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The Boston Accent - A 535 Word Study

By Edited Nov 17, 2016 6 16

Park The Car In Harvard Yard (36423)

From North to South and East to West, accents in the United States vary greatly. Every region injects their own special flavor into the English language then accuses other groups of "talking funny".

The Boston area has received their share of guffaws and finger pointing. Free from pronouncing the many "r"s rolled out by other states, their unique accent sometimes causes outsiders to mistakenly believe Bostonians are lacking in intelligence. That's ridiculous of course, with Haahvid College looming only four subway stops from downtown. Those outsiders probably also believe a British accent signifies higher intelligence.

The English language is malleable and Bean Town citizens have taken advantage of that by making adjustments. With wild abandon, they play a kind of handheld sliding tile puzzle game for language, shifting the letter "r" from traditional positions into the most unexpected places. For instance, while you may have an idea, they have an idear. They also have an aunt Glorier and they get facials at a health spar.

Small variances in the accent can be heard from city to city in the Boston outskirts. In Fall Riva a hot dog is a hot dog. But just over the bridge in Sommaset, a hot dog becomes a haht doag, which seems to have a strictly New York influence rather than something devised by Boston pilgrims. It clearly makes sense that small states jammed so close together might spill their lilt into neighboring communities.

But why is it that natives of Boston can pronounce the name Clarence yet identify the father of our country as Jawge Washington? Were you aware the Hyannispoht Kennedy's had a son named Robbit and one named Edwood? For many, pronouncing Mary is easy but Maahk is not. Like shooting dice, natives give their offspring names like Maahleen and Peta, betting against the kids growing up, moving to other parts of the country and changing their given names to Marlene and Peter.

The Boston accent has a cadence to it that poses a challenge for many actors. Ever see someone tie a cherry stem in a knot using only their tongue? That's the kind of contortion required to correctly speak with a Boston accent if you weren't born and bred by the Charles River. The long-running TV show Cheers starred two of the most proficient actors in the warped accent, Rhea Perlman as bar maid Carla Tortelli and John Ratzenberger as postal employee Cliff Clavin. Both added authenticity to the program. For these actors drawers became draws, twenty-five cents was a quahda, and the ultimate award for the actor, an Osca.

I grew up in the historic, original whaling city, New Bedfid. My personal experience demonstrates that it takes years to dilute an unmistakable New England accent. Once you do, you think you're done with it. But then you go home to visit family, and in twenty-five minutes you're sitting on the couch asking for a glass of Chaahdonay.

Along with the accent comes a wicked good sense of humor that allows Bostonians to appreciate their unique sound rather than make excuses. Apologies? Never! Instead they post a giant billboard on the interstate just outside of Logan airport with a simple message: BOSTON MUSEUM OF AHT.

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Comments

Dec 31, 2010 4:47pm
rayuhler
Your writing is indeed a work of Aht.
Dec 31, 2010 5:11pm
dreamaker
I agree, Great article Diva, and me from guess where? grew up 29 miles from Bauston!!
Dec 31, 2010 5:20pm
divaonline
Almost a Southie, huh? :) Thanks for your comment!
Dec 31, 2010 5:31pm
Deborah-Diane
This ahhticle is adahhorable! What a wonderful job you did of writing out the words phonetically, so we knew exactly how you were intending them to be pronounced. It must be the screenwriting skills that you've developed over the years. At any rate, I loved the article. Great way to end the year!
Dec 31, 2010 5:58pm
divaonline
Thanks Y'all! It was born with the conversation you and I had. Happy New Year!
Jan 1, 2011 1:14am
Introspective
Hey Divaonline, great article! I remember the first time I heard that "Boston Accent," it was when I stepped off an airplane at Logan airport, on my honeymoon.
Jan 1, 2011 12:56pm
Lynsuz
Great article. I'm from New York,but live now in Georgia, I have a hard time understanding the people here. They leave out syllables.^^
Jan 1, 2011 8:19pm
divaonline
Whole Syllables! I thought the "r" was bad. Appreciate the comment!
Jan 2, 2011 10:22am
bestmommy
Love it! We currently live in the south and my husband's NY accent is often confused for a Boston accent. He tends to add or drop the "r" from many words. Toilet paper = Terlit papah
Jan 2, 2011 4:33pm
divaonline
Too funny! Thanks for the comment bestmommy!
Jan 3, 2011 7:29pm
aguy
I grew up in the midwest, but lived in Dallas a couple years. The woman in the office next to mine was from Boston. She had been in Dallas for a number of years when I met her. She had a thick Boston accent with Dallas dripping over it. I would have to say it was the most unusual accent I have ever heard.
Jan 3, 2011 7:35pm
divaonline
I can relate. After leaving the East Coast, I moved to Texas for a short time. I had the same problem as your co-worker and when I went home to visit, my family had raised eyebrows. Thanks for sharing your story.
Jan 8, 2011 8:07pm
bayoulady
My deaahh,it's aw-most lak they ahher suthornas!
Jan 9, 2011 12:18pm
divaonline
Too funny bayoulady! Yes, the word dear is definitely pronounced the same!
Jan 9, 2011 10:07am
Blogger
Some of the accents over here in the UK are hard to understand as well. I'm from Liverpool, just 15 miles from Manchester. But the difference in accents is so different.
Boston is named after the English town of Boston in Lincolnshire. And people from there talk rather different as well.
Jan 9, 2011 12:26pm
divaonline
Many of the cities in New England are named for English towns. The English influence is still very prominent. When I was growing up we said "bath" and "aunt" the same way Brits do. We also spelled a few words differently than the rest of the country, like "theatre". Thanks for the comment Blogger!
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