The Etymological Hour: "Haina"/"Heyna"/"Hayna"

Hailing from the coal-baron (now coal-barren) lands of NEPA (Northeastern Pennsylvania), one of the "armpits of America," is rarely a point of pride. Those of us who have escaped Luzerne County (Wilkes-Barre and surrounding areas) in particular carry on a futile attempt to shed every last tattered tether from our Susquehanna roots. And one notable inheritance is dialectological. There are countless linguistic corruptions traceable to NEPA, but none more notorious than "haina" (alternately spelled "heyna" or "hayna").

Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania Historical Photo

The Dictionary of American Regional English (1986) provides the following entry for "haina":
Putting haina on the end of a statement makes the statement a question. It doesn't matter who you're talking to, or when the thing happened. "You're going dancing Friday night, haina?" means "Are you going dancing Friday night?" "He did that last night, haina?" means "Did he do that last night?"

The blue-collar region—once overflowing with anthracite—is in close proximity to a number of more metropolitan areas, but still geographically and (more importantly) psycho-sociologically cut off from more urban regions. (It's worth noting that even larger Pennsylvania cities like Pittsburgh have their own peculiar concentrated dialects.) This symbolic isolation has allowed a number of odd dialectal and vernacular ticks to survive, many residually from the Pennsylvania Dutch. The linguistic history of the anthracite region is a complex one. The early settlers of the area imported the "Yankee" dialect from upstate New York and Connecticut, but this soon blended with the Eastern European features of the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect and absorbed other distinct traces from an influx of Slavic immigrants. This almost creole-like mix evolved further with the more-recent introduction of slang phrases traveling up from Philadelphia. There are noticeable parallels with certain New York City pronunciations, especially the tendency to replace 'th' with 'd' ("Look at dat der hoagie!")

"Haina" appears to have evolved from the slang "ain't it?," and is often delivered with an appended "or no?" for emphasis ("The river level's gettin' high, heyna or no?").

From Coalspeak, a glossary of the NEPA anthracite region:
hayna or heyna or henna or haynit: request for affirmation, like "ain't it so?" or "isn't that right?". See hain't. This is primarily a Luzerne County word, very common in Hazleton, Wilkes-Barre, and surrounding areas. On a related note, many Pennsylvania Dutch sentences end with the phrase "say not". That sure smells like sulfur, henna?" "It sure is cold tonight, heyna or no?"

I still catch myself nearly slip now and then. And I continue to blame my Wyoming Valley upbringing for my inability to differentiate between "pool" and "pole" (or "bull" and "bowl"... or, more significantly, "cool" and "coal"!). But we all have our own vernacular, our own linguistic eccentricities, and that's in part what makes each of us so special, ... haina?!

(This site HERE has some additional interesting tidbits.)


megg said…
i can't differentiate between "pull" and "pool" and since moving to colorado, i realize that i pronounce "coors" (the beer) like "cores". also, possessive "mine" is two syllables while the noun "mine" is only one. (as in "that bike is my-in" or "my nana's house had a mine subsidence".)

though i'm glad i don't say "heyna" unless it's on purpose as a joke, i like the way i talk! ha ha

seeya over christmas, heyna?

BJK said…
no way, really? you have the "pull"/"pool"/"pole" problem too? i thought it might just be me.

you wanna know how i first found out about my pronunciation problem? i'll tell you:

i was explaining this story to someone. the author was using a bowl as a vaginal symbol. the male protagonist in the story would drop his keys in the bowl every time he came home...

so i was explaining this metaphor to someone, but without realizing it i was saying, "so the guy puts his keys in the bull, which symbolizes the vagina or womb of his wife."

and my friend kept asking, "he puts his keys in a bull? there's a bull in his house that symbolizes a vagina?"

and i was like, "yeah, what's so hard to get?!"
megg said…
that's weird because i'm always referring to my vagina as my "bull". i like to also picture the merrill lynch logo in my mind when i am talking about vaginas.

i'm always saying "mayan" instead of "mine" like normal people and jeff usually responds by saying something like, "oh really? urine?"

very witty, this accent of ours.

do you think it'll ever go away? i hope not.

also, my word verification for posting this comment is "sconar". what is "sconar"???
Anonymous said…
god I hate wilkes-barre.
My Polish and Ukrainian ancestors settled in NEPA, specifically the Nanticoke area. Although I spent most of my childhood in suburban Maryland, we often drove up to Nanticoke to visit with grandparents and cousins and such, and I was amused by how much the word "heyna" or "henna" came up in conversation. My grandmother used it a lot.

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