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VIDEO: De Blasio Uses More of a New York Accent in State of the City Speech

By Katie Honan | February 3, 2015 4:25pm
 Bill de Blasio's accent on words including "neighborhoods" was more in line with New York City's dialect.
Bill de Blasio's accent on words including "neighborhoods" was more in line with New York City's dialect.
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Flickr/NYC Mayor's Office

NEW YORK CITY — Mayor Bill de Blasio may be from Boston, but he said fuggedaboutit to Beantown in his State of the City speech Tuesday.

Hizzoner, a Massachusetts transplant, trotted out a more pronounced New York accent during the address at Baruch College, saying "neigh-bah-hood" instead of "neigh-bor-hood," as he had in previous speeches.

Here is the Mayor's 2014 Inaugural Address:


And here is Tuesday's State of the City Speech:


During the speech Tuesday, he detailed his plans for the future, including a five-borough ferry system and thousands of more units of affordable housing.  

De Blasio's pronunciation of "neighborhood" — which he uttered more than 20 times — had a more regional accent than in previous public speaking appearances, according to linguist Daniel Kaufman, the founder and executive director of the Endangered Language Alliance, which recently helped organize an exhibit on accents. 

"That is definitely an aberration in relation to de Blasio's dialect, which is very standard," he said.

De Blasio, who grew up in Massachusetts, usually "sounds like he could be from anywhere," Kaufman said.

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who also grew up in Massachusetts, worked hard to rid himself of the New England accent, according to this 2006 New York Times article.

"He may be the first mayor of NYC to speak without any trace of a NYC dialect," Kaufman said. "Giuliani, Dinkins and Koch spoke the Italian, African-American and Jewish ethnolects of NYC, respectively."

But de Blasio's inflection was more defined during Tuesday's speech, Kaufman said, suggesting that de Blasio's recent woes with the police unions may have been a factor.

"Maybe this is a liability now that he's having issues with the police, a community that is quite strongly identified with the dialects of working class people of NYC," he added.

Michael Newman, a professor of linguistics at Queens College an the author of the book "New York City English," said most people aren't consistent with the regional pronunciations. 

The mayor generally pronounces his "Rs," "but anyone who grew up in Boston is likely to drop r-s at least occasionally," he said.

A spokesman for the mayor's office said De Blasio had not worked on his accent but said the question was "the most ridiculous inquiry we’ve gotten yet in 2015."

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