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Listen up: Just say 'ah'

By John Powers, Globe Staff | July 25, 2004

In Boston, the Mayah lives in Hypahk. That's Hyde Park, as in the place Eff Dee Ah lived -- but in another city, another state. In this town, maps don't tell you what we call our neighborhoods, especially if you're from Noo Yawk or another foreign country.

Roslindale is Rozzie, Dorchester is Dot, and Jamaica Plain is JP. South Boston is Southie, the South End is the South End, and the West End was demolished decades ago, even though we still can tell you where it is.

When native Bostonians talk to newcomers or outsiders (we can't always tell the difference), we tend to assume you were bon heah, even though the census tells us that more than half of the citizenry has arrived during the years AR (After Raybo, as we call former mayor Raymond Flynn). That's why our directions are confusing: We'll tell you to take Route 128 when we mean I-95 and/or 93. Or we'll tell you to walk past the old Jordan's (Jawdnz) and take a left "where Raymond's used to be." We figure you already know that we filled in the Back Bay 150 years ago, and that there's no school on School Street or joy on Joy Street.

In the Hub of the Universe, (originally the solar system), which Boston was until sometime around 1807, it's always about the past, and we assume that you were here for all of it. Everywhere else, 1918 is when World War I ended. Here, it's the last time the Sox won the Series.

It's "the Sox," of course. "Red" is superfluous. Nobody else's Sox matter. If we had it first (and what didn't we have first?), we simply use the definite ahticul. The Marathon, the Cape, the Latin School. It's also the Mayah, the Guvnah, the Rivah.

If you want to talk like us, just open your mouth and say "ah," as if you're at the doctah. As in: "Nomah hit a homah!" We save the Rs for words ending in A, like Chiner. It sounds b'zah, but remember, we're not the ones with the accent. We've been here since 1630. John Winthrop dropped the R into the Hahbah one day on his way to the State House and we didn't find it until the Big Dig.

So when we say pasta, we mean the priest who runs a parish. When we say pahster, we're having it with clam sauce. Buddah is what we put on con. We have suppah during the week, but dinnah on Sunday. Eating and drinking, we'll admit, can be a challenge in what you call Beantown. (We don't call it that, by the way.)

A milkshake has no ice cream in it. If it did, we'd say so. What you probably want is a frappe (pronounced "frap"). If you ask for a "frappay," we'll send you to France. Tonic -- meaning everything from Coke to ginger ale -- is our word for what you probably call soda, while we call soda water soder, and tonic waddah is what we pour gin into. Pop is your dad.

Boston cream pie, of course, is a cake. Scrod is whatever turns up in the fishing net that day. And nobody puts tuhmaydiz in the chowdah. (For the real thing, go to Legal's. It's wikkid pissah.)

That's the ultimate compliment around here. Wikkid, as in extremely. Pissah, as in excellent. We're not shuah who first said it. We think it might have been Cotton Mathah. What is definitely not wikkid pissah is the driving, especially with the Dig still being dug. Traffic is bumpadabumpah, especially if there's a fendabendah on the Ahdery or somebody from Alabamer stuck in a rotary.

And you cahn't pahk anywayah, certainly not in Hahvid Yahd. If you do, they'll tow you to Meffa (Medford) without your khakis (car keys). That'd be retahded. Almost like leaving Pedro in against the Yankees.

If you're here long enough, you don't need a last name. We'll call you Kevin or Dappah or Larry or Teddy or Natalie or Whitey or Red or Julier. We're not all proper Bostonians who talk only to God. Feel free to ask us for directions -- we'll tell you that you cahn't get theyah from heah, especially on the T. And if you see Tommy (you know, the Mayah) getting scrod at Legal's, ask him how things are going in Hypahk.

John Powers is the author of "The Boston Dictionary."

From The Boston Globe

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