Neighborhood language

Erica Noonan enoonan at GLOBE.COM
Thu Aug 30 17:16:53 UTC 2001


My name is Erica Noonan, and I am a reporter for The Boston Globe.   I am
working on a feature story about a neighborhood in Newton, Mass., just west
of Boston that has its own special language, still spoken by old-timers

The language is not a written one, and few official records exist, but I am
told that it evolved when some local boys brought it home to the village of
Nonantum, after spending time with traveling carnivals run by gypsies from
Eastern Europe in the 1930s.  The lingo was spoken mostly by men, to
express friendship or to impart warnings --  tone of voice, body language,
status of speaker and listener are very much apart of how the words are
understood and interpreted.

I was hoping to find a language expert out there who could comment about
whether such mini-languages often spring up in insular neighborhoods (in
this case, much of the village can trace its roots back to a particular
part of Italy)  and a little bit about how such slang-style languages were
used in the earlier part of the century. I would expect there would be
parallels in neighborhoods around big cities like New York, Chicago, etc.,
but don't know for sure.

If anyone thinks they may have some insights,  please respond to me by
email enoonan at (I am going to try to access the listserv, but just
to be sure I receive your message, please also send a note also to my globe
address)  I would be very grateful for insights anyone out there might

I'll be working on this all afternoon, as well as Friday morning.


Erica Noonan, The Boston Globe/Globe West
Phone: (508) 820-4232
Fax: (508) 820-4258
Email: enoonan at

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