Bodega, Pie And On Line: New York Slang And Tips For Visiting The Big Apple

A must-read if you’re planning a trip to the city.
New York slang represented by a young man and woman walking down a Brooklyn street on a sunny fall day.

A visit to New York is a great experience. There’s no other metropolis like it in the world. The Big Apple surprises tourists with its grandeur, noise and, sometimes, the language used by its residents (among other things). Some say it’s New York “slang,” but I recommend leaving the debate on this topic to the interested parties, as it can evoke a lot of emotions. For example, the phrase I’m on line — as in, I’m waiting on line to get a slice of pizza — can divide its residents and visitors from other states. Pretty much everywhere else, you wait in line.

Stand Clear Of The Closing Doors, Please

Many books and studies have been written about the New York subway. It’s been generating a great deal of interest since 1904, the year the first underground train opened. Today, it has 26 lines and 472 stations, and using it requires extraordinary skill and acceptance of the inevitable mistakes everyone makes.

Let’s start at the beginning. That is, the entrance to the metro station. In front of the turnstiles — that time and again people jump over — there are stalls, or booths. And in those booths sit employees of the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority), or the subway agents. Avoiding going through the gates can prove fatal. In 2022, as a result of one of the aforementioned jumps, a 28-year-old man died after an unfortunate fall to the concrete floor. Of course, travelers on the subway here are informed of relevant regulations thanks to NYPD (New York City Police Department) oversight.

Let’s head to the platform. You might be surprised by the amount of information on the boards. First, it is important to understand that elongated Manhattan is divided into Downtown, Midtown and Uptown. Locating these words can be helpful once in a while when you need to figure out which way you’re going. These aren’t always perfect, though, because the walls — especially in Manhattan — are bound to be covered in service changes, where certain lines might be running on different tracks or not running at all at night or on the weekends.

It is worth remembering that subway lines are divided into the locals that stop at every or almost every station, and express lines. These are designed to quickly transport passengers and support the busiest destinations. Thus, choosing the wrong line can cost us a lot of nerves, like when you get on an express car by accident and end up a few dozen blocks away from where you meant to go.

While New Yorkers love the subway, they’ll be the first to admit that there are often extensive delays. In extreme cases, you may have to listen for announcements about how to find a detour around the out-of-service stations. When we finally manage to get on the right subway, the world-famous announcement will come from the loudspeakers: Stand clear of the closing doors, please!, which is the command to move deeper into the carriage.

At the end of our trip, it is worth remembering the difference between: transfer and a connection. A transfer is a change to another subway line without having to go through another turnstile. A connection, on the other hand, involves a change in the mode of transportation, like to a bus (which is also part of the MTA).

And note, if you ask someone for help and hear the question Are you going to the city? that in New York slang means a trip to Manhattan. Although Queens is the largest borough in New York City and Brooklyn the most densely populated, Manhattan is considered the city. This has to do with the city’s history, since the heart of the metropolis, or downtown, was located in Manhattan from the very beginning (although it was the areas west of the Bronx River that were settled first).

Time To Stand In Line. Er, On Line

New York offers residents and tourists countless restaurants, bars and street food stalls. During lunch hours, you can easily spot them because queues inside and outside are all over the place. Therefore, the questions Are you waiting on line? or Who’s next on line? are frequent. After all, they have nothing to do with surfing the net, but waiting patiently for our turn…. in the queue (line).

Pizza lovers may also be surprised. The Italian dish in New York is a pie or a slice. Red pie is a pizza with tomato sauce, white pie with white sauce and ricotta cheese. When going for New York’s famous bagels, it’s important to remember that for the famous bun with a hole, we must match the schmear, usually cream cheese. If you suddenly get hungry, you can always pop into a local store (bodega). Interestingly, almost all of them have huge banners above the entrance with the word deli, an informal abbreviation for delicatessen. Only those located within Latin American neighborhoods, such as the Little Dominican Republic, stand out with signs actually reading La Bodega.

If you like Asian cuisine, you can always go to Koreatown (K-Town for short) or Chinatown. Although some say it’s better to leave Manhattan for this purpose and make a trip to Queens, to an area called Flushing (yes, New York is so big there’s more than one Chinatown). Fans of Italian flavors are sure to find something to their liking within Little Italy, as well as in Harlem, upper Manhattan. There you can also eat excellent South American cuisine. The El Barrio neighborhood will not disappoint fans of Puerto Rican and Caribbean food.

What if you’re out for a fancy night on the town? This is one of those questions for with no single right answer, though Hell’s Kitchen is a common neighborhood for those with expensive tastes. It’s a neighborhood near Central Park, and it’s famous for its numerous world-class restaurants. There are several theories as to how the neighborhood got its name, but none have anything to do with the local gastronomy.

To end the night, you can pop out for a drink, or cocktail, at one of the local speakeasy bars, which harken back to the Prohibition era, when nightlife in the city hid from the police.

We’re All Neighbors

Finally, it is worth mentioning that New York has 5 districts (boroughs). They are the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island. New Yorkers, sometimes referred to by Americans from other states as Yankees or Yanks, have strong ties to the neighborhood they inhabit. That’s why they define themselves as Bronxites, Brooklynites, ManhattanitesStaten Islanders and Queensians (that last one is pretty rare, actually). However, when asked where they live, they tend to mention their neighborhood. And so we come to a point where — despite the vastness of the area — we all live really close to each other in New York. Like neighbors!

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