Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Countdown to Boston: A Wicked Good Guide to Boston Speak

Note: With Boston only days away (5 to be precise), I'm going to begin a countdown to Boston series of posts. In the final days of the taper, it's hard to get my brain to focus on much other than the upcoming race, but with plenty of Boston-related topics, hopefully I can at least keep the blog interesting.

Like many great American cities, Boston has a language all it's own. Since the marathon brings so many people to the city for the first time, I figured a little language primer might be in order. I'm not talking about the kind of speech they teach at Boston Latin, either.  If you read this helpful guide, you might be able to fit in, or at least understand what the locals are saying.

The Boston Accent

In a nutshell, the Bawstin accent is basically the broad A and the dropped R. For the broad A, just open your mouth and say ''ah,'' like you do when you visit the doctah. Now, the dropped R sometimes reappears at the end of words, but only when the next word starts with a vowel. Here's an example: "Befoah the race, I'm having pastahr and meatballs." But, if you're a vegetarian, you would say simply, ""Befoah the race, I'm having pasta."

Getting Around

New York may have a numbered grid, but Boston is generally a hodgepodge of 17th century streets with few straight lines. However, much of the action race weekend takes place in Back Bay and there you are in luck--the streets are in alphabetical order from west to east (Arlington, Berkeley, Clarendon, Dartmouth, Exeter, Fairfield, Gloucester, and Hereford). If the streets are named after trees, you're in Beacon Hill. Otherwise, look at a map or ask a local. 

Some streets have long names, so Bostonians shorten them. Here are three of the most common abbreviations:
Mass Ave = Massachusetts Avenue
Comm Ave = Commonwealth Avenue
Dot Ave = Dorchester Avenue 

Southie = South Boston ≠ South End (If someone means the South End, they'll say the South End. It's south of Back Bay and northwest of South Boston) 

Common Mispronunciations (and How to Get them Right)

It's Boston Common, singular not plural!
Tremont Street is pronounced Treh-mont, not Tree-mont.
The marathon ends near Cop-lee Square, not COPE-lee Square. 
If you want to check out the Bill Rodgers Running Center, you're going to Fan-you-ull Hall, not Fan-ell Hall.
The fourth town on the marathon course is NAY-dick, not Gnat-ick. 
Lastly, remember there's no 'G' in Hopkinton.

Other Useful Tips

If you're going to take the subway, it's called the 'T.' After the race, if you show your medal you ride for free.
If you order a 'regular coffee' you will get coffee with cream and sugar. 
Don't get the Garden (where the Celtics and Bruins play) confused with the Public Garden, a public park next to Boston Common. 
Today's Run: 7.1 miles at 7:38 pace. 


  1. i was cleary mispronoucing street names and everything else! thanks!

    1. I only know about some of those after being corrected myself in previous years.