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He had an all-American look from the top of his blow-dried brown hair to the bottom of his black boots—a distance of some five feet two inches. But when Little Sammy spoke, his ’dese, ’dem, and ’dose made it apparent that he had never discovered a “th” sound in the English language.

 
In a way, Little Sammy restored my faith in people from Brooklyn. I was a Southerner newly arrived in New York, and one of my ideas of fun in Fun City was to mingle with people of different cultures, observing their customs and
patterns of speech.
 
Before meeting Little Sammy I had almost given up my search for a Brooklynite who spoke what I thought of as Brooklynese. He must have been about 20 years old,but everyone called him Little Sammy. The reference to his
diminutive size left his unvarying wall-to-wall smile undampened. My friends, secretaries from many regions of the United States, enjoyed his accent as
much as I.
 
Little Sammy was scheduled as entertainment for our out-of-town guests as regularly as a trip to the Empire State Building. We particularly liked to hear him talk about his “mudder” and “fadder.” “That’s a nice-looking watch you have there, Little Sammy,” one of us would say. “Tanks,” he would reply. “My mudder and fadder, dey gimme dis watch for graduation.” 
 
Our guests could hardly contain their mirth, and Little Sammy liked the attention. It was evident he felt flattered to be singled out to meet our company. 
 
Second act
Then, one evening at a social for SDA youth from all the churches of the city, Little Sammy mysteriously lost his wall-to-wall smile and became most uncooperative.
 
Brenda, a secretary particularly charmed with unfamiliar brogues, tried her best to get him to talk for her guests, but his answers were as monosyllabic as he could make them. It was clear that he was onto the game. I couldn’t understand his reaction. Brenda was friendly in her manner and tone of speech, and obviously did not mean to be unkind—but he would not talk.
 
Failing with Little Sammy, Brenda apparently felt the need for other entertainment. Turning to her guests and motioning toward me, she bubbled merrily, “I want you to hear this girl talk. Her ‘cain’t’ and ‘y’all’ and the way she drops her g’s at the end of her words are priceless. Come on, Mary, say something for us.”
 
Brenda was friendly in her manner and tone of speech, and obviously did not mean to be unkind—but I was speechless. 
 
 
This story originally appeared in the May 21, 1974, issue of Insight. At that time Mary Elam was the assistant director of Admissions and Records at Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tennessee.
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