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"Valspeak"--the argot spoken by ultra with-it students in California's San Fernando Valley--faces a challenge as the pre-eminent lingo of American youth from "Lehighspeak"--a blue-collar, East-Coast dialect recently identified by a high-school sociology teacher from Bethlehem, Pa.

Unlike the California version, "Lehighspeak"--named for the Lehigh Valley of eastern Pennsylvania--has roots deep in the quaint speech of the Pennsylvania Dutch and in the broken English spoken by some foreign-born coal miners. When combined with the street talk of nearby Philadelphia, the lingo discovered by the teacher, Donald G. Midway, goes something like this:

"Qwe-leeve?" (Can we leave?)

"Yeah, my car is in the middle of the street parked."

"Jeet yet?" (Did you eat yet?)

Mr. Midway said he began compiling a list of the lingo's most common phrases after spending years correcting his students' speech in class, such as: "Ky-my-tess ifyavit?" (Can I have my test if you have it?)

Some of his students' expressions are common throughout the country, he said, but some of the more striking variations are regional. "They'll say, 'She's going to the store, hayna?"' he said. "It's kind of a variation of 'how about it?' and it probably derives from a Pennsylvania Dutch expression, 'say not?"' "If Frank Zappa and his daughter had not picked on the San Fernando Valley [for their song, "Valley Girls], they might have picked Lehigh," Mr. Midway said. "But in this region, the song would have been better if it had been sung by Frankie Yankowitz and his band."

Vol. 02, Issue 12

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