Goodbye, NooYawk

The famous and oftentimes ridiculed lingua franca of this city, the NooYawk accent, is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. In common usage throughout the last century, from the sidewalks of the Bowery to the screenplays of Hollywood films, this was New York City‘s distinctive sound: an R-less manner of speech, similar to that of  South Londoners, forming what language experts describe as the “R-less Corridor.”

The NY Post ran an interesting article on the evolution of the New York accent. Why words like doctor and sofa in the King’s English so faithlessly and freely become “doctah” and “sofer” in the Big Apple is a long story. Believe it or not, many years of unconscious time and careless effort went into this New World cockneyism.

But, most language experts agree that the designation is quickly becoming irrelevant. “New Yorkers are more and more ‘R’-ful, and the amount of R-dropping is decreasing,” says Michael Newman, associate professor of linguistics at Queens College. Gothamist

An influx of people from other states and other lands may be the reason for the death of NYC’s regional accent; this is also occurring in other metropolitan areas across America. Linguists believe that because many of these recent arrivals possess new or non-distinct accents the older, native accent is overwhelmed, gradually declines, and ultimately merges with the more novel forms of accentuation.

Mass media, especially television, has also contributed in diluting or reconstituting accentual patterns.  Another factor may be that parents are simply encouraging kids to drop their customary speech and adopt more universal forms of expression to be able to succeed among an increasingly diverse mainstream culture.

In any event, that familiar and time-worn Noo Yawk kinda of lingo is indeed fading from the streets and alleyways of the city (the last time I heard it was while watching a Bowery Boys film). The Archie Bunker Sound has come and gone, replaced by a more worldly articulations; the “Meatheads” and other types of cultivated personas now reign supreme in the city’s evolution.

As for myself, I’m something of a snob…proudly and unabashedly anti-social. Far from sharing in this locale’s dialect, for decades I was absorbed in doing a rather feeble but spirited Orson Welles impersonation. Since I never listen to what I’m saying (nor ever read what I write…but you’ve guessed that), I’ve convinced myself that I sound like that captivating and versatile former host of the Mercury Theatre and beyond. If I hadn’t deluded myself into believing that, I’d might discover that I sound like Joe Pesci.