Standing with Boston Today

[Edit] It has been pointed out that the list below is somewhat dated. Bostonians, do your duty and come up with a 21-st century version!]


Today Boston needs love. Here are a few reasons to feel good about Beantown. In addition, 29 more reasons can be found at Buzzfeed.


             Everybody knows about pahking cahs in Hahvuhd Yahd, but there’s more to the accent than that. In Boston English, “ah” (the one without an R after it) often becomes something closer to “aw”, so that, for example, “tonic” (see below), comes out more like “tawnic” (former Mayor Kevin White would often express outrage by exclaiming “Motha a’Gawd!”). And it’s not just after the A’s that the R’s go away. They disappear after other vowels as well, particularly “ee” sounds, so that one could properly argue that “Reveah is wicked wee‑id” (translation: “Revere is unusual”). But don’t worry about poor lost New England R’s. In typical Yankee fashion, we re‑use ’em ‑‑ by sticking them on the ends of certain other words ending with “uh” sounds: “Ah final ahs just disappeah, but wheah they go we’ve no idear.”

The quickest way to convince a native that you’re just a tourist is to refer to “the PublicGardens” (even if you pronounce it “Public Gahdens”) or “the Boston Commons.” Both are singular (ie., “PublicGarden” and “Boston Common”). Other tips: Tremont is pronounced “Treh‑mont” and it’s COPley, not COPEly, Square (or Squayuh). The pronunciation of many other Massachusetts locations bears little resemblance to their spelling; to avoid the feeling that the natives are snickering at you behind your back, take The Massachusetts Quiz. And now onto the vocabulary…


What you deposit trash in.


Boat shoes, i.e., Keds.

Breakdown Lane

Highway shoulder. Also, an oxymoron ‑‑ the last place you want to break down in greater Boston is in the breakdown lane, especially during rush hour, when it becomes the high‑speed lane (in some places, even legally).


That’s a water cooler to you, bub.


Boston bowling; involves tiny little pins and tiny little wooden balls (the pins are so hard to hit, you get three tries a frame). Watch “Candlepins for Cash” every Saturday morning, always hosted by some retired/fired sportscaster, like Don Gillis or Bob Gamere.


What you use to wheel your groceries around at the Stah Mahket.


Where you bring your clothes to be dry cleaned.

Dot Ave

Dorchester Avenue.


Where somebody is, for example: “They’re down the Cape today.”


Rubber band.


A milkshake or malted elsewhere, it’s basically ice cream, milk and chocolate syrup blended together. The ‘e’ is silent.

Get on the state

Land a job with the MBTA, MWRA or some other state agency.


A small cup of ice cream, the kind that comes with a flat wooden spoon.  Sometimes used to refer to certain teen‑aged girls.


Those little chocolate or multi‑colored thingees you ask the guy at the ice‑cream store to put on top of your cone.


A city next to Sommaville.


Where you buy liquor (closed on Sundays).

The Pike

The Massachusetts Turnpike. Also, the world’s longest parking lot, at least out by Sturbridge on the day before Thanksgiving.

Plenty a chahm

What all houses for sale have, at least according to the brokers. Really old houses also tend to have “characta,” especially if the roof and floors need to be replaced.


Young resident of certain neighborhoods, for example: “Rozzie rat” and “Dot rat” (the former being a denizen of Roslindale, the latter of Dorchester). The Back Bay and Beacon Hill do not have rats, at least not of the human variety.


What the natives call Roslindale, Boston’s premier neighborhood. Not to be confused with Southie, Eastie or Westie.


A traffic circle. One of Massachusetts’ two main contributions to the art of traffic regulation (the other being the red‑and‑yellow pedestrian‑crossing light).


The day after Friday.


To kiss: “Guess who I scooped on last night?!?”


A small, ambiguous piece of fish that never knows if it’s cod or haddock.[1]

So don’t I

An example of the Massachusetts negative positive. Used like this: “I just love the food at Kelly’s.” “Oh, so don’t I!”

The show

The movies.


A luncheonette or ma‑and‑pop convenience store (e.g., the Palace Spa in Brighton) ‑‑ Store 24s are never spas.


Sometimes, spukie. What some Bostonians still call a sub or hero (there’s even a sub shop in Dorchester called Spukies ‘n Pizza). May be limited to Dorchester and Roxbury, although your scribe once heard it in West Roxbury. From spucadella, a type of Italian sandwich roll you can still buy at some of the bakeries in the North End and Somerville.

The T

The Boston subway system. Represents the triumph of fuzzy logic, or something, because it does not actually stand for any single word. Cambridge Seven Associates thought it up in the early 1960s when the state hired them to design graphics for the then new MBTA. Their goal was to come up with something as recognizable as a cross that also evoked the idea of transit, transportation, tunnel, etc.


A party, usually of the political or retirement type: “We’re throwin’ a time for the Dap down at the Eagles. Count you in?”


What other people call soda. In some Boston supermarkets, the signs will direct you to the “tonic” and “diet tonic” aisles.


Somebody who goes out with a much younger person: “He’s such a tookie! He’s going out with a ten‑year old!!!” See also, “Hoodsie.”


Often, a resident of Charlestown. But townies also live in Reveah and Whiskey Point (“da Point”) in Brookline, so it’s also a state of mind, or perhaps hair.  You can often tell a townie by the way he or she adds the phrase “‘n shiz” to the end of many sentences, as in “Oh my gawd, like yestihday, right, he was totally down Nahant polishing his TA (Trans Am) ‘n shit.”

Triple decker

Boston’s contribution to architecture ‑‑ a narrow, three‑story house, in which each floor is a separate apartment.

Triple Eagle

Somebody who went to B.C.High School, B.C. and B.C.LawSchool. In some circles, more prestigious than a Hahvihd degree.

Westa Wuhstuh

Terra incognito; beyond the bounds of civilization.


A general intensifier: “He’s wicked nuts!”

Wicked Pissa

An expression of high approval.

Wicked f*’ pissa!

Something that’s just absolutely too cool for words.

What’s doin’?

How are you?

Whole ‘notha

A complete replacement; “I got a whole ‘notha computa on my desk now.”


The author of this is originally from New Yawk, so he’s probably missed a word or two. Feel free to correct him on his Boston English, at  Thanks to all the folks who’ve added to the glossary, in particular Billy Yank and Kirsten Alexander.

[1]An out-of-town businessman grabbed a cab and on the way to his destination asked the cabbie, “Do you know where I can get scrod in this town?” The cabdriver responded, “Ya know, bub, I heah that question a lot. But I’ve nevah heahd anyone use the thahd pahson plupahfect subjunctive befoah…”

One response to “Standing with Boston Today

  1. Pingback: Could you direct me to Poo-yallup? | Playing in the World Game

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