October 6, 2015

What the Heck Does That Mean?

Growing up on the south shore of Massachusetts, I heard all kinds of interesting sayings and words. Some I still use to this day. But, when I worked in Boston, I came across all kinds of accentsand these were from the natives, not the tourists. I've read that there are as many as 14 different dialects in Massachusetts alone, never mind the rest of New England. We're just that cool.

I've always been fascinated by language. From the time I was a little girl, I wondered why the people on the television spoke differently than the people I was living with. I started to notice patterns of speechcadence, tonality, the lack of diction. When I would read books, I would hear the voices of the characters come to life in my head. And they never sounded like Uncle Joe (sorry, Joe). I would speak different words out loud in other accents to see which one sounded better. I would practice my southern accent, my English accent, and my poor cousins from Minnesota's accent endlessly, don'tcha know. And throughout this whole time, I was inevitably learning how not to talk like everyone else. Yes, I could be a weather girl on any channel in any state and you wouldn't know where I was from. In fact, I'm constantly being asked where I come from because they just can't place the "accent".

Over the weekend, the girls were discussing some of the words and phrases their college friends use from other parts of the country, so it's clearly not just a New England thing. However, I think we've corned the market on the delivery.

Awesome is a word that you'll hear all around the country, but I believe it came to life in the 80s when someone in a Massachusetts high school declared that everything was just awesome. EVERYTHING. And wicked awesome to boot. Yes, I've used this term myself. Jokingly these days, but I too have turned that little nugget around and around in my mouth to sound just like every other over-permed, over-dressed teenage girl during that time. (And if you add the word, pissahwell, then, you're a tried and true native indeed. Translation: wicked pissah = superb!)

And forget what you hear on TV. Most of the time actors don't do a Boston accent justice. I'd rather hear an actor speak in his or her regular voice than try to mimic the old-school Kennedy accent that has broad "a"s and is non-rhotic, meaning the "r" sounds drop when it precedes other consonants (smart become "smaht", chowder becomes "chowda"). Leave this to the experts like Mark Wahlberg, John Krasinski, Matt Damon, and Ben Affleck (the real deal). And by the way, you really can't "pahk the cah in Hahvuhd Yahd" because its 22 acres is off limits to vehicles.

Here are some real gems so can understand what I'm trying to say.
  • There is no letter "r" in the New England dictionary. Somewhere along the line, we managed to take the aristocratic sound of our British ancestors dialect and mangle it just enough to make us sound as uneducated as we possibly could. (As stated above.) Those crazy mainers drop them into words just for the hell of it.
  • As Massachusetts continues to take out "rotaries" (traffic circles, roundabouts), New Hampshire is putting them in! Let's not even discuss the difference between the two states when it comes to driving. No one knows how to use them here (NH) and no one knows the "laws" of a rotary outside of MA. Who ever heard of using a blinka?! Every Masshole takes pride in their aggressive driving.
  • If you visit a variety of towns, you'll wonder how the heck we came up with the pronunciations. Worcester = woosta, Peabody = peebadee. You see, you're screwed no matter what. This video should enlighten you further.
  • An ode to my adopted state... "When an illness forced General John Stark (the state's most distinguished Revolutionary War hero), to decline an invitation to the 32nd anniversary reunion of an important battle, he instead sent a written toast to his wartime comrades. It read, 'Live Free or Die; Death Is Not The Worst of Evils.' More than a century later, the 1945 Legislature adopted it as the official state motto. It remains the ballsiest motto of the 50 states."* Take that, Connecticut.
  • And in no particular order... jimmies = sprinkles, frappe (frap) = milkshake, bureau = dresser, soda = tonic or pop, pocketbook = purse, bubbla = water fountain, packie = liquor store, weiner = hot dog, grinder = toasted sub, dungarees = jeans, clicker = TV remote. And aunt is pronounced ahnt, not ant! I could go on and on, but I'm pretty sure you get the idea.
As an aside, you're also in a pickle if you try to read a road map. Anyone over the age of 35 isn't going to know where the heck I-95 is, because we call it 128. You'll go north to head south, east to go west, and by the time you check your road map, Siri, or seek guidance from up above, you're sure as hell lost. But you could always just "bang a uey". (Bang a you-ee means turn around.) Good luck!

P.S. I love this video.

*Business Insider. Photo: Meg


Anonymous said...

This article made me crack up! No one knows what the heck we're saying half the time! It's priceless.
Meg from Massachusetts

Candace said...

I believe your use of the word "psyched" also qualifies. ;o)