Pennsyltucky is a slang portmanteau of the names of the U.S. states of Pennsylvania and Kentucky. It is used to characterize—usually humorously, but sometimes deprecatingly—the rural part of Pennsylvania outside the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia metropolitan areas, more specifically applied to the local people and culture of its mountainous central Appalachian region. The term is used more generally to refer to the Appalachian region, particularly its central core, which runs from Pennsylvania to Kentucky, and its people.
The word implies a similarity between the two states' mostly rural sections, a connection that exists in fact after numbers of Western Pennsylvanians left the state for Kentucky after the Whiskey Rebellion. It can be used in either a pejorative or an affectionate sense.
Pennsyltucky is interchangeable with the slang term The "T", because of the shape of Pennsylvania when excluding the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh Metro areas. "The T" is used primarily in a political context (e.g., "Winning the T"), and is considered a more politically correct term than "Pennsyltucky" when referring to potential voters without so openly insulting them.
The regions of Philadelphia in the southeast corner, Pittsburgh in the southwest area 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 term's history evolved from the Appalachian area of Pennsylvania, which includes most of the T and most of the Pittsburgh area. Since the early 1800s, Pittsburgh has been one of America's major cities with a distinct association unto itself, separate from the Midwest and the East coast. Its geographic proximity to Ohio and West Virginia creates an Ohio River Valley feel in contrast to the near coastal metropolis of Philadelphia surrounded by Delaware and New Jersey as well as DC (which is geographically closer than Philadelphia).
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 today's 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 is commonly associated with Democratic political consultant James Carville, who worked on President Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign. Carville's original statement did not speak of "Pennsyltucky," instead comparing it to another rural Southern state, Alabama. In 1986, while working on Robert Casey, Sr.'s successful gubernatorial campaign, 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", or alternatively, "Pennsylvania is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh separated by Alabama".
- Tiffany "Pennsatucky" Doggett, a fictional character in the TV series Orange Is the New Black
- The Gals in Pennsyltucky by Walt Groller
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Well, you know, James has a famous quote about Pennsylvania politics. He says, 'Pennsylvania is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh separated by Alabama.'