Talking Like A New Englander

Alright, folks. No April Fools pranks from Tenders & Trails today, but instead I’m going to offer up a similarly humorous topic: talking like a New Englander.

Contrary to popular belief, we don’t drop all R’s or drag out our A’s, but we sure do have a unique language up here. And we know who isn’t local. Your boat shoes and “I ❤ Maine” t-shirt weren’t the only dead giveaways.

Let’s get started with some basics. New England has at least a handful of dialects. There is Bostonian, South Shore, Mainerd, Rural, and Not-Really-From-Here.  The classic accents are South Shore and Mainerd, but we all use a smattering of these dialects whether we want to or not. I personally speak a combination of Bostonian and Not-Really-From-Here thanks to my dad being from the Boston area and my mother from the mid-Atlantic. I am all messed up. Oh, and Connecticut and Rhode Island actually belong to New York, so they don’t speak like us Northern folks.

On with the lesson. Let’s go over the biggest parts of the New England dialects.

Wicked : Whik-ahd

I’ll never know where this word came from or why we say it, but in New England we love the word “wicked”. It can mean just about anything at all from “very”, “tasty”, to “amazing”. Some examples?

  • I’m wicked excited for summer. (I am very excited for summer.)
  • This IPA is wicked. (This IPA is very good.)
  • It’s wicked windy out. (It is extremely windy out.)

Now if you really want to take “wicked” to the next level, it is acceptable in some areas to add “pissah” right after “wicked”. This basically means that something requires even more emphasis than normal. However, the acceptable use is slightly different. For example:

  • The weather is wicked pissah. (The weather is really awful.)
  • That guy is wicked pissah. (That guy is really awesome/terrible – listen for tone to determine which)

Our R’s and A’s

If you’re attempting to mock a New Englander, we’ll know it when you pull out the classic line of “Pahking yah cah in Havahd Yahd” (Parking your car in Harvard Yard) or how you visited “Ba Hahbah” (Bar Harbor). Or better yet, you might tease us about putting our “cahkeys” in our “kahkeys” (“car keys” and “khakis” – pronounced identical). We know what we sound like.

We really do drop our R’s frequently but it’s not as bad as you think (well, unless you’re talking to someone from the South Shore). So here’s the basic rule: Never drop an R from the front of a word. We only ever consider dropping when it’s an the end of a syllable or word, and in that case it’s replaced with a “-ah” if you’re Bostonian, South Shore, or Mainerd. Rural and Not-Really-From-Here prefer a softer “-uh” ending. So let’s go over some of these:

  • Twitter: Twit-tah
  • Harbor: Hah-bah
  • Interview: Intah-view

Now to complicate matters, we also mess around with words that syllables that don’t end in R. For example:

  • I’m from New Hampshah. In this one, -ire becomes -ah.
  • Words such as there and here become they-ah and he-yuh.

The Infamous Phrases Explained

Yah cahn’t get they-ah from he-yuh.” Interestingly enough, this phrase has more than one meaning. It can either mean, “Gosh tourist, I really don’t want to help you go find that quaint little seafood restaurant in Kittery” or “There is no way to get to your destination without doubling back 40 miles and driving on a class VI road”. It’s best to listen to our tone as we say it. Do we look annoyed? It’s the first one. Do we look totally neutral? We’re probably thinking the second.

Ayuh” This simple phrase can be used in a multitude of situations. It can be as simple as saying “Sure” to being used as an informal greeting. It is neither negative or positive, so take it for what it is. You might hear this response if you were to say “Am I driving the correct direction to get to Berlin, NH?” “Ayuh.” (You are)

Does your home area have an bizarre dialects or phrases? Share ’em here!

(In heavy Bostonian: Does yah home ah-yah have any bi-zah dialects ah phrases? Shahre ’em he-yuh!)

4 thoughts on “Talking Like A New Englander

  1. Love this! Also, wanted to mention that sometimes the Rs migrate. So you can have an eye-dee-yer (idea) about the cah (car). I have a friend named Mariah – in Boston, she is Muh-rye-yer.

  2. You left out one of my favorites, and yes Jillian, you are guilty of.

    Bagel. Pronounced as ‘bay-gle’ or in your words a ‘bag-el’.

    I’m pretty sure you got that from your dad.

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About Jillian Bejtlich

Hey! I'm Jillian Bejtlich. I’m a lifelong New Englander with a serious love of the outdoors, adventure, and a pretty serious inability to sit still. I’m plagued by the travel bug, and it seems I’ll try any relatively sane and safe thing once. My big goal in life: Get people outside!