New York City Language

There are hundreds of words that have filtered into American English via the languages of foreign immigrants. New York City is the most popular point of arrival for immigrants so, as you’d imagine, all kinds of words have been added to the local language as well as being absorbed into the American language as a whole. There was a time in American history when there was no prevalent official language, so it’s hardly surprising that American English has so many additions from other languages, such as the German word ‘hoodlum’, the Yiddish ‘schmuck’ (fool or origin, penis) and, more recently, the Russian word ‘robot’.

A New Yorker’s accent is pretty well recognized by most people around the world with its elongated vowels, the local accent of Manhattan in particular is a sort of toned down version of the over exaggerated “New Yawk Tawk” popularized by the TV and Movie industry. Some of the older people have a tendency to emphasize the syllables at the beginning of words like receipt and Broadway, giving their speech a somewhat curious cadence. In general, the deeper you go into New York’s boroughs, the more pronounced the accent becomes – unless you happen to be talking to a recent immigrant of course.

New York has a very large Hispanic population whose language, though not yet developed into a total hybrid speech, has lent words to the local tongue; so that everyone knows ‘bodega’ is another word for a corner convenience store, a corruption of the word for ‘wine cellar’. It’s very easy to pick up all the common phrases used in New York once you’ve been there a while, though some of their meanings can change from borough to borough; a regular coffee in Midtown for instance is different from a regular coffee on Wall Street. New York also has a huge Hip Hop and Rap scene which itself adds new words, and new meanings to existing words, to the local language.