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Wicked Good Guide to Boston English

Compiled by Adam Gaffin

" 'Everybody says words different,' said Ivy. 'Arkansas folks says 'em different, and Oklahomy folks says 'em different. And we seen a lady from Massachusetts, an' she said 'em different of all. Couldn't hardly make out what she was sayin'!' "
-- John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath, 1939.

"Boston State-House is the Hub of the Solar System. You couldn't pry that out of a Boston man if you had the tire of all creation straightened out for a crow-bar."
-- Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, 1858.

Everybody knows about pahking cahs in Hahvihd Yahd, but there's a lot more to Boston English than that, despite what Hollywood would have you believe. We have our own way of pronouncing other words, our own vocabulary, even a unique grammatical construct. Journey outside the usual tourist haunts, and you just might need a guide to understand the locals...

Click on any of the following to learn more about the unique brand of English spoken in the Hub of the Universe.

It'll take a lot moah than dropping your ahs to talk like a native.

One could compose entire sentences that would make no sense to the uninitiated (the guide starts with A-B; follow the links up at the top for more words).

Place names
The pronunciation of local town names often bears little resemblance to their spelling.

Thanks to the dozens of people who've contributed, and everybody who's sent me nice notes. You are all wicked awesome!


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(These are some words I've picked up working with toddlers and their families in Boston. I'm including expressions I've heard from at least three families who I don't believe know each other.)

Fresh: Used by Bostonians, particularly white folks in Southie and Dorchester, to mean any undesired behavior on the part of a child. (As opposed to only designating sassy or smart-ass behavior as it does in most other places.) "You better stop being fresh, young man!" Sometimes "freshy" is used with particularly young tots: "You stop being freshy and hold Mommy's hand when I ask you to."

Tubby: Bathing, when talking to a young child, or about a young child. "Hi, we're going to be a little bit late, because Peter just finished taking a tubby." "Peter, it's time for you to come in here for your tubby."

Piggies: Toes. While conducting developmental assessments on toddlers, I've literally had dozens of parents who, when we ask the toddler if they can point to various body parts, explain that "we always call them piggies, so you gotta ask where your PIGGIES are!"

I grew up in Roslindale and I recently had a baby. I'm guilty of all of the above. So funny, I never would have guessed that those words link me to my Boston heritage!

Born in raised in Boston, living in the south I am always asked to speak Bostonian- I know know other. This is great stuff.

my sister moved to Florida and people have made a very big deal about her accent. She tells them to hold their tongue in their fingers and it will come out sounding Boston. If you're ever looking for a good laugh, give it a try. Make them try different positions. It is very funny. These are not stupid people, just curious and maybe a little gullible.

Hun - Someone who takes too big a sip of a drink from a common container or someone who holds onto an object (ball, primitive video game, etc.) for too long. Noun Example - "Don't be a hun with the watah." or as a verb; "Guy, Stop hunning the ball, pass it."

Hadn't heard it for about 20 years until a few weeks ago.

That's short for "hungo," which on the basketball court, meant "ball hog."

No, the etymology of "hun" is pretty clear, here. It comes from the regional practice during the World Wars (particularly the first) of referring to the Germans as "huns," as in "Atilla the."

dont be trying to steel word from bmore


Attila the Hun was not German. Germany did not even exist until the 1800's. Atilla was born in Hungary and was a scourge to the Roman empire. I'm pretty sure all of us Bostonians are not mistaken about words we grew up with. However, I have lived in many states and countries and the piggies going to market is ubiquitous. But I haven't seen anybody use hoodsie here. A hoodsie cup is a small ice cream cup and sometimes used to describe a girl from the hood who has given a taste to everyone.

Hi Pepper:
Did you ever use "hoobie" to describe a rock about the size of your fist? I used it in upstate New York when I was working at Cornell and my friends laughed. Some of them started calling me "Hoobie."

Grew up in Dot, never heard a rock described as a "hoobie". Did, however, hear of a rather large, uh, marijuana cigarette given that descriptor. "We're gonna hit the packy then come home and roll up a couple hoobies."

I was Born and raised In Massachusetts and this article gave me a few good chuckles. Hoobie in particular as I'm quite familiar with the term. It's origins come from Doobie as in a "normal", not to be confused with a Pinna, sized Jibba or Joint. The Hoobie was a Pauhty Sized Jibba /Joint or Huge ass Doobie. Keep in mind This all preceded the Blunt craze.

I was born and raised here in E. boston and never heard "Don't hun the ball" I remember using " Don't hog the ball"

I nevah heard hun either unless it was from a waitress asking me "what'll yah have, hun?"

Raised in Mattapan in the 60's. We used the word "hun" all the time as a verb - a substitute for hog. Love this website, btw! Brings me right back to my Boston roots - keep up the good work!

I was born and raised in East Boston. When I was a kid in the late 60's, early 70's, we always used the word "hun" for somebody who didn't pass the ball. maybe kids stopped using it after that. I lived on Wordsworth street.

I was born in Eastie and we always would say, "don't hun the ball"

no idea. I've heard “ bogart” like to bogart a joint and not share. Not hun the ball or a hoodsie being a girl without giving a taste. It's a Bday party ice cream with a flat piece of wood to eat it with. I think hun as in hunnie. I am behind piggy and tubby!

I agree with the previous commenter. I recall “Don’t hog the ball”.

Come on people you can't claim every thing!
This little piggy went to market all over the English speaking world.

wouldn't consider those "boston" sayings -
piggies comes from the children's rhyme "this little piggy went to the market, this little piggy stayed home..." and you squeeze each toe until you get to the smallest one and say..."and this little piggy cried wee wee wee all the way home.." a commercial just did a spoof on this rhyme.

tubby - baby talk for tub. like saying sleepy time or something like that.

Boston is the only place I've lived where many families use them exclusively, and also in somewhat formal speech and not with a child. Parents talking with a clinician about a behavior and referring to "after dinner he has a tubby, and when he's finished with the tubby, that's when we'll see it..." or "we brought her in for a rash on her piggies that wasn't clearing up." I think this is pretty regional to use them like this.

We independently started saying "piggies" because of the "this little piggy" rhyme, but we're not from 'round here. Notably, we only use it as a joking thing; in Serious Mode we would always say "toes". Our kid knows both, though. :-)

I don't know, this must be a northeastern thing cause I was born and raised in Queens, New York, and we say all of that.

Nevah heard tubbie. But what about "tonic" for soda?

Said tonic all my life. Going to another state, they get very confused and think you want hair tonic. I guess they feel as confused as I do when I used to wait tables and people ordered grits. Grits? Say what? & in Canada napkins are called serviettes. A man asked for one once, I said I'm not sure if we have any. He thought I was being sarcastic. I thought he wanted a wet nap. I've never heard a clam called a quahog outside of Cape Cod or Family Guy but that show is set in RI not the Cape. Btw -upcape is the bottom of Cape Cod and down cape is the tip, like Ptown. It's a nautical thing.

Quahogs are actually a separate species entirely from clams. Im from around there and I go quahoging all the time during the summer

Yep. I was a "fresh kid" who had piggies for toes and went tubby.

Pogue me Hoin! Is that englisj enough? IAI!

I grew up in Dedham during the late 40s and 50s. I now live in the midwest (Illinois and Iowa) and have done so for the last 45 years. A couple of nights ago I was out with some friends and I offered to treat the group to some ice cream. As I did so a phrase my father used under similar circumstances popped into my head, "I'll shout" meaning he would buy. None of my friends, all native Iowans, had ever heard the word shout used in that way. It occurred to me that this usage may have been unique to the Boston area. He was raised in East Boston.

Tom Gartland
West Branch, Iowa

I grew up in dedham too (and still live here).
I hope you got jimmies on your ice cream!

I have my Ga raised boys to ask for jimmies and not chocolate sprinkles

They had (maybe still have) "jimmies" for ice cream in Brooklyn and other parts of NYC too.

Never heard of shout but a hoodsie with no jimmies is like a Boston politician with no mob connections.

A Hoodsie doesn't come with jimmies! A Hoodsie is a pre-packed cup of ice cream that has a cardboard lid and comes with a flat wooden spoon, made by the H.P. Hood dairy, based out in Agawam (home of Riverside Park, now Six Flags). It's half chocolate, half vanilla, no toppings, and could (haven't checked recently) be bought singly at gas stations or in bags of a dozen at the supamahkit.

I'm from the UK. Everyone here uses the phrase "This is my shout" for getting in a round of drinks, coffees or whatever.

Shout is also an older Australian term often applied to pub scenarios - i.e. meaning buying a round of drinks.

"My shout", or "Its your shout mate".

The rule is, you can't be in a shout unless you intend to make one.

Never heard that one either I was born in the 5o's in East Boston all my life....

My Irish Grandmother used it (in W. Roxbury). Never heard it again until I met an Australian. To Shout..means to treat. It must be from the British Isles.

This is pretty common in New Zealand English, too. I'd never heard it before coming to NZ in the 90's, even in the six years I lived in Cambridge/Somerville.


I grew up in Birmingham UK and the term 'shout' for ordering a drink at the bar is commonplace all over the UK. Typical usage would be 'whose shout is it?' when asking whose turn it is to buy a round of drinks. The reply might typically be ' it's my shout, I'll get them in next!'


Do Bostonians pronounce Squirrel Skwerl or Skwirl?



The small furry animal is pronounced Squeer-el.agisile


squirrel = square•al

We say it with two syllables using an "ee" rather than an "i" in the first syllable.

Two syllables for squirrel. It's pronounced either 'skwur-il' or 'skwer'ryl' depending on location, I think, but two syllables. I grew up in the Dorchester area from mid 1950s to 1980. I moved near the border of Kentucky in 1980, and there THEY DO pronounce "squirrel" with one syllable and an accent, 'skwirl' or 'skwerl'.

Dot rat born and raised.

Squirrel is one syllable as far as I'm concerned.

I don't understand the difference between your word pronunciations. Skwerl and skwirl look like they would be pronounced the same. I say skweral.

I remember hearing my first completely unrecognizable example of Bostonese. During a break in a business meeting we were told the bathrooms were to the right and the "Waddahbubblah" was to the left. Not a clue. Later it was explained to me that the word was "water bubbler" or drinking fountain to the other 99.99% of Americans. Later that same day I was told to "bang a youey at the packy" which deciphers to "make a U turn at the liquor store" when driving around Boston. It didn't get any better as I was told to make sure "Mock knows about the potty!" and was too confused to invite "Mark to the party".

That's freakin' hilarious! :-D hahaha

I'm originally from the Raynham Bridgewater area and born in Taunton. I moved to the south about 15 years ago and I'll never forget my frustration when I was asking for a drink of waddah from the bubblah and no one knew what I was talking about, all with that blank look on their faces as most southerners have.

Oh yea, and how about having to pump your own gas. Good god, I though I would die when every gas station I pulled up to was self service. I'VE NEVER HAD TO PUMP MY OWN GAS until I moved down south. I felt like such an idiot!

Common Mistake for non-Bostonians. Mark is not "Mock" but rather
"Mahk". Party is not "potty" it's "pahtee". You are letting the New York accent infiltrate Bostonian!

I was born and raised in Boston and currently reside in Connecticut. People are constantly mocking my Boston accent, unfortunately they do a New York accent instead. I just tell them if they can't say it 'right' than they shouldn't say it at all. LoL

Mahk missed the pahty. Probably wasn't invited because he buys the cheap beeah at the packy and eats all the Hamburg and Frankfurts. Grilling out in the yahd is a cook out, never a barbeque and not even a bahbahque and we serve mostly just cities in Germany. Hamburg and Frankfurts. Never hamburgers or hot dogs or Frankfurters, except in restaurants. Your mom made American Chop Suey with Hamburg. That's macaroni, Hamburg and some kind of spaghetti type sauce. It's poor white food. Or food for poor white people.

So my vocabulary, accent, and humo(u)r is a total hodgepodge; born and raised in the Big Mitten but also lived in NH, spent time in England, and have been lost several times in Boston. This site is a treasure for anyone who loves language and is trying to learn to speak correctly--wherever. As a young adult, I was accused of being from New England; as a transplant in NH, from England. Writing novels, I've had some real fun with accents, idioms, and regionalizations! The low point of my 'English' was when working as a receptionist in a NH medical facility, made an appointment for a Mrs. Clock...and when she came in could not find any Mrs. Clark on the appointment list for the day.

The term is used in Wisconsin too. It was in use prior to the 1930's. It heard it when I was growing up in the 1940's and still hear it today. I water fountain is what is in the center of a park and people throw coins into it. You drink from a bubbler.

OK so I'm still looking for someone who remembers these words which we used to use in Malden around 1964-65:

Zoof- as in you're a stupid zoof

Click- a kid who dressed in the collegiate style even in grade school

Fusco- Elvis style

Pretty strange and I didn't dream 'em up

I grew up in the Malden/Medford area in the 60's and I remember the term "fusco". My brother was a "fusco".

I grew up in Dorchester at the same time as you, but the only word in your list that is familiar to me is 'click.' It was used, for us kids, as a fashion style mostly. For instance for girls, white Wrangler jeans and plaid shirts were "click". The boys would wear their hair cut like Justin Beiber. The other style was the 'rats' (hood rats, tough guys) where the girls teased their hair, wore black leather, and the boys hair was greasy and slicked back, and had a 'rat tail' ala "The Fonz" I think 'click' was short and mispronounced, of course, for "college" maybe?

I grew up in the 60's also, in West Roxbury, and our dress codes were either "rat" or "collegic". Funny, same city, different ways of saying things.

Ummm, I remember going to the Oriental on Friday nights and there were the younger "Rats" and "Collegiates." The Collegiates wore those awful white sweaters with a blue band and a red band around the "v" neck. And white jeans. Some kids were called preppies. Clicks were the style groups like "What click are you?"
My Dorchester Rats wore the thigh length black leather coats. They didn't have greasy hair unless it got greasy working on cars. These were the older guys who many ended up in Nam. And everybody smoked.

I have lived in AZ for the last 12 years. I say things like:
-"So don't I"... "So Aren't you"
-I pronounce Didn't...like "Did-dnt"
-I sometimes find myself saying Wada. (Is this an accent or speech problem?)
-Use bullshit, Jacked up (messed up), JImmies,

I grew up in South MA where the accent is even stronger, but moved to Milford and Watertown in my teens. I don't feel like I have an accent anymore, but my husband will constantly correct my language as if I have a speech problem. I would like to be able to explain that this is normal Mass talk!

When I moved south and enrolled my sons in school (4th grade) they put one in speech because he did not pronounce his "r"s . I said you have to be kidding me, we do not have "r"s in our house.


This made me laugh out loud, literally. I'm sorry for your kid, but I get it.

My Boston accent got the best of me a few years ago ... I was in one room and my kids were watching TV in the next room when I hear "Next up, Porn Stars". My kids were like 9 and 11 at the time. I went flying into the room demanding to know what heck they were watching and was APPALLED when they told me to stay with them because I would really like the show. Well ... turns out the show was PAWN Stars ... of course to a life-long Bostonian like me "porn" and "pawn" sound the same!!!

Where I grew up, Dorchester, porn and corn were pronounced differently. At least where I lived, grew up. lol though. Would you really say 'pawno' for 'porno'? lmao Although, I don't think I ever heard the word "pawn" until I moved to the mid-west. lol, so I may have thought the same thing.

Interestingly, there an very large lexical overlap between USMC dialecticalisms and Bostonian English. This probably has in large part to do with the fact that for quite some time, South Boston had the highest per-capita recruitment rate for the Marines of anywhere in the country.

I remember one time I was coming out of the old Harvard Square kiosk. As I was going up the steps, a citizen, an outlander, asked me for the time. I looked at my watch and told him, "Huppass foah." (4:30) He looked at me as if I'd started babbling in Swahili.
Half past, quarter til/to/of and quarter past/after don't seem to be used much in the USA.

I remember Hup pass as in hip pass 3 meaning 3:30. My mother used it all the time. I grew up in West Roxbury. She grew up in Dorchester.

I love this site. I grew up in St. Louis, my Faathe was from Baastin. Last year I re-connected with a girlfriend I knew since 6th grade. I said something about my dad being from Boston. She replied, All these years I thought your dad was from a different country. LOL. My sister and I LOVE the accent he introduced us to. To all you Bostonians, don't change a thing!

I think I was the only child raised in Missouri that had a Boston accent. My speech teachers were puzzled along with my English teachers.My father tot me well.
1.) we have a tahlit( toilet)

2) we drive a hautomoblile

3) we shop at a Stah

4.)ooooo and my favorite "Go ask your Mummer"

5.) on a Christmas tree you have to put on the oudamints
6.) in the moning you eat bref fast lol

Thanks Dad I love you.

I've lived in Dedham foah ovah foah-ty yea-ahs. When I get together with my family, who now live in New Hampshire, they can't undastand me haf the time -- my accent is wicked bad.

What happened to the word boggus.
I remember using that a lot growin up.

Boggus died with Bill and Ted...sorry buddy.

My friend from Brookline, married a man from Oakland, CA. In the 80's she asked for a birthday present:

"A wawhn leatha bomma jacket."

He told her he had no idea what she was saying.

A worn leather bomber jacket! Of course.

Hot having been born or raised in Massachusetts, my parents who are now in their 70's were from the Jersey suburbs of NYC. They recently recalled that when they were in school, ALL students were taught to speak clear and concise English. This included African-American students. Slang was not accepted and in order to graduate, a student had to speak and read at an acceptable level. As I was growing up in the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts, I do remember being corrected at home MANY times for grammar and pronunciations I had picked up from other classmates, as well as teachers! I am extremely grateful to my parents for insisting on proper speech!! Sometimes I struggle when conversing with life long natives...It's actually embarassing. There is nothing amusing or attractive about poor speech.

in Boston, we say ba-day-dah

I went to school near Woostah and *everyone* at my high school said "basement" for bathroom. As in, "I'll meet you for a butt in the G Basement" So, the space under the house was the cellah, as in "I hafta go down cella for some padados." NO ONE I meet in Boston if familiar with the basement/bathroom thing. Help!

I grew up in the Taunton area and never heard anyone call the bathroom a basement. That must be something that is within your school. Everyone uses "down cellah" though. I said it to some southerners visiting once and they looked at me like I had two heads.

It may be age-related - either the poster or the school. When I went to grade school (Washington Allston School, 1961-67) the washrooms were called "the basement" as well. However, there was only one set, and they were IN the basement.

I went to grades 1-8 at St Theresas in West Roxbury and the nuns/teachers used to call the bathroom the basement and the trash dumpster the 'dooley' [sic?].

The school/archdiocese provided us with used text books from the late 60's for our classes (to note, I went there between 80-89).

They also called going to school there an 'education'....

Here's why your nuns called the dumpster "the dooley":

I was born raised in Chelsea. The nuns in school called the bathroom the lavatory and the trash always went to the incinerator, they called the coat room a cloak room (idk why), we called soda tonic and the basement was the celler. I haven't lived there since '89 but I still have trouble w/ some words especially words w/ an "r" in the middle like parka. I always forget & say parker. I guess I over compensate the "r's". hehehe I miss it a wicked lot! :-)

When I was in elementary school (South River School - Marshfield 1964-1969) we called the washroom "the basement", too.

I grew up in Connecticut, and shuttled between NYC and Boston. I live in Florida now and still have "ideers"


Hyde Park, we called the bathrooms, basements too! 60s-70s

The old elemenatary schools in New Bedford and throughout the region weree designed with the plumbing in the basement. I think it was more modest to say basement than toilet or bathroom. Why bathroom? Are you going to take a bath at school? Rest room? Have a nice rest.

Born in 1949 - Went to Ingalls Elementary in Lynn. We used the word "Basement" for the bathroom in school. Of course, the bathrooms were located in the basement (cellar). But I can't recall what we called it at home when away from school? I'm thinking it was just "bathroom" since that's what I have always called it. Not a restroom. Not a washroom.

In a similar vein, back in North Reading we used to call the kitchen a "bedroom", and a glass of club soda with ice was called "pants". The doctor was "buckwheat farmer" and a Big Mac was "Burt Lancaster".

Very good

If you call the bathroom the basement or cellar then what do you call a basement; a dungeon, a cellar; a hole under the house?

I grew up in Hyde Pahk in the 1960s and went to the tiny Weld School which only had Kindergarden and grades 1 and 2; the latter were in one classroom! Anyway, the girls' and boys' rooms were called the basement and were actually downstairs. I spent my summers on the Cape. Our neighbors there were from Connecticut and would sometimes have me say "My fahtha pahks his cah..." I didn't get it as a kid, speaking Bostonian was just normal! My family moved to Europe when I was in my teens and I've been here for over 30 years now, but in my heart I'm still a Bostonian and proud of it!

Hi Karen, just read your comment while searching google for the Weld School. I ran into Bobbie MacDonald the other day and we where talking about the o!d days.
Were you a classmate?
John Kavin

[email protected]

I remember asking the teacher in 3rd grade to go the basement at my school in Lowell, and she asked why I needed to go home. I don't think I ever used it again.

Yep! In Tewksbury, at least in grade school in the early 70s, the school bathroom was definitely 'the basement'.

Some friends with panelling and furnitcha in the undaground pahta their homes had a finisht basemint, but we just hadda cella with the washa right next to the drya near the furnace and not too fah from the bulk-edd. We fancied ahs up some, tho. We hung a daht boa-d down theya.

I didn't feel compelled to comment until I read this. It made me laugh out loud. So perfect.

I grew up in Worcester. Any time we had to use the bathroom we'd raise our hands and ask to go to the basement. This was elementary school, after than we just asked for hall passes. I went to Kindergarten in 1969 at Dix Street, which burned down when I was in 1st grade. I then went to Elm Park and after that Nelson Place. So perhaps it is a combination of time and place? To this day when I hear basement I think bathroom.

I attended a school built in 1895, and the two toilet stalls (girls' and boys') were in the basement of the school, so maybe that's why the bathroom is called a basement.

As for basement/cellar, I always went "down cellar" to get something that was stored there. However, it's more complicated than that. The foundation under a house is a basement, but the space within the foundation is a cellar. Also, commercial buildings have basement space, but houses have cellar space.

I was just looking up the use of "basement" for "bathroom". We did that in Warren County, New York also. I thought "bathroom" must be a slightly bad word, not good enough for school. No, the bathrooms were NOT in the basement. When I moved to central New York, I found that they used the term bathroom. But they said "crick", which I thought was hilarious.

You shouldn't be embarrassed regarding the dialect of another.

Having a Boston accent is not embarrassing and nothing to be ashamed about. I have an accent and I am very proud of it. It's part of who I am and where I come from. Technically speaking English was brought here by people who were from England and dropping the r is something that came from that variation. Accents in other parts of the country are influenced by the people who settled there. For example, New Orleans has an accent that sounds French because of French settlers. So my point is if your going to criticize, you should really think about what you are saying. Pronounciation is up for interpretation and Boston accents came from our founding fathers. So I guess Boston is the closest to proper English if you want to base the language from it's origins. So I am proud and will continue to drop my r's and use whatever other local terms I chose to. And by the way after reading your post which sounded very demeaning, I must add to this that I am an intelligent and educated woman and if you have a problem with the accent there's no need to seek out a public forum to talk badly about it. Someone has way to much time on their hands.

Sometimes embarrassed by my thick Boston accent, my ear never picked up how my speech was different than others. One day my son came home from school and I noticed he was pronouncing his “R”. And I thought, ‘that’s good, he’s being taught to speak correctly.’ But years later, he told me he wished he hadn’t lost the Boston accent. Recently while making a phone reservation, I was told I should be a speech coach for Boston movies. Guess I haven’t lost it and there is a job for everyone.

Why do u make a point to say including African American students??

hi. the boston accent is not improper speech.all depends where you are from. remember, this never stopped the late bette davis,john kennedy etc..

Clear and concise English? Perhaps you fail to understand that all language is regional. The concept they taught THE English in NYC ignores the fact that English is from England. In fact the sliding R in Boston English is actually closer to the R in queen's English vs the rounded R found in GA English. Being embarrassed by regional dialects is silly and ignorant.

It's dialect. Regional dialects are correct speech within that region. If you correct someone for using dialect you're just being pedantic. (And have no understanding of everyday speech vs. formal written/spoken English.) Besides, I've lived in Jersey. Even the "nice" sections have an accent/dialect. They just don't hear it because for them it's "normal." (Normal is relative.)

I grew up in Brockton and my mum, who had more of an old Yankee accent, used to strive mightily to keep us from picking up the Brockton accent. (Italian-Irish) But she didn't correct our idiom except for "so fun." Her pet peeve. (Instead of such fun...)

I would just like to say the most annoying accent in the world is a Boston accent, sorry , but I think it makes people sound unintelligent. I grew up here and I pronounce my "r's" all of them , all the time.

Jealous perhaps, but definitely not sorry.

Dialects are a part of every language; get over yourself.

I could say the same about Southern drawls, but I don't want to be rude. We can't help where we were raised and how we were raised to speak.

I totally agree, that's what makes us unique. Do we really all want to sound like generic "neeyooz" reporters. In the Mass. NH. areas we would say, "I just wahcht that on the Nooz." I think that people just don't like it when they don't understand what people, they aren't familiar with, are saying but once they become familiar, they learn the new dialect & pronunciation & adapt to the new style by first understanding, & if they stick around with these speakers, they too will sound somewhat like them. It's the same thing as learning a new language, in way, and what's wrong with broadening one's linguistic proficiency??? I think it will result in strengthening your language skills, which will make you a better communicator no matter where you find yourself.

Ohio is in the Midwest, y'all. We are NOT Southern - and I don't really think we sound like it, either.

... can be quite southern-like.

I feel sorry for ya.

Let's get a spukie and a tonic. Didja eat yet?

Where die the word spukie originate? grew up in Lynnfield but lived in Southie for several years when I was in nursing school and we are spukies. My hubby is from Wellesley and never heard of spukies. Tonic yeah.

At least you had the did in there. We always just said Jeet 'nything?

I left Massachusetts in 1956 and soon learned how to speak English as it is written [no wonder the kids in Mass. can't spell.] but when I'm tired and not alert I'll revert and pronounce a word incorrectly and my wife will say to me. "What did you say?"

I remember Jack Parr saying that the Brittish don't talk that way when the first get up in the morning.

Here's one I remember from my childhood. From the television series Bonanza, the very large son of Lorne Green we called "horse" (his name was Hoss). But he rode ontop of a "hoss".

I went into the Navy in 1989. I spoke a thick, East Boston dialect of Boston english. I ran into some serious issues on my fist ship, because I was the only one from Boston. My LPO (Lead Petty Officer) was going to grade me low on Communications on my eval unless I changed my ways. Luckily there was a PACE instructor riding the ship with us. He was an English professor from the University of Texas. He trained me on how to speak American English. I had to learn to relax the jaws, and slow down my speech. I also learned to not pronounce the letter A so strongly. It's the strong A that drowns out the Rs in Bostonese. This allowed me to enunciate the R sounds, and not run the words together. Eventually, I picked up a southern accent which stuck with me to this day. I now live in West Virginia and speak like the locals here. Twice a year I visit my kinfolk up in Saugus. I am constantly asked where I am from. Folks are shocked when I tell them I grew up in Saugus. Sometimes, however, when I've had some adult beverages or am real tired, I'll start losing R's and using that gutteral "A" sound famous among Boston English speakers. I tell people I am bilingual now - American English and Boston English. When I am out with my wife and my Mom, I have to translate between Southern English and East Boston English so they can understand each other. A "Potty" is a "Party", Sprinkles are Jimmies, Soda is Tonic, and my wife is still trying to find what kind of starch a Badayda is. I think they are related to taters. LOL!

This post is stereotyping children from Massachusetts, We don't write our accent on paper. Do southerners add extra R's when writing a sentence? Dumb ass

Exactly. We don't spell our accent. Just ridiculous

Then again, nobody who speaks English writes the way they talk. Such is the way of English orthography. People do write it out on these pages because this whole glossary is an exploration of Boston English. I'm sure if there were a similar Southern dictionary, you'd see the same thing. It's not an attack on the way people talk.

Go on craigslist and see how many posts there are in the Boston area for dressers with "draws."

I have also seen "brars" in writing. And my last name ends in an "uh" sound, but people here often put an R on the end.

When I worked with people with developmental disabilities and folks needed to write down a precaution that an individual had pica, I would often see it written as "piker." I saw it written more than once using the construction that a particular individual "is a piker."

Of course all dialects involve differences between spoken and written language, and yes, most people know how to spell, but I do agree that some of the misspellings coming from folks who write less well do reflect misconceptions that originate from dialect.

Last night at the CVS on Mass Ave by Symphony Hall, I was shopping for some razors. The store is under renovations, and a very kind, female CVS employee walked up to me and said:

"If yuah lookin' foah rayzah cahtrahges, they'ah byack behind the registah."

I've been living in Boston for over a year, and the accent never gets old. I love it!

I've been here 10 years (having left the first time when i was 8) and it continues to grow on me and crack me up equally. . . and in the last few years it's become increasingly endearing.

I grew up in Boston, as did my parents and both sets of grandparents. I have lived most of the last 20 years in New Zealand but have not lost my accent, and likely never will. My accent is overwhelmingly noticed by New Zealanders as being a 'really pleasant', 'easy to understand', 'not annoying', 'soft', and 'nice to listen to' American accent! I laugh when I tell them what the rest of the US thinks of it. Everything is relative... (New Zealanders don't pronounce their "r"s either.)

Accents are great! They make our world colorful! It's interesting to figure out where people come from by listening to their pronunciation. You just shouldn't sound like you've never been anywhere else (not only a matter of the accent!)
So we Bostonians don't pronounce our "r"s. But elsewhere they don't say short "o"s, they say "ah", or why would anyone confuse a party and a potty?!

We go back to 1908, right off the boat into Boston...I moved to California for college and was shopping at the Coop, I told the checkah' about getting padadahs and cohn form the cella etc. she called over to the the supervisor and said she needed someone to interpret for her she had a foreigner from someplace in Europe or Canada! I laughed until I almost peed my pants...she was dead serious, later I explained and she stil had a tin ear for the most colorful dialect of English outside of Aberdeen Scotland...

Try this with people trying to speak like us. These 3 words to us are not pronounced the same: Mary, marry, merry. Someone said it's the a and it has something to do with the roof of the mouth.a lot of people do not find any difference between Mary and marry. If you can pronounce those 3 little words differently you just might catch on.

New Yorkers distinguish the three as well (I say this as a former Brooklynite). Midwesterners, however, yes, they have the hardest time with it (I say this as a former Brooklynite married to somebody from Illinois).

Merry and Marry, they are the same pronuncied. It is probably off from your accent only in that we say mehhhhhhhhhhhhry or mahhhhhhhhhhhhhhry. sometimes it is drawn out a slight. As for the name Mary, completely different pronuncy. It plays out pretty much Boston North to NH border, and probably beyong into So NH, bc its all about taxes etc, people migrate. Thats said, Mary, to us, would be pronounced, Mayahree. Not quite so easy! It actually has to to be Mayahr,ree. So like mayar,ee. different from breaking off syllable in grade school! Thats actually why i think 99.9 percent of the boston movies have the wrong accents although they mean well, its the sylable. Even the Wahlbergs, Matt Damon, who do Boston movies, I notice within the first minute its wrong. They have been out o the element for so long. But they do okay. I also notice LA actors have the exact same accent as the prior do. I think its just an LA accent for so many years. In any case, still love them! remembah, most people just say membah? and its wicked awesome for good, and wicked bad for agreeing with what the person just stated, meaning totally true.

I grew up in a small town about 25 miles from Boston,495, Route 1 and 2 go straight through it and Route 3 is about 10 minutes away, I worked as a waitress in my teen years. Many people from Boston came through, I got used to Boston slang growing up as well as working, but I have learned a true New Engander will always say jimmies and/or get irritated when people say sprinkles.

Grew up on the South Shore during the 60's and 70's. Had a wickid thick Boston accent until I learned to speak Spanish. One thing I still say though is "i-in" as in "I need to i-in my pants they are wrinkled". Accents make us interesting.

A friend of mine (not from Boston) was teaching her Dorchester middle schoolers about words we use in English that derive from native American words. After defining a number of words, she wrote "toboggan" on the board and said "does anyone know what toboggan means?" A boy raised his hand and said, "sure, it's when you're buying something and you argue to get the price down."

Thank you for your works regarding our peculiar ways of speaking. I love reading about observations of the Boston accent and it's variations. I wear mine proudly.

Some others are.....

POCK•A•BOOK is a woman's pocketbook.

PITCHA- it can be anything from the guy on the mound at Fenway or a movie (motion picture) as in "Did you see the Depahted? That was a swell Pitcha" to something you put lemonade in (a pitcher.

ORAN•JADE or orangeade is orange soda (which is tonic.) Funny thing is when in Washington DC one time I asked for tonic and they thought I meant some kind of medicine or hair tonic.

And other places we add R's where they shouldn't be are Lisa= leeser, pasta is pahster, and idea is idear.

We "werk" at our jobs.

And you don't have a heart attack, you take one. As in Sully took a haht attack at his job on the T.
Of course then he got bettah so we had a time for him when he retired (re•tie•yed)

and if you get a job with the state you "got on the state" or with the MBTA you "got on the T"

We eat "pah•day•duhs" mashed or boiled.

We drink Boddled Wodda now since bubbelahs are rare.

Filene's was pronounced Fill•eans

We shopped at the Quinzee bahgin centah.

And Quincy was Quinzee and Worcester was Wista but Medford was not Meffa unless you lived on the north shore.

And if you were a narcissist you were "con•seeded".

And typing this on an iPhone with auto correct on has been quite a chore.


From a Dot Rat now living on the northern part of the Irish Riviera (Nantasket Beach)

Others I remember from Dorchester were.....

You i•yun your pants when they are wrinkled.
An almond was an armand
A hoss race was something you bet on.
The Red Line was called The Rattler.
The nuns called the bathroom the lavratory which we thought was laboratory.
We had a swill bucket in the ground next to the back porch.

...were the names of our neighbors when we first moved here from Ohio. I never knew what to call them! If I said Bawbee an Ahleen, I felt ridiculous; but if I said Bobby and Arlene, it seemed like I wasn't saying their real names. Overheard in a movie theater: "Hey Bawbee, yawant some bawnbawns?" Gawd, I love the Boston accent!

Fei-ah...what my mother, from Dorchester, used to call a fire.

getcha sweatah. Weer gonnah go down the baah and havah couplah Perl Hahbahs."

I travel a lot for work and of necessity attempt to moderate some of the most audible aspects of my local accent. A couplah pops, though, and it all comes back.

There are worse accents, though. On a street in London, I was once asked for directions by a young man whom I eventually learned was from Perth, Scotland. I had to ask him to repeat himself, twice, before saying, "One more time, please, and slowly. I'm sorry. I know you're speaking English, but I don't have a clue what you're saying."

Place names are a problem for those of us not raised here as well. As above, it's "Situit" which is pretty close to the original Massasoit pronunciation of "Satuit." And it's not "Nep-on-set" as he thought it sounded the first time a friend from Texas saw it written on an offramp sign on the Expressway. Nor "Wistah" or "Lemmonstah."

No one, though, comes close to Mefford resident Kim whose rant against, among things, Tufts students, Tevas, recycling, and "intalopahs" - which so help me God I first thought must have been small animals - brings me to tears of joy:


"Wicked". Contrary to the definition in a Webster's dictionary. Wicked is a New Englandah for Bostonians term of universal endearment to anything. I grew up in Tyngsboro then moved to Back bay, then Mefford'. All the kids used to refer to girls as wicked hot. Skateboard tricks as wicked nice. Some clam chowdah from champions sports bah as wicked good. And if something was real wicked it was " ballsy". Anyone else?

Sometimes, but more often a good thing was "the balls." Of course, the old standby here is "pissa" (NOT "pisser" which is where a guy goes to do #1). If the thing is even better than that it is "wicked pissa."

I get that Bostonians drop final r's, but how do you pronounce middle ones, as in "parrot."

(I actually need this for a play, and this word trips me up every time ...)


Same as everybody else.

The R is always pronounced if followed by a vowel. So "parrot part" would be "parrot paht."

I am an associate professor of historical linguistics in Japan but was born in England.

I am researching special words for “yes” and “no” in Boston. Colonists from the East of England, where I grew up, may have brought "jess" and "dow" to New England in the seventeenth century. Four hundred years later, these special words still survive.

In the East of England, we still use dow and jearse today. However, these words for “no” and “yes” are not recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary or the Survey of English Dialects. Nor were they recorded by the Linguistic Atlas of New England; but the Dictionary of American Regional English cites daow, daowd, dow, doh or day-oh in Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts and Rhode Island as well as New York State. There is also daow in New Hampshire. For “jearse or jess,” informants in my survey cited jass in Upstate New York and possibly Vermont, jearse in New Hampshire, jyes or djess in Maine and Massachusetts.

A couple of people have told me of a possible "jess" in Boston. So I'd like to ask your readers: do you say "jess" for "yes" or "dow" for "no" in Boston?

I have more information about my research plus a survey that readers can complete online at http://yesandno.info/

I have used "jess" for yes, and even "jup" for yup, but more as a play on spanish accents than colloquially. I have not heard them otherwise. Nor have I heard "dow" used as no here in Boston.

As a kid growing up in Arlington we used to play "bombardment" all the time, it was only when I got older and moved out of town that I learned that the rest of the world refers to the game as dodgeball.

meaning i swear to god i'm not lying.