New York English (1664- ) is the dialect of English spoken in New York City and some of its suburbs.
- Home region: New York City, Long Island, north-eastern New Jersey.
- Speakers: about 14 million, among them: Al Pacino (pictured), Barbra Streisand, Chris Rock, Christopher Walken, Donald Trump, Jay-Z, Jerry Seinfeld, Nicki Minaj, Spike Lee, Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie Perez, Wendy Williams, Bernie Sanders, Sunny Hostin and Woody Allen.
There are differences by:
- class – working-class, upper-middle-class;
- ethnicity – Black, Latino, Jewish, Italian;
- region – New York City, New Jersey, the Hamptons.
For example, “mischief night” is much better known in New Jersey than New York.
Accent: The “New Yawk” accent is the White working-class one. It is seen as being full of aw’s (New Yawk), oy’s (Joisey), th’s that become d’s (dem, dose) and dropped r’s (bigga). Some say it is fading, others not. It comes from a Dutch copy of a Wasp accent that came from New England. That Wasp accent is pretty much dead, but you can hear it in old recordings of Franklin Roosevelt.
Commonly among New Yorkers, according to dialect surveys (2013):
- caramel – carra-mel;
- been – bin;
- crayon – cray-ahn;
- lawyer – loyer;
- mayonnaise – may-uh-naze;
- pecan – PEE-can;
- syrup – sir-up;
- pajamas – puh-JAH-muhz;
- route – root.
- Dialect words:
- soda – not pop, coke, soft drink or fizzy drink.
- sneakers – not tennis shoes, gymshoes, trainers or running shoes.
- you guys – not you all.
- traffic circle – not roundabout or rotary.
- water fountain – not drinking fountain.
- highway – not freeway or motorway.
- sunshower – raining when the sun shines.
That is pretty much how I speak: I score a 15 out of 16 (I say pecan as pih-CON).
Some words that seem to have come by way of New York English:
- Dutch: boss, Yankee, Santa Claus, waffle, cookie, coleslaw, caboose, sleigh, snoop, spook.
- Anglo: litterbug, speakeasy, newlywed, world war, knucklehead, doughnut, Labor Day, up the river (= in prison).
- Black: hip hop, rap (music), chilling, jive, blunt, Man!, light up (a cigarette), blow your top, the Big Apple, cool, reefer, chops.
- Yiddish: bottom line, big deal, for free, deli, klutz, low-life, mishmash, likewise (= me too), schlep, schmooze, So what?, How come?, What gives?, Enjoy!
- Italian: pizza.
- Spanish: barrio, bodega.
“Up the river” from New York was the infamous Sing Sing prison.
“Man!” was used by Blacks where Whites used “Boy!” (which has a racist meaning).
“Yankee” was a Dutch slur for Anglo Americans.
According to linguist Deborah Tannen, New Yorkers compared to Californians:
- Talk louder and faster.
- Talk to be friendly.
- Will drop in and out of conversations they overhear.
- Do not silently listen but, to show interest, say stuff like “What?”, “Wow!”, “Oh, God!” or try to fill in or repeat your words.
- Will talk over the end of your sentence.
- Think that a pause of more than a half second is awkward.
- Tell stories with gestures, facial expressions and, to imitate dialogue, change of pitch.
- Share personal experiences expecting you to do the same to get to know you.
- Complain about “they”.
That all might seem like common sense to New Yorkers, but it can be off-putting to others.
Spoken example of New York English: Rosario Dawson:
Sources: mainly PBS, Etymology Online (2014), AALBC, Business Insider (2013), Wikipedia (2014), Abagond (2011), “You Are What You Speak” (2011) by Robert Lane Greene, “The Adventure of English” (2011) by Melvyn Bragg.