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Dropping the Vowel

At dinner this evening Leila and I got into a conversation about Italian words losing the last vowel (mozzarell instead of mozzarella). If you’re not from the New York area this will sound crazy, but it’s pretty common here (I remember hearing it growing up in Connecticut as well).

When I got home I tried to track down an article I remember reading years ago about this phenomena and while I can’t remember whether this was it, a New York Times article from 2004 offers up some ideas on how this happened:

In fact, in some parts of Italy, the dropping of final vowels is common. Restaurantgoers and food shoppers in the United States ended up imitating southern and northern dialects, where speakers often do not speak their endings, Professor Albertini said.

Liliana Dussi, a retired New York district director for the Berlitz language schools, said many first- and second-generation Italians whose ancestors immigrated to the United States before World War I were informally taught Italian expressions and the names of food, some of which has ended up part of everyday language in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

If you want more, this Chowhound thread is pretty excellent.

November 20, 2011 // This post is about: , , ,


  • Nick says:

    The one that caught me most off guard when I moved here was ‘gobba ghoul’ for capacola ham. Double-take city.

  • Enrico says:

    Hey man,

    so funny to read this post. Most of the original immigrants back in the day came here from southern areas of Italy. When you hear folks dropping that vowel it means they (or their ancestors) have origins from places such as Naples and below (Calabria or Sicily regions etc)

    American Italian culture/cuisine around NYC/Philly is heavily influenced by this original southern wave of immigration during the big wars and doesn’t often represent Italy accurately and in its entirety :)

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