November 2, 2007

"I'm Not From Lawn-Guy-Land"

There's a list going around the internet which has been compiled by, added to, and passed around by Long Islanders. This list is called (you guessed it) "You Know You're From Long Island When..." One of my favorite items on that list is "You never realize you have an accent until you leave." This has happened to me, numerous times.

Yes, we do speak funny, and it is typically arrogant of us New Yawkers to think we speak like Harvard law professors. In Florida a few years ago, I took my family to Disney World. At Typhoon Lagoon, I was sitting poolside when my then three year old son began to play with the sand. Actually, he was tossing handfulls of it into the air. I told him to knock it off, and the burly man behind me said something that sounded like "Arf nargle eeg offay ay nad." Huh?

Not wanting to be rude, I smiled in much the same way one does when we don't want to aggitate the man holding the bloody meat cleaver. I ordered my son once more to quit throwing sand in the air or I'd bury him in it (or words to that effect).

The big hairy guy with the marbles in his mouth walked over. He was with his family, a wife, two little ones (boy and girl) who were playing peacefully in the sand with buckets and shovels.

"It's alright, mate. he's just being a lad. It's just sand, ya know." he said. Oh, he's from England, I thought. Whew, I though I had to whisk my family away and call the Mouse Police.
"Yeah, thanks," I said "I still don't want him to get sand all over." I offered. Really, It was none of his business what I said to my son, but it was obvious that this guy wanted to talk. So, we did.

His wife sidled over to him and smiled as he introduced "Aubremary", or whatever the hell he said her name is, to me. I searched the pool frantically for my wife and daughter so I would have an excuse to grab my kid by the waistband of his shorts and say "Gotta go, wifey's calling..." and hurry off into the artificial surf with my boy flailing helplessy in my grip. But no, my wife only comes around when I'm relaxing and she has something for me to do.

They talked and gushed about how friendly and lovely Americans are, and that everywhere they went, people are just so friendly and want to talk and talk and talk. Ouch. I continued to grin like an idiot as I realized that they didn't visit New York, or more specifically, Long Island, where I was born, raised, and continue to be miserable.

Friendly people? There's a deli I go to every morning for coffee and a newspaper before I go to work. I've been a regular customer there for about fifteen years and I don't think I've exchanged more then three words with anyone behind the counter, and I'm okay with that. I show you what I want, you get it for me, take my money, and then I leave. End of transaction. I've noticed that outside of the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut region, people change. There's something pathological about all of these nice folks who want to know how you're doing, and tell you to have a nice day. In a way, I was glad that this happy English family landed in "nice country." If they came to Long Island, I'd be appalled.

Anyway, I did my best to look interested and tried hard to decipher their language. They had accents, heavy ones. These were hard working commoners from Manchester who saved up all of their pounds and pence to visit Disney World where families toss around fifty dollar bills with reckless abandon and wind up with nothing to show for it. That morning, they found themsleves in Typhoon Lagoon, talking to me.

At one point, after they told me everything about themsleves, their family, the dream vacation they were on, and how happy they were to be in the United States, they asked about me. They wanted to know if this was our first trip to Disney.
"Well, no. My wife and I came here a long time ago after we were first married. We didn't have kids then."
"Did you fly down, mate?"

"Uh, no. We drove. I have a thing against flying." I don't really, we just thought we'd save money. We're never doing that again.

"How long did it take you to drive down?" Did he say "drive down"? I thought, how would he know where I came from?

"Well, I live on Long Island..." I started to say.

"Long Island?" The wife said. She smiled and looked over at her husband as if she'd won a bet. He had a knowing grin on his face too. "Oh yes, Long Island." he said. "We can tell."
It didn't matter what he told me after that. I felt duped, like they were leading me on in an effort to fulfill their own curiosity.

"That bloke is from New York, don't you think Aubremary?"
"Oh no, Simon, he sounds like he must be from Long Island. Let's talk to him and find out."

There you have it. Even folks who hail from jolly old England have us Long Islanders pegged. Oh, and another thing. We don't say Lawn-Guy-Land. Only people who are trying to make fun of Long Islanders say Lawn-Guy-Land. Thanks for reading. I have to go now and drive my caw to the mawl and get some cawfee. Afta dat, I have ta take da famlee to that restront faw dinnuh.

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Kristyn said...

There's a list like that for Texas too! Being that I'm from California, you'll find no southern drawl in me, or at least not as much as you will in my husband. When I first met him, I was extremely conscious of it, but over time the awareness had worn away and not only do I not hear it when I'm not trying, I can't hear it when I am.

He always tells me us Californians have an accent too, which I sort of giggle at. I never can hear it, even now, having lived among the accented for years, I hear no accent in my California kin. I'm begining to think accent is nothing more than human perception.

New Yorkers don't have accents when speaking to one another, nor do Texans. Heck, the British think we're the ones who talk funny. Though there is a very real linguistic difference in the way words are spoken in all of the above places, the way the tongue interacts with the throat and the rest of the mouth, accents are still a simple matter of human perception.

Boggles the mind! :D


Kimchihead said...

Do guys from Seattle sound like they have an accent to you? I always thought us west coasters sounded very generic.

footiam said...

It's the same thing here. Wait till you hear the English we speak in this region. We call it Manglish, supposedly a word coined from Mandarin and English, or perhaps, because we mangled it. Manglish is peculiar to Singapore and Malaysia and there are local words sprinkled all over it and we like to add the word 'la' at the end of the sentence. Some Chinese families in Singapore and Malaysia speak English at home and at times, when you listen, you tend to laugh as the sentence structures are more towards Chinese. English as an International Language, undeniably has been mangled here and I believe elsewhere too. By the way, I do think friendly people can be found everywhere, just like unfriendly people. If you visit a new country, the people seem to be more friendly than usual. Guess that's just a novelty. You'll get to know whether a person is truly friendly or not in the long run.

Jack Payne said...

Got some great chuckles out of your demographic diatribe, Mr. Grudge.

You are a delightful departure from a world full of people who nod there heads and walk in a straight line.

Mr. Grudge said...

Thanks to all of you for your insightful and generous comments!

I'm sure that every state and or region has their own list. If you check out the link for the Long Island ones, you'll see a lot of that sort of attitude in my writing.

I think folks from the west coast do sound kind of generic. Good call on that one.

Footiam, I hear that China is the largest English speaking country in the world now.

Jack Payne,
Thanks for getting my sarcastic and self-deprecating sense of humor. Also, thanks for visiting Mr. Grudge.

I'll visit all of you on your blogs!

~Mike~ (Mr. Grudge)

Kim said...

As a native Rhode Islander, I can relate. The Rhode Island accent is a mix of New York and Boston (er...Bawston) that is grating on the ears and filled with phrases that nobody outside Providence would understand. For example, "Jeet" means "did you eat." A cabinet is a milkshake, a gagger (gagga) is a wiener, and a grinder (grindah) is a sub sandwich.

But to make matters worse, a shocking number of people aren't aware that Rhode Island is, in fact, a state. Really. I was hanging out on a beach in Florida (Flahrida, if you're from RI) and a man approached. He asked where I was from. I said Rhode Island. He responded, "Oh yeah, New York." I said, "No, Rhode Island. You know, in New England." The guy nodded, "Yeah. Long Island."


Andrew said...

I grew up in Southern Arizona. There, there isn't much of an accent. Then I moved to Austin, TX. Our first night we went out to eat. The waiter said, "ya'll" and "fixin" and to my ears it sounded just horrible; I swore to myself I'd never talk like that. Did it work? No. The Arizonan "you guys" has been replaced, but I still don't say "fixin" ...that's just...too Texan! Soon I'm moving to NYC, so maybe my "soda" will be replaced with "pop!"

Diana said...

I grew up in Nevada and Colorado so I have no accent but I LOVE hearing them. I have a friend in Phillidelphia that I have to listen very carefully to when we first start a conversation. Within a few minutes I catch on :)

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Kim,
I can relate to your dealings with those who are not aware that Rhode Island is a state. There are those out there who don't think that Long Island is an island, or they think it is a separate state. For some reason I did know that a cabinet is a milkshake and a grinder is a sub sandwich, but I did not know that a gagger is a weiner. How funny is it that folks hear the words Rhode Island and still think Long Island? It shows that folks only hear what they want to hear. Thank you so much for stopping by. I'm sorry I am so late in posting responses as my job has been hectic! Thanks again. ~Mike~

Hey Andrew,
You're moving to NYC? Be prepared to hear every language and accent except English. BTW, it's "soda" here too. Good luck with your move, and, as always, thanks for the comment. ~Mike.

Hi Diana,
I love hearing regional dialects too. Phillie has a strong one. The idea behind my article is that Long Islanders have a heavy accent which is a combination of Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, and everywhere else. We are so inured to our own voices that we tune our dialect out. It only becomes noticable when we travel, then we sound like Vinny Barbarino from "Welcome Back Kotter." My sister has lived in Memphis for over thirty years now, and she still gets pegged as a New Yorker. I guess it never leaves you. Thank you so much for stopping by! ~Mike.

Angry Jenny said...

"I show you what I want, you get it for me, take my money, and then I leave. End of transaction," - beautiful, spoken like a true New Yorker.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Angry Jenny,
Nice to meet you.
Hehe, I call that sort of transaction "mutual rudeness." New Yorkers, especially Long Islanders, have elevated it to an art form. Thank you so much for stopping by and I will check out your site today. Have a great day...Oops, I mean, just leave your comment, end of transaction, lol. -Mike.