November 2, 2007
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.
Long Island England Disney World New York language accents Florida deli Typhoon Lagoon