Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

An accent guide for local newscasters

Dear local newscasters,

I don't know if you're like me, an actual transplant to Massachusetts, or are a newcomer just stopping over on a career move that will eventually turn towards national news, but while you're here in eastern Massachusetts, it would behoove you to learn a few pronounciation rules.

People in the greater Boston area have very distinct accents. You might have noticed that they tend to add the letter R where it doesn't belong, and to delete the letter R where it does. They also tend to broaded certain vowels, especially the letter A. It is important for you to learn the distinctions on these pronounciation foibles quickly and fluently.

Next, because you are a reporter discussing local news, it is very important to learn how to pronounce the various towns and cities where your stories are likely to take place. These geographic locals have very distinct guidelines on how to pronounce them. Let me take you though some of the rules.

If a town ends in BURY, like Newbury, Amsbury, Roxbury, etc. you do not pronunce it Berry or Bury. You say BREE. Like Newbree. Amsbree. Roxbree. See, easy peasy. If the BURY is in the middle of a name, like NewBURYport, it is pronounced NewBREEport.

If a town ends in BOROUGH or BORO, it is pronounced BRO. Like MarlBRO, WestBRO, NorthBRO.

If a town ends in CESTER, it is not pronounced Sester. Or Kester. It is stuh. But this is more complicated. Because the towns that end in CESTER also begin with various letters that are not pronounced as they are written. These are exceptions to the rules. Follow this guide and you will not go wrong:

Worcester is correctly pronounced Woos-tuh.
Leiscester is correctly pronounces Les-tuh
Leominster is correctly pronounced Leh-minz-tuh

Dorchester is correctly pronounced Dot. No, that's an inside joke. Dorchester is a tough one. Daugh-ches-tuh.

Peabody is NEVER pronounced Pea-Bod-ee. Ever. It is PEE-buh-dee. Repeat that. PEE-buh-dee. Good!

Haverhill is NEVER pronounced Haver-hill. It is HAV-rull.
How about Nahant? It is NEVER Na-HANT with a short A. It is Nah-Haunt.
Swampscott is NEVER pronounced Swamp-scott. It is SWAMP-scut.
Marblehead is NEVER pronounced Mar-ble-head. It is always Mar-bul-HEAD.
Pepperell is NEVER Pepper-ill. Oh no! It is Pep-rull.

This is a tough one. Ayer. It is AAA-Yuh.

If a town ends in town, or ton, it is always pronounced UN. Like New-un, West-un, etc.

Some towns, like Arlington, fall prey to the Boston Accent. Thus, it is pronounced Aaaa-ling-tun. Not too hard.

Another rule of thumb is, if a town ends in VILLE, it is pronounced VUL. As in Somerville is never Summer-vill, it is Sum-ma-vul.

Town that end in FORD are difficult. Lets try Medford for instance. It looks like you should call it Med-Ford, but that would be wrong. It is actually pronounced Meh-Fuh. It looks silly, I know, but that's Boston for you. BUT... there are other Fords that aren't the same. BedFORD is Bed-FUD, ChelmsFORD is Chelms-FUD.

How about those towns that end in HAM. That must be simple, right? Oh no, my sweet monkey, you are wrong. Ham is pronounced UM. Let's try it with Dedham and Needham. Those seem obvious. Dead-um, Need-um. Now you do Chatham. How about Framingham?

Ok, this next one is rather advanced. Towns that end in FIELD. Oh, I know it looks obvious. But this is Massachsetts. Field is pronounced Fuld. As in Tops-Fuld, Lynn-fuld...

With these simple pronounciation steps, you'll sound more like a real Bostonian instead of a recent transplant from Utah. Which would not only be helpful, but might make us forgive your blond helmut hair. Kay?

Your friend,

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Blogger Mamma said...

Got married in Rockport. It was fun to hear all the guests try to pronounce Gloucester!!

13/2/07 8:30 AM  
Blogger MetroDad said...

Hahaha...I love this post, Margalit. Why? Because I thought it was absolutely hilarious that, in your comment on my blog today, you actually used the word, "wicked." So Baahstan of ya!

13/2/07 8:37 AM  
Blogger Becky68 said...

I realized, reading this that while I don't have an accent, the town names just don't sound right without the NE pronouciation, I lived in Haverhill for the most part, from the time I was 19 until I moved to VA nearly 10 years ago & it always amazed me how people from other places could mangle the name, & worse yet, the neighboring NH town of Plaistow (Plas-tow)
The hardest thing for me is now I don't fit anywhere, I sound too northern for the southerners around me & too southern for the northerners when I go visit MA!

13/2/07 11:29 AM  
Blogger Pyewacket said...

As a lifelong Boston-area resident, may I make some suggestions?

Some towns get the pronunciation of their residents. (I grew up in Framingham, which actually gets a "Ham" at the end. But Needham is Need-um.) Medford gets its particular pronunciation because locals with milder accents - or merely different accents - like to mock the supposedly much more intense accent of Medford residents. So everyone, absolutely everyone, says Medford like the most old-school Medford thug, even people with the lighter suburban accent. Same goes for Revere (Re-ve-ah).

Some of the pronunciation questions are really Britishisms - any Brit would Call Worcester "Woos-ter," only the ignorant would say Wor-ces-ter. But some have said that the Boston accent itself is a remnant of the area's Puritan roots, and as a result, is the closest living approximation of the accent of Shakespearean English.

My accent is not too strong, I believe - people often ask if I'm Canadian, whatever that means. But my father has a lovely, soft, Kennedy-esque accent. My mother's name is Barbara, so you can imagine what he makes of that: Bah-bah-ah

13/2/07 2:05 PM  
Blogger Alison said...

There's a town on the coast of North Carolina named Topsail. If you pronounce it like a midwesterner (guilty), the locals will laugh at you. It's not top-SAIL. It's TOP-sull.

(I hopped over here from your comment at Sarah's Goon Squad Blog)

13/2/07 9:15 PM  

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