Welcome to Bawstuhn!

“Welcome to Bahstuhn. Pahk your cah ovah heah. This rain’s a real pissah, but the weathah’s gonna be wicked on Satuhday onna-conna the 80-degree weathah. Heah’s an idear – once you’re done in the packy, let’s go get some chowdah.”

Just so we’re clear, not everyone in New England talks like this. Most of the people I’ve encountered have at least some accent, but the degree varies based on some factor which I don’t know. I’ve only heard a couple people say “wicked,” and none have said “pisser,” though I imagine if I hung out in Southie, the ratios would change.

It’s still a strange, new world; having moved to the Boston suburb of Quincy (inexplicably pronounced Quinzee) from Eastern Oregon, I’d thought my biggest challenges would be (after finding a job), figuring out the best way to commute to work, finding the grocery store with the best produce and locating an honest auto-repair shop to change my car’s oil. Little did I know. I’ve seen the movies and heard the jokes, but I’ve met people from Boston, and they didn’t talk like this! Not just the accents – there are regional colloquialisms and words with completely different meanings from the rest of the country.

Here, people drive cahs, drink in bahs and root for their Stanley Cup Champion Broons. If you order chowdah, you’ll get New England clam chowder, never the Manhattan style, and occasionally a corn chowder or other variety. Don’t confuse chowdah with a chowdah-head, which is either a dummy or a Boston native, depending on how it’s used.

My husband’s office is not on Dorchester Avenue, as the sign says, but on Dot-av. To get to work, I can take Mass-av to Comm-av, or I might take the Pike to Cam-av. If I’m feeling adventurous, I could take 128, though good luck finding it, since highway signs announce it as 95 and/or 93. Or, I could take the T (subway, aka: The Rattler) from Nawth Quinzee to Pahk Street and transfer to the green line. To add to the confusion, there are no freeways in Boston. They have expressways, highways and The Pike (Massachusetts Turnpike), sometimes known as MassPike.

Bostonians (Bawstonians) put jimmies on their ice cream, eat grinders and spuckies while drinking tonic, and go to the packy to purchase beer (beah) or liquor (that’s chocolate sprinkles, toasted sub sandwiches, hoagies, soda [soder] pop and liquor store, to the rest of us). Is there any other town in which you can walk into a deli and order a three-way? In Boston, if you order a roast beef sandwich “three-way,” it comes with cheese, sauce and mayo. Prior to ordering a three-way in Boston, the conversation may sound something like this: “Jeet?” “No, ju?”

Did you know that if you order a milkshake in Boston, you’ll end up with frothy milk – with or without flavored syrup, depending on how you order it. If you want an actual milkshake (the kind with ice cream), order a frappe. If you’re looking for a water fountain, ask around for a bubbler (or a bubblah – they’ll know). If you drive clockwise on a rotary, you could end up face-to-face with a statey (rotary = traffic circle or roundabout; statey = state policeman, or often, any policeman, who are also called “The Boys”). Before you hook a right, or bang a left, you’ll want to use your directional (turn signal or blinker). One also “bangs a u-ey,” which I’ve always heard as “flip a u-ey,” though I don’t recall ever having “flipped a left.” Boston drivers are called “Massholes” for good reason (just don’t confuse them with “Maine-iacs”).

For most of us, garbage is garbage. Not so New Englanders. Rubbish is dry trash, garbage is wet trash, and they both go into a barrel. If you want to spend a day with your family at a park, you’ll want to go to a reservation. They have reservations for skiing, fishing, hiking – virtually all outdoor activities.

For dry cleaning, go to the cleansers, and if you’re in a grocery store, grab a carriage to hold your purchases. The parlor is what we know as a living room, and a porch is a “piazza.” A stolen car is a hot box and if you ask someone for a ride to the spa, you’re likely to end up in a convenience store.

On a few occasions, I have seen signs posted that read: “No Trespassing. Police Take Notice,” and wondered whether the sign posters were threatening would-be trespassers about the watchful eyes of the police, or whether they were encouraging the police to “look over here” in case of trespassers. Turns out it’s the latter. No anecdotal evidence to share about how well the signs work, on either count.

You may have encountered Worcestershire sauce in your life, and been flummoxed by the pronunciation. My mother assured me it was “worstershire.” The town Worcester, Mass., which, if the sauce theory holds, should be pronounced “worster,” or even “wooster,” is “Wistah,” though “Woostah” is also acceptable.

All this to say: these people talk funny. The good thing about funny, though, is it makes us laugh. So Bawstuhn: you keep talking, and I’ll keep laughing.


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