My neighbor talks about her clothing “needing washed” and her floors “needing swept.” I’ve even heard a reporter refer to a question “needing answered.” Is this a local linguistic peculiarity?—Not From Around HereDear Not:No. It is not local. Your neighbor may have lived here a while, but the grammatical construction “needing washed” is actually a speech marker for an area radiating from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, out into a 300-mile-wide lozenge-shaped area tilted gently from southwest to northeast. The Doctor knows a very respectable woman from Lima, a city at the far fringe of the “needs swept” zone, who has long baffled her husband, a Delmarvan, by using the phrase when she hands him the household foxtail and dustpan. But that worthy Liman is the only “needs swept” speaker in the Doctor’s social circle. He further suspects that not every Pittsburgher sits easy with the phrase, which appears to have its origins in the British Isles, and he suspects that young Heinzes and Mellons have the habit beaten out of them by their governesses before they go off to St. Grottlesex.
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