Brooklyn Accents…Then and Now

Before Benjamin Wallace-Wells wrote for the New Yorker, he was an editor here at the Washington Monthly writing stories about everything from deep background on Rep. Patrick McHenry to Paris Hilton to female boxing. Demonstrating stunning prescience, Wallace-Wells forecasted the plunge in home prices in 2004 and wrote about the Great Black Hope represented by Barack Obama in the same year.

In the current edition of the Washington Monthly, Wallace-Wells has brought that keen eye and insight back to these pages by writing the latest Tilting at Windmills column, which opens with this gem titled: Not a yooge difference.

As a Bronx native I’ve spent the campaign quietly weighing Donald Trump’s New York accent against that of Bernie Sanders. I can declare a split decision. Trump has the better vowels: His yooge obliterates Sanders’s yooge, the perfect measure of dismissiveness without dwelling on itself. But Sanders has the better consonants: when he says speculation, each syllable is a saliva receptacle. What is especially great about both of these accents is that no New Yorkers speak like that anymore, not even in deepest Canarsie. The city is too diverse; its population changes too constantly. Accents so extreme could only be preserved in environments where their bearers did not regularly interact with other New Yorkers: Burlington, Vermont, in one case, and a quartz penthouse in the other.

There’s a lot more where that came from. You can read them all here.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.