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I was studying linguistics at Georgetown U from about 1967 to 1972, and I remember a book about the dialect of New York City by the sociolinguist William Labov.

Labov considered NYC a "sink of linguistic insecurity" and quoted a woman whom he had interviewed: "Out of town they talk more refined."

The book contained a short list of expressions that were supposed to be sure indications that the speaker had connections with the metro New York area. Among them were such things as "stoop" and "wooon't" (instead of won't) and several more that brought back memories to me, but one of them stopped me in my tracks: "stand on line." I couldn't imagine why that was supposed to be characteristic of NYC. It was so much a part of my own speech that I guess I hadn't noticed until then that everybody else says "stand in line."

I've noticed a couple more on my own: people from other parts of the country, particularly cocktail waitresses, pronounce Manhattan as if there were a vowel in the first syllable, whereas it's really just what linguists call the "vocalic n." And I remember the first time somebody asked me if I was a "Yankees fan." I said, "a WHAT?" I didn't think there was any such thing as a Yankees fan. I have been a Yankee fan since about 1938. And I often wear a Yankee hat.

But when I was a kid I lived ON Staten Island. I notice from the traffic in this forum that there's no consensus about that; many of us seem to live IN Staten Island.

Has anybody got any opinions about this, other than that I ought to get a life?

Jim Donnelly

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