Features

In defense of Bostonese

... I would like a word, or more, with you outsiders

by Russ Priestley

There seems to be some complaining from outside the general Boston area that we do not know how to pronounce certain words. I'm here to defend that misconception, so pay attention.

Let's begin with the name of our largest city. It is pronounced "Bawston", not
"Bahston." In similar fashion, we say "awstrich" (ostrich) and "awsmosis"
(osmosis), certainly not "ahstrich", nor "ahsmosis". For more examples, one of our tasty sea foods is pronounced scallop (note two 'l's, not one). I would not 'cal' you on the 'phone, I would 'call' you. As for "clam chowdah", you'll have to allow us that one regionalism.

I attended college in the Midwest and completed pilot training in the South. For the most part, I made extra effort to follow that old axiom, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." In this manner, I was able to cloak the area of my birthplace... not that it is anything to cause shame, but it prevented further discussion.

There was one notable exception which happened in Seattle, the city from which I would depart the U.S. on a troopship to Guam where I was stationed until it was certain that the U.S. had defeated the Japs in the war which they started. I was curious to see downtown Seattle, so after five days of rain I could see Mount Rainier and knew I would be able to make the trip into town without a Seeing Eye dog.

All went well until I came to an intersection, checked for oncoming cars and since there were none, I proceded across the street. The only problem was I was met by a member of the local constabulary who had seen many Bostonians who passed through that point of embarkation. He had one question for me. Even though I outranked him, he shouted, "Hey, you! You from Boston?" Without waiting for an answer, he followed that with, "We don't jaywalk in this city." How presumptuous! I did not deny his accusation, even though I was from Melrose, not Boston. I was guilty, as charged.

There is one notable exception of pronunciation... prevalent in the U.S., but not here. It is the word for the nut, pecan. We say 'pee can', elsewhere it is said as a snobbish 'pee cahn'. This one may never be settled because my trusty dictionary says it can be pronounced in any of four ways. Webster really welched out of this one... a five letter word with four variations in pronunciation.


October 5, 2012  


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