The Jersey Shore and the Jersey Accent

The Dialect Blog, a site that I don’t mention enough, but is quite excellent, has a nice little piece on how the accents featured on the reality TV show The Jersey Shore are actually mostly New York accents.

I grew up on the Jersey shore. During summers in my college years I even worked on the Seaside Heights boardwalk. So, while it’s been a while since I’ve been immersed in this particular dialectal environment, I can attest that this post is dead-on. The locals could spot the bennies easily, based largely on accent.

(Benny is a mildly derogatory, Monmouth and Ocean County, New Jersey term for a tourist from upstate or New York. It’s fading from use now, but you’ll hear it occasionally. It even made an appearance on The Jersey Shore. (Yes, I watched, and was amused by, the first season.) The origin of benny is uncertain. It could be from a New York term meaning “Jew,” but if so, it has lost all anti-Semitic connotation in the move south. Other explanations I’ve heard, but have no evidence for and which I suspect are etymythologies, are that the word is from people who come to the shore for the “benny-ficial rays of the sun” and from the fact that way back when, many people came to the beach bearing lunches packed in a shoe boxes from a Benny’s shoe store, which was somewhere up north.)

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