Wait, you don’t have an accent…

It doesn’t take long to notice that outside of parts of New York and a handful of 70s movies, people don’t have New York accents.

As tidal waves of yuppies swell into neighborhoods previously reserved for third generation immigrants, it’s a rapidly fading NYC cultural institution. Locally-born kids sometimes try to avoid it to seem worldlier, but new residents try to adopt some flavoring words for authenticity. Tourists seek it, the same way they might look for modern Native Americans to say “How.”. It’s argued whether the different New York accents (yes, there are variations) can be attributed to each of the five boroughs or just class level. Like any regional accent, those who don’t use it often think of it as charming, but ultimately uneducated sounding. (See also Fargo, Valley Girl, Good Will Hunting and Sling Blade.)

Thank goodness for torchbearers like Cyndi Lauper, Mel Brooks, Robert De Niro and the Beastie Boys.

Northern California doesn’t seem to have accents. (Am I wrong?) Instead they have some of their own jargon (“hella”, “bounce”, “chillax”, “grass”, etc.).  The only exception I’ve noticed so far is with second and third generation Japanese American Californians (Nisei and Sansei, so I’ve learned). I can’t put it into words yet, but you can just vaguely hear an accent that is distinctly not first generation immigrant, but unique. I haven’t heard it with any other second+ generation ethnic group.

More as I understand it.

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4 responses to “Wait, you don’t have an accent…

  1. I agree- there is no nothern California accent. I think due to it being such a transient place- people constantly coming and going from all over.

  2. Stephen M. Carmody

    yes, regional accents are a fun way to think about what words we choose to invent, and or focus on…and an all around interesting way we communicate. Living in Southern California, after being raised a New Englander, I feel there is not much of an accent here either, other than the aforementioned, Valley Girl, and as I live near the beaches, a bit of surfer dialect. Although, people from California, North or South, in my opinion, tend to love hearing regional accents. In fact, they are always a bit disheartened, when I tell them I am from Boston, and they dont hear a harsh Good Will Hunting-like “Southie” accent…..since I was a former journalist, and they beat my Woosta aka (Worcester), MA accent out of me, but I always joke, that I can easily slide back into it and Pa k, the ca , in the Ha va d ya d…..any old day. Peace and out.

  3. I am an ER doc born in Berkeley, raised in the Bay Area, who recently moved from a stint in MinHATTin to Portland, OR. Much to my delight, a transplant born and raised in Ditmas Park showed up with some throat pain and was my patient. I found myself “checking on” her every few minutes just to hear that accent, until, I think, I started to bug her(?) I came clean and told her I had recently moved “here from there” and missed those unique Brooklynese sounds. She laughed and left happy and healthy, but I was amazed how her accent affected me. I longed to hear it, and actually thought about it for weeks later. Regional accents can transport you back to a place, a time, a situation, or a feeling you once had. It’s quite remarkable. Do New Yorkers love to hear the bland and (now) homogenous California accent, a la Jeff Spicolli? Some how I don’t think so. I have always been comforted when I return home to the West Coast by the hyper-ennunciation of the dialect. But honestly, I will take hearing about some “cultcha” over a trip to “Lake Taaaaa-hea” (pronounce in your best Californian-ese) any day!

  4. hey sweetie! love your blog. so, christine knoke’s beau is from whittier, socal, and dude has the CLASSIC california/western accent. he does not think he has an accent, but, oh, how he does. the flat a – but not midwestern. the monotone drone. the use of terms/words like “razzmatazz”. It is almost like the standard western band Native American accent that I know you know, but just a tad different.

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