You Talkin' to Me?: The Unruly History of New York English (The Dialects of North America)

December 2, 2020
You Talkin' to Me?: The Unruly History of New York English (The Dialects of North America)

From paddy wagon to rush hour, New York Cityhas given us a number of our popular words and phrases, along theway fashioning a recognizable dialect all its own. Often imitatedand just as often ridiculed, New York English has its own identity,imbued with the rich cultural history of (as New Yorkers tell it)the greatest city in the world. How did this unique languagecommunity develop, and how has it shaped the city as we know ittoday? In You Talkin' to Me?, E.J. White explores thehidden history of English in New York City—a history thatencompasses social class, immigration, culture, economics, and, ofcourse, real estate. She tells entertaining stories of New York'smost famous characters, streets, and cultural institutions, fromBroadway to the newspaper office to the department store,illuminating a new dimension of the city's landscape. Full oflittle-known facts—C-3PO was originally written to have a New Yorkaccent; West Side Story was originally going to be East Side Story,about Jewish and Christian New Yorkers; and "confidence man"started in reference to a specific New York City criminal—the bookwill delight lovers of language and history alike. The history ofEnglish in New York is deeply intertwined with the story of afamous city trying to develop its own identity. White's accountengages issues of class and social difference; the invisiblebarriers that separate insiders from outsiders; the war betweenchildren who fit in and their parents who do not; and the struggleof being both an immigrant to the city and a New Yorker. Followinglanguage from The Bowery to The Bronx, You Talkin' to Me?offers a fascinating account of how language moves and changes-anda new way of understanding the language history, not only of NewYork, but of the United States.