December 2, 2002

Jeetyet? No. Joo?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 2:21 am

If you are from New Jersey, more precisely, northern New Jersey (they talk funny in the southern parts of the Garden State), you can recognize the question and answer that appears in the title. The questioner asks “Did you eat yet?” or more properly, “Have you eaten?” The respondent answers “No. Did you?” or more properly, “No. Have you?”

We also are known for damned near putting two syllables in the word “dog,” so that the word comes out, not as “dahg,” but rather something more like “doo-wug.” Similarly, “chocolate” isn’t “chalk-lat,” but rather, “choo-wuhk-lat.”

Yes, Virginia, we do have an accent. Many of us, however, recognize this and can modify our speech to fit the audience, or the setting. Having said that, sometimes even when being on my best language behavior, I have been recognized as being from New Jersey by folks from other parts of the country.

Some of our accent is purely pronunciation-based, as above. However, veering a bit more towards a being a dialect, “Jerseyspeak” has some of its very own idiomatic expressions, as evidenced by the blank stares from those from elsewhere when they hear them. Foremost among them is the manner in which we refer to the part of the state, notable for its vacation spots on or near the ocean. It is not “the beach.” Rather, it is “down the shore” – not “down to the shore, mind you,” but simply “down the shore.” Actually, it is pronounced almost as one word, skipping the word “the” –“downaSHORE.” The “beach” and “down the shore” are two separate animals..” One might go “down the shore” and never go to “the beach,” the “beach” being just one of many places one could go while “down the shore.”

To complicate the matter even more, if we are going to be “down the shore” for only a day trip, we “take a ride down the shore.” By contrast, if we are planning to stay overnight or for a vacation, then we are clearly “going down the shore.”

And, while “downaSHORE” (or anywhere else for that manner) and we want to drink a carbonated, flavored, soft drink, we have a “soda.” Having a “pop” means something quite different to us, which requires proof of age. I understand that, in Boston, a bottle of soda is referred to as a bottle of “tonic.” No way. In Jersey, “Tonic” is either quinine water (always drunk with either gin or vodka) or some vile stuff one would buy in a health food store.

Oh, by the way, unless we are filling out a tax return or a job application, we rarely say that we are from “New Jersey.” We are from “Jersey.” Indeed, New Jersey is the only “New…” state that doesn’t require “New” to identify it. Saying , “I’m from Hampshire… or York…or, worse yet, from Mexico” just doesn’t work.

This introductory lesson would not be complete without a word or two about our alleged use of the word “Joisey.” I have lived in New Jersey all my life, and I have never, ever heard another person from New Jersey say “Joisey.” The closest thing I have ever heard to “Joisey” is something that sounds more like “Jaisey,” a pronunciation used by certain old timers from Hudson County (the county that made political corruption an art form). I believe our friends across the river in Brooklyn may say “Joisey,” but I will leave it to them to explain themselves.

Are you getting this? I recall laughing at the expressions on the faces of some Californians as I tried to explain all this and laughing even harder at these poor souls who never set foot in the Garden State trying to correctly pronounce “downaSHORE.”

You’re not getting it? Then, FUHGETABOUTIT!!!

Powered by WordPress