Monday, January 17, 2011

"Standing on Line to Get a Plain Slice to Stay": A Guide to Communicating with the New York Husband

The first time my husband and I went out to get pizza together I realized we had trouble.  We stood at the counter considering the menu and discussing crusts and toppings and sizes.  With the teenage cashier raising his eyebrows in that are-you-ready-to-order-NOW? manner we decided on two pizzas.  I would order one with my favorite toppings, and he would choose his.  I ordered the first pizza without incident.  Probably some combination like sausage and mushrooms and tomatoes and olives.  Then it happened.  The first of many future communication circuses.  Taking his turn to order the pizza he wanted, my husband looked directly at the cashier and said the second pizza should be, and I quote, "Plain."  Plain?  The cashier and I both stared at my husband in confusion and silence.  A few more moments and still silence.  I am not sure who asked first, but our mutual question was, "Huh?"  Or perhaps one of us asked, "What?"  And now it was my husband's turn to look confused, "What what?"  Back at him, "What do you mean 'what'?"  A few more rounds of this 'Who's on first?' schtick, and we finally began working together to investigate this mystery.  I was standing there wondering why in the world my husband would want crust with just tomato sauce on it.  My husband was standing there wondering why no one understood him.  And I am pretty sure the cashier was standing there wondering when someone was going to tell him what-the-heck kind of pizza we wanted so he could get back to checking his text messages.  After some further discussion that evening I came to understand that crust and sauce was not a "plain" pizza, and my husband came to understand that crust and sauce and cheese was considered a "cheese" pizza outside of New York City.

Before this incident I thought I had pretty good communication skills and some general grasp of the vernacular in different parts of the United States.  And then I married a New Yorker.  For anyone who is aware this unique language exists in the first place, a quick run through a search engine produces a number of results for 'New Yorkisms', but how do you know what you don't know?  I had no idea that sitting in my living room, standing in the kitchen, or walking through a park would become complicated events because a girl from the Midwest met a boy from NYC, and they attempted to carry on a conversation. . .

I have started a list of befuddling New York language for those of you whose relationships might be saved in the future or just in case you are traveling and find yourself trying to negotiate some sort of sanity in interacting with a New Yorker:

  • "go inside" means going to another room (Note:  Please be aware, you are already inside and not outside when this phrase will be used, and any other room you are not currently occupying is the possible destination.)
  • "run the dishes off" means to start the dishwasher (Note:  Not to be confused with scaring the dishes away.)
  • "stand on line" means to stand in line
  • "to stay or to go" means taking your food from a restaurant or eating it there rather than "for here or to go".
  • "a slice" means a piece of pizza
  • "plain" pizza means cheese pizza
  • "pie" means pizza (Note:  I have not figured out how to describe pumpkin or apple or lemon meringue, but 'pie' is definitely pizza.)
  • "bodega" means a small corner convenience store
  • "sliding pond" means a playground slide (Note:  No ponds are near these.)
  • the floor” means the ground (e.g. When walking down the street with someone, and they drop a piece of food then pick it up your response should be “You can’t eat that! It fell on the floor!)
  • "I live 'on' the Upper West Side" (Note:  No one lives "on Downtown", "on the Northeast", "on the Southwest", or "on [insert name of a neighborhood]".)
  • "Jersey" is New Jersey, and while it wouldn't make sense to drop the "New" from New York only visitors or tourists say "New Jersey".
  • "the train" is actually the subway, and anytime it's another train the actual name is used (e.g. Amtrak, MetroNorth, etc.)
  • In NYC residents of upper Manhattan refer to 207 Street at "two seventh". This has resulted in visitors being told to go to the last stop on the A train getting out at 28th street.

If anyone has some more and can help a Midwestern girl out by sharing them my husband's patience thanks you in advance.  I'll get them added to the list just as soon as I go inside. . .

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