I Am Surrounded By People Who Talk Funny
Those of us who live at the Jersey Shore are surrounded by people who talk funny.
I’m really trying to figure it out. Maybe if I were a psychologist or an anthropologist studying human regional attachments I would be able to understand why of my three children, the one that was the oldest when we came here to New Jersey, has the strongest ties to her adopted childhood home. One would think the younger two of my children, especially the youngest who wouldn’t remember living in another place would be more attached to New Jersey than his big sister. But this has not turned out to be the case.
Although my daughter now lives in beautiful Chicago with all of the lakes, wide-open spaces, great food, entertainment and the excitement of a big city that closely mimics the cultural life of New York, she still is homesick for the New Jersey shore. Not that all of the children aren’t attached to their childhood memories and life back here, but the other two seem to have moved on and found their own utopias in other areas.
My daughter through a phone call last night expressing her homesickness started me on this meandering blog post in the first place, Brett had a longer mid-western exposure that should have influenced her dialect when we moved to New Jersey. Not so. It has turned out that she is the only one that has adopted a slight New Jersey accent. Those of you who have ever visited New Jersey, or ever watched the Housewives of New Jersey know exactly what I mean.
When I first came here from the Midwest the New Jersey accent was so strong to my ears that I had to wonder where these folks got that type of an accent. But the longer I lived here the less and less I heard it until at this point I don’t even hear it anymore.
As I read last year in the ‘Courier-Post:
“To the north of us, we have the North Jersey accent bespeaking a certain Soprano-like tough guy patois: “Pick up that cawffe over deir and come tawk to me.”
And to the south, on the other side of the Delaware River from Philadelphia, there is that distinctive South Jersey accent, in which the nationwide convenience store chain 7-Eleven is pronounced “sebeneleben,” and the pro football team is named after the national bird — “The Iggles.”
And in the middle of the Garden State, you have an accent that is neither fish nor fowl, is little studied and is by no means distinctive — the Central Jersey “accent.”
Where these strange sounds come from, what they mean, whether they are dying out, and why and how some folks try to get rid of their accents are questions that fascinate linguists throughout the state.”
Accents come from the original settlers to the area I have learned. For North Jersey/New York, that means the Dutch and the English, whereas in South Jersey/Philly, you’ve got a German and Italian influence. The Central New Jersey dialect origins are a mystery.
As a former news anchor, I have always been conscious of enunciation. Nevertheless, sometimes a society will decide that one group’s way of speaking is going to be the standard. In the U.S., for example, national news broadcasters typically speak similar to people in the Midwest. For some reason, people believe that this accent is somehow more “neutral.” But that is always how I have spoken, whether it was my Midwestern influence, I don’t know.
Linda Ellerbee, a television broadcast journalist, once famously said, “In television you’re not supposed to sound like you’re from anywhere.” I guess that’s me.
My oldest doesn’t have a strong accent, just very subliminal, but it is there. Apart from the actual words spoken, accents carry a lot of weight and meaning with them, I think. People have an emotional connection to the places of their youth and emotional attachment to the sounds of the language they grew up with, and for her it is still very strong.
I suppose that is the answer. You can take the girl out of Jersey, but you can’t take the Jersey out of the girl!
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