Brooklynese in New Orleans redux

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Tue Nov 8 04:17:47 UTC 2005

On 11/7/05, Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster: Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU>
> Subject: Brooklynese in New Orleans redux
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> From the New Yorker "Talk of the Town" piece on William Labov and the
> publication of his _Atlas of North American English_:
> -----
> You can hear Brooklynese spoken in parts of New Orleans and Cincinnati,
> Labov added, the legacy of the New York bankers who moved to those cities
> in the nineteenth century to finance the cotton trade.
> -----
> I'd prefer a direct quote from Labov about this, as many of the
> paraphrases given in the piece seem a bit suspect.
> --Ben Zimmer

In her 1996 book, _Five Smooth Stones_, novelist Ann Fairbairn points out
the presence of forms like "boint" for "burnt" and "pernt" for "point" in
the speech of Southern blacks. My late grandparents also exhibited this same
phenomenon - or should that be "phenomena"? ;-) - in their speech. I've read
the history of Harrison County, Texas, of which my birthplace, Marshall, is
the county seat, and there is no mention therein of any great "movement of
peoples" from Brooklyn, New York, to East Texas.

Lest my point escape notice, it is that I don't believe that Labov could
have made any such asinine statement.
-Wilson Gray

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