Wednesday, May 12, 2010

No such thing as a Queens accent?

From the Daily News:

There's a slew of ways to prove you're from Queens. Maybe you're a die-hard Mets fan, or you've perfected the art of crossing Queens Blvd., or you recognize the Unisphere from a mile away.

But one thing that won't prove you hail from the borough is the way you speak, insist experts and some notable Queens natives. That, or the Queens English is fast becoming a dead dialect.

"No offense to my brothers and sisters in Queens who feel that there is [a Queens accent], but I really don't think so," said Forest Hills-born actor Hank Azaria.

"I didn't hear it, and I have a pretty sensitive ear," said Azaria, a chameleon of diction who voices several of the characters on "The Simpsons."

But some locals beg to differ.

"I would say I have a Queens accent," said Frank Barone, 62, a cobbler who has lived in Astoria for 44 years. "We all speak New York slang, but there's a slight difference between boroughs."

Despite the fact that proud locals insist their borough has its own dialect - with drawn-out vowels and a distinct nasal sound - it's just a run-of-the-mill New York accent you're hearing on the streets of Queens, said the city's top linguists.

"People claim that there is a difference, but no one has been able to show it," said Michael Newman, a linguist and Queens College professor.

People are wondering where our street games went, too.


georgetheatheist said...

Ask Geraldine Ferraro.
Where are my earmuffs?

Ridgewood Mike said...

Here's someone who claims the nasality of the Queens accent is due to the pain of having to tell your friends that you live in Queens. Nice!

In my nabe the Queens accent is mostly Polish, some Russian, a little Romanian.

Anonymous said...

There is no discernable accent in Queens. Brooklyn, yes. The lower eastside--in the old days--yes. There is even a distinct Long Island accent. Nothing in Queens.

Patrick Sweeney said...

Hank Azaria is to our generation is what Mel Blanc was to a previous generation. I agree with him that there is no distinctive Queens access. Wh't'cha call your New York City accent is a milder version of the Brooklyn accent. Plenty of classic (and accurate) examples of this accent exist in the films of the 1930's and 1940's.

Queens Crapper said...

"According to Mel Blanc, the character's original voice actor, Bugs Bunny has a Flatbush accent, an equal blend of the Bronx and Brooklyn dialects (of the New York Accent)."

Anonymous said...

I always thought the Queens accent is just like the Long Island accent.

Anonymous said...

I was born, raised and still reside in Queens, but spent 1 year in the midwest - where not one single person could tell I was from Queens! Some people even asked if I was from Mass.! And one day, while shopping for jeans on Steinway Street, a gay sales clerk who was trying to pick me up, asked me where I was from!

Babs said...

The New York accent - Mel Brooks, Carlin, etc. is still alive and well - but is more subtle now. Long Islanders for the most part are people that left Queens and Brookyn years ago so they speak New York like we do.

The Jewish or Yiddish influence in the English language is HUGE - we get many of our English words and expressions from that ethnic group over all others as a group.

The bagel - the schmoozer, the schmuck all Yiddish in origin and spoken as English by everyone regardless of background.

Many of you are too young to remember that little affectionate "ala" that was put on the end of girls names as a sign of affectionate - Debbie or Debra was "Debbala", Wendy as Wendala. The Brooklyn way of speaking is really a Yiddish way of speaking.

New Yorkers - and those of us in New Jersey and Conn. do speak differently than the rest of the country - if you go upstate - and not even that far upstate - you start to here a more "southern" pronounciation of words even if it is slight - which originated from the British Isles.

Also a person's class influences the way they speak.

Anonymous said...

When I her my Indian-born grocery store owner say "fuhgetaboutit," I know that the New York slang is still alive. The accent- not so much.

georgetheatheist said...

Actually the Yiddish "influence" is of Germanic origin - eg, the inability to pronounce the "th" sound so that "Thirty-third" Street becomes "Toidy-toid" Street. Remember, New York was settled originally by the Dutch who spoke a variant of German and had in their employ Germans. Peter Minuit, the alleged purchaser of Manhattan, was from the present-day North Rhine-Westphalian German city of Wesel.

"Bagel", "schmoose", and "schmuck" are of German origin. Even the word "yiddish".

Bagel = Beugel (pronounced "boygel") of Austrian German derivation meaning a "stirrup", the shape of the bagel.

Schmooze = schmusen. A German verb meaning to tenderly stroke or kiss someone.

Schmuck = schmucken. The Germanic verb meaning to decorate with beautiful objects. Schmuck can also mean "jewels" or "jewelry". When you call a person a schmuck, you mean sarcastically he's a real jewel.

Yiddish = juedisch, ie the German word for Jewish

Even the use of "ala" (as Babs spells it) is Germanic. It's spelled "ele" and it turns a noun into a diminutive, like "bubele": "Bub" = "lad". Ergo: "Bubele" = "laddie". The word "Shtetl" also shows Germanic derivation. It derives from the word "Stadtele", a small city ot town.

The name of the city (or "Stadt") of Yonkers, an area settled by the Germanic language-influenced Dutch,originates from the German work Junker, a wealthy landowner. Even "Dutch" is German, a variation of "Deutsch".

The German tongue's influence on the New York accent far excedes any influence of the so-called Yiddish language, a variation of German.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Professor.


georgetheatheist said...

Where ya been, kiddo?

Anonymous said...

Here and there.

Anonymous said...

Definition of Yiddish:

"literally "Jewish" is a High German language of Ashkenazi Jewish origin, spoken throughout the world. It developed as a fusion of German dialects with Hebrew, Aramaic, Slavic languages and traces of Romance languages"

Babs said...

thank you Anonymous -

George is talking about the language of English as opposed to the thread's topic i.e. the New York accent.

English started as a variation of German which was called originally Anglo-Saxon or Old English. After the Norman Invasion however the language became more Romance.

Back to the Queens New York accent . . . .

Joe-schmo said...

New York English, as a special variety of general New England speech, developed after the British took possession of the Dutch colony of Nieuw Amsterdam in 1664, leading to the rapid conversion of Dutch speakers to English. Dutch left a strong phonetic substrate, however, which sets Brooklyn speech apart from other northern dialects -
Main features deriving from the Dutch influence.

The Yiddish influence is strong - but, comes later.

Anonymous said...

Who cares!