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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. 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.
At times, the term is used to describe all of Pennsylvania outside of the metropolitan regions. The word is a portmanteau constructed from "Pennsylvania" and "Kentucky", implying 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.
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 the Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh Metro areas. "The T" 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 to the Midwest. 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.
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 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". 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."
- Appeals court races wrap up with focus on voter mobilization Archived January 13, 2005, at the Wayback Machine.
- "Google Books Archive, references to Pennsyltucky from 1900 to 1920". Google.com. Retrieved 2013-07-25.
- "YouTube video of "Baby Wants a Bottleship"". Youtube.com. Retrieved 2016-04-23.
- Billboard Country Music (1972-12-09). "Nashville Scene". Billboard. Retrieved 2010-12-20.
- Elman, Richard (1972). Fredi & Shirl & The Kids. Charles Scribner's Sons. p. 47. ISBN 0-684-12749-0. Retrieved 2010-12-20.
- "Anne McGraw Reeves". The Patriot-News. Retrieved 2013-07-25.
- "It's Pennsylvania Stupid!". Franklin & Marshall. 2002-02-13. Retrieved 2013-07-25.