Everyone has an accent, whether they realize it or not, and they often find out when they start living in an area where most other people have a different accent (and subsequently make fun of the odd one out for how they speak). Still, the so-called “New Joisey” accent is popular among imitators and often mocked in TV shows and movies. Here’s what you need to know about how to do a New Jersey accent.
Two Is Better Than One
First, we need to establish the fact that there is no singular New Jersey accent. In fact, there are at least two: North Jersey and South Jersey (Central Jersey is disputed, as most people just interpret it as a “normal” accent with a few features from North and South). A North Jersey accent generally sounds like the stereotypical New York City or Boston accent (think: Fran Drescher), while a South Jersey accent sounds more like a Philly accent with somewhat of a southern twang.
Linguists have a more formal classification of accents in New Jersey. Northeastern Jersey as well as Middlesex and Monmouth counties speak New York City English, Northwestern Jersey speaks Northern American (“Normal”) English, and Central and South Jersey speak Mid-Atlantic American or Philadelphian English.
Say This, Not That
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s dig into how to speak with the different New Jersey accents. Our first tip: no one actually says “Joisey.” We have no idea how people got that idea, but it’s just not true.
Some of the most unusual South Jersey pronunciations include “yiz guys” (you guys), “drarr” (drawer), “cran” (crayon), and “lig” (league). People in South Jersey do pronounce their Rs, as opposed to the North, and add an “er” sound to any word that ends in “a,” and sometimes “ow” (idear, soder, piller, winder). “An” and “en,” especially at the end of a word, change to “in” (writtin, Mahatin). Consonants “d” and “t” cut off when the tongue hits the palette and therefore are less pronounced. “V” often sounds like “b.”
Long vowels are generally elongated and, in terms of the long “a” (eh-ee), “i” (ah-ee), and “o” (eh-oo), sometimes sound British. Short vowels sound more “normal” aside from the short “a,” which sounds like “aya” when it comes before the letters “m,” “n,” or “s” (cayan, fayast). “Al” and in certain cases “o” might sound like “aw” (tawk, wawk, lawg, fawg, hawg, dawg). Sometimes, “oo” is pronounced with a short “u” sound (ruf, huf, rut).
In the North, the letter “r” is less pronounced (fawk, pahk, yahd). “Th” might change to “d” (dere, dohz, deeze). In general, some consonants or endings are just left out of words (draw, I doe no, yoomen, winda).
Then, of course, there are those distinctly regional words and phrases, like wooder or wudder (water), jeet (Did you eat?), Fuhgeddaboudit (Forget about it), and The Iggles (Eagles).
If some of this stuff is hard to grasp, watching videos, or even movies and TV shows, of people talking with a form of New Jersey accent might help. Sure, it’s often exaggerated, but it can help you learn the fundamentals and what they sound like. Imitation is one of the easiest ways to learn.
We hope this guide helped you figuring out how to do a New Jersey accent. With a bit of practice, you’ll never be mistaken for a tourist again! Be sure to brush up on your Jersey shore slang as well!