Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Jersey Story: Directions

Among the friends I visited in NJ were the couple whose wedding I was a bridesmaid in the day before I moved across the country. I showed them the following video:

This launched into a conversation of how Jersey are the women in our lives - mainly our mothers. We're included in this too, although I should note that before I moved across the country, I did not hear my accent. I should also note that since Thanksgiving, my boyfriend thinks I have been imitating John Roberts' Mom character (whose name is Marge, by the way). One evening, I said the word "tree" in a story (which happens pretty often, since I work at a botanical garden), and he remarked, "You're always imitating that woman! That man! That man imitating his mom!"

This is because, at my 4th Portland Home, there was a cat whom I frequently told, "Get away from the tree! Get away from the tree, please."

I explained to him that it was no impression. "This is how I TAWK!"

Anyway. So last night, this couple starts to tell me a story about how my friend (the lady)'s mother is so Jersey, exhibited by this one time they were driving to a relative's house and they called her for directions.

"You want to turn onto Bah P'n Road," she said. "Bah P'n" is my best phonetic spelling.

What did she say? they thought. "Boppin' Road?"

An idiosyncrasy of the Jersey accent is that, like the French, we do not pronounce all of the letters that appear in the spelling of a word. Select vowels, consonants, and entire syllables get lost. Take the following well-known example: The city of Newark, Delaware is pronounced, "New Ark." The city of Newark, New Jersey is pronounced, "NEW irk," sometimes slurred together so that it sounds like, "Nork." The letters excluded from a word's pronunciation aren't really necessary to the listener's comprehension of the speaker's intended meaning, based on the multitude of context clues that have already been given. They're extraneous. You know, like turn signals.

"BAH PN. BAH PN," insisted my friend's mother.

There must be an "R" in there, my friend and her husband reasoned.

"Barpon Road?"

"Yes! BAH PN ROAD."

"Okay!"

They punched, "Barpon Road" into the GPS. Nothing came up. They tried alternate spellings. "Barpin." "Barrpen." "Bahrpon?"

Barton. It was Barton.

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