When I lived in Pittsburgh in the early '80s, I developed an appreciation for pierogies and became reasonably fluent in the charming local lingo ...
When I lived in Pittsburgh in the early '80s, I developed an appreciation for pierogies and became reasonably fluent in the charming local lingo known as Pittsburgh-ese. (In which the place where all the big buildings are is "dahntahn," "owls" separate the display cases in the department stores, etc.)
I departed, though, without figuring out Pennsylvania's curious local-government setup, especially at the county level, where among the centuries-old structure of "row offices" roosts an official known as the prothonotary.
One thing I did learn was that almost nobody else could say exactly what a prothonotary was, though some knew that it was something like what other places call a clerk of court. (Delaware has prothonotaries too.) I thought it sounded like a rare bird species or possibly an orthodontic procedure.
Even Harry Truman, a veteran of Missouri's equally byzantine local-government structure, was puzzled. "What the hell is a prothonotary?" he asked during a 1948 campaign stop in Pittsburgh, according to local legend. (I'm lifting all this prothonotary lore from Wikipedia, which has an article on them -- they literally are Byzantine in origin -- not to mention a fine entry on pierogies.)
Well, soon maybe nobody will need to ask what a prothonotary is. Allegheny County, long a poster child for local governments in desperate need of consolidation and merger, is folding the job into a county Department of Court Records, which also will subsume two other offices as part of a county-government Great Simplification the voters authorized a couple of years ago.
Now that I sort of know what a prothonotary is, I'm feeling a twinge of sadness at seeing them begin to fade away after centuries of doing whatever it is they do. But, then, I also miss drive-in movies, the Cisco Kid and our '54 Nash Rambler.
We invite you to discuss and comment on this article using social media.
DOJ Warning Mobilizes Some Immigrant Sanctuary Cities44 minutes ago
Amid Obamacare's Uncertainty, States Extend Deadlines to File 2018 Premium Rates29 minutes ago
Matching Ex-Offenders With Hard-to-Fill Health Care Jobs53 minutes ago
Florida Senator Who Just Resigned Had Hooters and Playboy Models on His Payroll54 minutes ago
He's an Environmentalist, Entrepreneur, Author and Priest. Now He Wants to Add Governor.55 minutes ago
Where Confederate Memorial Day Is Still Celebrated Today1 hour ago