I was recently watching a movie in which Timothy Hutton played a New York lawyer with a heavy New York accent so fake and irritating I turned the channel. “Nobody talks like that!” I thought.
The next afternoon, my son returned from a trip to Rhode Island and announced, “Wow, Mom, I never realized this before, but you really have a New York accent.”
Say what? Me? A New York accent? No way do I sound like Timothy Hutton “tryin' to tawk to yous clients” in that awful movie!
Apparently, during my son's brief stay in New England, he learned the correct pronunciation of the word “coffee” is not “cawffee”, as I allegedly say it, but cauffee. My chihuahua, I have been told, is not a “dawg”, but a “dog,” and my dad is not my “fatha”; he's my father. I am not going to get my haia cut, but my hair. (Hey, that's what I thought I said!)
I asked a few of my out-of-state pals to critique my speech. Lo and behold (do transplanted New Yorkers say that?), it appears I have fallen victim to New York colloquialism and have (gasp!) an accent. While I admit to consciously speaking more clearly back in my “read aloud” school days, I am loath to admit to a lazy pattern of speech, dropping the letter r from the end of my words and saying things like, “Say what? No way!” (Where did I hear that?) Henceforth, let it be known I have never in my life said “not for nothin'”, nor am I exactly sure what that means. I am well aware that “you” is both singular and plural and will never address Atlantic Highlands Herald readers as “yous.”
Dialect is relative, of course. My friend in Mississippi regularly says “ya'll”. My Scottish grandmother said “tatties” instead of potatoes, and relatives in New England often say “no-suh” instead of “no sir.” None of these is wrong. Our differences in speech are part of where we live, who we are, and comprise the very charming fabric that is America.
Thus, I will not apologize for sounding a bit like Joan Rivers. I'm mean, really, not for nothin', I tawk real good.