In an otherwise excellent article, Bronx native Ben Wallace-Wells dents his credibility with the following statement:
As a Bronx native I’ve spent the campaign quietly weighing Donald Trump’s New York accent against that of Bernie Sanders. I can declare a split decision. Trump has the better vowels: His yooge obliterates Sanders’s yooge, the perfect measure of dismissiveness without dwelling on itself. But Sanders has the better consonants: when he says speculation, each syllable is a saliva receptacle. What is especially great about both of these accents is that no New Yorkers speak like that anymore, not even in deepest Canarsie. The city is too diverse; its population changes too constantly. Accents so extreme could only be preserved in environments where their bearers did not regularly interact with other New Yorkers: Burlington, Vermont, in one case, and a quartz penthouse in the other.
What? Dude. First, there is a logical inconsistency: what is so magical about interaction with other New Yorkers as opposed to, you know, the good people for Burlington? Being in Vermont is supposed to make it easier to preserve a Brooklyn accent of the older type?
Second, this young man displays unfortunate historical ignorance. (Actually, I have no idea how old he is. He could be fifty. I know from nothing about that.) What, everyone in Bernie Sanders’ Brooklyn was identical? Come on now. They were mostly white back then, but that category meant people who called each other s____, m____, p______, b______, s_______, g______, not to mention the w____ and all the other now-forgotten slurs that white people older than me used to refer to other white people. So the causal model does not make sense: Bernie’s Brooklyn accent was not the accent of some small isolated homogenous rural tribe.
Finally, there is a new New York accent, as I have pointed out on many occasions, which is very similar to the old but not identical. While New Yorkers of all races do speak it, it is relatively rare among NYC-raised non-Hispanic whites (who have, outside of Staten Island, lost the most distinctive parts of the old accent) and so Mr. Wallace-Wells may not have recognized it. The most prominent politician with the accent is this guy:
Congressman Jeffries does not sound exactly like Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump. But he has a New York accent of the modern type, shared by hundreds of thousands of New York-raised people under age 30. C’mon, Ben! Take it back.
Oh, and here is Congressman Jeffries in full Noo Yawk awesome: