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"Pennsyltucky" is a slang portmanteau of the state names Pennsylvania and Kentucky. It is used to characterize—usually humorously, but sometimes deprecatingly—the rural part of the state of Pennsylvania outside the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia metropolitan areas, more specifically applied to the local people and culture of its mountainous central Appalachian region.
At times the term is used to describe all of Pennsylvania outside of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The word is a portmanteau constructed from "Pennsylvania" and "Kentucky", implying a similarity between the rural parts of the two states. It can be used in either a pejorative or an affectionate sense.
This term is interchangeable with the slang term "The T", used primarily in political circles (e.g., "Winning the T"), because of the shape of the area of Pennsylvania when excluding Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. "The T" is considered a more politically correct term than "Pennsyltucky" when referring to potential voters without so openly insulting them.
Philadelphia in the southeast corner and Pittsburgh in the southwest corner are urban manufacturing centers, with the "t-shaped" remainder of the state being much more rural; this dichotomy affects state politics and culture as well as the state economy.
Much of the terms' history evolved from the Appalachia areas of Pennsylvania, which include the entire T but still include most if not all of the Pittsburgh area. Though Pittsburgh has since the early 1800s been one of America's major if arguably most modern cities the strong connection to the mid-west of Ohio and the south of West Virginia gave the urbanites a distinctly different feel from east coast Philadelphia, almost a West Virginia/Ohio River Valley city rather than a city within miles of Delaware and New Jersey.
The unique topography of the Pittsburgh urban area also contributes to its sometimes "rural" feel in that it is on a bisected plateau that features steep and still very wild bluffs, cliffs and hollows that although just yards from an intensely dense urban area have the mixing of deer, turkey, and other wildlife right on major city streets.
Pittsburgh did not grow radially as most other major American cities but resembled a miles long "spider" of urbanity down river valleys such as the Monongahela, Allegheny, Chartiers and Beaver among others. For much of the 20th century the result was a major sprawling metropolis that just a mile on either side of the valley was as wild and natural as the most remote parts of the state. Even with modern suburban sprawl, very wild bluffs and hollows remain as a web of "green belts" throughout the Pittsburgh metro area. For these reasons notable people familiar with Western Pennsylvania also include Pittsburgh and its immediate area in the "Pennsyltucky" definition.
The term Pennsyltucky can be traced back over a century. Many of the earlier uses appear to be humorous references to a fictitious state. For example, Pennsyltucky is the name of the ship in the 1942 Popeye cartoon "Baby Wants a Bottleship". By the 1970s, the term clearly referred to rural Pennsylvania, as evidenced by country music star Jeannie Seely's 1972 single, "A Farm in Pennsyltucky" about her childhood home in northwestern Pennsylvania. Also in 1972, Richard Elman writes in his semi-autobiographical Fredi & Shirl & The Kids that the character Fredi refers to all of Appalachia as Pennsyltucky.
The modern popularization of the term, however, is commonly associated with Democratic political consultant James Carville, famed for his work on the victorious campaigns of Robert Casey, Sr. of Pennsylvania in 1986 and Presidential candidate Bill Clinton in 1992. Carville's original statement, however, did not speak of "Pennsyltucky". In 1992 he said:
|“||Between Paoli and Penn Hills, Pennsylvania is Alabama without the blacks. They didn't film The Deer Hunter there for nothing -- the state has the second-highest concentration of NRA members, behind Texas.||”|
This quote is often paraphrased as "Philadelphia in the east, Pittsburgh in the west and Alabama in the middle."