Wawa and the Philly accent go global, thanks to Kate Winslet and SNL

A comedy skit featuring a trailer for a crime show called “Murdur Durder” was livestreamed around the world.

Kate Winslet in 'Mare of Easttown'; Kate McKinnon in 'Murdur Durder'

Kate Winslet in 'Mare of Easttown'; Kate McKinnon in 'Murdur Durder'

HBO; SNL
danyahenninger-headshot-2021sept

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Chatter over Kate Winslet’s transformation into a character from the Philly region for “Mare of Easttown” jumped another shark level over the past week, going from being part of the national discourse to a topic of global interest, thanks to a new Saturday Night Live skit.

The British actor’s deft adoption of the Delco accent has been widely praised, with linguists noting it’s one of the hardest to master, and locals admitting Winslet mostly got hoagiemouth right.

Talk on Friday was all about Wawa. In an L.A. Times podcast, Winslet described what it was like to finally visit a real-life location after studying the brand so deeply in prep for her role in the HBO murder mystery series.

She gushed about being “awestruck” by the “mythical” convenience chain, which was founded in Delaware County. (“Mare” writer-director Brad Ingelsby, a Berwyn native, has said the show is set in a fictional Delco town.)

Celebrity news outlets from Today to Page Six covered Winslet’s reaction. Well-known Philadelphia media personalities like The 19th’s Errin Haines and CNN’s Jake Tapper weighed in to agree with the assessment, which kicked off another round of Wawa vs. Sheetz among Pa. elected officials.

Then came the Saturday Night Live skit, taking the conversation worldwide.

On what was the show’s first internationally livestreamed episode (thanks, Elon Musk) SNL producers created a segment purporting to be a trailer for a series featuring cast member Kate McKinnon as “a grizzled lady detective…with a very specific accent.”

With her hair pulled back in a messy ponytail just like Winslet’s in “Mare,” McKinnon speaks her opening lines about finding someone’s daughter’s dead body in a thick accent that presages the joke show’s title.

“Murdur Durder: An extremely Pennsylvania crime show,” reads the overlay.

As a narrator sets the location as “somewhere between New York and DC,” captions go on to list various other big cities, but never bring Philadelphia onto the screen. (No one likes us, we don’t care.)

“You’ve seen dead teens in Chicago, New York, and Boston. But what about another city…with very specific whites,” the narrator intones. “Pennsylvania whites.”

SNL producers are making a good point. The accent in question, which Upper Darby native Tina Fey has brought to the comedy show many times in the past, is not exactly the Philly accent — or if it is, it’s the accent of white Philadelphians, and only some of them. (Check out this video to see how the accent changes around the city.)

With its elongated Os, clipped As, guttural “au”s, and soft-slurred consonants, what Winslet mastered — and the segment is poking fun at — is more accurately described as the Delco accent.

Of course Wawa makes a showing in the clip, with McKinnon admonishing her fellow police officers for chowing down at a crime scene: “Would youse guys quit eatin’ Wawa hoagies over the bodies.” There are shouts to both of the city’s famous sports mascots: Gritty lurks in the woods, and McKinnon’s “pop pop’s pop pop was the original Phillie Phanatic.”

A couple of bits make it seem like the SNL writers could be the butt of one of their own jabs, that  screenwriters “clearly Googled” the area to buttress regional authenticity.

One is a reference to “Jagoff Bridge” as detectives are poring over a map. While not unheard of in the Philly region, “jagoff” is much more widely used in Pittsburgh, where people claim it as part of the local dialect.

Then there’s the scene where McKinnon hands a colleague a cheesesteak and a Yuengling. No question the beer brand is found in nearly every Philly bar, where it’s often referred to simply as “a lager,” but Philadelphia has plenty of other local faves. In “Mare of Easttown,” Winslet’s character drinks Rolling Rock instead.

Overall, the SNL segment is pretty accurate. The kicker even takes a harsh jab at the child sexual abuse scandal that rocked the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which saw dozens of priests placed on administrative leave.

The clip ends with a semi-accurate statement, one that the U.S. president has embraced (he was born in Scranton, while his wife is more of a “Philly girl”).

“Murdur Durder,” the SNL narrator says. “This is where Joe Biden’s from. Wow.”

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