1980s 7 Days Accents Blog From The Archives New York The City

7 Days: The Slow Death of the New York Accent

Illustrations by Seymour Chwast

When Adam Moss stepped down as editor of New York journal final month, it marked the end of an period. Since taking the helm of the august title in 2004, Moss had helped set the business normal for magazine journalism, documenting the life of the metropolis in all its intellectual, lowbrow, sensible, and despicable glory.

In fact, as devoted media-watchers know, much of the New York‘s DNA was apparent three decades ago, when Moss emerged from Manhattan’s media landscape as the 30-year-old wunderkind behind the much-loved, short-lived 7 Days journal. Revealed by then-Voice proprietor Leonard Stern for 2 years bridging the ’80s and ’90s, 7 Days was an excellent failure, bleeding money, but minting the reputations for a era of fledgling journalists.

Flipping by means of the 7 Days archives at this time is an exercise in pleasant discovery. There’s Jeffrey Toobin writing about the Yankees, lengthy before he turned the lead legal analyst for the New Yorker; future best-selling writer Meg Wolitzer (The Wife) writing the weekly crossword puzzle; a daily magazine-watching column from fellow future best-selling writer Walter Kirn (Up in the Air); Peter Schjeldahl overlaying the arts scene; Joan Acocella on dance.

Over the next week, we here at the Voice archives can be sharing some of these treasures from the vault. Welcome to seven days of 7 Days.

November 1, 1989

Can’t Anybody Right here Converse the Language?

Purse your lips a moment. Depart them in a slightly protruding oval, together with your jaw and your tongue too poised for a battle, of types, towards articulation. Your palms ought to just comply with naturally now, palms upward, in a sort of perpetual grievance towards nothing particularly and every thing at once, because “Dis is New Yawk, and dat’s how yoo tawk.”

There’s a candy and singular vanity to the sound of New Yawkese, and the very posture of its pronunciation — the tongue slack and lascivious beneath the mouth’s alveolar ridge in what one speech specialist has described as a “vertical dialect” — presents an ideal simulacrum of its speakers and their city: the peak and exhausting edge of it, the blend of street-smart swagger and riotous impatience that makes two phrases of two sentences: Jeet? Did you eat? Skweet. Let’s go eat. That’s present in the phrases of a development worker standing beside a torn-up road together with his arms out by his sides and his plump tor­so bowed slightly forward as though to introduce logic itself to· his fellow work­er: “Ehh, waddahya doo-uhn? Put da fuckin waw-tuh pipes on dat truck!” Or in the shout of a Bay Ridge deli proprietor to a buyer: “Fuhgit abowwwt-it. Das owwwt.” Or that shapes this sing-song change overheard in the box seats be­hind the house dugout at Yankee Stadium:

“Eh, Vinny, wheh ya go-uhn?”

“Ahm go-uhn to da bayr-trume and den to da bea-uh line.”

Bugs Bunny, Tweety Hen, Mayor Koch, and Gov. Cuomo all converse versions of New Yawkese. It’s been immortalized and hyperbolized in numerous films: James Cagney to perennial priest Pat O’Brien in Angels With Soiled Faces­ — “Eh Jerry, waddahya-hear waddahya­say”; Robert De Niro as he waited for a pink mild in Imply Streets: “C’maahn, was dis a cawfee-and-cake light ovuh hea-uh?”

In The American Language, H.L. Mencken referred to as New Yawkese a low­class, “vulgar” dialect. George Bernard Shaw stated of the peculiar oi sound that shapes so many New Yawk words: “It’s the ultimate in sophistication in human speech.” Out-of-towners typically make enjoyable of it, however New Yorkers themselves seem to dislike it greater than anybody, and for years have been spending money to have it removed.

But whether you assume it a lovably dumb sound or a shrill sensible one, now could also be the time to enjoy it because many consider that, like mild business, the center class, and reasonably priced flats earlier than it, the New York accent is becom­ing a factor of the previous.

Modifications in speech patterns — like the catastrophic shifts being predicted today for our local weather — are occurring, however aren’t all the time simply discernible. The demise of all regional accents has been predicted for some time now, the major offender being the media, TV particularly, which threatens to make little Ted Kop­pels of us all — speakers of a generic En­glish indicative of nowhere particularly. Yet a midday walk via the garment district, or via the streets of Wil­liamsburg or Bensonhurst or Staten Is­land, suggests that New Yawkese is flourishing.

What’s truly occurring to the New York dialect includes many complicated in­fluences and circumstances, which have worked both to decrease the strains of basic New Yawkese in Manhattan and but to preserve it in certain elements of the outer boroughs. Even more importantly, other distinct dialects are creating, fed by the influx of immigrants from locations as numerous as Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Middle East; Central America and the Caribbean. New Yawkese lives, sure, however it’s not synonymous with New York City, nor even its dominant voice.

Simply as language and the dialects inside them don’t abruptly up and die in a day, neither do they emerge out of nowhere, all of a bit, and whereas linguists haven’t been capable of piece together the actual historical past of the New York dialect, they do see it as a logical, if not wholly predictable outcome of the place and individuals who shaped it. The accent, which would not grow to be absolutely shaped until nicely into the 20th century, was in the 1800s very similar to the speech patterns creating up and down the country’s East Coast. Over time, nevertheless, New Yorkers took the widespread features of the coastal accent and twist­ed their pronunciation in peculiar methods.

“If we compare the English of Boston and Maine and New York City and of Charleston,” says William Stewart, a lin­guistics professor at CUNY Graduate Middle, “all the previous Colonial coastal ar­eas, we discover certain features, and may assemble a coastal japanese English that should have been shared by all the colonies.

“For instance, there’s a very fronted, flat sounding a that you simply still hear in older conservative speakers all the method from Boston to Charleston, to Savannah, so for automotive, you get not caw but cah or caaa, or Baaah Haabah. The numerous immi­grant groups, for instance the Irish, who got here here to New York in the mid-19th century adopted these features, and someway the fronted r received turned, in cer­tain words, into woik as an alternative of work or shoit as an alternative of shirt, a pronunciation that happens few different places.

“So when the non-English speaking immigrants — the Yiddish-speaking Jew, the Italian, and the German — started settling in New York . . . there was al­ready a solidified kind of East Coast En­glish with its own unique traits, an early New York accent which the immigrants learned and contributed their little bits to, in turn, so that by the 1930s you had a full-blown accent characteristic of the metropolitan area.”

Another widespread linguistic function peculiarly corrupted by New Yorkers is what linguists seek advice from as r dropping. The habit is, in reality, widespread to much of the English-speaking world. “It’s found in Australia, New Zealand, and most of En­gland,” along with the U.S., says George Jochnowitz, professor of linguis­tics at the School of Staten Is­land/CUNY.

But whereas a classy London­er’s r-lessness makes for rah-thah, and a high-class New Englander’s comes out I paakked my caah, and a southern belle’s becomes a breathy dah-lin, a New York­er would inform them all: I’d raduh pawk my own caw-uh, dawlin. New Yorkers developed a dipthong, says Jochnowitz, “a lengthening of the vowel to compensate for the loss of the r, often with an extra little uh glide in it.”

While it’s comparatively straightforward to see partic­ular traits develop, tracing their roots includes a wildly speculative sort of detec­tive work. The concept of one retired Metropolis School linguistics professor, Marshall Berger, suggests that the oi sound, which continues to be heard extensively in New Orleans, was introduced here by New York City merchants who had in depth business in the South. They acquired the corrupt­ed English of the southern aristocrat and unfold it amongst New Yorkers near the turn of the century.

Other theories claim that the New York dialect is derived from Gaelic be­trigger the oi dipthong is widespread in that language — taoiseach (chief) or bar­baroi (barbarian) — or that New Yaw­kese is rooted in Yiddish as a result of of the typically melodic course of a New Yorker’s sentence cadence. However except for a de­cided inflectional influence as in “I should have such luck,” or “all right al­ready,” and the contribution of numerous phrases to our vocabulary from bagel to bubeleh, to shmaltz and shtik, there’s no proof for this.

“There’s very little in the New York dialect,” says Jochnowitz, “that can be tied down to one particular foreign influ­ence.” Slightly, “the accent has been in­fluenced by many different ethnic groups.”

In Pygmalion, Henry Higgins performs a linguistic recreation during which he guess the actual London road individuals come from merely by listening for the delicate permutations of their speech. This was never actually attainable in New York. Whilst New Yawkese grew to grow to be the thoidy-thoid stereotype by which individuals still determine New Yorkers, the di­alect wasn’t so long and deeply established in the city that distinct neighbor­hood variations might take maintain.

The totally different ethnic immigrant groups have been capable of assimilate so swiftly into a fluid industrial financial system that class, neighborhood, and thus dialect sure­aries have been perpetually being blurred. “They overlapped,” explains Jochnowitz, who grew up in Borough Park. “You by no means had individuals who stuck that a lot to their neighborhoods. New York was all the time a city where individuals moved around from one neighborhood to the subsequent.

“People rose economically and moved elsewhere just like that. I remember from my childhood, there was a pattern among the Jewish immigrants to move from the Lower East Side, to Browns­ville, to Borough Park, to Flatbush, and then either to the suburbs or to a better part of Manhattan.”

Individuals typically say they will hear distinct differences, for example, between Wil­liamsburg and Astoria New Yawkese. “New York being such a large area,” says William Stewart, “the dialect seemed to split up into regional vari­ances, so people talked about a Bronx ac­cent and a Brooklyn accent. But often these were the same accent at different stages of development.”

Even more so at present, there are relative­ly few distinguishing traits. “The pronunciation of g in Long Giland may be one,” says Jochnowitz. “Irish New Yorkers don’t say it and Jewish and Italian do. So when a person says Long Giland, you can probably conclude they’re not Irish but, generally, whatev­er variations exist are very slight.”

Still, for all its speedy shifts and dispersals, there was a time when New Yawkese was synonymous with the city, when it was the accent spoken not only by most New York­ers but — befitting a metropolis of burgeoning culture and business — by New Yorkers of all social courses. In contrast to London, for instance, the place there is a low-class Cockney accent and an upper-class pres­tige pronunciation, as linguists discuss with it, New Yawkese by no means had a prestige model. It was, in a sense, a very demo­cratic dialect. But it will not stay as such for lengthy. When you assume it odd that words like shoit or terlet came from the mouths of Rockefellers and their ilk, they thought so too. Because the New York accent turned so stigmatized, and per­haps because, despite Shaw’s affection for it, the sound is so incontrovertibly dumb, the metropolis’s upper class apparently might find no strategy to dignify it.

“Instead of saying, ‘We’re the upper class,’ ” says Jochnowitz, ” ‘and we speak this way, and it’s good,’ they stated, ‘Oy, we sound so low class.’ It’s odd. This is the largest metropolis in the nation, the cen­ter of culture, of the inventory market, of banking, and for some cause, the aris­tocracy here has all the time seemed to other aristocracies as being better. I feel New York blue bloods have all the time felt their blood’s simply not blue sufficient, and there­fore, they chose not to sound like New Yorkers.”

In The Social Stratification of En­glish in New York City, linguist William Labov explains that the long-standing tendency of the metropolis’s higher class has been to borrow prestige pronunciations from others — more from the japanese New England dialect in the early history of the metropolis prior to the influx of southern and japanese European immigrants who helped formulate the basic New Yawk­ese, and extra just lately from the commonplace news-speak English spoken by a develop­ing majority of People.

The failure of the higher courses to en­noble their own native speech, coupled with outsiders’ low opinion of it, helped to seal the destiny of New Yawkese as the dialect that might by no means journey. “As far as language is concerned,” writes Labov, “New York City may be characterized as a great sink of negative prestige.” Else­where up and down the Japanese Sea­board, from Boston to Charleston, the prestige model of a city’s accent be­got here the dominant accent of the area, making its approach via the outlying ar­eas until reaching a geographical obsta­cle that prevented any further spreading. Generally, “more or less mountainous areas that impede commu­nication” have been the stopping level.

New Yawkese was restricted not so much by bodily boundaries as by attitudinal ones, such that in the present day the accent, which as soon as flourished throughout New York, says Labov, “is confined to a narrow ra­dius, hardly beyond the suburbs that form the ‘inner ring’ of the city.” Or, as Stewart describes it, “The boroughs have become relic areas of the old dialect.”

“Everyone in the world looks upon New Yorkers as not coming across too well,” says Marilyn Rubinek, a speech specialist who for seven years taught a category on the Higher East Aspect designed to divest New Yorkers of their curse. “What my students say is that the accent makes them sound like they’re not intel­ligent. They sound uneducated even when they’re not. Listen to Koch or to Ronald Lauder — he sounds like he’s a truck driver. A lot of people might like the flavor of a New York accent, but they wouldn’t want it to come out of their body.”

Rubinek’s shoppers have a tendency to return from the outer boroughs, “a lot from Jersey and Staten Island,” individuals eager to advance their careers, others who are sent by corporations involved by how prospective shoppers may reply to their staff with thick New York di­alects, and still others who, because of the home-video digital camera — a tape of a wed­ding, for instance — or their telephone answering machines, have been alerted to the horror of their accent.

Rubinek likes to go proper to work on the pronunciation of r, which just about forces her pupils to complete the relaxation of the phrase appropriately. She’s additionally observed that with the correction of an individual’s pronunciation comes a marked change of their posture.

“They straighten up more,” Rubinek says somewhat sadly, “and sit in a chair dif­ferently, with their hands more down at their sides. It’s a more drastic change than plastic surgery.”

There could also be a peculiar model of logic in the undeniable fact that the most cosmopolitan city in the country, knowledgeable as it has al­methods been by the biggest selection of ethnic influences and alternately admired and mistrusted by outsiders for that purpose, ought to have developed a dialect that its own aristocracy disdained; its working and, to some extent, center courses still converse robust versions of; and which to today influences no one else’s speech outdoors of our own boroughed boundaries. It belongs both actually and figuratively all to New York, whilst the inner battle to eradicate it continues.

All this coaching and coaxing of New Yawkese out of the mouths of New Yorkers, mixed with the steady migration since the ’50s of some of its most practiced converse­ers to the outer boroughs and beyond (Long Island, New Jersey, Florida), and the current immigration to the city of the generic accent of the yuppie, would appear to have rendered Manhattan a reasonably nondescript place linguistically, nevertheless it has truly remained the most distinct of the boroughs in that regard, and for an entire new set of reasons.

Whereas the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island supply a per­plexing cross section of social courses, ethnic groups, and previous and new dialects, Manhattan has turn into a spot of lin­guistic extremes that mirror the excessive polarization of courses here: both the “from nowhere” commonplace English of the upper, educated courses, or the “from anywhere but here English” of a more moderen and more and more isolated underclass.

Based on linguists, the most sig­nificant prevalence in language in New York since the codification of New Yaw­kese earlier in the century is the emer­gence of this new, largely black and His­panic underclass dialect (with different immigrant influences). The new accent has been creating kind of inde­pendently since the late ’40s and early ’50s, when these groups started immi­grating to the metropolis in giant numbers.

“The underclass is doing a really inter­esting thing,” says Stewart. “It’s onerous to understand it at present, however once you take a look at black English, individuals who at one point or different in the previous weren’t English converse­ers, and for some not that way back — and then the Hispanics who came in — the re­sult is an underclass language heavily non-English influenced, either in the re­cent or distant previous, so it’s a posh sit­uation. The blacks who’ve come here cre­ated a common sort of black English. Many of the Spanish-speaking individuals coming in discovered English largely from blacks in black neighborhoods.

“Hispanic kids growing up in those neighborhoods have in turn influenced black English, and so you’ve got a symbi­otic effect. Black English, for example, like old New York English, had no final r. Spanish speakers have a final r, but be­cause the two prevailing varieties of En­glish here didn’t, they learned an r-less pronunciation. But because Spanish doesn’t have an uh sound as in the New York dialect’s teach-uh, or Jeni-fuh, they’ve opened it all the way up to an ah so you get teach-ah, and now the blacks have picked that up.”

One other example of this symbiotic di­alect that Stewart cites is the word chain, as in the jewelry worn around the neck. Spanish audio system are likely to say shane, a pronunciation that has been picked up by many blacks. Nevertheless, when referring to what individuals may put on their tires in the winter, blacks nonetheless say chains.

Ana Celia Zentella, a linguist at Hunt­er School, sees not a lot the emer­gence of one new polyglot underclass di­alect however slightly a dizzying array of distinct dialects, a pluri-vocal city world through which it helps for one to be mul­tidialectical, as it does to be multilingual in the world at giant.

“For example,” she says in good normal English, “I cannot only func­tion in Spanish and English, but in two or three varieties of English. I speak black English because I was raised in the South Bronx and had close black friends all my life. I can also speak a very His­panicized variety of English, and three different dialects of Spanish — one from Costa Rica, one from Mexico, and one from Puerto Rico.”

Simply standing outdoors some of the metropolis’s high faculties as courses let loose­ — Martin Luther King Jr. Excessive in Manhat­tan, John Jay in Brooklyn’s Park Slope, and Japanese District Excessive Faculty in Wil­liamsburg (where just lately a instructor’s al­leged racial slurs before his class stirred unrest among the 74 % Hispanic and 22 % black scholar popula­tion) — I might hear most predominantly a songlike, sibilant speech with many slang phrasings. Youngsters stated issues like re­memb-ah or Donn-ah, the ending all the time spoken with a loud rising inflection. Out­aspect of Japanese District Excessive — the place a number of the college students milling about on the sidewalks were not talking in dia­lect but full-fledged Spanish — I heard this change between two black teen­age women:

“Das huh man, unnastan whah ahm sayin?”

“Yo, ah pood it like dis. Ya wannah fight huh — les ged-it ovah wid. Das mo­vin ahn. Know wad ahm sayin?”

Whether these voices will coalesce in the method that shaped the dialect we now call New Yawkese, and the way they will influence the speech of New York — ­either the previous dialect or the new commonplace American English that has come to kind of define middle- and upper-class speech — is troublesome to foretell. However inso­far as the isolation of teams or subcul­tures within a mainstream tradition typically makes for the emergence of distinct new dialects, the impression is that these voices will proceed to develop indepen­dently and turn out to be ever more distinct from so-called commonplace English.

“How far this new dialect has spread among whites I don’t know,” says Jochnowitz, “but among the underclass teenage population, I think it is becom­ing more distinctive, spreading away from everyone else’s speech, including the speech of the middle-class blacks and Hispanics. I think the city is probably be­coming less uniform even as the middle class is getting more absorbed into that general American speech.”

“I think it’s very clear that this dialect will not influence so-called standard speech,” says Zentella. “I mean they’ll pick up yo and bro, but they will not pick up the grammatical forms. You can’t ig­nore the enormous negative stereotyp­ing associated with these dialect groups and the fact that many people in the groups themselves are trying to get away from them. This contributes very seriously to educational problems, too, because these people have been given such a sense of linguistic inferiority. In­stead of seeing their particular verbal ability as skills, they’ve been made to see them as deficiencies and that affects their ability to study.”

William Stewart suggests that there’s a robust risk of the underclass and their dialect remaining “locked in,” un­capable of assimilate and transfer up the social scale as readily as did earlier waves of immigrants, largely because of a much less flu­id financial system that’s based mostly on a much more refined, “non-mechanical” tech­nology than that of the early days of industrialization.

“Plus,” says Stewart, “should you’re an underclass scholar, the faculties seem to have much less potential that will help you transcend your socioeconomic standing. There are a lot of things holding you back: poor teacher-to-student ratio, your peers, the individuals standing out in the road around the faculty — so it’s a lot more durable and rather more difficult educating youngsters.

“Everyone’s hoping the media will do it, but it’s not that easy. You don’t learn that much from TV. It’s not interaction­al. But if they do assimilate, they will bring traces of their dialect which the up­per-class dialect will reflect somewhere down the road, just as the influences of the earlier immigrants filtered into the kind of English that was already here.”

Some academics at inner-city faculties have noted a resistance on the part of their students to talking normal En­glish, and a clinging to their own dialect and immigrant accents. “One of my stu­dents,” says Samantha Curtis, who taught art at I.S. 183 in the Bronx, “stood up in class and insisted that Span­ish is the national language.”

Whereas earlier immigrants have been in­tent on shedding all traces of their ac­cents and assimilating into American tradition, there appears to be a marked ten­dency among a lot of the current immi­grant underclass to cling culturally and linguistically to the residence they left as a source of satisfaction and id in a new house that, in a sense, gained’t have them.

“I’ve noticed,” says Marilyn Rubinek, whose family came to this nation from Italy about 40 years in the past, “that there’s a certain amount of pride these days with having, let’s say, a Spanish accent or a black dialect and displaying that, as op­posed to a time in the ’50s and before when you wanted to assimilate, and there was almost a shame in being a foreigner.”

“Ways of speaking are passed down,” says Zentella, “precisely because people want to continue talking like the people they love.”

Solely four blocks from Japanese District High Faculty, alongside an avenue that in that temporary distance modifications its identify from Puerto Rican Strategy to By way of Vespucci, is the heart of Greenpoint, where previous ladies in kerchiefs and spotted clothes sit talking Italian beneath striped tin awnings.

Teenage boys in tight jeans have been standing outdoors a deli, their hair shorn and etched on both aspect, spiked up prime, long in the again. I asked one of them if he might inform me the place Meeker Avenue is. He pointed far down the block towards a blur of daylight and an elevated swing of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway: “See wheh dose cahs ah ovah deh? Daats Mee­kah Avenue,” — good robust New Yawkese, next to Italian, subsequent to Spanish, subsequent to black and Hispanic English, in a four-block stretch.

For all the evidence of linguistic upheaval and dynamic change in the city, one gets an unlimited sense of stability and custom when passing with an open ear by way of its myriad and tightly juxtaposed cul­tures. If a serious monolithic linguistic shift is happening, detecting it’s a bit like making an attempt to observe a blade of grass grow. You stroll round and it sounds identical to, nicely, New York.

It was in 1962 that Labov, as part of his research of the social stratification of our unprestigious dialect, walked into three totally different courses of city malls — Klein’s, Macy’s, and Saks — and requested the salesclerks in each the similar query — for which the obvious answer was: “the fourth floor.” He obtained the excessive­est proportion of fawth flaws in Klein’s, and increasingly lower percentages in Macy’s and Saks, respectively.

“Someone repeated the exact test just recently,” says Labov, “and the results were nearly identical.”

In places like Bensonhurst, where a extra homogeneous population and a  robust sense of social and economic con­tinuity from one era to the next makes for a robust strain of New Yaw­kese, you get the sense that slightly than feeling any self-conciousness about their accent — that linguistic insecurity over its adverse prestige — the speakers there cling to it, even brandish it, much in the method of those of the so-called un­derclass, as a constructive source of satisfaction and id, a method of securing the structure and traditions of a neighborhood towards the tides of change.

Diane Parisy, a graduate scholar in linguistics at CUNY, has been doing a research of one working-class Italian family in Williamsburg, to attempt to decide if — and how a lot of — the Italian New Yawkese of the first era will get handed to second and third generations inside the household.

She found, as one may anticipate, that the traits of the grandparents’ speech have been passed down in slightly diminished power to their youngsters, who reside in Queens, and their youngsters’s youngsters, although they are attending native col­leges, and, as is the sample with those aspiring to the center class, are talking the standardized American English.

However she’s additionally found that these similar youngsters of the third era who’ve been by time and expertise removed from their New York dialect, retrieve it somewhat strongly when talking very emotionally about one thing or someone.

In 1961, once I was 7, my household moved from the Flatlands part of Brooklyn to the Hudson River town of Ossining, thus displacing whatever Brooklynese I’ll have had with that clean, paved driveway of an accent one acquires in the suburbs. However I’ve discovered that if I get mad — or at the ballpark, as an example, carried away — I can drop an r and murder a th with the greatest of them. It’s as if should you’re born in New York the dialect stays synonymous together with your soul — a deep, whiny river of angst and emotion into which, in excessive situ­ations, you’ll dip and provide you with: “Heh! Waddahya do-uhn?”

I went back to my previous neighborhood lately — brick row houses and a mixture of Italian, Irish, and Jewish middle- and working-class families — just to offer a pay attention. The boys on the block, the stick­ball infield — “Ditchdirt,” “Mousey,” “Bowbles,” and “Seb” — have been gone, of course, however not the accents. A short while later, I ran into the man who grew up in the home hooked up to mine. His fam­ily, Irish, had moved away many years after mine but not very far, to Far Rocka­means. I’d forgotten his road identify, so I stated “Hi, Patrick,” and he stated, “Heh, Chucky Bucky Beavah!”

It’s true that in Manhattan that exact accent that we’re all nonetheless branded as having — that thoidy-thoid and thoid which, even if all courses, educated or not, spoke, by no means sounded fairly that ab­soid — is tough to seek out now. Whereas once you might have been capable of stroll into any Lower East Aspect retailer and know the lilt of the counter clerk’s voice, or, as an out-of-towner, hail a cab just for the pleasure of making a cabbie say the identify of that road, now the faces and voices are extra combined and altered, and getting in a cab is, even for a local, a sort of ethnic rou­lette — the recreation we typically play of making an attempt to guess the cabbie’s ethnic origins with out peeking over the seat at his license.

But New Yawkese continues to be on the market in our dialect soup, and insofar as the city itself — the streets, the shadowed heights, the edge, and the velocity of it — ­informs a method of speech, it’ll remain, reshape, and resurface in typically unpre­dictable ways. In reality, even that previous time New Yawkese continues to be heard, in “echoes,” the method the offspring of that first wave of Japanese European immigrants typically spoke — “I betcha ya can’t do it, I bet­cha,” or “I tell ya it’s mine, I tell ya”­ — and thus earned the names Johnny or Eddie Echoes.

William Stewart has noted, for exam­ple, that some of the previous immigrant ac­cents have been institutionalized so that the Irish New Yawkese has develop into, in large part, a cop accent, traces of which he’s heard from the mouths of even young feminine Hispanic officers.

After which there was the day he wan­dered down into the Lower East Aspect, east of the Bowery, into the space a bit south of Orchard Road where so many Jewish merchants had and nonetheless have clothing and hardware stores, an space that has melded somewhat now with Chinatown. He was wanting particularly to buy a copper wok and wandered into one of these hardware shops to seek out it. Behind the counter was a Chinese man who, upon hearing Stewart’s request, paused a second, then tossed up his arms: “I should know from coppa woks?”