Ever since being told three years ago that I had a New Jersey accent, I had become obsessed with looking at the way people behave in this place we call the “Garden State”. Needless to say, I was insulted by this, even if what was directed at me was not an insult at all. My biggest regret in life is a decision that I did not even make, and that was my parents moving from Staten Island, New York to Hazlet, New Jersey when I was only five years old. Since then, my relationship with this state has been one of love/hate, with more feelings of the latter. Actually, at this point in time, it’s all hate. Linguistics and how people speak has been a particular passion because I can’t understand, sometimes, the words that come out of people’s mouths here. Below are the surefire ways that you can use to help behave like a New Jerseyan.
1. Pronounce Words Correctly. Who would have though that the capital of New Jersey is pronounced nothing like now it’s spelled by the natives of this state? It would seem simple enough; the two-syllable major city called Newark. Can’t be confused right? Well, actually yes. Fact is, people born in this state like to pronounce it as “Nork”. They say it in the middle of a sentence and continue on without breaking stride like a champ. I am dumbfounded at this and for a time thought it was a separate city.
There is one exception to the rule, though, and that is if you were born in New York and live in New Jersey, you pronounce it as “Nawk”. However, just referring to it as “the city you need to wear a bullet proof vest while walking through” works just as well. Then, in the event the letters “er” appear together in a word, they are to automatically be replaced by “oi”. Thus giving us words like “Joisey” and “Coicumcision”. Words like “toy”, “boy” and “soy” are to be left alone, though, unless you are traveling in from Massachusetts, and in that case, good luck!
2. Get Pulled Over by a State Trooper. You have not lived in this state unless you’ve had an altercation with one of our many, superior state troopers. These guys are like a different breed of human entirely. Drive down the Garden State Parkway and see one, and you better just surrender and pull over. The only way they’ll miss you is when they are driving 90 in a 65 MPH zone on their way to a donut run. But even so, only doing 90 MPH is considered the lightweight speed novices drive at.
Speeding is also the only thing they’ll pull you over for. Weaving? Okay. Drunk driving? Sure, go ahead. But speed? That’s where they draw the line. Can you blame them, though? It’s a real pain in the ass to have to slow down from 120 MPH to pull over someone doing 70 in a 60. There is also only one surefire way to get out of a speeding ticket, and that’s by crying. No, not sobbing, not even a trickle. You have to ball your eyes out and they’ll let you off with a pass. Unfortunately, this one works only if you are female between the ages of 18 and 25, and have boobs big enough to knock things over at the dinner table.
3. Feel Outrage over “Jersey Shore”. Guess I’m not a proper New Jerseyan because while state legislators were drawing up laws trying to get the show banned from being shown in this state, I was laughing my ass off. My friends know my hatred and disgust for reality TV, but there I was, glued to the set for every episode. Even though I’m Italian, I can’t really get angry at the producers of the show because they hit the proverbial nail right on the head. Yeah, I know, Snooki got punched in the face, and she’s a girl and you don’t hit girls. Blah, blah, blah. But there was not one person watching the show that night that didn’t jump for joy as soon as she hit the floor after being decked.
4. Visit Seaside Heights and Party Like It’s 1999. Strike two for me not being a good New Jerseyan. In the fourteen years I have lived in this garbage dump I have been to Seaside Heights once. I left with only one regret; that I didn’t have a concealed weapon on me. Not that I was afraid of my surroundings, or dying, for that matter, but it would have helped alleviate the setting that included gangs, Guidos, and flat-out seedy looking people. Hey, that sounds like New Jersey’s Holy Trinity.
5. Get Carded at a 7/11. A few weeks ago I was buying a bottle of water during a break I had from class and was behind a man with gray hair and a cane who was carded by the lady working at the counter, after wanting to purchase a pack of Parliament Lights. The man just stood there for a good minute looking at her and I was expecting her to jump up and shout, “You’re on Candid Camera!” But that never came. The only other words in English that she probably knew were “Hello”, “Thank You”, and “Here’s your change”. Nevertheless, he reluctantly handed over his ID and was allowed to buy them, but still, I had never seen that before.
Something along these lines that I’ve also noticed is that no privately owned gas station/deli/convenience store in the entire state will card a minor if they want to buy a tobacco product. My guess is that the taxes they have to pay make everyone look like a walking dollar sign, and they need the money so they allow the sale. Then there is everyone’s favorite; a certain Gulf station on route 35 in Hazlet where the people working there would sell cigarettes to a twelve year old.
6. Spend Ten Minutes on the Streets of Camden and Live to Tell About It. This also applies to other glorious cities such as Newark…err..excuse me, “Nork”, and certain parts of Trenton. I have never driven through a city that looked so horrible, not that scenery is something I care about, but bullet holes randomly appearing every few feet left me thanking Oden that I didn’t have to step out of the car. If you do have the misfortune of actually stepping outside, keep your eyes pointed at the ground and do not look anyone in the eye. Talking to yourself and pointing and laughing at objects that don’t exist also helps, because you’ll blend right in.
Newark may very well be the worst city of the group, but I make fun of it so much I wanted to give them a break…okay, never mind. Three times I have sent an email to the public relations staff at the Prudential Center suggesting that they do a “Bullet Proof Vest Night” promotion at select Devils games. I’m sure Kevlar would be more than willing to donate a couple thousand vests. It’s such a surprise that the Devils would grant me press credentials after that.
7. Eat a Squirrel in Ringwood. That’s right, you read it correctly; there is actually a town in New Jersey where the residents pride themselves on eating squirrels. Apparently, there is such an overpopulation of them, that eating squirrels is a town-wide past-time. But in 2007, the New York Sun released an article warning residents about their diet, citing: “New Jersey officials are warning hunters and residents near a toxic waste dump in the Ringwood area about consuming the animals, two months after a lead-contaminated squirrel was found in the area.” I don’t appreciate the stereotype of that certain area, though. I thought the entire state was a toxic waste dump.
Anyway, this obsession got so bad that the NY Daily News printed a follow-up article telling Ringwood residents that after studying remains of that thought-to-be-contaminated squirrel, it was actually a false alarm and the consumption of the animal was now allowed and safe. Regarding the possible lead poisoning, the article had this to say: “The Environmental Protection Agency said the blender used to process the squirrel was defective – and that the lead believed to be in the squirrel actually came from a part of the blender.”
Okay, so now they’re not just deep-frying the squirrels and making them into cutlets, but they are processing them in blenders. Hmm, I wonder what food they can make like that. Squirrel meatballs? Squirrel burgers? How about squirrel pate? Better yet, get your protein fill with a nice cold squirrel shake!
Closing thoughts: I have a feeling that over the course of the next few months, a sequel to this article will have to be written because there just isn’t enough dirt that can be thrown on New Jersey’s state seal. That said, I invite all readers to email me anything strange or unique that has happened to them in this state and I’ll include it in the next edition. My contact information is on the “About the Author” page, located on the bar at the top.