The new New York speak

Liel Leibovitz
Liel Leibovitz
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I live in New York City. Maybe you’ve heard of it? It’s a little bit famous, and if you’ve watched movies or TV shows these past, say, hundred and twenty years, you’ve likely seen my hometown sparkling brilliantly on screen.

And now, you too can learn to speak like a real New Yorker! This week, New York Magazine—the favorite publication of the very smart and fashionable people who like their workdays short and their espressos long—published a guide to New York etiquette, in an effort to help us tired, poor, huddled masses be better.

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So how must a real New Yorker speak, according to our self-appointed elites?

First, if you’re fortunate enough to be in a relationship, you mustn’t ask your single friends questions about their dating life. Your “blissful insulation” from the laborious and oppressive process of getting to know other people who may be suitable romantic partners, the sages of New York Magazine remind us, is a privilege. And like all forms of privilege, this one, too, must be acknowledged and apologized for. Who are you, after all, to lord it over your friends by blithely displaying basic curiosity and rudimentary compassion? Better to apologize for being happy and then stare at your friends in silence.

Should you, though, for some unfathomable reason, wish to say something about the man or woman you love, you may only refer to your significant other as your “partner” if you “are actively resisting the patriarchy by refusing to get married.” Otherwise, you are guilty of being both “vaguely annoying” and “smug.”

Got that? Good. You’re ready to learn more advanced New Yorkese. Here, then, is a pop quiz: Say you walk into a room and spot two or more women you know and wish to greet. How should you address them? If you answered “ladies,” kindly pack your bags and leave our overpriced little island at once, because referring to women as ladies, New York Magazine tells us, is “oddly creepy when it comes from a man.” What if you’re a woman, though? May you say “ladies” then? No, you may not, you monster, because that is merely “an unnecessary attempt to feign some kind of unity or connection between women,” which, according to the elite’s favorite publication, is very, very bad.

Okay. So you may not refer to these women you meet as ladies. Cool. You can still ask them what they do for a living, right? Wrong again, rube: That, the magazine teaches us, is both “classist and boring.” Telling people they resemble other people, like famous and attractive movie stars? That’s “ambiently racist and frequently weird.” How about making banal small talk about the weather? That’s great actually, because “there’s plenty to say” about the imminent threats of global warming.

If you’re not already a member of the deranged cult of post-human wraiths that haunt New York’s tiny, gilded halls, you probably find all these prohibitions exhausting. You may wish, then, to escape the constricting world of overly regulated, censorious social interactions and indulge instead in some good old-fashioned work. Surely being productive doesn’t come with as many rules, right? This is New York, my friend—rules are all we’ve got these days, and, at the office as well as at home, you must obey.

The rules at work, New York Magazine coolly informs us, are clear. Your bosses and your colleagues alike have the right to call, text, or otherwise try to reach you in any way and at any hour. Got a minor work question you’d like answered at 3:42 a.m.? No need to wait until morning! Just pull out that phone and call your co-worker. “We can’t successfully move into the future,” New York Magazine concludes on a delightfully Soviet note, “unless we recognize that the onus is on the receiver, not the sender.” In other words, if you choose to own a smart phone—the very device without which you can no longer function in modern society—don’t whine if someone feels like being chatty well past midnight.

But if you should run into your colleague in real life—say, on the subway—ignore them. The real world, the guide informs us, “is a sacred space not to be infringed upon,” a fortress of solitude where no one may greet another or interrupt another with an offending “hi there” or “so good to see you.” Such pleasantries are only acceptable online, which is where smart and successful people live anyway.

So please: If, for whatever reason, you choose to visit our struggling island and see me walking down the street, forget all of these stupid rules, come on over, and say hello. We New Yorkers—the real ones, not the doddering snobs—are friendly, opinionated, and have no patience for folks who try to tell us what we can and can’t say. And if you see someone reading New York Magazine, here’s a friendly bit of advice: Walk away.

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Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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