Most of the accents were Hungarian.
or click here) the way Dracula spoke in the 1931 classic film of the same name, you get the idea of a classic Hungarian accent. As a result of the film, many people associate that accent with men in capes who sleep in coffins during the day.While I'm pretty sure I actually had a great uncle who did just that, I associate the accent with home, family and love.
Not everyone in the house was Hungarian, however.
My Uncle Tommy's wife, Mary, born in Puerto Rico, speaks with a Spanish/New Yor-ican accent. While she became an adept cook of my uncle's favorite Hungarian dishes, she can't pronounce their names without giving them a distinct Latin flair.
Though born in the very house in which she (and I) grew up in Brooklyn, my mother's first language was Hungarian, not English. But by the time I showed up, she had no discernable accent other than that of her native borough.
My grandpa, who lived to be 92, was one of those people whose accent grew heavier the longer he lived. To hear him bellow at the Mets -- as they blew game after game on the old cabinet TV -- in his thick accent, was a summertime routine.
Needless to say, I am very fond of the Hungarian accent. If I hear it in public, spoken by strangers, I sidle over and, inconspicuously, try to listen to the familiar inflections as memories rise around me like high tide at Coney Island.
|"Wanna get some cawfee?"|
I, myself, did not escape an accent and freely and loudly speak Brooklyn to this day. I can turn it on or off as the occasion dictates. For example, I toned it down ever so slightly when being introduced to Charlie's professors last year at graduation but let it rip when I'm with old friends from the neighborhood.
Speaking of which, many years ago when I was 21 and dinosaurs freely roamed the earth, I visited California to spend some time with family.
My relatives were true Californians....complete with a Cali way of speaking and a laid-back attitude.The trip included Los Angeles and San Diego but I ended up in Palm Springs--the arid, chic playground of the then-stars, such as Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra.
One evening, we all went to a restaurant called "Pal Joey's" which, I was told, was an occasional hang-out of none other than Mr. Sinatra, himself.
Roughly eight of us were seated at a large, centrally located table when I noticed, lingering at the bar, a leathery middle-aged gentleman looking at me very intently. I soon realized that, not only was he staring but he'd begun a slow stroll towards our table.
Wearing a tight-fitting black shirt, with a semi-longish comb-over, he had the look of a 70's hit man. As he approached, I become nervous, bracing myself as he came right up to the table.
Did I remind him of an old girlfriend who had done him wrong...an employee who'd embezzled his money...his long-lost mother who'd run away with the circus when he was just a boy? Was I about to be accused of something, thrown out, shot by the concealed pistol he kept tucked discreetly into his polyester waistband?
Arriving at our table, he suddenly grinned. And, out of his smiling lips, came the purest form of a Brooklyn accent I'd heard since I boarded my flight west. Looking directly at me, his teeth very white against a deep, desert tan, he said,"YagottabefromBrooklyn! WhatpartaBrooklynyafrom?"
Laughing in relief and delighted to meet a New Yorker in the alien environs of California, I listened as he explained that he hadn't heard the accent of his homeland up close in a long time and that he missed it very much. We chatted as the table of west coast natives looked on in confusion. I honestly don't think they understood a word we said.
It turns out that he was the owner of the restaurant--a Brooklyn native adrift in a sea of valley-speak, drinks were now on the house.
As memories go, I will nevah,evah fuhggedaboudit.