Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
September 27, 2022

Imma let you finish, but New York has some of the most forced PR of all time.

Taylor Swift just released her new album, 1989. Hurray! She wrote a song about my hometown called “Welcome to New York.” Great! From following her and Lena Dunham on Instagram, I know that she has lived in New York for about a year now.

That is about as much as I’ve heard and it has been on the periphery of my mind ever since. I thought to myself, “Wait, what happened to Nashville?” and “It was bound to happen sometime” and “Sucks that she will probably only spend about eight seconds there.”

But, when I found out that she was recently appointed Global Welcome Ambassador by NYC Go, the official tourism guide for New York, I rolled my eyes so hard that I pulled an ocular nerve.

Not only is this the most forced attempt to get people to come to the city (which doesn’t need the publicity); it is kind of an insult to eight million people who have lived there longer, and some who were born there and are more famous than her. I’m not going to make a list of all of the people who could have been chosen for this title. So many people before me have done that very thing, or at least commented about how ludicrous it all is.

I just Googled “taylor swift new york” and the following headlines popped up: “Taylor Swift’s New York Isn’t Typical: 9 Real NYC Things the Pop Star Will Never Experience” (E! Online), “Taylor Swift’s Guide To NYC” (Gothamist), “New York Is Taylor Swift’s New Boyfriend” (Daily Beast), “Why Taylor Swift’s ‘Welcome to New York’ Is Bullshit” (Village Voice Blogs), “New Yorkers ‘insulted’ by appointment of pop star Taylor Swift as Big Apple’s Global Welcome Ambassador” (Daily Mail UK), “Taylor Swift Explaining New York Vocabulary Is Beyond Cringeworthy” (Huffington Post) and “Taylor Swift Makes New York Embarrassing,” (Gawker).

Oof. The snark is spilling from my computer screen. How DARE she talk about New York being the greatest city in the world like we don’t know this already?!?! For shame! Whatever. It seems to me that Taylor is no longer country and wants to distance herself from the Nashville scene and wants all of her friends to join her. Or maybe she’s just trying New York out, like plenty of 20-somethings do. I get it. Maybe she deserves the title because she is discovering the city for the first time, like many tourists will be doing.

But part of her job as ambassador, it seems, is to be in a few contrived videos where she explains things about New York. In one, she translates some vocabulary like “bodega” and “stoop.” Oy vey. It’s so laughable.

I’ve made a list for Taylor Swift, a relatively new resident of my city, with some vocabulary of my own. See, Tay, I’m not gonna hate, but I’ll play.

Here are a few definitions of words and phrases I know as someone who went to New York City Public Schools in the early 00’s.

Slang:

Mad — very.

Tight — “Why you mad though?”; can also be “You tight?” It means the same thing. “Hell yeah, I’m tight! It’s mad brick out!”

Brolic — chiseled, buff.

Tukhus — If you aren’t Jewish, this was the word that you knew for sure was Yiddish. Then you realize you have been using Yiddish words your whole life without knowing it.

Taste — When you go to the deli and ask for a small sample of their finest lox. “Can I have a taste?”

Huh? — A question that can also be translated to: “What’s your problem?” and “Would you shut up for one second?”

On line — New Yorkers say that we wait on line instead of in line. I don’t know why we do this but if you hear someone say they waited on line for hours, you know he/she is definitely from New York.

Things/Entities:

Bodega cat — It’s just hanging. Don’t touch it.

Bombers — The best team in baseball.

Pizza Principle — The cost of a slice is the same as a ride on the subway.

Mallomars — The best thing you will ever eat.

Pal — You can call someone this when he/ she has affronted you. “Hey pal, there’s a line.”

Transportation/Places:

Gypsy cabs — Unmetered cabs, usually black cars, that stop when you have your hand raised and try to get you to negotiate a price BEFORE you get into the cab. I don’t think I have ever ridden in one.

Crosstown — Traveling from the west side to the east side or a bus that takes you from the west side to the east side.

D.R. — The Dominican Republic. Everybody I knew growing up abbreviated this, but it seems that no one outside New York does.

The George Washington Bridge — A bridge that takes you to New Jersey and there is no abbreviation for it, sorry.

The Island — Long Island. “I was on the Island the other day for Thanksgiving.”

Bridge and tunnel (B&T) — A pejorative term for people who commute to New York City from New Jersey or Long Island. “What’s that noise?” “Some B&Ts having a bachelorette party.” “Ohhh."

DUMBO — A neighborhood that stands for “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.”

I am very happy that Taylor is inspired by a place where many people before her have found inspiration. But for the people who were born there or who move there and assimilate into the city’s rhythm, it is an all-encompassing character in their lives.

It is important to remember that New York is not for everyone. For many people, living in New York is a fad and is something to do when they are young. I would wager the same for Taylor, who might move on when her next album comes out, and that’s okay.

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