From paddy wagon
to rush hou
r, New York City has given us a number of our popular words and phrases, along the way fashioning a recognizable dialect all its own. Often imitated and 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 language community develop, and how has it shaped the city as we know it today?
In You Talkin' to Me?
, E.J. White explores the hidden history of English in New York City -- a history that encompasses social class, immigration, culture, economics, and, of course, real estate. She tells entertaining stories of New York's most famous characters, streets, and cultural institutions, from Broadway to the newspaper office to the department store, illuminating a new dimension of the city's landscape. Full of little-known facts -- C-3PO was originally written to have a New York accent; 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 book will delight lovers of language and history alike.
The history of English in New York is deeply intertwined with the story of a famous city trying to develop its own identity. White's account engages issues of class and social difference; the invisible barriers that separate insiders from outsiders; the war between children who fit in and their parents who do not; and the struggle of being both an immigrant to the city and a New Yorker. Following language from The Bowery to The Bronx, You Talkin' to Me?
offers a fascinating account of how language moves and changes-and a new way of understanding the language history, not only of New York, but of the United States.