19 May 1995

A Boston Lexicon

How to speak with a Bawstin Accent

How to speak with a Bawstin Accent

It’s not so bzah when you know how

by John Powers, Boston Globe

HOLLYWOOD ALWAYS GETS IT WRONG. They have the guy from Boston sounding like Cliff Robertson imitating Jack Kennedy aboard PT 109. Or else he’s like Jeremy Irons doing Claus von Bulow. People never grasp the broad a – not that it’s that hahd. Just open your mouth and say ah, like the doctah tells you.

The Boston accent is merely the King’s English (from East Anglia, in fact) marinated in conned beef and cabbidge for 150 yeahs or so and doused with clam sauce from the Nawth End. They cahn’t understand it in Alabamer. They hahdly understand it in Wistah.

My first day in college, I showed up at the dawm sporting a broken nose. “What happened to you?” wondered my roommate from Beverly Hills. “Ran into a pahked cah,” I said. He ran off to fetch our other roommate, from the Cleveland suburbs. “Tell him what you just told me,” he said.

It’s a mattah of the broad a and the silent r, which is the essence of tawkin Bawstin. The rnayah, who comes from Hyde Pahk, tawks Bawstin. So do Mike Eruzione, Ernie Boch, Larry DiCahrah, and Mimi Powiz, my sistah. Howie Cah does not tawk Bawstin. Neither do the guvnah, Red Owahback, or the Kennedys.

Not that the accent is difficult to acquire. Henry Higgins could have taught Eliza Doolittle to tawk Bawstin in a mattah of owahs. The Bawstin version of “The Rain in Spain” is as follows: My ahnt takes her bahth at hah-pahst foah.

A Bawstin Lexicon

ah – The letter between “q” and s.”

ahdery – Runs through the middle of th city. Ahftah foah o’clock, it’s clogged with cahs.

ahnt – Sistah of your fathah or muthah. Also: are not.

bah – Serves beah and hahd likkah: The train to Noo Yok has a bah cah.

bayah – Ferocious brown or black animal

beah – Malt beverage; e.g., Gansett.

bon – As in: Where were you bon? I was bon in J.P.

Bawstin cream pie – A frosted layih cake.

Broons – Professional hockey team, named after bayahs.

Buljah – President of the state Senate. Likes the guvnah; does not like Howie Cah.

bzah – Strange, odd: The Stuart case was bzah.

cahdnal – Oversees the Ahchdiasis of Bawstin. If speaker is over 50, refers Richard Cushing.

Chahlie – He may ride forever ‘neath the streets of Bawstin. Last seen rumblin’ through Leechmeah; now needs 80 cents to get off the train.

Chahlz – The rivah; take the MTA across.

chowdah – Clams, milk, buttah. Only a Noo Yokka (e.g., a chowdahead) puts tomatoes in it.

con – Stahchy veggie that comes on a cob. The Pilgrims stole the Indian’s seed con to get through the wintah of 1621.

connah – Where streets intersect, e.g., Fields, Uphams.

Dappah – The city councilah most likely to drop by at your wake.

Dot – Short fir Dotchestah. Mahky Mahk, the rappah, grew up neah Dot Ave.

Emeffay – The Museum of Fine Ahts

Evacuation Day – When the redcoats left. Same date as St Patrick’s Day, a legal holiday if you work in City Hall.

fah – Not neals heah: Chiner is fah from Needum.

fayah – What life is not.

fok – What you eat pahster with.

frappe – Milk, ice cream, and syrup mixed together. Take out the ice cream, and it’s a milkshake.

fyah – Blaze: The Great Fyah of 1872 reduced a lahge paht of Bawstin to cindahs.

gahbidge – What they used to dump in the hahbah.

Gahden – What they’re tearing down this yeah.

guvnah – Chief executive of the commonwealth.

hahbah – What the Sonsalibidy dumped the tea into in 1773. To find it, walk east until your hat floats.

hahlakwin – A blend of vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream, served at pahties.

Hahshbahgah – Attorney general; the man who would be gavnah.

Hahvid – Country day school across the rivah. The guvnah went thene. So did Hahshbahgah. Not the mayah, though.

hahf-ahst – Done without regahd to detail.

heah – Done with the eahs: Listen, my children, and you shall heah/Of the midnight ride of Paul Reveah. Also: not thayah.

hoss – Equine quadruped. Runs at Suffick.

Howahya – How are you?

Ianeah – Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

khakis – What you staht the cah with.

mayah – Chief executive of the city. Used to be Irish, before the Irish moved to Milton. James Michael Curley was the mayah of the pooah.

Mutheragawd! – Favorite expletive of a fawmah mayah.

nawtheastah – A multiday stawm that blows in from the wottah. In February, a blizzid.

NINA – No Irish Need Apply. Employment signs remembered bitterly by third generation Irish who never saw one.

Noo Yok – Sinkhole of America, 240 miles south of Tremont Street. Everyone at BU comes from Noo Yok.

Oah – Greatest Broon evah. Woah Numbah Foah. Also: what the Hahvid crew rows with.

oddah – I’m Mahtha. Can I take yiz oddah?

owah – Sixty minutes. Also: belonging to us.

pahk – Cahn’t do it in Hahvid Yahd. Not downtown, eithah. Maybe in Glosta.

pahkah – One who pahks a cah.

pahker – What you wayah in the wintah.

pahlah – Where the sofer is.

pahm – Fried cutlet, covered with cheese and tomato sauce.

Pahselz – Coach of the professional football team neah Patuckit. Moah populah than the guvnah – this yeah.

pahster – Spaghetti, ziti, etc., served with veal pahm.

paht – Neighborhood of the city: What paht of Bawstin ah you from? Dot? Rozzie? Eastie?

pahty – A social gathering. Also: Democratic or Republican.

pastah – The rectah of a parish, like St Mahgrit’s or Sacred Haht.

pickchahs – Canvases by Sahjent et al. hanging in the Emeffay.

pichahs – They throw fastballs at Fenway.

retahded – Silly: Making Nancy Kerrigan wear her Olympic medal at Disney World wasn’t just “corny”; it was retahded.

Rawjah – He throws the fastest fastballs at Fenway.

Reveah – He rode through Ahlington on a hoss, shouting “To ahms!” Lived in the Nawth End. Also: the city just above Bawstin on the wottah.

shuah – Of course.

Seltz – Local professional basketball team. Plays on a pahkay floah at the Gahden.

shot – Not tall. The mayah is shot.

squayah – Intersection with a bus stop, a smoke shop, and a Brigham’s; e.g., Cleary, Oak, Maverick, Codman.

speekah – Tip O’Neill, back when the Democrats ran things. Now refers to Chahlie Flaherty up the State House. Mistahspeekah, to you.

Sssta – (variant) I know the ansah, Sistah Mary of the Immaculate Conception. Call on me.

tamorrah – The day ahftah today.

tonic – Coke, Sprite, etc. Not to be confused with tonic wottah, which goes with gin.

waw – An ahmed conflict As in: “If they mean to have a waw, let it begin heah.”

wof – A peeah, jutting into the hahbah; e g., Rowes, India, Long.

wottah – A blend of hydrogen and oxygen. Also: a street next to Milk.

Yankee – Descendant of the folks who stole the Indians’ seed con.

yeah – A 365-day period. The Red Sox always make us wait until the next one.

yiz – You, plural. As in: “Ah yiz goin’ down the Cape tamorrah?”