As a native New Yorker, I feel Philly has adopted me since I moved here five years ago. I've fallen in love with it with each passing day and every late SEPTA bus.
But beyond the soft pretzels, the music and the sexy beards one of the aspects I loved most about Philly, is its language. The bouls. The ards. But especially the word jawn. I love that jawn.
I heard everyone use it: Points to ashtray. "Pass me that jawn." Points to big building. "You see that jawn?" Points to photo of self at epic party. "I was at that jawn last night." Points to two women. "Yo, look at those two jawns over there."
For a while, I didn't use jawn. It didn't feel right. It didn't roll off my tongue the same way it did for my Philly native friends. Or at least that's what I thought. It wasn't until I visited my friend in Boston that she pointed out that I said jawn. A lot.
She wanted to use the word too and asked if her boyfriend was a jawn. Could she call him that? I paused. I couldn't think of a time when men were called jawns.
There was one definition of jawn that stuck with me, because it was so simple. A friend of mine said that a jawn could be anything… except a man.
Of course now, a few friends and I call men jawns in between whispers and giggles but its city-wide usage has never been as inclusive for both genders. And it's always a joke, we could never say it with the same seriousness that men used when talking about women. It's dangerous.
Jawn is supposed to refer to a noun; it's a reference to a person, place or thing. But it's rarely applied to men. In one monosyllabic word we've aligned women with objects. We've literally objectified women. Was this intention of our founding jawns? I can't say, but I do know that patriarchy runs rampant in our subconscious culture and often manifests itself in linguistics. Cars, guitars and even heavy machinery are referred to as "she." So no jawn is safe.
For men that I do know who have been called jawns there's an immediate, "Oh nah, I'm not a jawn!" Then is jawn derogatory? If it's not okay for men, why is it okay for women?
As someone who loves the word, I vote we become egalitarian with its usage. And if you disagree, you're unequivocally drawlin.
Share your thoughts on Twitter by using the hashtag #LetsMakeMenJawns.