New Jersey residents have a plethora of small disagreements on what to call things. There’s pork roll vs. Taylor Ham, hoagie vs. sub, sprinkles vs. jimmies. However, there is one disagreement that stands tall above all of them: the existence of Central Jersey.
The topic of Central Jersey has been passionately argued by thousands of New Jerseyans and has even been discussed on TV, most notably on a June 2018 episode of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”
There are some who passionately believe that Central Jersey exists.
Zack Padron, a translational biomedical sciences major, argued the region exists from a geometric standpoint.
“If you look at New Jersey, it almost has that ‘v’ indented shape, right?” Padron said. “And Trenton and Princeton are all located at the top of that ‘v’. If you cut it right along the middle of the ‘v,’ that is Central Jersey. Now discrepancy happens with the range of that, like how far in is Central Jersey. But I live right on the line, right there. So I call it Central Jersey because it’s as central as you can get.”
Padron also explained he understands why some don’t believe Central Jersey exists, but followed up by saying, “You’ll never find someone from Central Jersey who says it doesn’t exist.”
Mark Butler, 18, is an electrical and computer engineer and has a different stance on why Central Jersey exists.
“As a person who is born and raised there, I would say that there’s a Central Jersey,” Butler said. “If you’re talking to someone and they ask you where you are from, you say North Jersey they’re going to think the top; you say South Jersey, they’re going to think the bottom. Well I’m from the middle. So that’s where Central Jersey comes into play. That’s it, I’m from Central Jersey.”
Yet some believe the opposite.
Terrance Russell, 21, is among those who do not believe in the existence of Central Jersey. His viewpoint revolves around the culture.
“Welcome to my TED talk. I would personally like to say that Central Jersey is not a real thing,” Russell said. “It’s either north or south, you can’t be in between. Every place carries characteristics and I feel that nobody in that area carries a characteristic that North and South Jersey don’t already have.”
Arianna Pepe, 21, is a communication studies major who is on the same side as Russell.
“I don’t think there is a Central Jersey,” Pepe said. “Because I’m from South Jersey, so I think that anything above me is North Jersey. I think that people who think that Central Jersey is a real thing are people that are so-called from Central Jersey, so that’s their opinion. But I feel like South Jersey people think that it’s just North Jersey up there and North Jersey people think it’s just South Jersey down here.”
There is one opinion that has a lot of meaning in this argument, and that is the opinion of Richard Federman. Federman has been a part of Rowan’s Department of Geography, Planning & Sustainability for 10 years. He also teaches a class called The Geography of New Jersey.
“On the first day of class each semester in The Geography of New Jersey course I teach, I ask the class whether Central Jersey exists. I would summarize my findings as such: people who believe themselves to live in or be from Central Jersey believe that it exists, the others either don’t acknowledge it or don’t see why it’s even worth our consideration,” Federman said.
“That raises a couple interesting questions. Does a region need to have any kind of geographic precision for it to exist, or is it simply enough that it exists in the minds of certain individuals? Also, does a geographic region need to have defining characteristics, things that make it different from areas around it?”
Federman also explained that the definition of a region is a place that shares some significant traits or qualities.
“Does Central Jersey have any unique characteristics,” Federman asked, “or is it simply a mix of North and South? Are there any words or pronunciations that say ‘Central NJ’? Do people do things differently or act differently in Central Jersey? I’m not sure that the answer to any of these questions is ‘yes,’ but then again, I don’t live in Central Jersey!”
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