I work with a woman who recently moved to Massachusetts from Toronto and there have been a few times that she’s had trouble understanding some people due to their thick Boston accents. I can sympathize with her, because I’ve had a hard time understanding people with strong Southern accents in the past. As a matter of fact, even though I grew up here I have a hard time understanding some people sometimes (hello Boston Mayor Tom Menino).
When my wife and I moved to California back in the 90’s, we found out pretty quick that people there love accents from all over – except Boston. We took our share of being made fun of because of how we spoke, so we decided to make a conscious decision to ditch the accent. We started saying our R’s at the end of words and dropped “wicked” as an adjective for something good. We didn’t start speaking like Valley Girls and Guys (“for sure”, “totally”), but people couldn’t tell we were from the Boston area either. Some people thought I was from Canada. It must have been the French sounding last name.
A few months ago, I found out that there are Boston slang web sites that help others know what the heck we’re talking about here. These are some of my favorites:
Alls - a common substitute for “all that”. I’ve been hearing and saying this phrase for years. When I was a kid, alls I knew was that I better be home on time. Oh, and I better not tell Mom.
Bang a U-ie – means to make a U turn to go back the other way. With all the one way streets around here, it can be a lot quicker to bang a U-ie than to go through five or six sets of lights and bang a couple of rights, only to find out there’s no left turn allowed at that intersection.
Chowderhead – or as most people around here would say it, “chowdahead”. It means a stupid person, as in, “You turned down free Sox tickets? What a chowdahead!” I’m not sure how common this is, but it is kind of funny to think about calling someone that.
Cruiser – another name for a police car. When we were riding around town on Friday nights, we always had to keep an eye out for “crewzahs” because according to the cops, a car full of kids was probably doing something wrong.
Hi hosey – a term used to signify that you were claiming something was yours. Say we were sitting around watching TV and you had a prime seat. Sooner or later you were going to have to get up for something, such as going to the bathroom or refilling your drink. Once your butt was off that seat, it was fair game to everybody in the room. That is, unless you hi hosey’d the seat before you got up, because then no one could take it. Hey, I didn’t make the rules, I just tried to follow them.
Like a bastard (“bastid”) – means an excess of something. Say it’s snowing really hard outside (around here that would be a “blizzid”). You may look out the window and say something like, “It’s snowing like a bastid outside!” Or maybe when you were a teenager at a party a crewzah showed up unexpectedly out of nowhere. What do you do in that situation? You run like a bastid.
No suh – means “no way”. Your friend comes up to you and tells you that the girl you like is now going out with some chowdahead. In disbelief you say, “No suh”. He shakes his head up and down emphatically and says, “Ya huh!” That means “Yes, this is absolutely true.” No suh and Ya huh usually go together.
Pissa – means something cool or good. Riding with my brother in his Olds 442 with Deep Purple’s Machine Head (on 8-track!) cranking out of the stereo was pissa! Riding in my parents’ car was not.
So don’t I – though not grammatically correct, a term of agreement.
Me: I need to get a job.
My friend: So don’t I.
Me: Then I need to get a car.
My friend: So don’t I.
Me: Then I need a girlfriend.
My friend: Yaw a lewza!
Statie – A Massachusetts State Trooper. You could joke around a little with the local police, but you don’t mess with a Statie. If a Statie pulls you over for something, you’re probably going to get a ticket - no matta how hahd you try.
Tonic – soda. Not a lot of people say this anymore, but the older folks still do. We all laugh a little when my Mom asks if we want some tonic. It’s nice and cold, it’s in the refrigaratah.
Wicked – means very. We always thought that school was wicked boring. Around here, we don’t worry that something “wicked good” seems to be a contradiction in terms. Also, if something “pissa” is cool or good, then “wicked pissa” is incredible. For example, Bobby Orr’s goal that won the Stanley Cup for the Boston Bruins on May 10, 1970 was not just pissa, it was wicked pissa. That we all still remember exactly where we were when it happened 40+ years later proves the point.
You’s guys – means all of you. “You’s guys want to watch the game?” Even teachers used to say it at times. “You’s guys look like yaw up ta no good.”
One other saying that we heard a lot at my house was “Hold ya hossis!” That was my Mom’s way of telling us to wait a minute (hold your horses, wherever that came from). When we came to the dinner table like a pack of ravenous wolves and were starting to grab stuff, we just had to hold our hossis. Eventually we’d get our food. Seems we were always being told to “hold ya hossis!” I guess we were always in a rush for something.
I should probably forward a link or two to my coworker so she can start to understand the local accent. They may be able to help her with most people. Others, you just nod and pretend you know what they’re talking about (Tom Menino).