Boston Slang.....

...How To Sound Like A Cape Codder

Let me start off by saying that I am NOT making fun of Boston slang or Boston accents in anyway. On the contrary.

I sometimes leave the Boston and Cape Cod area after a long stay, with a bit of an accent myself. As a matter of fact, I think it is charming to have a Boston dialect.

Although most people call it a Boston accent, the speech pattern is quite widespread through all of New England, with small regional differences.

The dictionary says this about Boston accents:

The traditional Boston accent is non-rhotic; in other words, the phoneme [r] does not appear at the end of a syllable or immediately before a consonant, as in some types of British English.

Thus, there is no [r] in words like park (pawk), car (kaw), and Harvard (Haw'vid).

Although not all Boston-area speakers are non-rhotic, this remains the feature most widely associated with the region. As a result, it is frequently the butt of jokes about Boston, as in Jon Stewart's America, in which he states that the Massachusetts Legislature ratified everything in John Adams' 1780 Massachusetts Constitution "except the letter 'R'".

I have been all over New England and I actually think it is stronger and more stereotypical in Maine.

Regardless, (or should I say "regah-d-less") if you want to blend in with the locals on Cape Cod, there are a few Boston slang terms and pronunciations you must learn.

If you have never heard a Boston accent or Boston slang, take a look at this video clip from the Jimmy Kimmel show where Boston native (and Cape Cod vacationer) Ben Affleck, tries his best to explain.

Slang/Cape Codisms

Islander--Someone born on Cape Cod. Doesn't count if you moved here.

Mainlander--Someone from OFF CAPE like Plymouth or Boston.

Down the Cape-- As in, "I'm going down the Cape this weekend." (from Boston) NEVER say "Up the Cape."

Up Cape--To drive South on Cape Cod (If you are already on the Cape).

Down Cape--To drive North on Cape Cod (If you are already on the Cape).

Southie--Someone from South Boston.

Chowda Heads--Someone from Boston. Also used to call someone stupid.

A Bulkie-- A Sandwich bun/bread.

Grinder--Sub sandwich, also called a Spuckie.

Directionals--Your car's turn signals.

Packy--A case of beer or the store you buy your booze at (Package store).

Wicked-- Used to emphasize a point, as in "We had a wicked good time last night!"

Hoodsie--A girl from South Boston who really gets around.

Digga--To trip and fall as in "I took a wicked digga down the stairs and hit my head!"

Carriage--Your grocery cart.

P-Town--Nickname for Provincetown on Cape Cod.


A good Boston accent is characterized as dropping your "R"s after "A"s, like the infamous "Pawhk the Cawh."

They also get lost after other vowels as well, especially "ee" sounds, as in "He stee-id the cawh into the ditch." (he steered the car into the ditch)

These missing "R"s do get used eventually, usually by adding them to places where they have no business being (like onto the end of "uh" sounds). A good example of this would be, "I was driving in my cawh when I got a wicked idea-r.

Also, one-syllable words with long "I" sounds, such as "fine", often turn into two-syllable words like, "I feel f-eye-in today so I think I'll go to the pawhk!"

Ahnt--Your mom's sister.

B'daydas--You mash these to eat with your steak.

Bahn--Where horses sleep on a farm.

Boahded--As in getting on a plane.

Brar--What women used to burn in the seventies.

Cah--Also spelled Cawh. Something you drive.

Gahbidge--What you take to the curb once a week for pickup.

Grinda--A sub sandwich.

Kegga--A wicked good party.

Pahk--Also spelled Pawhk, as in Fenway.

Pahty--What you have to celebrate something.

A beeah bash--See Kegga.

Lobstahs--Crustacians found off the coast of Cape Cod and Maine.

Ova heah/Ova theah--Over here/Over there.

Hahvihd Squayuh-- A tourist trap near Hahv.. I mean Harvard University.

Suppa--Don't call me late for...

The Vinyihd--Where rich people from Rhode Island and Boston hang out.

So practice your Boston slang and your Cape Cod accent before your next trip.

Boston Accents Company

Awhile back, while researching Boston accents I came across a cool company that actually sells shirts and caps (T's and Lids) with examples of Boston accents and sayings on them. They have a few stores but also do a large part of their business on-line.

So, being the curious person I am, I contacted them to ask about their neat idea.

Here is an exert from that interview with Brian and Janine, owners of Boston Accents Company:

boston accents company

Q: Where did the idea come from for your products?

A: Driving on a remote road in New Hampshire one day, we saw a sign that had a word spelled out in a way that a "New Englandah" would generally say it...I turned to my my wife and said "I think I have something here...."

My wife took out a pencil and paper from the glove compartment and we furiously began brainstorming the concept in a way that wasn't trite or overdone.

We then figured that T-shirts and hat (T's and Lids as we like to call them) would be the best method to sell the idea to start, but we have plans in the works to expand the line of products we offer.

Q: Are you Bostonians?

A: Neither of us are Bostonians in the actual sense. Janine grew up on the Cape, in Sandwich, MA, and I grew up in Andover, MA. We named it "Boston Accents Co." for marketing reasons, but really, it's a New England phenomenon (with variations, of course!).

Q: For your on-line sales orders, where do most of your customers come from? Do you ship world-wide?

A: I'd say that the biggest percentage comes from the New England region, but that's not an overwhelming percentage - we've sold into 39 of the US states, and 7 other countries.

Probably our favorite online sale we've ever had was a for a military troop in Afganistan....its pretty cool to know that our troops in Afganistan are, on occasion, donning their "Have a wicked pissah day" T-shirts!

Q: Do you have further expansion plans or new product lines you would like to try?

A: We do. We have begun expanding more into offering youth and toddler sizes of T's, and we're currently looking for a great supplier of infant clothing, which we've had many requests for. We also plan to add some sayings to mugs and some other items. Our biggest new venture is a book of stories based on the Boston accent that has already been written, and is in final production right now before its goes to print. We think people will get quite a kick out it (or in the Boston vernacular, they'll think it's "wicked pissah"!).

Q: I understand you can do custom orders. Can you talk a bit about that?

A: We have customized many "ordahs" based on a customers' unique needs. Some of them have been for great charities that we've become involved with such as the Massachusetts Spina Bifida Asssociation. They have an annual golf tournament to raise money each year and we were contacted about creating a custom shirt to give the "golfahs"...the most recent of which said "Pahs ah fah losahs" (Pars are for losers).

Another charity that were happy to help with is the Susan G. Komen foundation for breast cancer. We were contacted by a women who was walking in the Boston 3-day, and we came up with some shirts that she was able to sell to raise additional money for the cause: "Save the hootahs." They were a wicked big hit.

A final one that we'll mention is a saying we came up with for one of our wicked awesome customahs in Boston - The Old North Gift Shop, which is part of the Old North Church. We thought we should develop another historically-flavored saying to go with our existing "Wicked big tea pahty" T-shirt, so knowing the history Paul Revere's Midnight Ride and the connection with the Old North Church, we thought it fitting to have a T that said, "Paul Reveyah was heyah".

Q: Do you have a personal favourite Boston saying?

A: Janine: "Have a wicked pissah day" Brian: "R's ah fah losahs"

The thing we like about most of the sayings are that they are originals we've conceived, yet already they've become New England colloquialisms.

Q: What is your best selling product?

A: "Wicked big Sox fan" is wicked populah.....we never knew so many people had a thing for cotton footwear... (Janine just kicked me....she didn't think my joke was wicked funny).

Visit the Boston Accents Company website.

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