Random Thoughts

Massachusetts dictionary, please

... one must learn how to speak like the locals

by Eleanor Jenkins

Editor's Note: Foreign correspondent Eleanor Jenkins died suddenly in May, 2011. She lived in Pennsylvania and, when her daughter married and moved to Melrose, she discovered the Melrose Mirror. She became a frequent contributor and a valued member of the SilverStringers. She submitted her last article about two weeks before she died. A sincere, witty lady - she will be missed by her friends here in Melrose.

I was born and raised in Pennsylvania and did spend a few years living in South Jersey. Since my daughter moved to Melrose, Massachusetts I have found another corner of the world that I could call home but there is one big difference. I have trouble understanding the way she talks these days. She was taught differently, but "When in Rome..."

Ever since she attended BU she has pronounced picture “pitcher.” She was taught it is "pichure". The folks in Melrose have a regional variance in pronouncing their words. Some examples are words like park, car and clam chowder. Here in Pennsylvania we know that the "r" in park has a distinctive sound that most New Englanders ignore. When I was in a restaurant with my daughter I asked for a bowl of clam chowder and the waitress didn’t know what I was talking about. "Oh," said she, after I pointed to the words on the menu, "you want the chowdah." Now what kind of word is that?

When you folks come south to Pennsylvania, you can learn our pronunciations and the local terminology for things and places. If you know the English language, over and above what you learned in New England, you will be able to communicate with the locals. We don’t go to New Jersey, we go to Jersey. (However, if you are in Jersey, it becomes "Joisey). If you want to visit the Liberty Bell you will stay in Philly, not Philadelphia.

We do have real names for foods that seem to go by the wayside in Massachusetts such as: be sure to ask for your beverages correctly: a drink of mixed milk and ice cream is a Milk Shake. They tell me that in Philly they often ask the question “djeat yet?" which translated means "Did you eat yet?" Cutting down on vowels and consonants makes the phrase much more compact. If you want a Coca Cola or root beer you ask for a soda. (Ed. note: In the Boston area, soda is for an upset stomach). By the way, we have another delicious soda here in Pennsylvania, which can’t be found on the shelves of the Melrose stores. It is Birch Beer? No, it is not an alcoholic beverage, but similar to Root Beer and a very distinctive taste.

We have Hoagie sandwiches which are delicious on a long amorosa roll (baked locally) and the Philly cheese steak sandwich with fried onions also has to be on an amorosa roll. Other wise it just “ain't” a Philly cheese steak sandwich. Real food for breakfast includes scrapple, Hatfield little sausages and scrambled eggs. Locally, Chicken Pot Pie isn’t baked, it is boiled. (Ed.note: "Yuk!")

In the South, they speak English in another version. Have you ever noticed they add an extra word to many of their phrases, but dropping part of their first word. "Y'all come back now.” "How y'all doing?"

But that could be another story. You would have to ask my son-in-law who now lives in Melrose about that. He was born and bred in Texas and had a hard time learning the Massachusetts language I am told. He has adapted now so is settled in, I guess. He is my interpreter now when I visit.

[Now there is a twist ... a Texan teaching a Philly to speak Bostonese. It should be noted that in Western Massachusetts, one will not hear Bostonese and it should be considered that this great United States began in the Boston area. Does that mean the rest of U.S. is wrong?]

June 3, 2011

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