Philly Today: Jawn Finally Makes the Dictionary

Plus, a Penn State cheesesteak shop owner throws some major shade at Pat's Steaks.

Eagles fans with posters using the word jawn, which was just added to the dictionary along with a jawn definition

Eagles fans with posters displaying the word “jawn.” The “jawn” definition was just added to the dictionary. (Getty Images)

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Jawn Definition Finally Makes the Dictionary

This week is a historic week in the annals of Philadelphia lingo, thanks to the fact that a “jawn” definition was finally added to the dictionary.

Well, not the dictionary. Merriam-Webster, the oldest dictionary publisher in the country, still refuses to add a “jawn” definition to its hallowed pages, though the company did see fit to acknowledge the existence of the word in a 2017 article.

And no, the dictionary of all dictionary nerds, the Oxford English Dictionary, isn’t providing the world with a jawn definition. At least, not our jawn. Meaning Philly’s jawn. There is a jawn entry in the OED. But the jawn definition in that case is for an archaic variation on the also-archaic verb chawn, which apparently means, “to gape open.” Who knew? (Imagine if you started reintroducing that jawn in your daily vocabulary. People would get very confused.)

In this case, the dictionary that has seen fit to give the world a jawn definition is none other than, the dictionary website that reportedly gets several billion searches each year, if not more.

On Tuesday, released its annual list of newly-added words. And at the very top of that announcement? A jawn definition.

Here’s how the announcement reads:

noun. Informal. Chiefly Philadelphia. something or someone for which the speaker does not know or does not need a specific name.

Example: Can you hand me that jawn right there?

Philadelphians know that their favorite regional catchall term isn’t new — the first records of its use come from the early 2000s, when it started to be popularized in the Black community. Its addition reflects an increasing awareness of the term outside the region. Its ultimate origin is uncertain, but it may be a local Philadelphia variant of joint, which is used in a similar way in the New York City metropolitan area.

The far less unofficial Urban Dictionary (it’s crowdsourced) has had a jawn definition online since 2012. That definition was, quite simply, “slang for a person, place, or thing.” The examples cited: “I cant find that jawn anywhere.” “Yeah, I got the same jawn from Macy’s.” “That new jawn that moved it down the block is HOT!” And “Gimme that jawn!”

So what was the tipping point for

Was it all those Eagles posters the editors inevitably saw in the last season?

Was it the fact that one of the most talked-about U.S. Senate campaigns of 2022 co-opted the term, to replace the name “John”?

the john fetterman campaign uses the word jawn to replace john instead of using the standard jawn definition

A John Fetterman campaign staffer wearing a “Jawn Fetterman” lanyard in 2022 (Getty Images)

Or could it be that we have much-loathed lawyer John Morgan (a.k.a. Jawn Morgan) to thank?

jawn morgan joins the ranks of worst of philly winners, along with pete rose and the melrose diner

A “Jawn Morgan” bus ad for the lawyer John Morgan in 2022 (Photo courtesy of Robin Parry)

Sounds like it was a mixture of things. This, from an interview the editor of did with the Inquirer: “It was sitting two years in our database, waiting, having been heard on TV, and in movies, books, songs, and blog posts. It became overwhelming, and we finally had to include it.”

So who owns the term “jawn”? According to a quick search of the federal trademark database, an Ardmore resident secured the federal trademark rights for “jawn” as a stand-alone term to use on clothing way back in 2015. There’s also a “jawn” trademark belonging to a coffee company. (Separate individuals or entities can trademark a term multiple times for different uses, i.e., the coffee jawn doesn’t infringe upon the clothing jawn.) Other trademarks exist for jawn combined with other terms and for other uses: There’s South Street Jawn, Da Smoothie Jawn, Them Press On Jawns. The list goes on.

ICYMI: The Chester County Prison Escape Video, Enhanced

We’ve all heard about the convicted murderer who escaped from the Chester County prison. And now that we have video footage of the prison escape, wow, just wow. I took the liberty of zooming in on his superhuman feat. And, of course, I added some music, that music being “Escape” a.k.a. “The Pina Colada Song.”

Yeah, I can totally do that. If you watch closely, you can actually see him dropping down on the other side of the structure he just scaled. It’s right around 21 seconds into the video.

What’s more amazing than all that is that another guy apparently escaped this very same prison from this very same spot using this very same technique. Department of Corrections? More like Department of Rejections.

Reader Mail: About Those Penn State Cheesesteaks…

In my story the other day about Pat’s Steaks expanding to Penn State, I had some fun at the expense of a newish Penn State cheesesteak shop that I said co-opted the 2022 Eagles motto “It’s a Philly Thing” for their store. Owner Joseph Ford took offense and penned this missive:

Good morning Victor.

Sending this to enlighten you and give you a few facts on the article you published about Pats Steaks coming to State College while trying to throw digs about two establishments already here. I’m not at liberty to say anything about the steak shop in the stadium, but here to clarify your dig about the “Philly Thing”!

In your article you noted that we opened a year ago. With that being said, we started the slogan well before the Super Bowl hype and everyone using it in Philadelphia. You also mentioned about “co-opting OUR Philadelphia Eagles motto”! Well to inform you, we’re not some fly by night cheesesteak shop out of Arizona. I was born and bred in Philly for 54 years that brought a traditional cheesesteak shop to PSU that I have many connections with for over 40 years.

So [you] saying OURS like I stole or don’t have any connections to Philly… that would be inaccurate.

I bleed green and white as well as blue and white. We’re here doing a fantastic job with many happy customers because we make each sandwich with old school Philly love. NOT putting out crappy products living on a name for tourists.

Hope this clarifies things for you and you have a fantastic day!

I asked Ford if he cared to comment on the massive felony case against him in Montgomery County. But he didn’t respond.

The Fringe Festival Opens Tonight

The opening party for the Philadelphia Fringe Festival is happening tonight, complete with live-band karaoke, at which I will, no doubt, make a total fool of myself, assuming the band can manage the handful of chords that make up “Hello.” No, not Adele. Lionel Richie. In any event, if you’re thoroughly overwhelmed by the scads of options in this year’s Fringe Festival, you need to consult our Fringe Filter.

By the Numbers

102: High Real Feel® temperature in Philadelphia on Thursday. Yes, Real Feel® is a proprietary term owned by State College’s own AccuWeather. Generically, we call it the heat index. But Real Feel ® is certainly more catchy. I guess we’re allowed to use it? Surely we’ll be hearing from the suits in State College if not.

400 million: Potentially malicious messages sent to Pennsylvania state government email addresses over the last year. That’s reportedly about half of all of the messages that Pennsylvania state government employees receive on an annual basis. The state just removed a searchable database of state employees (with their email addresses) in the hopes of combatting this. But they left up the state telephone directory. So maybe just get back to good ol’ prank calls like: “Is Mister Wall there? No. How about Misses Wall? No. Then what’s holding up your ceiling?” And forget about your phishing schemes.

8: Concerts Bruce Springsteen just postponed — a couple of weeks after postponing his Philly dates — representing the remainder of his September touring schedule. The stated cause: peptic ulcer. In other words, the Boss should avoid the hot sauce. (Sorry, Jerry.)

And from the What-Again? Sports Desk …

Two guesses who hit a leadoff homer in yesterday’s game against the Padres. Ding-ding-ding!

That was followed by an Alec Bohm double, a Bryce Harper walk, a Nick Castellanos single … and three straight outs. Still! Zack Wheeler had 1-2-3 first and second innings, and in the third, Bryce Harper finally snapped his 0-for-20 streak with a two-run double after Edmundo Sosa singled and Schwarbs walked. In the fifth, Tim Hill replaced Padres starter Michael Wacha and gave up a one-out solo J.T. Realmuto homer.

A Brandon Marsh single, a Sosa walk and a Jake Cave single then made it 5-0. Nick Martinez came in to get the last out. In the bottom of the inning, Marsh had a helluva catch.

Wheels made it through six, with Seranthony in for the seventh and Jeff Hoffman for the eighth, who promptly plunked Gary Sanchez but got through unscathed. The Padres made a whole slew of defensive changes in the top of the ninth, as if maybe that would help, and they did manage a single run off Matt Strahm in the bottom half, on a double and a single. But order was restored to the Phillies universe: 5-1 Phils. No game tonight; we’ll have the weekend lineup tomorrow morning.

All Philly Today sports coverage is provided by Sandy Hingston.