The Language of New Jersey

If you live in New Jersey, you know we have a language all our own. However, if you are just a visitor, you may not know how best to communicate with us. Here are a few suggestion to help navigate a typical conversation.

“How You Doin’?”

Most people in other states start conversations with “hi” or “hello.” Well, here in Jersey, we start with “how you doin’?” Now to clarify, we aren’t really asking how you are; and quite frankly, we usually don’t care.

“You Good”

Now this one can be tricky. This phrase has multiple meanings. What is important here is the inflection. Here’s the full list of possibilities

You good: Are you OK?
You good: You are OK.
You good: How have you been?
You good: Stop talking. Just stop.
You good: You’re welcome.
You good: No need to apologize.
You good: You need some money?
You good: You got a problem?!

Down the Shore

In New Jersey it doesn’t matter where you live, you go “down the shore.” Once you are staying at the shore, then you “go to the beach.” And everyone has specific shore towns they prefer at certain points during their lives. In high school it is usually Seaside for the boardwalk food and the games. That was my spot. The hipster spot is usually Asbury Park. I’ve only been there once for 102.7 Beach Day in high school. Once I was dating my then-boyfriend (now husband), it was Island Beach State Park. After we were married, it was Wildwood Crest. If we could afford it, I would love a home in Cape May.

Benny and Shoobie

While we are on the the shore, there are two references to people who do not live down the shore full time and only venture to South Jersey during the summer. A “Benny” refers to Bayonne, Elizabeth, Newark and New York-area residents who head down the shore. They tend to stick with the more northern shore towns. A “Shoobie” is the same as a Benny, but refers to visitors from farther south, usually Philadelphia. The origin is believed to come from day-trippers who took the train to the shore, bringing lunch in a shoe box many decades ago. People don’t carry their lunch in a shoe box anymore, but the term lives on. Now there’s a whole battle between the full-timers and the visitors, but that’s a post for a different day.

“Take the Jughandle”

A typical jughandle in New Jersey.

In all my travels, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a jughandle anywhere else. It definitely causes confusion for out-of-state drivers. Simply put, on many roads in the great Garden State, if you want to make a left, you go right, follow the road around, and then go straight. The term refers to the look of the turn; like the handle of a jug.

“Wow. That’s crazy.”

There often comes a point during a conversation when people just start to tune you out. Maybe you’ve yammered on too long. Maybe the listener has lost interest. It is pretty rude, even for a New Jerseyan, to tell someone to just shut up. That’s kept for very specific circumstances. If you hear “wow; that’s crazy” twice during the same story, that means “wrap up it; I no longer care.”

“Want to go to the Diner?”

New Jersey is without a doubt the diner capital of the world and we are proud of it. We all have our favorites and will just about argue to the death that ours is the best. When I was in high school, my friends and I would always go to the Arlington Diner in North Arlington and the Lyndhurst Diner in Lyndhurst. Later on I would go to the Tick Tock in Clifton. Now that we live in Morris County, we go to the Roxbury Diner, the Jefferson Diner, and the Hibernia Diner.

Disco Fries

While we are on the subject of diners, let’s talk about something unique to Jersey – Disco Fries. No one else could come up with this combination, I promise you. Diner fries with melted mozzarella and topped with brown gravy. This is usually a 3:00 a.m. request on the way home from wherever you were earlier in the evening. After my prom, we headed into New York City. On the way home we stopped at a diner and ordered Disco Fries.

North Jersey/South Jersey

Now New Jersey may be a single state, however, there is a distinct difference between the language of North Jersey and South Jersey. I am a life-long North Jersey resident, so my language includes sub (a sandwich on long Italian roll), Taylor Ham (a much beloved and delicious pork product), Mischief Night (the night before Halloween when the focus is on the tricks and not the treats) and the teams are the Giants and the Jets. In South Jersey, a sub is a hoagie, Taylor Ham is Pork Roll, Mischief Night is Goosey Night, and the team is the Eagles. We all agree on one thing, however; Central Jersey is a myth.

And More…

There’s a lot more when it comes to the culture and language of New Jersey, but this will get you started. There is one thing you will discover quickly; we have serious Jersey Pride! We may joke with each other about our state, but if you’re not from here, you will get a mouth full of Jersey attitude if you try to dish it out. Yes, we know we have a sort-of accent. No, we don’t find asking us to say words like “coffee” or “water” funny. We aren’t really amused by “what exit,” even though we will ask each other. Jersey isn’t just a place to live. It is an attitude. And you are either from here and have it or you are from somewhere else and don’t. Jersey people will always stand up for other Jersey people. Even the ones we don’t like. We are all about protecting and representing. That’s what Jersey Pride is all about.

“Down the Shore” – Part Two in a Series

The Jersey Shore encompasses over 140 miles of beautiful coastline. Famous for its boardwalks, arcades, and amusement piers, each shore town has its own unique vibe. Seaside Heights, which developed a bad reputation thanks to a terrible television show, is popular with teenagers and young twenty-somethings, while Wildwood Crest is more popular with families. The shore region is made up to five different counties – Ocean, Atlantic, Cape May, Middlesex, and Monmouth.

Now I will say there is a “love/hate” relationship between the full-time residents of South Jersey and the seasonal visitors of North Jersey. Seasonal visitors, often called “BENNYs” (which stands for Brooklyn/Bayonne, Elizabeth, Newark, New York), are considered rude, litter the beaches, and generally act like idiots. As a life-long North Jersey resident, I’ve seen “BENNY behavior” first hand and it is embarrassing. NJ.com even posted an article awhile back about how to not be a BENNY. At the same time, however, the summer months play a key role in the economy of these shore towns by visitors spending a lot of money on vacation, which creates jobs,  generates tax income (via crazy parking costs and tickets), and other positive local contributions. When Hurricane Sandy destroyed many of these shore towns, BENNYs (and their money) were welcomed with open arms. Quickly, however, it returned to “BENNYs go home.” If you don’t act like an ass, for the most part, visitors are treated well.

If you ask most Jersey residents, North Jersey and South Jersey are practically considered two separate states, and at one point in history, New Jersey was two separate colonies. The so-called “Central Jersey” doesn’t really exist.

Nevertheless, the Jersey Shore has a fabled and rich history.

Many people today are unaware of the role New Jersey, and especially the Raritan Bay shore, played in the lives of many pirate legends in the late l7th and early I8th centuries. The waters between Sandy Hook and New York City were infested with pirates and French privateers. Blackbeard raided farms and villages near what is today Middletown, and Captain Morgan often visited the area.¹ To this day, there are many who still search the Jersey Shore for the hidden gold of these fabled pirates.

GATE-Sandy-Hook-Lighthouse-websmall

The 250-year-old Sandy Hook Lighthouse. 
NPS / JERRY KASTEN, Volunteer-In-Parks

The barrier island of Sandy Hook, part of what is known as “The Higlands,” has a long history that predates the formation of the United States. The oldest route to the eastern coast of the United States is the Minisink Trail which started on the upper Delaware River, came through northern New Jersey and ended at the Navesink River. Navesink means “good fishing spot” in the native tongue at the time. The trail was used by Native Americans, such as the Algonquin and Lenni Lenapi tribes. They came from all over New Jersey to spend the summer fishing and finding clams. The Newasunks, Raritans, and Sachem Papomorga (or Lenni Lenapis) were the most prevalent tribes and stayed the longest. These were the tribes which mostly traded with early settlers.² Richard Hartshorne purchased a 2,320-acre tract of land from the Native Americans which provided him with control of nearly all of Sandy Hook and Highlands which was then called “Portland Poynt.” Hartshorne and his family became the first permanent settlers of the area.² Built in 1764 to help reduce shipwrecks, Sandy Hook is home to the oldest operating lighthouse in America and a National Historic Landmark. A primary mission of the fort was the defense of New York Harbor. From 1874 to 1919, Sandy Hook also served as the U.S. Army’s first proving ground for testing new weapons and ordnance.³ The 1,665-acre area of Sandy Hook became part of the National Park Service in 1975 after the Army deactivated Fort Hancock. Today it is a beautiful area full of wildlife, historical buildings, great beaches, and of course that important lighthouse.

Before Atlantic City was known as “the little sister of Las Vegas,” it was known for its four miles of boardwalk, built in 1870. Since 1921, it has been home to the Miss America pageant. In 1853, the first commercial hotel, the Belloe House, was built at the intersection of Massachusetts and Atlantic Avenues.4

So as you can see, the Jersey Shore has a wonderful history. I hope you check back for my next post in this series.

Sources:

1: http://weirdnj.com/stories/mystery-history/captain-kidd/

2: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highlands,_New_Jersey

3: http://www.visitnj.org/city/sandy-hook

4: http://www.cityofatlanticcity.org/about.aspx