Bridge and Tunnel

sarah jones

Bridge and tunnel (B&T) is a pejorative term for people who travel to Manhattan Island from surrounding communities, a commute that requires passing over a bridge and/or through a tunnel. Though the term originates from the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, which services the five boroughs that comprise New York City, it has come to encompass all people who originate commute from outside of Manhattan, including the four other boroughs, Connecticut, Long Island, New Jersey, and northern counties, such as Orange, Rockland, and Westchester.

As the Oxford Dictionaries explains: a bridge-and-tunnel person is one who lives in the suburbs and is perceived as unsophisticated.

The earliest known instance of the phrase in print is the December 13, 1977, edition of the ‘New York Times’: ”On the weekends, we get all the bridge and tunnel people who try to get in,’ he said. Elizabeth Fondaras, a pillar of the city’s conservative social scene, who has just told Steve Rubell she had never tried to get into Studio 54 for fear of being rejected, asked who the bridge and tunnel people were. ‘Those people from Queens and Staten Island and those places,’ he said.’

‘Bridge and tunnel’ was later adopted in San Francisco in reference to party-goers who live outside San Francisco, an ironic and not always derogatory usage. In Southern California, the term ‘909er’ (a reference to Area Code 909) has come to have a negative meaning for people coming from areas inland of Los Angeles, Orange County, and Riverside County. B&T has also been adopted in Boston to refer to young people who reside outside of Boston’s core neighborhoods of Back Bay, Bay Village, Beacon Hill, Leather District, South End, North End, and the West End.

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