In a year in which the country faced the prospect of a presidential debate between a Brooklyn native and a Queens native, a book about New York English seems more than timely. But one of the first things you learn in E. J. White’s new book You Talkin’ to Me?: The Unruly History of New York English is that New York is a single linguistic community, a claim that seems to fly in the face of the lived experience of native New Yorkers. At least among my acquaintances at a recent dinner party, the consensus was that Bernie Sanders’s Brooklyn accent was as easily distinguishable from Donald Trump’s Queens accent as their respective politics. And yet, as White remarks, a distinguished linguistics expert told The New Yorker in 2005, “The fact is—but don’t write this, because it will enrage...


New to The New Criterion?

Subscribe for one year to receive ten print issues, and gain immediate access to our online archive spanning more than four decades of art and cultural criticism.

Popular Right Now