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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Once a put-down, it’s now a term of affection — even pride.
To be called a “yinzer” means you’re not some high-tech, yuppie gentrifier, but a real Pittsburgher.
“It shows that you’re really from Pittsburgh and you know who you are.” Brandon Grbach, owner of Steel City Clothing, said.
Steel City Clothing sells locally produced sweatshirts and tees celebrating Pittsburgh’s identity, including shirts emblazoned with the word yinzer.
So does Homage — a Columbus, Ohio, based business with a store in East Liberty.
But while Homage has now petitioned to trademark the word yinzer for its t-shirts, Grbach says the word belongs to all of Pittsburgh.
“It sounds like some outsider’s trying to come in and trying to take something that belongs to the city and sell it back to the city at a profit. Not cool. Not cool,” Grbach said.
A Californian owned the trademark on yinzer for the better part of the decade and now that that trademark has lapsed, Homage is trying to claim it.
Patent attorney John Mcillvaine says a move like that is generally made to freeze out competition.
“It’s just an impediment or a barrier to entry for people that would otherwise have a notion to maybe start a business selling yinzer t-shirts,” he said.
But in a statement, Homage owner Ryan Vesler says he doesn’t intend to restrict anyone and will donate the proceeds of all yinzer t-shirt to charity.
“We certainly understand how important the term ‘yinzer’ is to the city of Pittsburgh and would never want to alienate anyone living in a city that we love … It was never our intention to create controversy or to upset anyone,” the statement reads.
But for Grbach, the word is both business and personal.
KDKA’s Andy Sheehan: “Are you a yinzer?”
Grbach: “Yeah, I think so, yeah. I think deep down I am, absolutely.”
Sheehan: “You don’t use the word yinz.”
Grbach: “I tell my kids not to, but sometimes it slips out.”
Going forward, Homage says the word yinzer will be free for all to use.