Monday, May 17, 2010

You From Joisey?

Many years ago, during what we here in New Jersey call "the Joe Piscopo Era," there was a sketch on Saturday Night Live (now called "SNL" because we don't have the time to say whole words anymore) in which Piscopo, dressed as what New Yorkers think people from my home state dress like, would meet someone else (often Debbie Harry) from here and scream at each other, "You from Joisey? I'm from Joisey!" (Yes, I know Piscopo is a native Jerseyan, but his costume designer wasn't. And we've been trying to live that guy down for decades now.)

That was the whole sketch. No, I don't get it, either.

I've lived in New Jersey my whole life, which is more than a short time. I've been to every corner of the place, met lots of natives, defended it when it needed defending and decried stupid politicians (like some New York city mayors and our own current governor) who seem to look down on us. I've heard all sorts of opinions, lived through countless "what exit" jokes, been expected to chuckle when it's suggested that most of our residents are in the mob and the rest live on a toxic waste site.

But I've never, EVER, heard anyone from here say "Joisey."

Not once. Zero times. Never. And believe me, I would have noticed. I keep an ear out for such things. Nobody from New Jersey actually talks like that when we're not consciously trying to be ironic. Granted, some of you from more straightforward states might not understand NJ Irony, but you can trust me when I tell you: We don't EVER say "Joisey" seriously.

In fact, the only people I've ever heard say such a silly word are Manhattanites who think they're being clever and condescending, and Brooklynites, who actually talk like that.

Even the cast of "Jersey Shore," while completely trashing any chance we had to rehabilitate a false image of the state, don't say "Joisey." And I'd like to point out, only two of THEM are even from the Garden State (See? Even our state nickname is ironic!).

When I meet someone from, say, Arkansas, I try very hard to say the name of the state the way they'd say it. If I'm talking to a persona from Texas, it's possible we'll allude to some political differences (or not), but at least I'm still perfectly capable of saying "Texas" properly. I like to think that if I ran into an Oregonian, I'd try to pronounce the name of the state the way they say it should be pronounced, which sounds to me like "Origun," because I figure they know better than I do. If corrected, I will accede to the native on such a point.

So do me a favor and--just when you meet me--don't say "Joisey."

There's no such place.


  1. It's a darn good thing you know how to say Texas. (and we have no political differences. I'm actually from western NY.)

  2. Like I said, differences maybe or maybe not. And I knew we didn't, but I won't say why. You know.

  3. Well, I'm from Lawn-Guyland and I don't have an accent or funny way of tawking at awl. :)

  4. What is most amusing about this misconception is that people from central New Jersey (Monmouth, Ocean counties) are defined, like those from the mid-west, as having NO accent. I obtained this information from a linguist some time ago.

  5. I have a feeling that a lot of people from different states could say the same thing (I can tell you stories about being from Ohio!). But just wait till you go abroad. Here people don't really know the difference between NJ and NY and it doesn't help that the Newark airport sounds so much like "NewYawk". Most Brits don't recognize places other than NYC, Miami and California. Oh, and maybe some vague "Western" place where all the cowboys live...