Nathanael Green's Blog

An advertising copywriter, novelist, and freelance writer's brain goo.

New Jersey Accents and a Glossary

with 12 comments

What’s your idea of a New Jersey accent? Well, according to this article, there’s not just one, but at least two.

Even if you don’t read the whole article, I’d recommend checking out the video and the glossary at the bottom.

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Written by Nathanael Green

July 20, 2009 at 6:30 pm

12 Responses

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  1. Interesting. You guys always bust my chops about having a Jersey accent, and yet I don’t think I pronounce a lot of these words the way the article says I should. At least, I think I don’t.

    Brian O'Rourke

    July 21, 2009 at 8:29 am

  2. Good article. It brings to light some of the ways New Jersey has been misrepresented. There’s definitely a distinction between North and South Jersey, but I think there are a lot more subtleties the article didn’t touch on. Which is why Brian is having a problem with it, I think.

    Nick Hughes

    July 21, 2009 at 12:52 pm

  3. Nick,

    Most of the Jersey accent examples listed in the article are, IMHO, actually examples of either New York or Philadelphia accents. I don’t know anyone from South Jersey who pronounces attitude like “addeetude.” I certainly don’t. As the article correctly alludes to, the two Jersey accents are heavily influenced by the nearest major cities, probably because of all the people moving to the suburbs. It seems half the people in South Philly end up moving to Deptford, NJ, which would make the Jersey accent really a Philly accent.

    Also, the whole water/wooder thing is very much a Philadelphia convention. I would say “wahter” not “wooder” as the article would have you believe.

    Brian O'Rourke

    July 21, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    • This is exactly why it’s so hard to define and quantify accents and dialects. Each individual has his own idiolect that can vary widely from the general, average local dialect. And you may be right about the origins of the accent, but I think it’s a fair amount of back-and-forth as well. Jersey to Philly and back again, and slowly the accent builds. It just makes it tough to draw distinct lines when language doesn’t pay much attention to political boundaries (just ask the Kurds). Plus, I’m sure the deeper you’d look, you’d find even the Philadelphia accent divided into different categories based on the area.

      I’ve found the South Jersey/Philly accents in general to have a few really subtle differences that weren’t mentioned in that article. The more prominent of those for me are the Os and Ls. Words like phone and home have a unique sound to them, as do the Os in terminal positions like too in “I’d like a cheese steak, too.”

      As for the Ls, they tend to get swallowed in the middle of words. So Philly and solder almost lose the luh altogether. It takes on a slight guteral sound as the speaker’s tongue rises to meet the teeth but doesn’t quite make it there.

      Of course, the degree to which any of these are pronounced varies. And in your case, Brian, it’s pretty slight. I had to listen to you for a while to pick out a few hints of it. But of course I bust your chops about it – what are friends for?

      Also something to remember is that we change how we speak depending on our audience. The Pennsylvania Dutch accent tends to creep out for me when I talk to my parents and I don’t even notice it.

      Nathanael Green

      July 21, 2009 at 5:27 pm

  4. I liked that video, although it didn’t seem to me that any of these people had very strong Jersey accents. I kind of wondered if some of them flattened it out a bit in front of the camera.

    Seana

    July 21, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    • That’s a great point, Seana. I think that happens a lot, actually. I wonder if linguists in the field have to collect data clandestinely?

      But you’re right, those accents were pretty slight. You could see the hesitation in their faces when asked to say certain things. I was actually thinking about that today when I was perusing the Speech Accent Archive for Philadelphia and Jersey speakers; especially if this is a volunteer project, it’s not likely to be a truly representative sample.

      Nathanael Green

      July 21, 2009 at 9:04 pm

  5. Nate,

    Good points, there, especially the regional give-and-take of accents.

    I’m trying to sound out how I would say coffee right now, and it is somewhere between coffee and “cawfee.”

    Brian O'Rourke

    July 22, 2009 at 7:33 am

    • The thing I find poignant is that people do start to feel embarrassed about how they talk. But why should they? Why does one way of making human words take precedence over any other? Inevitably, it has to do with status, which is a corrupting factor.

      On the other hand, it’s a great, refreshing thing when people reclaim an accent. Fran Drescher springs to mind.

      Seana

      July 22, 2009 at 10:46 pm

  6. I too am from jersey and unlike many of you i find my self speaking in many ways mentioned in the article.I pronounce attitude like addeetude , orange like awrange, talk like tawlk , coffee like cawfee and many others. I live in south jersey so this may vary depending on your location.

    Jenn

    October 11, 2010 at 8:36 pm

  7. I’m from Morris County and we’ve got a totally different accent

    Ian

    December 16, 2010 at 1:50 pm

  8. Okay I’m posting this because the world needs to know that the jersey shore show is trash and don’t judge nj on them nor the house wives but yeah i’m from passiac county and people from JERSEY say dij’eet (did you eat) and j’u (did you)

    nottelling

    August 3, 2011 at 9:23 am

  9. Great paintings! This is the kind of information that should be shared around the internet. Shame on the seek engines for no longer positioning this publish higher! Come on over and talk over with my web site . Thank you =)

    Stella

    August 23, 2012 at 8:00 am


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