5 Things You'll Only Hear in Cincinnati

March 14, 2019

5 Things You'll Only Hear in Cincinnati

It was George Bernard Shaw, or perhaps Oscar Wilde (no one knows for sure), who suggested that Britain and America are two nations divided by a common language. However, even within our own borders we sometimes have difficulty understanding one another. Many cities and regions have unique words and phrases that are baked into the local lexicon and have lasted for generations; yet don’t spread to other parts of the nation. Cincinnati is no exception. If you’re new to the the Queen City, you may hear these odd words and phrases.

Let’s Have a Three-Way

While this sounds like complete filth, it actually refers, of course to a local delicacy known as Cincinnati-style chili. Not a chili like most of the rest of the country is used to, Cincinnati-style chili is based on an Eastern European/Mediterranean meat sauce. Much thinner than chili con carne (or Texas chili), it’s usually served over spaghetti or hot dogs. The latter are known as Coneys.

Wanna Play Some Cornhole?

Having someone in Southwest Ohio ask you if you want chili then propose this might have leave you tempted to contact the local vice squad. Cornhole, though, is actually a game more commonly known around the rest of the country as beanbag toss. The name cornhole has started to spread, though, as people at the other end of the state of, mostly in the Cleveland area, have now taken to using it over the name beanbag toss. It’s also just beginning to see use in other parts of the country.


Not an odd thing to hear anywhere in the U.S., except maybe New York City. However, in Cincinnati when someone says “please,” they are asking you to repeat something. It basically takes the place of “excuse me,” or “I’m sorry, could you repeat that?” This one seems to have been dying out in recent years, perhaps due to the influx of folks from other parts of the country. Natives still say it.

Do Wha?

This is one the locals don’t even realize they say. It’s the much less formal version of “please?” It appears to be an edited version of “do what?” However, it’s used in response to any question that has not been heard clearly the first time. For example: “How do I get to Paul Brown Stadium?” The response: “Do wha?”

Who Dey!

It’s the battle cry for fans of the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals, and it got its start during the teams 1981 Super Bowl season. The Bengals lost to the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XVI, but the chant of “Who Dey!” carried on. The entire cheer is “Who Dey think gonna beat them Bengals?” And while you’ll of course only hear that in Cincinnati, New Orleans Saints fans, to the dismay of the Bengals faithful, have a similar chant of “Who Dat?” The Big Easy version didn’t gain much traction until the Saints became competitive in the early 2000s, though they claim it’s origins go back generations. And while neither team has trademarked these cheers, it hasn’t stopped the NFL from sending cease and desist orders to folks for printing them on T-shirts, mugs, and other merchandise.

Image: Selena Wilke via Wiki Commons

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