Compiled by Adam Gaffin
There I was, in the middle of the jungle in Guatemala, on the top of the tallest temple in Tikal. It was a beautiful sunset. Suddenly, from the other side of the temple, I heard "Renee, Renee, come around to the noahth side. That's wheah all the monkeys ah!" Sure enough, after we climbed down the temple I asked where they were from: Buhlington, of coahse."
Some comments about being a Bostoner abroad (further out than Worcester): People think I'm from New York. Once they hear I'm from Boston, they tell me some god-awful boring story of the time they went to Boston back in 1963 and how nice it was. When you say "aunt," people mock you by acting like you're some sort of blueblood. "Oh, Buffy, there's our AHNT." Puleeaase!
-- Christine Leccese
Yes, Bostonians really do drop their Rs after As, just like the Pepperidge Fahm Man.
But there's a lot more to the accent than that! It's not just after the A's that the R's go away. They disappear after other vowels as well, particularly "ee" sounds, so that one could properly argue that "Reveah is wicked wee-id" (translation: "Revere is unusual"). Christine Leccese explains the profound effect this can have on one's life: "I was 17 and reading a driver's ed. book before I realized that the mirror that hung from the windshield in the car was the REAR VIEW mirror. After hearing my family call it the 'reahview' my whole life, I thought it was REview mirror - so that you could review what you just passed, naturally."
Don't worry about poor lost New England R's, however. In typical Yankee fashion, we re-use 'em - by sticking them on the ends of certain other words ending with "uh" sounds: "Ah final ahs just disappeah, but wheah they go we've no idear."
But wait, it gets more complex. As seasoned Boston English speakah Alan Miles has gently tried to pound into a poor Nooyawka's thick head, that missing R only reappears when the word is followed by another word that starts with a vowel, for example: "I have no idear if the movie begins at nine or ten," but, "Does the movie begin at 9 or 10? I have no idea." Hey, just like French! Leccese, the Boston driver, also grew up wondering about the phrase "catchers catch can."
Jonathan E. Dyer notes this rule is nullified for certain words ending in "ure" such as "rapsha" (extreme joy) and "capsha" (what you do with a flag).
Also like French (and German), Boston English has an almost-R sound that is very difficult for most other Americans to reproduce. You'll hear it in words with an "er" sound. In Boston, the ordinal number after "second" is pronounced, roughly, "thihd." Try saying it as if you meant to pronounce the R but then thought better of it.
In Boston English, "ah" (the one without an R after it) sometimes becomes something closer to "aw", so that, for example, "tonic" comes out more like "tawnic" (former Mayor Kevin White would often express outrage by exclaiming "Motheragawd!"). In other cases, however, it assumes a British pronunciation, as in "ahnt and "bahthroom," says Carrie-Anne Dedeo, a native of B'rica (which is how you pronounce "Billerica" around here).
Bostonians, like Nooyawkas, often leave out consonants in their rush to get words out, in particular, d's and t's at the end of words. So "so don't I" is more properly pronounced "So doan I," real-estate brokers babble on about houses with plenny a chahm and we get such phrases as onna-conna. Also like Nooyawkas, Bostonians often change the "s" at the end of words to a a "z." "I toll you already, I can't go out on Tuesdiz, 'caz that's when I got practiz," as Don Hurter recalls.
However, Ds at the end of words ending in "id" sounds end up as Ts, so that, for example, "wicked" comes out as "wicket."
But sometimes, Bostonians add consonants, as well. Jeff W. recalls: "My father, who grew up in Brighton in the 1940s and 50s, adds the letter 'n' to the words 'out' and 'outside.' It's sort of a slum version of the Boston accent, as I've heard others from that time and place use it. Therefore, I grew up saying things like, 'Ya wanna go ountside in the yahd?' 'Let's find ount who's going.'
And one-syllable words with long-I sounds, such as "mine," often turn into two-syllable words: "Gimme back that curlin' eye-yen, it's MAYAN!" (as Douglas K. Lennan notes). Bostonians also sometimes add H's to the beginning of words that begin with a vowel, reports Jo: "We buy our hundaweah at Hames."
Finally, in certain blue-collar communities on the North Shore, speakers sometimes replace Rs with, of all things, Vs, reports John Lawler, who provides an example: "Tevesah doesn't have any bvains, she's from Veveah."