The New York accent seems to be on its way out. Not only is it less common than it used to be, but scads of New Yorkers are hiring speech therapists to rid themselves of theirs, which are seen as liabilities in this global world.
It’s just another example of the homogenization of modern life. Unique regional characteristics still exist, but they are being pushed out by nationwide and worldwide communications and businesses.
Have you been to a variety of malls around the country lately? If so, you’d learn that, for the most part, the word “variety” is a misnomer. If you didn’t know you’d traveled to get there, you would almost swear you were in the same place, over and over and over. Likewise the strip outside of town—you know, the one with the McDonald’s and the Burger King and the Pizza Hut and the Applebee’s.
But many years ago, I also was part of the “leave my New York accent behind in a cloud of dust” crowd. Except for a few details, Lauren LoGiudice’s story is my story:
“I grew up with people who could be the cast of ‘Jersey Shore,’ ” Miss LoGiudice, 27, said. It was not until she got to Wesleyan University that she realized how much her speech pigeonholed her. And as a young actress who is “tall and Anglican-looking,” she worried her accent would be a roadblock. “If I had looked like Meadow Soprano,” Miss LoGiudice said, “I wouldn’t have had to worry about my accent.”
The differences? I didn’t go to Wesleyan. And I’m not “tall and Anglican-looking” (by the way, I doubt she actually means “Anglican“—perhaps “Anglo-Saxon”?). In fact, I was more the Meadow Soprano type.
However, the rest was the same. When I went off to college, people there teased me about my speech. My New York accent—which, compared to those who had surrounded me when I was growing up, was exceptionally mild—was considered a fine target for mockery and jokes. Some of it was good-natured, but it still got to me, and just a month or two into my freshman year I decided to eradicate the cause.
I didn’t need no steenking speech therapist, either. I did it myself through sheer force of will. I was highly motivated, and within a couple of months my New York accent was no more. So thorough was I in my excision of all traces of the speech patterns of my original home that no one thereafter has ever guessed, on hearing me, where I was born and raised. I am officially generic.