Last summer, I went on a four-month, 16,000-mile road trip (plus flights to and from Hawaii from Las Vegas) to see the 18 states I hadn’t been to yet. When making small talk with strangers, they’d often ask me where I traveled from.
“But you don’t TAWWWWWK like that,” they’d say when I told them I’m from New Jersey while riding on a national park shuttle bus, or checking in a hotel, or sitting at whatever local coffee shop I’d found in Tulsa, Bozeman or Denver.
“I’m from South Jersey. We don’t speak like that there,” I’d reply.
If I tried to just respond first with “South Jersey,” they’d look at me like it didn’t make a difference.
It very much does make a difference, to the point that in 1980, six southern counties in New Jersey voted in a non-binding referendum to split South Jersey off into the 51st state. It was largely a publicity stunt, but one meant to make a point about the organizers’ grievances, one being that state politicians took our tax dollars and flung them north, never to return.