Italian-Americanisms? or regionalisms?

Ed Keer edkeer at YAHOO.COM
Mon Jul 8 15:11:45 UTC 2002

My Mother in-law, whose parents also immigrated from
sicily in the early part of last century, doesn't have
the typical New Jersey pronunciation of manicotti and
ricotta nor does she say gravy for tomato sauce. I
wonder if there is some class issue here since she
often talks about how her mother spoke "pure" italian
not sicilian or something.

BTW the so-called "New Jersey" pronunciation extends
at least to south Philly. I always thought it was a
way for the merchants in the Italian Market (9th and
Christian streets) to make fun of the Society Hill
types who sometimes shopped there by making them ask
for things like "gabagool" (capicola).

--- "Joanne M. Despres" <jdespres at MERRIAM-WEBSTER.COM>
> My mother and aunt, whose parents immigrated from
> Sicily,
> pronounce ricotta something like rih-GuOTH-uh, and
> manicotti
> something like mah-nih-GuOTH-ee.  (That TH-sound is
> really
> something like an almost-unaspirated "d" to "th"
> affricate -- if that
> makes any sense -- and the "uo" is basically an open
> "o" with a
> soft "u" onset.)  They grew up in Lawrence, MA.
> Last weekend, I ordered a pizza in a southern CT
> restaurant and
> heard the waitress pronounce the cheese on top
> "mootzarella."
> That pronunciation strikes me as New Jerseyish,
> though I'm not
> sure whether it's Italian-American (the mother of a
> friend of mine, a
> non-Italian who grew up in Jersey City and now lives
> in the "Pasta
> Triangle" region of Essex County, where I believe
> the Sopranos
> episodes are set, pronounces it that way).  My own
> mother's family
> definitely doesn't use that "oo" pronunciation,
> though.  In any case,
> the point is, I think there have to be a couple of
> different regional
> variations of Italian-American pronunciation.
> Joanne Despres

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