Musings from a Jersey Girl: The art of articulation, Jersey style

I recently looked up how babies learn to communicate, and Google told me it all starts with sounds, facial expressions and gestures. Well, babies, we’ve got you covered here in Jersey, because we are abundantly blessed with all of those skills. When it comes to articulating ourselves, Jersey folks have a way with words, faces that animate words and two fistfuls of hand signals for those special times when actions speak louder than words. 

Sometimes, sighs speak louder than words. Like when you’re waiting in line and the new “last guy” arrives, announcing his presence breath by audible breath, until it manifests into a super sigh-zed gust of all the air a set of lungs might hold, windily expressing “ARE YOU FREAKIN’ KIDDIN’ ME?” and effectively blowing all the g’s out of the room. 

I feel sorry for g’s in Jersey, so often gettin’ left behind like a loose caboose. Unless that “g” is located elsewhere in a word, like “gabagool.” Know what I’m sayin’? 

That’s another favorite Jersey quirk of mine, our need to confirm we’ve been understood. “It’s gonna be nice Saturday, so I’m goin’ Down the Shore. Know what I’m sayin’?” Yes. Yes, I do.  

Still, it’s an important question to ask, because sometimes, I don’t actually know what you’re sayin’, in which case the appropriate response is, “Yeah … no,” employing the nod and shake for emphasis.  

Yeah/no is also useful for those occasions when you might be asked to do something you don’t really want to do, like go to a poetry reading. “You comin’?” “Yeah … no.” It’s polite. 

Can I tell you something? That is not a real question in Jersey. It means exactly the same thing as “LET me tell you something” because even if the answer is “Yeah … no,” we’re going to keep right on telling you something you clearly need to hear. 

For example, a nephew on my husband’s side came to visit from Ohio, awkwardly accepting the customarily effusive and physical Jersey welcome by all of our friends one night at dinner. Pointing to one of the trays steaming on the counter, he asked, “What’s that?” 

“Eggplant parm,” replied eight people at once. 

“Eggplant parm? Never had it,” he said, eyeing my buffet for something recognizable to him as eight jaws dropped. One girlfriend was first to speak. 

“Can I tell you something?” she demanded, not even trying to untwist the disgusted look on her face as she landed a hefty serving of the delicacy on his plate. “Try the eggplant. You don’t want to die stupid.” 

Her way with words brought a tear to my eye, a chorus of “Ayyyyys!” as wine glasses were raised, and another enthusiastic, if not threatened, fan of eggplant parm to my table.   

Nobody delivers a message like we do here. We just are who we are, relaxed and comfy in our Jersey comfort zone. But you better believe we can dial up the diction on demand — it’s our gift, and our prerogative. It’s the art of articulation at its finest, baby. 

Susan Kronberg is a freelance writer and Jersey girl. A married mother of two, she’s worked in insurance, transportation, marketing, newspapers and private education. Writing is but one thread that connects the patchwork of her professions.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of Jersey’s Best. Subscribe here for in-depth access to everything that makes the Garden State great.

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Musings from a Jersey Girl: The art of articulation, Jersey style

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