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.
Join the Discussion
After you comment, click Post. You can enter an anonymous Display Name or connect to a social profile.
The Week in Public Finance: A Run on Pensions in Dallas, Connecticut's Warned and a Threat to Muni Bonds2 days ago
N.J. Court Rejects Civil Service Changes for Public Workers2 days ago
Gov. Brown Appoints California's First Latino Attorney General2 days ago
Why Carrier Deal Could Set Troubling Precedent2 days ago
California Governor Heads to Court to Stop State Worker Strike2 days ago
Votes Miscounted? Your State May Not Be Able to Find Out2 days ago