New York Language Regionalisms

Shot of lower manhattan taken from an airplane...

Image via Wikipedia, by Tommy2010

Apparently most of the characteristics of New York regional speech have been ironed out of my language; I don’t say earl for oil or terlet for toilet, or toidy-toid for thirty-third, or dis or dese for this and these, although I do remember older relatives speaking that way when I was a kid. Where these patterns do hang on in my speech is in place names:

Noo Yawk = New York. I still catch myself saying this and try not to
Noo-awk = Newark. This is the real name of the city and I still mostly say it this way, instead of the fancy New-ark
Lung Guylin or Lunk Guylin = Long Island. There really is almost a k sound at the end of the first word because your throat closes up around the double g sound. Yes, there is a double g sound when you say it and you’re from here.
Tren-un = Trenton and Man-ha-an = Manhattan, both very nasally on the first syllable, with an almost glottal and absent t. My husband makes fun of me for these constantly.

I lied, they also hang on in my o and a in certain words. I can only say coffee like the New Jerseyite/New Yorker that I am: cawfee, or water, which is something like  wadar. No matter how much I try.

Oh, yeah and budder for butter. So I guess I’m more of a New Yorker than I thought.

And in moments of stress or excitement, I still say Oh gawd, or Whaddya tawking about? And then I cringe.

I’ve never said youse for you plural, but I’m seriously considering making a push for it’s revival. It’s so much better than the supposedly gender neutral “You, guys” (which creates the non-gender neutral back formation “Hey, guy” when talking to a woman. I hate when men, and it’s only been men so far, call me guy. I am not a guy!) or the imported y’all or you all. That’s a Southern thing. Why use it when we’ve got our own native youse? (look what I did there, a double verb, is that a NY thing?)

Some New York regionalisms that I still don’t believe are local; maybe they have spread to the general population at this point and are only historically New Yorker-isms. What do youse think?

icky
jeez
on account of = because of
how come? = why?
Leave me alone — apparently the rest of youse says Let me alone. Really?
play piano = play the piano
“that” substituted for “who.” As in  “She’s the one that said sorry.” I say this and write it all the time and people correct me. I thought it was just general laziness, but apparently it’s an established feature of NY talk. Who knew? I’m not going to edit it out as much anymore.
stoop, and its derivative, stoop ball
change for a dollar = change of a dollar
Indian burn

Some regionalisms I knew
hero. Although I never remember which one is local, between all the subs, grinders and hoagies
on line, for waiting on line, while the rest of the country waits in line
bodega for any small grocery store in the city
floor-through, a kind of apartment, one that occupies the whole floor of the building
Gimme a slice/I wanna pie = Give me a piece of pizza/I want a (what, what does everyone else say when they want a whole pie?)
Italian ice

Next time: phrases and sayings, Yiddish, Italian and some other influences on language in the New York area.

Inspired by volume 5 of the Dictionary of American Regional English. All research actually done in The Facts on File dictionary of American regionalisms, which covers Dixie, Yankee, Appalachian, Western, Hawaiian, Pennsylvania Dutch and a miscellaneous “More odd ways Americans talk.” And let me tell you, when I peeked into some of the other sections, I had no idea what they were talking about. (FCC, no books were exchanged in the process of writing this blog post. I used my public library, which is awesome.)

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