A great injustice

Madame Weebles —  January 18, 2013 — 221 Comments

I need to tell you about something that has bothered me for a long time.  It’s something that makes me want to start a grassroots movement to raise awareness and sensitivity about it so that people aren’t so quick to stereotype and condemn.  We all make snap judgments; it’s natural.  But we need to remember that our first impressions are not necessarily the truth.

I became aware of this particular issue when I was in high school.  I went to see Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.  Great movie, even though Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan really is the best one.  This is the scene that triggered my epiphany.  Watch and listen closely:

Did you catch the accent on the one guy?  I’m sure it’s supposed to be New York.  The actor does a really crappy New York accent, but it’s evocative enough that I get the point.  He’s a blue-collar worker, so he has a blue-collar accent to match.  Despite the fact that this movie is set in San Francisco.

The other day I was watching a rerun of NCIS.  The episode involved mob guys in Virginia.  They had New York accents.  (Does the Mafia even operate down south?  I have no idea.)

Fonzie?  Motorcyle-riding greaser in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  New York accent.  Same for Lenny & Squiggy, Carmine, Laverne, and Mr. Di Fazio.  Apparently dumb punks and Italians have New York accents regardless of where they live.  It could have been the influence of Garry Marshall, a New Yorker with an accent so thick you could slice it, but still.

I won’t even get into all the other movies, TV shows, and commercials where the cop, bus driver, cab driver, construction worker, waitress, criminal, hooker, or [fill in your favorite non-white collar worker here] have New York accents—no matter where they’re supposed to take place.  You’re casting for a movie where one of the characters is a two-bit thug?  Make sure he sounds like he’s from Brooklyn, even though the film is set in Texas.

Everyone associates a New York accent with a certain type of person, with a certain socio-economic level and intelligence level.  People do it with other accents too—the southern accent, for example.  But southern accents aren’t often deployed like that in shows or movies set in non-southern areas.  (Or maybe they are and I just haven’t noticed them as much.)  And over the past 50 years we’ve had four presidents with southern accents: LBJ, Carter, Clinton, and W.  Not one who sounds like Joe Pesci.

I mean, there’s nothing at all wrong with doing blue-collar work, but we can do other things credibly too, you know.  Imagine hearing a hardcore New Yorker take the Oath of Office as president, saying, “So help me Gawd”?  Doesn’t that instill massive amounts of confidence?  Wouldn’t you go all dreamy and swoony if you saw a production of Romeo and Juliet in which the two main actors spoke the Queens English?  Just think of how reassured you would be by a doctor who spoke in a Bronx lilt: “Ya got KEEAN-suh butcha gonna be foin.”

So please, the next time you hear a New Yorker talk and automatically think, “What an imbecile,” remember that we’re people too.  It’s just a matter of appreciating the unique beauty and music of our cadences.  As Shakespeare said, If you prick us, do we not say, “What the fuck, asshole?”  If you tickle us, do we not say, “Whaddaya doin’a me, knockit ooowahff”?  If you poison us, do we not say, “Shit, what the fuck didja put in here?”  And if you wrong us, shall we not cut you?  If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.  Fuhgeddaboutit.

221 responses to A great injustice

  1. 

    This is mostly off topic, but the next time I end up in New York (which is not currently in the foreseeable future, don’t worry), can I come hang out with you? Madame Weebles, my cousins’ bar, and Tiffany’s: New York City’s holy trinity. ;)

  2. 

    I’m from Tennessee, so I get the accent stereotyping a little bit. You’re right, though, it isn’t as overused in film/media as the tough New Yorker thing. I’ve met so many people who are shocked and pretty disappointed when I don’t have a twangy, country bumpkin voice.

    • 

      When I was in college I had a professor who was from Memphis, and I could have listened to him talk all day. It was a drawl, not a nasal twang. Man, did I have a crush on him. Is yours a nice drawl too, Tori?

  3. 

    Yeah, it bugs the do-dads out of me when people have fake accents. Such travesties as Mel Gibson playing a Scotsman. In the UK, thugs always have an east end accent, or they’re from Liverpool. Though it it true that more hubcaps are stolen in Liverpool than anywhere else in the world.

    Perhaps if you get enough of a petition going Hollywood will be forced to have dubbed versions of its movies available, with New Yorkers playing New Yorkers and the mobsters being from Florida.

    Cheers!

    • 

      Mel Gibson playing a Scotsman was bad, Nigel, but not nearly as bad as Kevin Costner playing an Englishman in Robin Hood. He should have been put in prison for that travesty. But the worst of all accents is and will always be Dick Van Dyke’s accent in Mary Poppins. When I create the Hall of Fame of Bad Accents, he’ll be the first inductee. You’re right about the UK accents, though–Scouse or Cockney for the bad guys. It’s the same principle, working-class accent = thug. I’m going to petition Hollywood for all the bad guys to sound like Marvin the Martian from the Warner Brothers cartoons.

  4. 

    Fuckanay Weebs,
    It’s those fuckers from hollywood, that’s the problem!
    I moved to Seattle from Georgia when I was 13 (But I was born close to you in PA). It was either lose the hillbilly accent or die a lonely swift death. Let me think, would I rather be mistaken for a blue-collar goon or a moonshine drinking, incest livin, pig knuckle eatin, dumb-fuckin hillbilly? But I get your point…
    And by the way, W was from Uranus; he had the accent of an asshole and he didn’t just SOUND like an idiot.
    Happy Friday!
    Red

    • 

      Hee, you said Uranus. Motherfucking Hollywood, it’s all their fault. I think it started with James Cagney and Edward G. Marshall and it was all downhill from there. I can’t picture you with a hillybilly accent, Red. I’ve heard your voice and it’s quite accent-free, from what I can tell. Mr. Weebles and I are guilty of mocking hillbilly accents, I admit it—hillbillies and their summer teeth (you know, some are teeth, some are missin’). You’re right about W, though–he looks and sounds like the fucking idiot he really is.

  5. 

    I live in Canada but have a thick Russian accent.

  6. 

    Red took the words right out of my Texan mouth, “blue-collar goon or a moonshine drinking, incest livin, pig knuckle eatin, dumb-fuckin hillbilly?” We shouldn’t make assumptions about someone based solely on their accent, although it is all too easy to do, and I agree that Hollywood has taken the New York one a little too far. I can relate in a small way. It gets old explaining to people who have never been to Texas that I don’t own a horse, or a gun, or a stetson made with 3x beaver pelt. Favorite line: It’s just a matter of appreciating the unique beauty and music of our cadences. I’d add the y’all at the end, but I don’t want you to cut me!
    Happy Friday!
    RFL

    • 

      For you, Rachelle, I’ll put away the stiletto. I love hearing different accents and it really is funny when people make sweeping assumptions because of their accents. I’m guilty of doing it too. And now I’m sad that you don’t own a Stetson made out of beaver pelt. ;)

  7. 

    Oh dear, I’m so ashamed. In November I took part in NaNoWriMo, and the novel I wrote was a mafia story. It was set in London, and yet still I instinctively gave the mafia guys New York accents. It was all like “Yous twos pair of comedians!” Can you forgive me Madame?

  8. 

    “When I introduce you, I’m gonna say, “This is a friend of mine.” That means you’re a connected guy. Now if I said instead, this is a friend of ours that would mean you a made guy. A Capiche?” – Lefty

  9. 

    Please, I’m from Jersey.

  10. 

    So, yesterday at work, this guy I was talking to stopped me in the middle of the conversation (business related) and tells me “Where are you from?, you have a sorta weird accent and your english is extremely good, you sound like a black guy from Brooklyn”. I breath deeply and asked him “And where are your from?. New Jersey he said. “My heart goes out to you, I’m really sorry” I said, he didn’t like it.
    Watching TV shows recently I’ve noticed that many shows set in NYC tend to got for a Queen’s accent, from Flushing or Kew Gardens more specifically, really nasal.

    • 

      That’s true, that’s a special variant on the accent, the Fran Drescher Special. I wish I had been there to hear that conversation between you and the guy from Jersey. I would have really enjoyed that.

  11. 

    That’s why it’s handy to grow up on Long Island then transfer over to the southwest…
    On a funny note, my Brooklyn uncle had me record some of his business phone messages b/c I have a ‘soft’ accent…

    My accent left long ago but my Brooklyn mom? Nev-ah! My Queen’s father? Yes – his faded (but he’s got Canadian in there to kind of mush it out, I suspect). I think it’s JUST Brooklyn that has lasting power.

  12. 

    Thank you, Madame Weebles, for saying this. I am from New York and now live in Texas and am made fun of constantly because of my accent all the time. People say to me, “Say ‘Tawk'” or “Say ‘cawfee'” and then laugh at me. Then when I speak they will say, “You’re not from here, are you?” No shit! Of course I’m not from here. Listen to me! I’m an intelligent person who speaks with a New York accent and doesn’t consistently drop her “g’s” from word endings and says “museum” instead of “muzim.” I speak correctly.

    • 

      I used to get that ALL THE TIME when I lived in London, I feel your pain. I was told many times that I sounded like I should be on Cagney & Lacey. How did you come to be in Texas? That must be the ultimate culture shock!

  13. 

    Ah yes …. the big picture of stereotypes that actually can deliver much misunderstanding. Well done Weebs.

  14. 

    I can relate to this, Weebs. I must say when I first arrived here, I heard the accent you’re talking about alot, still do. But accents are just the result of where we landed and grew up. It doesn’t make a person more or less intelligent. Although, I must say New Yorkers have an astounding talent of using the F word in all sorts of creative ways, you know y’all?

    • 

      Fuck yeah, Brigitte! I just think it’s so funny that Hollywood has gone to the NY well so often even when there’s really no justification for it. I bet your own accent is extremely charming. Not many people find NY accents charming, but I think that’s part of our charm too.

  15. 

    Yes, there certainly is a lot of stereotyping going on, but you forget that the smartest, funniest, and most resourceful fictional character the world has ever seen has a New York accent:

  16. 

    My family’s from The Bronx, but I grew up in a small town about 40miles north. My mom was always correcting the way we spoke, she said she didn’t want us to sound like the small town we were from, like the bronx sound was any better? Oddly enough she doesn’t have a bronx accent, but my dad, well let’s just say he’s from ‘Da Bronx. Love your take on this.
    P.S. I had no idea Bugs had a NY accent either.

  17. 

    Interesting reflections about the use (or misuse?) of the New York accent. I do think that it is possible that as soon as 2016 there just night be someone with a New York accent, granted one not super heavy in the department of dem, dese, and dose, but it’s there in a more subtle way taking the oath of office, Andrew Cuomo. Just sayin’.

  18. 

    I blame it on Jon Stewart (even though he’s too young to cause any of the above), and Earth is 6,000 years old. Anyway, when he does “the crook” it’s always some NY guy of Italian heritage…

  19. 

    I think a Southern gangster would be slightly more threatening. Can you imagine it? Maybe you could sue the film industries for misrepresenting the New York people? Stick it to the man Madame Weebles! Stick it to the man!

    • 

      You think a southern gangster would be more threatening? Interesting. I think I’d have a hard time not laughing. Yes, I think I’ll start a class-action lawsuit against the film industry for their disgraceful and prejudicial treatment of my people. No justice, no peace! Also, I could have sworn I was following your blog already, Bennie, but when I went to look, apparently I was not. I have rectified this grievous error.

  20. 

    This is such an interesting observation and it’s so, so true when I think about it! I have to admit though that I love hearing that accent and I relish any chance I get to hear it. I think that’s why I like Louis CK so much.

    • 

      I find it hilarious and charming when people say they like the NY accent. The funny thing is, after I read your comment I had to think about Louis CK’s accent, because to me he doesn’t have one. He just sounds normal to me. Like Bugs Bunny sounds normal to me. I bet you have a cool accent, Emily, is it all drawling and southern and stuff?

  21. 
    whiteladyinthehood January 18, 2013 at 10:47 am

    Loved the post!
    ” If you prick us, do we not say, “What the fuck, asshole?” – just cracked me the hell up!! I, too, enjoy hearing different accents…in fact I had to read what the doctor said above several times before my southern ears could translate – then I was laughing my ass of again. Great post. The southern dialect can be so bad…have you ever noticed if they put a southern reality show on t.v – it’s in CAPTION!

    • 

      I wish I could have watched you sound that out, Chica B, I would have laughed my ass off seeing you figure it out what it said. I have indeed noticed the subtitles for the southern accents, which I think is pretty ludicrous, I can understand them just fine. Except for Honey Boo Boo—I can’t understand what the fuck that kid says.

  22. 

    It’s the same thing as a Jersey accent when really there is such a small area where people actually speak the way this accent sounds. It seems like you either are a longshoreman or a host on WFAN when your voice sounds like this. I hate any time they overdue an accent. There aren’t any cities you can really go to and meet everyone who sounds the same. I blame The Nanny.

  23. 

    My overly-polite-tightly-articulated-Canadian accent is drawn with a Newfoundland accent that confuses the hell out of everybody around me. Maybe I should try to add a bit o’New York in there for kicks. That should really send them over the edge. Nice post, Weebs.

  24. 

    I’m Canadian, so it all sounds exotic to me. I love accents of any sort, but I think the NY accent sounds badass. Guess that’s why it gets (mis)used so often. I’d take that as a compliment – I’d love it if people thought I sounded like a badass. :-)

    BTW, “If you prick us, do we not say, “What the fuck, asshole?” ” – best line ever! I’m still laughing.

  25. 

    LOL – great post!

    (You should try living in the middle of America and every character displayed on film EVER from this area is portrayed as a cousin-fucking, toothless hillbilly)

  26. 

    If they’ve finally managed to have some (not many I grant you but some) British actors that don’t sound like they were either brought up in a palace or east london then there’s hope for them stopping that too! Admittedly there’s the same problem with every accent ever…there’s always some ingrained assumption around an accent I just wish I had one that came with better assumptions! Fabulous post though Madame!

    • 

      Too true, Mel. And as Nigel noted above ^^, most UK goons still sound like they’re from East London or Liverpool. But I’d take those accents over the posh ones any day. I love most English accents, really, except for the royal family’s accent, which irritates the hell out of me. And thank you! I’m so glad you liked my post!

      • 

        Ah see lass ahm frum Yorkshire an thars nowt posh bowt t’way ah talk ;) I do wish I had the scottish accent my cousins have, shame it wears off after my holidays! But most people with a Yorkshire accent tend to be a bit on the thick side or a farmer on the telly…I won’t complain about the fact they’re all grumpy because…well I am :roll: You say it like it is lass course I like it! lol

  27. 

    I took undergrad and graduate courses in Shakespeare–and I was supposed to read all his plays etc and did not –I just read what I needed to get by (It was hard to chime in on some of the comparative discussions). Now I am sorry I did not read them al, cause the Shakespeare you quoted was much more interesting than the Shakespeare I studied! Also point well take about the New York accent–though as a Canadian I think I have no accent, but when I went to visit friends of mine from Rochester New York and we went shopping, all the clerks etc. wanted me to talk to hear my accent!

    • 

      Would you mind refreshing my memory, LouAnn, where in Canada are you again? You’d think people in Rochester would be accustomed to hearing more Canadians since they’re not too far from the border. Go figure. I find Canadian accents endearing. Even toothless hockey players are fun to listen to. I know what you mean about Shakespeare, I didn’t find his plays all that compelling until I found the original versions, which are what I quoted from. ;)

      • 

        my little town of Kingsville is about 30 or so miles from the Windsor/Detroit border–a number of my friends were from Rochester as they attended the University of Windsor with me–we claim to be the southern most town in Canada

        I need the original version of Shakespeare–I liked him before but I am sure I will like him better after reading these )lol)

  28. 

    I am a New Yorker, (not Queens, Brooklyn or the Bronx). When I lived in Florida and Virginia people always asked if I was from Chicago…Fuhgeddaboutit. :D

    • 

      So were you born and raised in Manhattan, MG? My parents were too. But how the fuck does anyone confuse a NY accent with Chicago?

      • 

        No, I was born and raised upstate. But I have no clue how anyone would hear Chicago in my voice…or anything else for that matter. We upstaters have a unique accent all its own! ;) I just love the elderly ladies who move up from the burroughs and I can detect New Jersey in a flash!

        • 

          Okay, now I’m with you. I’m arrogant enough to assume that anyone who refers to themselves as a New Yorker MUST be from NYC. My bad! I too love hearing older folks tawking, and I especially love it when they call me “deah.”

  29. 

    I’m not so sure that it’s about a New York accent so much as a blue-collar accent, MW. With the immigrant and blue collar roots so deeply a part of the New York experience, I think that’s what we’re hearing in the speech. Sweet husband, who’s from PA, hears it in Philadelphia, and so on. Having lived in the Midwest for a number of years while growing up, and worked in factories, I associate that manner of speaking more with working stiffs than with a particular region – that’s just me. However, what I do resent is the implication that just because someone may speak in a fashion associated with a lower economic status, it imputes a diminished intellectual and reasoning capability on them. Did I use enough big mothafuckin’ words in this comment? xoxoM

    • 

      Plenty of big words, but I’m especially tickled by the fact that you used the word “mothafuckin'”, Margarita. :D You may be right about the working stiff accent, although when I hear it in Philly, it still sounds like Philly to me. Although the South Philly accent is a lot closer to a NY accent than other Philly accents. I agree with you about the tendency to equate accent/economic status with brain power. It’s not fair, is it.

      • 

        Yeah, I thought that might make you smile! You’re probably more tuned in to the nuances and cadences of speech than most people, dear Madame. Most of the time, I’m lucky I can make out the words, much less figure out by their lilt whence the speaker originated. My audio capabilities leave much to be desired, as I’ve proven time and time again by singing lyrics the lyricist never wrote! xoxoM

  30. 

    Good lord now that you mention it every movie I can think of the bad guys come from New York.
    When I lived in Dallas Texas I’d go to Eatzi’s (I miss that marvelous bakery) to buy a loaf of their herb bread but the person behind the counter could never understand my accent and would tell me “Sorry we don’t have that kind of bread”. I’d have to go behind the counter to point to it. “Herb” bread.
    I work with a guy who grew up in Noo Yawk who loves the way I say “battery”. I love the way he says “four”.

    • 

      Do you pronounce the H in “herb” then, Rosie? I’m sure you had the folks in Dallas completely flummoxed by that. How do you say “battery”? I assume your coworker pronounces it “fooawww” or something like that. It’s what we do. :D

  31. 

    Actually, my stereotype is against folks with Southern accents — and I live in VA. They all sound like they swing long after the catcher has caught and returned the ball to the pitcher.

    New Yorkers? They get stuff done. That’s what I hear in a NY accent.

    Me? I’m from Connecticut, so I have no accent and therefore am a clean slate. Life is easier for me, I think!

    • 

      This sentence: “They all sound like they swing long after the catcher has caught and returned the ball to the pitcher.” This is my new favorite sentence. I love it. It’s perfectly descriptive. True, NY accents do make people sound like they get stuff done. Probably because people assume that if they don’t do what we say, we’ll beat them senseless with a lead pipe.

      • 

        I know way too many southerners and they always surprise you!

        And folks from NY don’t just hit you with a lead pipe? I thought that was the major form of recreation.

  32. 

    Weebs, I will admit this is something I hadn’t paid attention to, and I agree with you in that not only is it not accurate, it’s just not right. I think Hollywood is pretty shallow just wanting the “tough” character.

  33. 

    This really resonates with me. I have a deep fondness and automatic predispostion to like anyone with a New York accent. Despite the fact I was born and raised on the West Coast. ;) Dude! I’m serious!

  34. 

    I hear you. Coming from North Dakota, I’m well used to this. One would think all people from North Dakota and Minnesota say, “You betcha,” all while bobbling our heads like morons. Believe it or not, some of us don’t sound like the folks in “Fargo.”

    I am, however, enormously relieved that the person I gave a ‘New York’ accent to in my book is a wise epidemiologist. Phew. Now that I know you’re planning on reading it, I’m very happy I made her a doctor. ;)

  35. 

    Weebles, this is something that I’ve been asking myself for some time now as well. People with Ohio accents are rarely seen in movies.

    It reminds me of what I call the *British Singer Complex*, where words like *Baby*, become *bay bah!*

  36. 

    Despite my NY-centric view of the universe, I’m afraid it’s true, not all 311,591,917 Americans speak New York. A lot of them ARE imbeciles, but that’s entirely coincidental.

  37. 

    You and I were discussing this very thing earlier in the week, so I’m glad you expanded on it. If I could have any accent, though, I’d want a Weebs accent. Not sure what that would sound like, but I still want it.

    • 

      I was inspired to write this post in part because of our discussion, my bad for not giving you full credit here. Please forgive, kind sir. I’m not sure what a Weebs accent sounds like either, although I was told by friends in England that I sound like I should be on Cagney & Lacey. I don’t think it’s that heavy but what do I know. Btw, you look smokin’ hot in your new Gravatar photo. Just sayin’.

  38. 

    I’ve always thought of these accents as outer-borough, like Queens, Bronx, Brooklyn — or the fringes of Manhattan, like up where I live say back in the 50s through the 70s — or Hell’s Kitchen and the Bowery back in the day before gentrification. I love that Star Trek clip! I remember it.

    • 

      Man, Hell’s Kitchen and the Bowery are so alien looking now, aren’t they? Not to mention Alphabet City and the Meatpacking District. Everything is so gentrified now. You’re right, Sandee, those accents really aren’t in Manhattan anymore, probably haven’t been for a long time now. There aren’t that many people who live in Manhattan who were born around here—who can afford it?? So all the born & bred folks are in the outer boroughs or in Long Island or NJ. Sigh.

      • 

        Your post makes me want to watch some old New York movies from the 50s, 60s, 70s. I took a bus through Times Square yesterday and as always I was disturbed by the Disney touristy atmosphere and insanely lit billboards. I compare it to the Times Square of seedier, darker times, with that Castro Convertible store at the center of it, or even earlier with that Camel Cigarette smoking billboard. Oh, oh! — And the pimps, prostitutes and hustlers on 42nd Street and up and down eight avenue — those were the days! I’ll bet your parents have some stories to tell. My mom was raised in Manhattan also, in Harlem.

        • 

          They have many stories, Sandee. I bet you heard a lot of stories from your mom as well. I remember that Castro Convertible store in Times Square, and how skanky 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues used to be. Now it really is Disney North. Sigh.

  39. 

    Once a stereotype gets going, it’s hard to shake. And I think that’s what we see in the movies and on TV. In Hollywood’s thinking through the years, Mafia=New York. Need an international bad guy? Bad=Russians. And so on. Then they just keep building from there until pressure or politics force a change. I’d bet the only people as unhappy with the breakup of the old Soviet Union as the Communists were—Hollywood screenwriters.

    • 

      You’re probably right, JM, the breakup of the Soviet Union ruined it for a lot of people. Between Hollywood and the CIA, I’m not sure whow was more sad about it! I notice that Russian, German, and British accents are used a lot for bad guy roles. To be fair, the Mafia is primarily in New York, but fer crissakes!

  40. 

    Actually, as far as the Mafia and other slightly unhinged vaguely psychopathic types, I couldn’t be happier to be identified with them by my accent.
    Seriously, it comes in handy on an airplane.
    Fuggedaboudit.

  41. 

    I’m from Australia and it really irks me when actors try and put on an Aussie accent – “put another shrimp on the barbie, mate!”. ewwww – they make us sound like imbeciles!

    • 

      I blame Paul Hogan for that. It all started with him, I think. I don’t think you sound like imbeciles, Dianne! There probably aren’t many American actors who do a convincing Australian accent, are there. Interestingly, Australian accents are pretty good at doing American accents.

  42. 

    I haven’t read the other comments, so I speak from the heart. I live in NE Ohio, and I don’t perceive myself to have an accent. It makes me sad sometimes, because I want one. I love a New York accent. Love it! And I’ve never thought of it as degrading when I hear it in a movie, but after reading your post, I understand your thoughts today. I think I’m a romantic, and I love all accents. … And I need to read more Shakespeare. I’ve missed all the good parts.

    • 

      Hi Maddie! You probably do have an accent and you just aren’t aware of it. Or, cultivate a New York accent! I’ll teach you, it’ll be like a warped version of My Fair Lady:

      “Now repeat after me: Caww-fee.”
      “Coffee.”
      “Add some more OOO to it. Coooawwfee.”
      “Coffee.”
      “Coooawwfee.”
      “Cawfee.”
      “Coooawwfeeeeeee.”
      “Cooawwfee.”
      “By George, I think she’s got it!”

  43. 

    I grew up in the midwest, thus a midwest twang, I then lived for many years in the south and in Texas, picked up a southern accent. Now I’ve lived in Canada for 10 years and have picked up a bit of the Canadian thing. I am so confused! As are many people that talk to me. hehehe.

    • 

      I would very much enjoy listening to you talk, Jackie. It must be fun to watch people try to figure out your accent: “Is she…wait, is that southern? But…it…well, she sounds Canadian too… Although it also sounds like midwestern…I think?”

  44. 

    Loved this post. I am Australian, I live just outside Sydney. I hate the way Australians are portrayed. We don’t even call it shrimp. It’s a prawn. The last time I saw a crocodile was in a reptile park and knives? I just bought myself a fancy new cheese knife, does that count? (Its so cool, it even has little prongs on it to lift your cheese slice, but I digress. ..)

  45. 

    I love New York accents, I really do. I think there is something so edgy and cool about New Yorkers, and the accent epitomizes that.

  46. 

    My daughter spoke with a strangely selective NY accent for the first few years of her life. We live in western Canada, so I don’t know how/where it leaked in to her speech. It was pretty funny though, because we’d often have people ask us where we were from after hearing her talk.
    She has a strange fascination with New York, but got mixed up once and called it “You Nork.” Now I can barely remember the “real” name when I think of it.
    Yay You Norkers and your accents!

  47. 

    You know I never thought of this, but now it seems you might be right. There also seems to be a preponderance of Boston accents when they want to portray lawyers or upper crust people.

  48. 

    As Shakespeare liked to say, fugetaboutit.

  49. 

    “If you prick us, do we not say, “What the fuck, asshole?””
    I almost spit out my afternoon coffee.

  50. 

    Fascinating – now that you’ve brought it up…you’re absolutely right. Limo driver in Lebowski, taxi driver (dave johansen) in Scrooged, the actual taxi in Roger Rabbit…and on and on.
    I was always made fun of for my Ohio accent when living in New York.
    “You tawk funny.”
    “Uhh, no, you talk funny.”
    “Tha fuckyou talkin bout?”

    • 

      To be fair, David Johansen comes by his New York accent naturally, bless him. It’s a beauty, isn’t it? And apologies for my people, Mike, some of us don’t understand how anyone *doesn’t* tawk like us.

  51. 
    writerwendyreid January 18, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    Nothing bugs me more than a BAD fake accent. Did you see the Friends episode where Joey doesn’t get an acting part because of his terrible Italian accent….:-P

  52. 

    Deys jus envious because dey can’t speak real English like Brooklyns. I am not insulted by the New Yawk tawk. Carl D’Agostino, live in Miami but borns in Stat Nyland. You will love sammy the gat blog.

  53. 

    I have never noticed that before. I guess I really don’t pay attention to accents.

    I’ve never heard of any stereotype that says people with New York accents are stupid. He’ll, I’ve never even heard the accent in person. That just made me realize how much my life sucks.

    • 

      Waitaminit, waitaminit, waitaminit, hold the phone here. You’ve never heard the accent in person??? Dude. Honestly? Put that on your bucket list right now. Go. Do it.

      • 

        Nope. The closest I’ve ever been to New York is Detroit. I’ve never had a reason to go. However, if a certain madam invited me…

  54. 

    I think you have made an astute observation, I think southerners get the worst of it though. Every character with a drawl is a redneck or a hillbilly. My mom was from Virginia and when she married my pop and moved west she did her best to hide her accent because she became keenly aware of people’s perceptions of her because of that drawl. Whenever she would call home it would emerge – sweet and lovely. I hated that she hid it from the world.

    • 

      You’re probably right, Artsi. Southerners do get a bum rap. That’s too bad your mom felt the need to hid her accent, Virginia drawls in particular are quite appealing, in my opinion.

      • 

        I know, that Virginia drawl is so sweet. She thought it made people look at her like a hick. She was proud to be a hillbilly, but she was no hick :) She hated The Andy Griffith Show because it made her people look stupid.

  55. 

    Gotta agree that Southerners may get the worst of it, but this is hilariously true! As I Bostonian, I have to admit that we find you New Yorkers wicked funny to listen to. ;-)

  56. 

    The Cagney and Lacey thing tickled me, we loved it over here. In my local pub they still play the theme tune before the DJ and drag show starts every weekend! I love accents, my other half is Welsh but got rid of his, but then speaks actual Welsh as a first language and when on the phone to his mum speaks in Welsh and has to put the accent back on aswell. It’s weird.

    Other English stereotyped accents, the upper class movie villain, from Die Hard to The Lion King. I’m originally from the South Coast of England so don’t really have any accent, thought I did put one on, more unintentionally when I was in Australia, I realised I was picking up so many Australian terms I must have been trying to counteract them. Do you not find you pick up the lingo if somewhere for a while? I once watched Seinfeld for a weekend solid and was fitting in some New York Jewish accents in my chatter down the pub.

    • 

      Man, I’ve got to get my ass to London and hang out with you, Joe. A drag show where they play the Cagney & Lacey theme? I would be ALL OVER THAT. I don’t know if I’d be able to restrain myself if Mr. Weebles spoke Welsh. That must be SO HOT. How do you not maul him?? Too bad he doesn’t have the Welsh accent all the time, though. Where on the south coast are you from? I have a good friend in Arundel in East Sussex. And I’m sure if you go head north, people think you have an accent! I do find I pick up the lingo when I go somewhere, but somehow my accent always stays intact. I wish I could have been there to see you busting out that Seinfeld accent at the pub. Did anyone notice?

  57. 

    When you laugh at us, do we not say “What the fuck is so funny about me? Tell me, tell me what’s funny!”

  58. 

    Any spy film, the baddie these days has a British upper class accent. So nearly sounding like me. I think it’s because the majority of people assume that that accent means someone is intelligent, which is not true. I’ve met some folks with the thickest Glasgow or Liverpool or Cockney accent and they’re smarter than I am (and I’m not thick, just a bit daft).

    I think there’s still class stereotyping going on in relation to accents, namely that the stronger the accent, the more central to a specific area, and in certain cases, that means an area that’s less well off (hence all the jokes about Scousers/Liverpudlians nicking anything that’s not nailed down, or if it is, nicking the nails as well) and less well off means less well educated, which means doing the lower paid and less skilled jobs.

    Which is of course complete rubbish. (A bit like my comment, I fear.)

    • 

      Your comment is not only NOT rubbish, faith, but you really get to the heart of it, which is the class association with the accents. Americans aren’t quite as class-conscious as the British, but we’re not far off. New York accents are probably the rough equivalent of Liverpool accents or Cockney accents over there. And like you, I’ve met people with heavy-duty accents who can run circles around most people, while I know plenty of others with no obvious accent are among the dumbest people ever to walk the planet.

      • 

        I think in some cases we can blame genetics. It’s like being a pure blood wizard/witch in Harry Potter. If you only breed with pure bloods (or people from your own class) sooner or later, while one aspect of the type is increased, so is another aspect – that is, the stupidity! When cousins breed with cousins, sooner or later you end up with an IQ lower than that of your average slug!

        • 

          Not to mention unfortunate genetic features like the Royal Ears on Prince Charles.

          • 

            Ah, yes. We try to forget about those as much as possible. At least they’ll be useful for keeping the crown on his head, when he gets to be king. (However, as Her Majesty the Queen has what Eddie Izzard calls “gran power”, I suspect she’ll be over 100 before she dies and there’s no sign of her wanting to step down.)

            • 

              Poor Charles, he’ll be a shriveled old prune when he’s finally crowned. So you’re right, those ears will come in handy.

              • 

                Unless there’s some sort of freak accident wherein Charles dies before his mother, which is the only way that Wills will be the next king. Succession is a serious business – which is probably why the papers are making so much fuss about Kate being preggers. I wish they’d leave the Royal Family alone at times and let them get on with their lives in some sort of peace and quiet. And the people who say that they don’t do anything need to do some research as well – the Queen is regularly having to attend official events and has to do paperwork every single day relating to the running of the country. Most people only have to deal with paperwork relating to the running of their homes once a week tops!

  59. 

    Was this a great post? Fuhgeddaboutit!

  60. 

    Great observation. In college, I minored in linguistics and wanted to do a study where people would listen to recordings of people with different American accents and then answer questions about them that would reveal what kinds of stereotypes they held about the accents.

    • 

      Hello, Kylie, and welcome! That would have been a really fascinating study, one that I would have enjoyed reading about and/or participating in. I love hearing different regional accents and learning about how they evolved. And reading The Story of English, H.L. Mencken, etc. Really interesting stuff, ain’t it?

    • 

      Also, almost forgot: you said you “wanted to do a study,” which implies that you didn’t. Did you not have the opportunity, or was your professor a buzzkill?

      • 

        Thanks for asking! My professor was great. It was just one of many ideas :) I did a special project recording a dinner party conversation to see if there were gender difference in language, and then did a thesis in my major (psychology) that had to do with how we process language (too boring and obscure to go into). It was so obscure I changed tacks entirely and went into public health!
        All so long ago…

        • 

          You know what else would be a cool study? How people use emoticons and punctuation in online conversations to convey friendliness, reduce potential conflict, etc. Probably already being done. I see a blog post on this coming up!

  61. 

    I notice accents all the time (“Noo Yawk” and “Chicaaago” stand out a lot to my ear) but mostly because my own shocks me sometimes. I write in mostly unaccented generic American, with subtle slips into Southeast Texas (y’all!)…but when I listen to my voice recorded, I am stunned to hear this country cracker speaking my words back at me!

    • 

      It’s funny, isn’t it, how we don’t really hear our own accents until you hear yourself on a recording. I heard myself in a recorded radio interview once and thought, “Holy crap, my accent is REALLY heavy.” Now here’s a question for you, Nicky, are there a lot of different accents in your part of Texas? I don’t know much about the regional variations in Texas accents.

      • 

        I live in Houston, and sometimes think I am the only remaining native…but there are regional accents, since this state is the size of any three others…we have flatlanders up near OK and the deserts, drawls and sprawls down here and to the east, heavy Spanish in the south closer to Mexico..take your pick

  62. 

    Ah, now the NY accent has slightly different connotations for us. We are Moonstruck fans.”Old man,you give those dogs anudder piece of my food, I’m gonna kick yer till yer dead..”

    Whadda culture.

  63. 

    Seeing the phonetic pronunciations at the end: awesome. :)

  64. 

    Someone may have said this already (to lazy to read all the comments) but it happens a bit to Canadians. We do not all say “eh” every second word. There is also the tendency to take actors born in European countries like Austria and explain their accents by saying they are from Quebec.

    • 

      That’s definitely a stereotype about Canadians, about the “eh.” But it’s strange that they’d try to pass off Austrian, etc accents as from Quebec. I mean, I’m pretty sure we all know that Austrian doesn’t sound anything like French Canadian. Movie producers really are stupid.

  65. 

    I’ve always wondered about this… especially since ‘Fargo’. I mean, I’m a big fan of many Coen Brothers movies, but they totally exaggerated the accent… threw it right into the old wood-chipper. I’ll admit I sometimes think of N.Y as ‘probably sounding very Leah Remini’… but considering how diverse N.Y is… it doesn’t seem like that could possibly be very accurate…

    • 

      I admit I haven’t heard enough North Dakota accents to know exactly how exaggerated those accents were, Sig, but I can see how they amped it up to 11. The Leah Remini accent is definitely accurate, but there are a bunch of other NY accents as well. Some are portrayed more accurately than others, but not in San Francisco, for fuck’s sake, you know what I’m sayin’?

  66. 

    As a fellow- New Yorker (well, for the past 13 years…), I absolutely LOVE listening to Cuomo talk. He is intelligent, purposeful, and gets the right things done, all while brandishing that wonderful accent!

    • 

      Hello there, Miss Corinne! Welcome! Cuomo gets shit done, doesn’t he. And the accent gives him a more no-bullshit sort of air, which is something I like about it. Also, I am enjoying reading your blog very much! I applaud you and your green ways. :)

  67. 

    There is a lot of this “casting accents” to certain roles when you start to look for it. I notice the hokey English accents straight away, or the ones more “generic bland” English where I try to recall if I’ve ever met someone who actually sounds like that.

    My wife often asks why certain voices in animated films have to be English (usually the evil or the king / queen ones). I tell her that’s because they are more important. Thankfully she long since got used to me, and ignores it :)

    • 

      HA, I’m sure your wife has become quite accustomed to your comments about that! An English accent is indeed excellent for conveying a certain type of gravitas, or sinister quality. I may have asked you this before, Elliot, but where in England are you from again?

  68. 

    This post is well accented ;)

  69. 

    I love you. I know you. Seriously. I can not stand a lousy NY accent. Having one myself (it still peeks through occasionally), and certainly being able to pour it on thick when I need/ want to (which happens often esp when you rub alcohol on it..) I love the real thing.
    If a dude I’m interested in tries to fake this and does a shit job- I’m dry like the Sahara. Game over.
    That being said, I agree- there’s enough actors out there, get someone w/ a proper roll. Eesh. I could continue this rant but I’ve gotta get outta hea.

  70. 

    Don’t feel so bad…everyone thinks I’m supposed to have some horrible accent because I’m Asian. I only say that because some people have had the audacity to point out how my English is better than theirs. Yes, thank you. That’s because I was born in America, dumb ass.

  71. 

    I have a different problem in that I’m a Brit and there are only a few American accents I can identify as being where they’re from (is that even correct, grammatically? If it isn’t – kick it in the bum/butt and send it on its way) but the thing that drives me crazy is English actors doing American Accents and vice versa. It.just.doesn’t.work. (Well except for David Anders and American who did very well as a Englishman in Heroes).

    So which accents can I recognise… er, Brooklyn, NY and Boston, Mass. (The latter makes me do a sort of grin and grimace at the same time. My apologies to any Bostonians reading… your accent is very… odd.)

    • 

      It hurts to hear bad accents, doesn’t it, Val? Dick Van Dyke will always be the worst of the worst in terms of Americans doing bad English accents, though. But there are several British folks who do good American accents, Hugh Laurie and Christian Bale being the first examples that come to mind.

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