For many New Yorkers, Staten Island is a world unto itself.
And with that distinction (whether it’s real, exaggerated or otherwise), comes plenty of strange “regional” differences — including accents.
Enter the “New York accent check,” a challenge on TikTok that’s led users to discover one strange, incredibly specific pronunciation that seems to only exist among Staten Islanders.
Calamari, which usually describes a fried squid dish served at Italian and other Mediterranean-focused restaurants, seems like a simple enough word to sound out. For most Americans, the word comes out as it’s spelled (“kal-uh-mar-ee”).
But for Staten Islanders, the word is apparently pronounced as “galamah.”
In the clip, her boyfriend appears in front of a list of words meant to show the full extent of his accent. Several of the boyfriend’s responses differ from other New Yorkers, but one — “galamah” — stands out above the rest.
It’s a word that appears in several other “accent checks,” regardless of the speaker’s age and gender. In another, a young woman from Scranton, Penn., compares pronunciations with her Staten Island-raised friend, who calls calamari “callamad.”
The calamari debate seems to be a well-known issue for many in the borough. In 2017, the Staten Island Advance even made a video dedicated to the issue.
That clip features a string of Staten Islanders pronouncing the seafood dish, with some pointing out exactly why it sounds so different when they say it.
“A lot of people don’t use the vowels,” local restaurant owner John Noto explains in the video.
Whatever the reason, TikTok users had plenty of strong feelings about the word. Many shared their confusion as to why one specific area of New York would pronounce it so differently than the rest of the country.
“Why is it Galamah all of a sudden?” one user wrote.
“Lmao guys.. people who say “galamad” are those of italian descent who live in places like stated island, nj, & LI. REAL ITALIANS SAY ‘CALAMARI,'” another explained.
Others, however, praised the videos, claiming that Staten Islanders pronounce calamari “the right way” — or at least the way that’s true to their borough.
“This is so true hahaha haha. #StatenIslandProud,” one user wrote.
“EXACTLY A TRUE NEW YORK ACCENT,” another added.
If you liked this story, check out In The Know’s article on the new way TikTok users are pranking their significant others.
More from In The Know: