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The Boston accent has long been a symbol of humor, a sign of toughness, and a source of pride. Travelers are bound to bump into some locals during their stay in the Bean, and some familiarity with their dialect and vocabulary may just help for a smooth cultural immersion. So, for your own good, here’s a guide to local lingo.

Know what’s Wicked

Throughout New England, the word wicked doesn’t mean evil or morally wrong. It’s just used for emphasis. Here are some can’t fail, freebees for using the word correctly around town:

  • The Sox are wicked good.
  • The Bruins have a wicked awesome defense.
  • It’s wicked freaking cold out.
  • That chowda is wicked delicious.
  • I had a wicked good time in Boston.

Now for a classic, wait below for Ben Affleck’s highly repeated line from the Oscar-winning film Good Will Hunting, where he lets a snob from Harvard know, “My boy’s wicked smart.”

The Non-Rhotics

One of the more standout characteristics of the Boston accent is a full drop of the r sound after a vowel. The standard example uses the sentence, Park the car in Harvard Yard, which a person with a true Boston accent would say as, Pahk the cah in Havahd Yahd. Another great example uses, I put my car keys in my khakis, which in Boston-speak sounds more like, I put my khakis in my khakis. This tendency is called non-rhotic English, and it’s common with Australians, Brits, and South Africans among others.

Here’s a great little parody of the accent and dialect from a Vancouver Canucks fan back during the 2011 Stanley Cup Championship (which the B’s won, by the way!)

Spas, Frappes, and Subs

Some places call them quickie marts, convenience stores, bodegas, etc. True Bostonians will send you to get your everyday items at the “spa.”  When you get there, and you decide you want a sandwich, don’t order a hoagie, or a hero, because we call those big rolls “subs.” And don’t ask for a cheesesteak, ask for a steak ‘n cheese. For dessert, a good old-fashioned coffee infused milkshake should do the trick. Frappes are a local specialty, and the inspiration for Starbucks’ trademark frappucinos. And if you’re ordering ice cream and want rainbow or chocolate sprinkles, we say “jimmies.”

Now that you know how to pick up an easy, quintessentially New England lunch, you oughtta be good to go.

top image via flickr

cover image via flickr