New Orleans History -- Lake Pontchartrain
Monday, June 17, 2024
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N. O. Accent

N.O. Accent
Sat Nov 30 2002 2:41:43 pm

My son, who is a bona fide resident of Brooklyn, says that some N.O. dialects do, indeed, sound like "Brooklyn on Qaaludes." He's an ace at languages, and I am inclined to accept his assessment.

N. O./Jersey/Brooklyn accents:
I recall hearing somewhere that our local accent resembles Brooklynese, Jerseyese because of the melting pot of Italian, German, Irish, etc. each of these areas experienced.

Lest anything in the previous response be construed as offensive to any ethnicity--my people were part of that German immigration, and firmly in the echelons of the blue-collared!

Curiouser and Curiouser:
Husband (grew up in NYC suburb in CT) says that to his knowledge, Brooklyn and Queens to almost the same extent, have always been working class. As for the big Irish, German, Italian-Sicilian immigrations, many of those took place in the latter part of the 19th century. If what you heard is indeed true, was the accent before that predominantly French? Also, tradtionally in linguistics land, accents, words, etc. tended to filter down from the "top" classes to the people they had vanquished (e.g., those Pesky Normans in 11th-century England) or the people who worked for them. Thus the Happy Angles and Saxons spoke of swine and sheep (they dealt with them on the hoof, mostly); for the Normans, these were pork and mutton (mostly observed on the plate). Then there were always ambitious members of the "underclass" who wanted to better themselves, and adopted the speech and mores of the "uppers." Only very recently, with the popularity of rap, have we seen speech from poorer people being adopted into the mainstream. Most immigrants wanted very much to be assimilated into the new culture--witness our German grandparents naming their first child Bertha, but by they time they go to #4 or #5, they spelled Catherine with a "C" because, they said, she would grow up in the U.S.A., where the Irish spelling was more acceptable. Granted, we don't distinguish much between the Anglo-Saxon words and the words the Norman French introduced, but it took the better part of 900 years for it to happen! We still don't point to sheep in a field and call them mutton, except jokingly....
I fear that I will have to do some research on this topic, since I feel a fit of fascination coming on.... Thanks for your provocative (in the best sense of that fine word) comment!

Sat Nov 30 2002 4:46:36 pm

describes the question of NJ accent. Methinks it's a variation of some of the NYC accents. It seems to be more or less confined to North Jersey. I am a product of an Orleanian mom and a soldier stationed at Camp Plauché during WWII. Dad is from Central Jersey and does not now, nor has he ever, in the past 52 years, sounded like what we would consider "typical" for Jersey. His speech is more what I'd call "Walter Cronkite" (who grew up in Houston btw), with some colorful local expressions thrown in. South Jersey, such as the Camden area, has its own accent; my cousin from there pronounces "ball" as "baooll," almost impossible to transcribe. And those are only the ones I know about.

For a start:
Try The American Language

An Inquiry into the Development of English in the United States by H.L. Mencken.

Complete online version at

Much more there if you Go to and
Search for "orleans dialect"

There is also a story, not sure if it's substantiated or not, that there were some "Brooklynese" who came down to work as stevedores, and brought their accents with them. Not sure how it would have spread so far and wide, but I guess such a thing could happen, no Henry Higginses being around to set things "straight."

Realized that some of the S. Jersey pronounciations are indeed like some in N.O.--notably like those who were known as "chawmahs" when we were in high school. You know, some of them went to Sa-crid Hawt? But then, we all have some of that, don't we; however, what I remember was a heavier accent on the "aw" than people from other parts of N.O. used.... Somebody help me here! I'm out of control in linguistics hell!

I had forgotten about:
Chawmuhs. Gave me laugh--thanks.

While we Chapelle girls were talking about Sacred Heart Chawmuhs, lot's of people were calling us Chapelle Chawmuhs (and worse).

Hadn't thought about it in years myself! High school rivalries! During the summers before my freshman and sophomore years, I took courses at Sacred Heart in typing and business machines (no computers then!) and found Sr. Marie Thomas, as well as the other students, quite "chawmin'" and nice people. Most of the other girls were from Sacred Heart, except for a lone boy from Rummel. We struck up a friendship of sorts, and he turned out to be a great source of introductions to other Rummel guys....