A little background

Just for fun, and because aside from the 4 people who read this blog and have known me for 15+ years, most people reading here don’t have clue who I am and what I am talking about most of the time.  I’m gonna copy/paste an entry from my inactive Blogger blog.  I posted this in January of 2020, so not so long ago.

The post was titled: It always circles back to Da Bronx

I’ve often described myself as ‘the little Italian girl from da Bronx’ despite the fact that my father moved the family out of the Bronx when I was 8 and I really have no connection to the place except for –

The things I say and do. Okay some of those things are also Italian but the Bronx had a heavy concentration of Italian immigrants. The one famous Bronx characteristic I do NOT have is the legendary Bronx accent – for which I am grateful.

The Bronx accent is somewhat similar to a Brooklyn accent – but the Bronx accent is somewhat sharper sounding, a little tougher, ’cause the Bronx is a tough place. Yes, th is pronounced like a d – Dis for this, Dat for that. But 33rd Street becomes toity-toid Street.

The best is – the oi sound becomes an r-sound, as in olive earl or terlet bowl (that would be, in English, olive oil and toilet bowl) And New Yorkers of every borough are know for dropping the r from words altogether and/or replacing it with a d-sound or a w (car becomes caw) Of course there is the famous aw sound – cawfee for coffee. And yes, we drop g‘s at the end of words – going becomes goin‘. And we run words together, like ‘jeet?’ translates to “Did you eat?”

Also “Yo” – I always considered that to be just a New York thing but come to think of it I never heard it in Queens (where I lived after the age of 8). The funniest thing about “Yo” – my husband lived in Vermont when I married him, me being from NYC made me quite the exotic character. My step-children picked up some of my New York-isms which I never realized until I got a note from one of the kids teachers that she had tried to get the teacher’s attention by shouting out “YO”…The teacher didn’t quite know what that meant but she took offense. Me, I cracked up laughing. (Or as we say in NYC – laffin’.)

Then there is the slap-tap/swoop to the back of the head. I never really thought about it much, along with the fist tap to the shoulder but when I did it to someone at work they said “Whadda ya from da Bronx?” Why, yes, yes, I am!

But all this came to mind last week when I read an article about the phrase “expletive you and the horse you rode in on”.  My father used to say that all the time, the expletive in his case was ‘screw’ which isn’t really the expletive most people use. But some sources back track it to the Bronx because some guy who wrote a book that used the phrase said he first heard it in the 1950’s in the Bronx. I don’t know, my father used it long before that.

Years ago I wrote a little piece about as you get older you revert to your essential self. It was in reference to my solitariness but started by noting that my grandmothers and mother all reverted back to Italian, their first language, as they aged. And here I am, reverting back to my Bronx-ness as I age – becoming more Bronx-y, becoming more New York-y and in some ways more Italian. It’s interesting stepping back and watching this.

I mentioned earlier that my father moved us from the Bronx to Queens when I was 8, and while I have never felt a conscious attachment to the Bronx I have ZERO attachment to Queens. My personal opinion is Queens is a boring nothing place with no personality at all. And in service to that, here is a little video about New York accents – pay attention to what they say about Queens –

21 thoughts on “A little background

    1. It actually varies within the boroughs, from neighborhood to neighborhood and then again over the years it changes as the ethnic groups in each neighborhood change…One thing about NYC – not only does it never sleep it never stays the same – constant change.

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        1. Within each borough you have neighborhoods which way back when were basically ghettos – now we call them neighborhoods – remnants you might be familiar with are Little Italy and Chinatown in lower Manhattan – they “border’ each other tho now Little Italy is more or less owned by the Chinese and they try and maintain some of the Italian flavor for the tourists. Coney Island was mostly Jewish and Italian (Jews and Italians seemed to occupy the same areas because the only difference between Jews and Italians is the day they go to church – Jewish Mother/Italian Mother – same person only the accent is different but that’s another story) now it is heavily Russian and Ukraine – went from the Italian Mafia to the Russian Mafia. There was Italian Harlem, Spanish Harlem and Black Harlem – all at the same time – just blocks from one to the other. People tend to live with other people just like them and some groups are more sympatico than others…And they all tawk funny!

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          1. I live in Vancouver, and we’ve got different ethnic neighbourhoods, but it hasn’t translated into different ways of tawkin. The older generations and the more recent arrivals have their foreign accents, but the young folk all pick up the basic Canadian accent.

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            1. New York is like London, your accent will pinpoint where you grew up. Never mind regional accents – and even different accents within those regions – You’ve got your New England accent and within that distinct Maine accents, or lord help us all, a Boston accent. I suppose there is a sort of generic Southern accent but believe me you can tell the difference between a Georgia accent and say a North Carolina accent. Texas has distinct accents within the state as well. I’m sure accents vary amongst the various Canadian provinces – and even within them. Isn’t there, for one, a distinct Newfie accent LOL Language is fluid and fun!

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  1. I had never really thought about the New York accents before. It’s funny – I know several people from Australia, where they don’t really have regional accents. Over here in the UK, we have LOADS of them – different countries, cities, counties, and within London especially, all sorts of variations.

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    1. i knew a guy who was a modern day Henry Higgins – he could could tell you if you came from the Brooklyn side of Ridgewood or the Queens side! We watch a lot of British tv and Scots and Geordie accents mystify us – we’ve stopped watching a show or movie because we couldn’t understand a word being said then I learned to turn on the caption feature.

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  2. Fascinating post and video to boot. I can understand what Jonathan is saying about the UK, so many accents and dialects, but so too has Australia. I grew up there and the switch in the accents is slight but it is there – you notice it more, the more rural you get – but then l am talkin’ ol country and not new country – now seemingly every bloody country in the world wants to be all Americanised and forget their originality – but the ozzie accents are still not quite so profound as GB 🙂

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      1. It’s not you at all, there is a very distinct difference between Ozzie and Kiwi 🙂

        I prefer the Kiwi accent also, it’s less awful. The Ozzie accent is at times too guttral and too broad and too ‘ l don’t give a damn about who is listening as l am an Australian and bloody proud but we have no culture!’ Which l find many a time quite offputting … but that might just be me ….. 🙂

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          1. Listen to Australian women and you’ll hear it as well. The australians are remarkably proud of their ‘Strine’ although the Ockers, have a much better broader ocker strine accent than the normal city based ozzie and yet they pride themselves on being without any culture or grace at all … go figure!

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        1. Sometimes the lack of an accent is telling in itself. G, while having lived the first 25 years of his life in Boston does not have a Boston accent, he is quite accent-less tho I bet someone with a very good ear might hear a little something – I don’t.

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