.
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