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Petition started to get Pittsburgh word ‘jagoff’ into dictionary

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Guy Wathen | Trib Total Media
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto meets with Pittsburgh Tribune-Review editors and reporters on Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014.

It would land between jagged and jaguar.

The creator of a distinctly Pittsburgh website — yajagoff.com — started a petition drive to get a distinctly Pittsburgh word — “jagoff” — entered into the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.

After all, if hashtag, selfie and tweep (all words added to the latest version) deserve inclusion, so does jagoff, said John Chamberlin, 51, of Kennedy, the petition’s mastermind.

“It should be in the dictionary. Why not?” Chamberlin said. “It’s a form of Pittsburgh-ese that stands out. It certainly has more history than words like selfie or hashtag. Those are trend words.”

Case closed. Obviously.

On the outside chance the folks at Merriam-Webster fail to recognize the case for jagoff’s inclusion, Chamberlin took two steps.

First, he enlisted Pittsburgh’s 3 Guys Optical Center to make a $1 donation to the Pittsburgh Emergency Medicine Foundation for every person who signs the petition. The Oakland-based nonprofit supports emergency medicine research and educational programs. So far, about 600 have thrown their support behind jagoff.

Second, he called on Mayor Bill Peduto, who on Tuesday recorded a public service announcement urging Pittsburghers to sign the jagoff petition.

“It definitely deserves to be in the dictionary,” Peduto told the Tribune-Review after the video shoot in his City Hall office. “There are a lot of words in the dictionary that I don’t know or understand. There are also a lot of words in the dictionary that are slang from other parts of the country that probably have negative connotations. A jagoff is a beloved word, and Pittsburghers deserve to have it enshrined by Mr. Webster.”

Peduto even offered an official definition:

“A term of endearment that is expressed by Pittsburghers to those that poke at us. Derived from the legendary jagger bush, it is not a dirty term or derogatory term, but a way for ‘Burghers to let somebody know that you’re really getting under their skin.”

Chamberlin agreed, adding that jagoff is versatile and can be used affectionately, to express surprise, or as a way to vent (like when that jagoff on the Parkway East cuts you off, n’at).

“I’m anticipating that Pittsburghers in their pride will allow thousands of petitions to be sent,” Peduto said, “which will benefit the Pittsburgh Emergency Medicine Foundation and those that are on the front line in helping to save jagoffs and non-jagoffs.”

The mayor nodded thoughtfully, then added with an air of sophistication:

“Only a jagoff wouldn’t sign the petition. Don’t be a jagoff.”

Chris Togneri is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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