It’s been 30 years since I moved out of Brooklyn but traces of #BrooklynForLife can be detected in my speech to greater or lesser degrees depending upon the circumstances or my temperament at a given time. I swear to God I was working on this post before I saw this piece from the Associated Press (if you could hear me say out loud the opening phrase of this sentence, it would give further context to what I’m asserting here). I’ll leave it to sociolinguistics to parse out the difference between Brooklyn and Queens elocution but the New York accent, whether via Anthony Fauci (Brooklyn), Andrew Cuomo (Queens), Chris Cuomo (who actually had COVID-19, also Queens), or Bill de Blasio (who knows), is front and center during the crisis. As we became the epicenter of the disease, the pandemic has given a megaphone to our often maligned elocution.
Inaccurate versions of Brooklyn diction in TV and film have always irked me. Law and Order has been on television for over 30 years so virtually every actor in America has taken a shot at it, and if they missed out on L & O there was always Blue Bloods. Actors have diction coaches with whom they hone regional inflections for the various roles their careers demand. I lack the expertise to determine with certainty but they seem to do a passable job with southern locution, the Irish brogue, and cockney-speak but when it comes to the distinct articulation of Kings County denizens, they invariably fall short. Perhaps because I’m saddled with it, I tend to be hyper-sensitive to poorly rendered Brooklyn accents. Boston dialect must be much easier to operate because it’s the vehicle that mediocre actors default to when the advice of their diction coaches fail them. I’ve watched with mild annoyance as many episodes of Law and Order took the exit ramp onto the highway that leads to Good Will Hunting and The Departed driven by dubious versions of the Brooklyn accent.
So when Andrew Cuomo’s daily briefings are no longer available, maybe I can get a job as a diction coach. Fuhgeddaboudit!