Learn a Foreign Language: 'Boston'
Direct From Boston: Speak Like A Hubber.
Attention Actors - Don't Try to Speak Boston Without Studying the Language!
I recently viewed an episode of American Horror Story/ Asylum (season two) and watched Jessica Lange struggle unsuccessfully to effect a Boston accent. To Massachusetts natives, her botching of the Boston dialect is epic.
So for future reference for actors, film makers, and potential visitors here’s a guide to proper use and pronunciation of the Boston lexicon from a native speaker.
The first rule of grammah: (not your granny - but grammah as in ‘words‘)
NUMBER ONE RULE: To speak good Boston, you must pretty much fahget about the letter ‘R’ and the letter ‘G‘. They are not used in proper Bostonian.
Thus, English words like running, walking, crying, car, ever, yard…..in Boston; become runnin, cryin, walkin, kah, evah, yahd.
Here’s a sprinklin of some Boston words and phrases:
Ash Day: This word dates back to the time when almost all homes were heated by coal, and the ashes were put into large metal cans and saved for pickup by the town on Ash Day. If it snowed, the ashes were spread on the sidewalks and driveways.
Bummah: An exclamation used to describe an unpleasant experience. “The Pats losin to the fotty ninahs was a bummah!”
(The) Cape: There might be many Capes in Massachusetts but only one is “The Cape.” It is Cape Cod. When Hubbers go to the Cape, they say they are going “down Cape”.
Con - a yellow vegetable. May be eaten on or off the cob. Also may come in a can, as in ‘can of con‘.
Drunkin' Donuts: The sarcastic name for a Massachusetts based donut shop. According to some the chain is known for featuring overpriced coffee and stale donuts. Lovers of 'Stahbucks', which is trying to gain a foothold in New England, think that Drunkin' Donuts coffee is as weak as a seven ounce floundah.
Dungarees: Blue Jeans. This word is now used mostly by the older generation and has been replaced by words like slacks and jeans.
Fotty: The written word for the numbah 40.
Glawstah: The ancient Northeast fishing port of Gloucester. Must be pronounced properly under penalty of being thrown off the pier.
(The) Hub: The appellation given to the city of Boston by writer Oliver Wendell Holmes who said that Boston is the “Hub of the Solar System.”
Hoss: As in how many hosspowah your kah has.
Howahya: It's not that new state in the Pacific Ocean. Howahya, like the word ‘jevah’, is a combination of words used to ask a person how they are feelin or how they are doin - such as in a greeting like “Howahya today?”
Jevah: A combination word used to ask a question. Example, “Jevah go to a Boston Bruins game?” Can be translated to the English words, “Did you ever”.
Kah: - a motor vehicle
Lobstah: The numbah one ketch of the sea from Provincetown to Boston and on tah Glawstah.
Noth: This is a direction of the compass - the opposite of south. It is pronounced ‘Noth” - NOT ‘Nawth’ and certainly not ‘North‘. .
Numbah: 1, 2, 3, 4 etc.
Off Cape: What happens when a local is forced to cross over the bridge and leave Cape Cod for mainland Mass. He or she is said to be “Off Cape”. Locals never will tell you where anyone actually is when they are not “On Cape”, they just say, “He had to go ‘off Cape’.
Pahk: - 1. a public rest and recreation area. Often has swings and a slide. 2. A verb used to denote placing your vehicle in a designated area. Example: Pahk your kah in the yahd. . 3. a baseball field where the Red Sox play. Called Fenway Pahk.
Powah: Strength. As in liftin weights. Such as ‘a powah lift‘.
Quincy: - city in Massachusetts named after John Quincy Adams that must be pronounced 'Quinzee'. If you call it 'Quinsee', you will be stared at, as if you are an alien life form.
Shot: This word refers to the height of a person. Such as: Basketball is a game not usually played by ‘shot’ men.
Suicide Alley: A 44 mile stretch of route six on Cape Cod from Dennis to Provincetown where the road narrows from four to two lanes, separated only by sticks planted in the middle of the roadway. The speed limit is 50 but some drivers have been known to almost double that. From 1970 to 90, nearly 40 people were killed in head on accidents on the alley. Since then, some road improvements have lessened the toll.
Tonic: - A soft drink such as Dr. Pepper or Pepsi Cola. Over the past few decades the word ‘tonic’ has begun to fall from favor and (except for a few areas) ‘soda’ is the more popular word
Whistah: The Western Mass city of Worcester. Pronouced jist like Glawstah, only a little difffrent.
Yahd: The land around yaw house.
Yaw: Translates to the English word your. As in yaw book, yaw kah, or yaw house.
The guide is not intended to be complete, nor is it a functional course in the language. However, if you diligently practice forgetting your Rs and Gs, and pepper your conversations with a lot of ‘wicked goods’, you’ll get by reasonably well in the Bay State. And if you’re lucky enough to get a film or tv role playing a Bostonian, perhaps we won’t laugh at you like we do at Jessica Lange as she desperately tries to sound like Rose Kennedy.