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Italian-Jewish Cultural Merger in the Working-Class Neighborhoods of NYC

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Bad Penny
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« on: July 06, 2011, 04:01:03 am »

I've noticed that, within the working-class neighborhoods of New York City, the Italian and Jewish communities seem to be melding into a single ethnic group.

A great deal of intermarriage seems, to me, to be occurring, and intercultural influence is increasing.  One example of the latter: as a Roman Catholic, there are certain days when I'm not allowed to eat meat, except for fish, so, when I'm in NYC I know to go to a Glatt Kosher restaurant, almost all of which serve spaghetti with fishballs.  (This will, of course, be served on a paper plate with plastic utensils to avoid the whole milchik/fleischik deal, as well as the "touched by a Gentile" deal)  Even in a non-Kosher setting, there's a restaurant in Manhattan (owned by a Korean!) that serves only pizza and knishes.

Further, there's the Jewish singer Jay Black (best known as the lead singer of "Jay and the Americans"), born in the Bronx in the mid-1930's, who speaks English without the slightest trace of a Yiddish accent, but with just the slightest trace of an Italian accent, which indicates, to me, that this phenomenon has been going on for some time.  (By the slightest trace of an Italian accent, I refer to Mr. Black's insertion of very short voiceless vowels to break up consonant clusters forbidden by the phonotactic constraints of Italian, but permitted by those of both English and Yiddish, as well as his pronunciation of his dental stops (i.e., "d" and "t") as true dentals (as per Italian), as opposed to the alveolodental pronunciation of these consonants common to English and Yiddish.

Here's Mr, Black singing "Cara Mia" (and notice that the title of the song is "Cara Mia" rather than "My Dear" or "Mein Liebling"), which illustrates these aspects of his speech:


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