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The "Massachusetts-To-English" Conversion Guide For Tourists

Updated on January 1, 2016
Minuteman Paul Reveah on his hoss.  Translation:  Minuteman Paul Revere on his horse.
Minuteman Paul Reveah on his hoss. Translation: Minuteman Paul Revere on his horse. | Source
Watch out faw slivvahs...and go easy on those stayahs!  Translation:  Watch out for slivers and go easy on those stairs.
Watch out faw slivvahs...and go easy on those stayahs! Translation: Watch out for slivers and go easy on those stairs. | Source
I'll have the lobsta, and a docta peppah.  Translation:  I'll have the lobster and a Dr. Pepper.
I'll have the lobsta, and a docta peppah. Translation: I'll have the lobster and a Dr. Pepper. | Source

We in Massachusetts love to have you come visit. You out-of-towners talk funny, and we find that delightful.

But we’ve also noticed that you sometimes have a little trouble understanding us, so as a public service, I’m offering this language conversion tutorial for those of you who are planning a visit.

And I hope you are planning a visit…we’ve got tons of stuff to do. From Boston to the Berkshires, Massachusetts has a lot to offer vacationers.

We’re filthy rich in historical and cultural opportunities, from Lexington and Concord to our many concert venues and museums. We’ve got great beaches, great hiking and camping, the quaint charm of Cape Cod, and hip & chic nightlife.

If you’re going to be among us, though, you might as well have an idea as to what we’re saying. This is not a complete guide, of course, but it will get you started.

First let me help you with some of our cities and towns, which, no offense intended, you always mispronounce.

Afta dahk in Boston.  Translation:  After dark in Boston.
Afta dahk in Boston. Translation: After dark in Boston. | Source
The Mayflowwa ll, a replicker of the original Mayflowwa, at anka, State Peeya, Wotta Street. Plymouth, MA.  Translation:  The Mayflower ll, a replica of the original Mayflower, at anchor, State Pier, Water Street, Plymouth, MA.
The Mayflowwa ll, a replicker of the original Mayflowwa, at anka, State Peeya, Wotta Street. Plymouth, MA. Translation: The Mayflower ll, a replica of the original Mayflower, at anchor, State Pier, Water Street, Plymouth, MA. | Source
Makes ya think of Patti Page singin' 'bout old Cape Cod, doesn't it?
Makes ya think of Patti Page singin' 'bout old Cape Cod, doesn't it? | Source

A Guide To Our Cities and Towns

Ayer, pronounced just like the stuff we breathe, unless you’re a local, then it's Ayuh, with two syllables. Bedford, pronounced Bed-fird, unless you’re a local, then it Bedfid or Beffid, in compliance with our unwritten “silent D” rule. Billerica, pronounced Bill-ricca, even by locals (the e is silent, but we don’t have a rule that says so).

Blandford, pronounced Bland-frd, unless you’re a local, then it’s Blanfid (silent D rule applies).

Bridgewater, pronounced just like it looks, unless you’re a local, then it's Bridge-watta. Clinton, pronounced Bubbah (a little MA humor, there). Dunstable, pronounced Dun-stible, even by locals.

Fairhaven, pronounced just as it looks, unless you’re a local, then it’s F’Haven. Gloucester, pronounced Gloss-ter, unless you’re a local, then it Glossta. You’ll just have to get used to the fact that, in all syllables spelled “cester” that syllable is pronounced “stir."

Goshen, pronounced Go-shen by everyone. Gosnold, no, not Goes-nold, pronounced Gawz-nold. We toss you a curve every now and then. Haverhill, pronounced Hay-vrill by everyone. Hingham, pronounced Hing-um by everyone

Holbrook, the “o” is long, so we all say Whole-brook. Holyoke, pronounced Whole-yoke by everyone except my neighbor who says it with 3 syllables. Leicester, pronounced Lester. The first guy in town had a funny way of spelling things and may be the author of the “cester/stir” law.

Leominster, pronounced Lemon-stir, unless you’re a local, then it's Lemminsta. I wonder if the first guy in town was related to the first guy in Leicester? Mattapoisett, pronounced Matta-poy-sit by everyone. Medford, pronounced Med-frd unless you’re a local, then it’s Medfid or Meffid.

Trolley cahs ah fun...come take a trolley towah.  Translation:  Trolley cars are fun...come take a trolley tour.
Trolley cahs ah fun...come take a trolley towah. Translation: Trolley cars are fun...come take a trolley tour. | Source
That's the Customs House towwa all lit up, theya.  Translation:  That's the Customs House Tower all lit up there.
That's the Customs House towwa all lit up, theya. Translation: That's the Customs House Tower all lit up there. | Source
If naitcha is yaw thing, we have plenty of interesting pahks, woodlands and rivvahs to enjoy.  Translation:  If nature is your thing, we have plenty of parks, woodlands and rivers to enjoy.
If naitcha is yaw thing, we have plenty of interesting pahks, woodlands and rivvahs to enjoy. Translation: If nature is your thing, we have plenty of parks, woodlands and rivers to enjoy. | Source

Methuen, pronounced Ma-thoo-en by everyone. Milford, pronounced Mil-frd, unless you’re a local, then it's Mil-fid. We always pronounce the “L” because if we didn’t it would be Miffid, which is too close to Meffid.

Montague, pronounced Monta-gue by everyone. Even we know not to call it Mon-Tag. Nahant, can be pronounced Na-hant or Na-haunt if you’re prone to be uppity. Needham, pronounced Need-um by everyone.

North Canaan, pronounced North Kay-nin. I know, none of us ever heard of it, either. North Reading, pronounced North Redding, but to locals it’s Noth Reading. Peabody, pronounced Pea-biddy by everyone except out of staters.

Pelham, pronounced Pellum by everyone. Pepperell, pronounced Pepp-rill by everyone. Quincy, oh I suppose you’re supposed to say Quin-sea, but we all say Quin-zee. Rehoboth, pronounced Ree-ho-bith by everyone.

Salisbury, as in its namesake steak, pronounced Sauls-bree by everyone. Scituate, pronounced sitch-uh-wit. Out-of-staters often call this “sk-too-it” thinking it’s probably named after some Native American chief, as some of our communities are.

Sherborn, one of the state’s wealthiest communities. We call it Shur-bourhn (it’s really hard to spell that second syllable the way we pronounce it, but think of the ‘r” as a “w”), anyway, the swells call it Shur-bin.

By the way, the "r" in that first syllable may be the only "r" in the entire English language that we Bay Staters pronounce. Somerset, pronounced Summa-set. Somerville, pronounced Summa-vill. We Bay Staters never did have much use for r’s.

Provincetown, down at the tip of the Cape.
Provincetown, down at the tip of the Cape. | Source
Swing yaw pahtnah.  Plenty of night life fawya.  Translation:  Swing your partner.  Plenty of night life for you.
Swing yaw pahtnah. Plenty of night life fawya. Translation: Swing your partner. Plenty of night life for you. | Source
The Freedom Trail is a walking touah of historical sites in Boston.  You gotta do it.  Translation:  The Freedom Trail is a walking tour of historical sites in Boston.
The Freedom Trail is a walking touah of historical sites in Boston. You gotta do it. Translation: The Freedom Trail is a walking tour of historical sites in Boston. | Source

Stoneham, here’s where we show you how flexible and tolerant we can be. You can call it Stone-um, or Stone-ham. A lot depends on how you use it, and I’m an authority because I grew up there. I grew up in Stone-um, but I graduated (just barely) from Stone-ham High. A news report on radio or TV might go like this: “Stone-um police report that…” or “Meanwhile, in Stone-ham, police report that…" If you visit, you MUST play mini golf at Hago Harrington’s Miniature Golf Course on Main Street, Route 28. I spent my childhood there. A family treat was to get Chinese food from The China Moon restaurant, which still shares the parking lot.

Stoughton, pronounced Stote-inby everyone. Swampscott, pronounced Swom-skit. We don’t have much use for p’s, either. Watertown, pronounced just as it looks, except locals call it Wattatown. Wellesley, pronounced Wells-lee. Another affluent community some call Swells-lee.

Wenham, Wennum, always Wennum. Woburn, pronounced Woo-bern, except by Bay Staters, to whom it’s Woo-bin. Worcester, pronounced Wuss (as in, “he’s a wuss”)-ter, but we call it Wuss-ta, although there are some of us who talk funny and call it Wiss-ta

Now that you can properly pronounce some of our cities and towns, let me teach you some words and phrases that, once you hear them, will make your light go on. Or as we like to say here in The Bay State, “light dawns on Mahblehead." So, here we go.

You'll see this sign sometimes, but it will be wicked late at night.
You'll see this sign sometimes, but it will be wicked late at night. | Source
We love owa Red Sox and Fenway Pahk.  Why, Hood even has ice cream flaviz named fa the team.  Translation:  We love our Red Sox and Fenway Park.   Why, Hood even has ice cream flavors named for the team.
We love owa Red Sox and Fenway Pahk. Why, Hood even has ice cream flaviz named fa the team. Translation: We love our Red Sox and Fenway Park. Why, Hood even has ice cream flavors named for the team. | Source
Owa bottled wotta is like bottled wotta everywhere...a buck at most places.
Owa bottled wotta is like bottled wotta everywhere...a buck at most places. | Source

Speaking Conversational Massachusetts

Afta-owiz…we’re closed; it’s “after hours.” Lo-wa-fotty…the affectionate way we refer to our back yards. A phrase that, in some parts of the country, has morphed into “lower forty.” Hahtathematta…getting to the point of the discussion, or the “heart of the matter.”

Fawthasake ofaht…it may defy understanding, but we do it “for the sake of art.” Hahd wyid…our love of the Red Sox is “hard wired” into our brains. Cah…what you pahk in Hahvid Yahd. Some call it an auto, my grandparents called it the machine.

Conna…the confluence of two streets; corner. Cuber…a Communist island 90 miles off Florider’s coast. Cuttafaht…something you don’t want to do in polite company, cut a fart. Dawkta peppa…oh, c’mon. I don’t have to interpret Dr. Pepper do I?

Afahm…what Old McDonald had. Hahd likka…some of our supermarkets sell beer and wine, but not “hard liquor.” Seeuz…it’s where America shops. Odda Suppa…when you take your evening meal at a restaurant, you “order supper.”

Hahd psyda…we have some great microbreweries that produce “hard cider.” A bawddle owadda…what you might awda from a street venda on a hawt summa day. Fotty fo-wa…what comes after fotty three.

Hahpiz bizzah…in 1967 they had a popular cover version of Simon & Garfunkle’s The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy). Oh yeah, it’s also a leading women’s fashion magazine that’s been around since 1867. I stood in line for hours to get a first edition.

Bah Hahba…another good vacation venue, Bar Harbor (it’s in Maine). Ha-fowwa…30 minutes. Most Bay Staters pronounce half as hahf, rather than haff. Pahteepoopa…there’s one at every party…the party pooper.

Wotts…no, they’re not caused by frogs. Warts are skin growths caused by various viruses. Chahlz rivva…A scenic urban/rural river that runs through Boston offering a panoramic view of the Boston skyline, the M.I.T campus and Boston’s famed Back Bay section. It was made famous in 1966 by The Standells in their hit song entitled Deeyahty Wotta. (deeyahty is said wicked fast).

Deehahty Wotta…The 1966 Standells hit, Dirty Water, referencing the Charles River. It’s where the Hahvid crew team practices and competes. It’s also the song fans hear over the PA system as they depart Fenway Park after a Red Sox victory.

Hahvid…Harvard University. Fahmiz…The folks who work the fahms. Ahnild Ahboretum…Arnold Arboretum of Hahvid University is the oldest public arboretum in North America and one of the world's leading centers for the study of plants. You can even visit.

Fossed hot aya…If you buy a house here, it might have a forced hot air heating system. Noo-yeahz eve pahtee…You might have a New Year’s Eve party in your new house. Fahmiz Mahkit…In the summer and fall, local growers bring their produce, preserves, honey, breads and other locally grown and made agricultural products to sell at a Farmer’s Market.

The Conkid Minuteman Statue commemorating the opening battle of the Revolutionary Wawh.  Translation:  The Concord Minuteman Statue commemorating the opening battle of the Revolutionary War.
The Conkid Minuteman Statue commemorating the opening battle of the Revolutionary Wawh. Translation: The Concord Minuteman Statue commemorating the opening battle of the Revolutionary War. | Source

H’wah-ya…Customary greeting, “How are you.” Some of us pronounce Hawaii that way. Cumblin Fahms…A regional convenience store/gas station chain, Cumberland Farms often has the lowest gas prices in its immediate area. Yaw…This versatile word can mean your as in, “Is that yaw cah,” or you’re, as in, “Yaw outa yaw mind.”

Well, it’s a start, and I truly hope this has been helpful and will make your visit to our great state less traumatic, er, more enjoyable. We’ve got a lot to see and do, and we’re nice people to those who aren’t wearing NY Yankees gear. Maybe someday we’ll bump into each other rounding the conna.

Have You Visited Massachusetts?

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    • Bob Bamberg profile image
      Author

      Bob Bamberg 5 months ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      I've only ever heard it pronounced with the hard "h," AP...and then it's usually preceded by "UMass." Other than that fine university, and the occasional political correctness run amok that makes the news, Amherst doesn't get mentioned a lot out here. It's a beautiful part of the state, though, isn't it? Almost everywhere you look, it's a calendar shot.

    • profile image

      AP 5 months ago

      It shows that you're from the East, no mention of the lack of "h" in Amherst. Yet somehow you know the proper pronunciation of the much smaller Pelham.

      Tell me, do you Easterners secretly *know* how Amherst is pronounced and just all say it with an "h" to annoy us all in Western Mass?

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
      Author

      Bob Bamberg 9 months ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Nice to have you stop by Pat. I'm checking the posts and think of Heston Wayne a lot. Your little man has a huge support network sending prayers and blessings, and his courage and grit are inspiring. I hope Thanksgiving is a wonderful day for your family

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 9 months ago from sunny Florida

      Bob

      Just stopping to wish you a blessed and lovely Thanksgiving. We, Heston Wayne and his family and mine, are so blessed to know you even if only in cyber space. I do not know if you have been keeping up with the posts but Heston is having quite a journey...two more surgeries and one an emergency which just occurred this week. We are feeling so thankful that he is home from the hospital. Blessings and Angels on the way to you ps

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
      Author

      Bob Bamberg 10 months ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi Jackie...OMG, I just saw your comment that's been sitting there for 11 months! I'm so sorry, I didn't know you commented. I didn't get an email telling me you did...I just got an email telling me Pat commented so I logged on to reply and saw your comment. I think you're referring to the Old Granary Burying Ground, where Paul Revere, Sam Adams and other patriots are buried (I think they're reserving spots for Brady and Gronkowski). Thanks for stopping by and, again, sorry for the delay in replying.

      Hi Pat, I'm glad you enjoyed it and I hope it helps you function when you're in this region. Hugs to Heston!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 10 months ago from sunny Florida

      I love this...I will bring it along on my visit up your way. We in the South have our own twist on words too.

      Angels are on the way to you once again today ps

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 22 months ago from The Beautiful South

      Back to take another look. Thought of the cemetery with the so called witches and torture bars (or whatever those things are called)! Was that outside the North Church? It was terrific fun and I also got to see the Kennedy's old home!

      Sharing.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
      Author

      Bob Bamberg 2 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Thanks for stopping buy, Stella, glad you enjoyed the hub. Yeah, the MA accent is at least interesting, if nothing else. I don't have the accent because I trained myself away from it in preparation for my entry into broadcasting in the late 60's. After that, the accent started sounding alien to me, too, and it still does to a certain extent. I occasionally find myself consciously interpreting what someone says. If you ever make it up here, I hope the hub will be helpful!

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 2 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      I love this hub on the way people in Massachusetts talk. My neighbors are from Massachusetts and I love the way they talk. The word garage always gives me a laugh. The Maine neighbors are great also. They probably think my Chicago accent sounds funny. Great hub, Stella

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
      Author

      Bob Bamberg 2 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hey, Faith, great to have you stop by. Rockport and Gloucester are in the area known as the North Shore...in Mass-speak, Noth Shoah. For decades, before malls, The North Shore Shopping Center was the shopper's Mecca. I grew up about a half hour's ride on Rte. 128, south of there.

      I forgot all about frappes and milk shakes. Some people use the terms interchangeably, but the true natives know that frappes contain ice cream and the milk shakes don't. After the milk shake came off the blender, the server (known as a soda jerk) would give it a little blast of soda water. When he pulled the lever towards him, the liquid would flow from the spout normally. When he pushed the lever away from him, it would come out as a needlepoint blast.

      Uppity visitors called them frap-pays, but to us they were simply fraps. I use the past tense because I'm not sure how many true soda fountains exist anymore. Where I live now, we had a newspaper/tobacco store that had the region's only soda fountain, but they closed back around 2007 or so.

      And don't get me started on submarine sandwiches! They're those sandwiches on long rolls some folks call hero sandwiches, grinders or hoagies. No, folks, they're subs.

      Thanks for stopping by, Faith, and for the votes, tweets, pins and shares.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

      Hi Bob,

      Great article! I've been to Boston, Rockport and Gloucester. After my dad died, my mom went to visit her sister for a bit in Rockport, and stayed ten years, even through the Perfect Storm! We loved Boston and all, so much history to see and the cobblestone streets, the Old North Church ... I was amazed that how safe we felt walking town down Boston and at lunch how many were out on the streets enjoying the weather, but back to the amazing part, the restaurants had open windows without screens as there were no bugs! LOL, we have so many bugs down here in the Deep South, we must have screens and air conditioning. We noticed they kind of smiled when we asked for sweet tea LOL. I like how y'all say park the car ...Pawk the car? Oh, and milkshakes are Frappes.

      Up +++++ tweeting, pinning and sharing

      God bless

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
      Author

      Bob Bamberg 2 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi torrilynn, thanks for visiting the hub. Now I hope you'll visit the state. There's something for everyone here, whether you want a relaxing getaway or a whirlwind vacation.

      But it's true...our accent is sometimes hard to understand, plus regions of the state have their own nuances. For example, I grew up about 15 miles from Boston, where carbonated soft drinks are referred to as "tonic." You'd go to the mahket to get a bottle a tonic.

      Now I live 35 miles from Boston and we, and the rest of Massachusetts, use the term "soda." We go to the mahket to get a bottle of soder. Words ending in "a" give us the only opportunity we have to use a long "r." Thanks for stopping by. Perhaps one day we'll bump into one anutha on the conna.

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 2 years ago

      I've never been to Massachusetts before. I hope to visit one day sooner rather than later. Likewise, I like how you put the correct spelling of the many different words and the pronunciation that goes along with it. Nice work. Best of wishes.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
      Author

      Bob Bamberg 2 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Thanks, Doc, I'll get right on it...the pikchiz will soon have captions.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 2 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Believe it or not, when camping one time in Canada I had a beer with a neighbor from Boston: I don't remember his whole story but I do remember him telling me about how he could "pahk his cah in the gawage".

      I shared this on HP. Add some captions on your photos and I will share it on Pinterest too. I voted this up and funny"

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
      Author

      Bob Bamberg 2 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      When you came to Hahvid, Doc, you weren't too awfully far from Reveeah Beach (some call it Revere Beach), probably not quite as scenic as The Beach of Brazil, but with just as much wotta. Same with the Cape. I'm right between both locations, about an owwa away. Nice to see you, thanks for stopping by.

      I've been by Longmeadow, Bill, but have never been there. When I think of that town, I think of Miss Massachusetts. Wasn't there a Miss Mass from Longmeadow back in the 70's? It's pretty country out there, that's for sure! Thanks for commenting.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Bob. I live in Longmeadow out in western Massachusetts. My wife is from Whole-yoke.... What a great, and accurate portrayal of our wonderful state. You are right, with so much to see right here we often overlook all the wonderful and historical sites right in our backyard. Great job, very enjoyable.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 2 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      I have been to the PRM several times, both to visit family on the Cape and a girlfriend´s sister at Hahvid. I found the people there willing to smile and accept my Brazilian accent, even if they did look at me like I was suffering from some sort of learning disability.

      I wonder if they would have forgiven me my poor speaking abilities if I told them that I was a hahd wiyd Red Sox fan? Alas, they sent me back to my fahm since I had not yet read this great hub!!!

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
      Author

      Bob Bamberg 2 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi Jackie, nice to see you. I'm glad you enjoyed your visit here, maybe you'll get back again sometime. I live less than an hour's drive from Boston and there's still a lot I haven't seen. I grew up 3 towns over from Lexington and Concord and didn't see those historic sites until I was in my mid-40's.

      I'll bet people everywhere go sightseeing away from their own area and never get to see their own historic or natural landmarks because "heck, we can see those anytime." I'm lucky to live in such an interesting region. Thanks for stopping by, voting and sharing.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I have been to Massachusetts and I love it! I saw a wedding in the street in Boston and went on a ship there and some shops nearby. Visited the Kennedy house and the Old North Church and graveyard.

      I went to everywhere all around and found tons of things to do. I think I was most impressed with the covered bridges and the beautiful grasses! Loved the beautiful people and their language. So great we are all so different. I bet you would have untold trouble understanding us southerners! We pronounce ayer as air too and still get two syllables!

      Fun article; up and sharing.