That’s a clip from Heather Quinlan’s upcoming film, If These Knishes Could Talk:The Story of the New York Accent.
Yet every time I’m in Utah, I have this exact conversation on the lifts. Over and over.
“Where are you from?”
“Where in New York?” (like someone from Onadaga would say, “New York”)
“New York City.”
“You don’t sound like you’re from New York.”
I’m never sure what to say in response. I was born and grew up in the city, but don’t have a stereotypical (e.g. Woody Allen-esque or ‘dese and dose’) accent. I grew up in Forest Hills, a part of Queens,and pretty much everyone I know from there, talks like me.
Contrary to popular belief, there’s no such thing as a Brooklyn or Bronx accent, and anyone who tells you differently, or they can identify someone by it, is full of crap. As Heather’s film expands on, New York accents are based much more on socio-economics and education, than location per se. Things do of course tend to correlate a bit — Staten Island tends to be blue-collar Italian; Spanish Harlem poor and Puerto Rican, at least when I grew up. (It was originally working-poor Irish and Italian. You can hear it in Burt Lancaster).
Here’s an example from Knishes, of a Korean-American, raised on Staten Island,
The part of Forest Hills I grew up in, is Forest Hills Gardens, 2/3 Catholic, 1/3 Jewish, and full of doctors and lawyers. The Ramones, grew up in a more middle-class part of Forest Hills, and have more of that “classic” New York accent.
My parents, were also born in the city, (their parents, too) and both have much heavier accents than me. I’d always notice it after coming back from sleep-away camp. My dad (who also grew up in Forest Hills, but not in the Gardens), pronounces “comfortable” as “kahmfortable, and my mom, growing up very lower-middle-class in the Jewish South Bronx, almost says ‘eye-dear’ for “idea”.