If you’re ever in Boston and want to feel like a local, you’ll need to start using some of the Boston expressions that you’ll only hear a local say.
From “wicked” to “let’s go to the packie,” these expressions will help you get through any conversation with a native Bostonian. Maybe you want to go down the Cape or see the Green Monster. Keep reading to learn some new lingo and feel like a true Bostonian!
About the Boston Accent
Bostonians have a unique way of speaking, often called the Boston accent. While the accent has been declining in recent years, many Bostonians still speak with a distinct dialect.
This dialect contains certain speech patterns and expressions not typically used in other parts of the country. For example, Bostonians often drop the letter “r” when speaking, so words like “car” and “party” sound like “cah” and “pahty.”
They also use a lot of local slang, such as “wicked” (meaning “very”). Bostonians also have their own way of pronouncing certain words, such as “chowder” (which is pronounced “chowdah”).
You’ll hear these unique quirks of Boston English all over the city, from the corridors of Beacon Hill to the stands of Fenway Park.
What’s the Difference Between the New York Accent and the Boston Accent?
Boston accents are often associated with the working class and are considered one of North America’s most distinctive regional accents. Bostonians often drop the letter “r” when speaking and replace it with an “ah” sound. They also tend to elongate their vowels, which gives their speech a sing-song quality.
In contrast, New Yorkers have a reputation for being direct and to the point. Their speech is fast-paced and often laced with slang. They also have a distinctive way of pronouncing certain words, such as “coffee” (caw-fee) and “dog” (dawg).
While there are many similarities between Boston and New York accents, there are also some clear distinctions.
Traveler’s Tip: While exploring Boston, check out Acorn Street to uncover why it’s so famous.
Common Boston Expressions
Bostonians have created a range of unique expressions. And it’s not just their pronunciation of certain words or phrases that make them unique. There are several phrases you can only understand by understanding the people of Boston.
“I’m going to take the T today.”
The T refers to the Boston public transportation system (the MBTA). Taking the T simply means using public transportation. Bostonians use this expression in a variety of situations, but most commonly when they’re trying to avoid traffic or parking. Boston is a very congested city, so taking the T can often be quicker and easier than driving.
“I got stuck on the Pike forever.”
One of the most famous Boston expressions is “I got stuck on the Pike forever.” “Pike” refers to the Massachusetts Turnpike, a major highway (Interstate 90) that runs between the Boston area and western Massachusetts.
The phrase “stuck on the Pike forever” describes when someone is stuck in traffic for a long time. Bostonians use this expression to describe both real and metaphorical situations in which someone can’t move forward.
“We’re out of beer. Let’s go to the packie.”
For Bostonians, the packie is an essential part of life. Short for package store, the packie is where you go to buy beer, wine, and liquor. And if you find yourself out of beer, the packie is always there to save the day.
The Boston expression “We’re out of beer. Let’s go to the packie” is a shorthand way of saying that it’s time to restock your supplies.
“Is anyone making a Dunks run?”
People say this when they want to know if anyone is going to the local coffee chain, Dunkin’ Donuts. Bostonians are particularly fond of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. Many people make a daily trip to the coffee shop. As a result, Bostonians will often ask if someone else is making a Dunkin’ run to save themselves a trip.
“We’re going down the Cape this weekend.”
“We’re going down the Cape this weekend” means a trip to Cape Cod, a popular summer destination for Boston residents. The Cape is a peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. It’s home to some of the best beaches in New England.
Bostonians love to spend summer weekends relaxing on the Cape’s beaches, hiking its trails, and enjoying its fresh seafood. So if you hear someone from Boston say they’re going down the Cape this weekend, you can be sure they’re all packed and ready for a relaxing getaway.
“Don’t bang a uey here. The statie is watching.”
This phrase warns people not to make a U-turn, as the police will likely see it and give them a ticket. The term “statie” is a nickname for the state police, who patrol the highways.
Other Common Boston Slang Words
In addition to learning some basic Boston expressions before visiting Beantown, it’s maybe even more important to get a firm grasp of some of the slang words. Many of these wicked words can be difficult to comprehend as positive or negative. Context can often help clue you in.
Bostonians have a lot of unique expressions, and “wicked” or “pissa” definitely fit the bill. These words can be intensifiers, similar to how we might use “really” or “very.” For example, you might say, “That party was wicked fun!” They can describe something really cool or impressive. For example, you might say, “Those new sneakers are pissa!”
In some cases, they also describe someone who is acting up or causing trouble. So, if somebody in Boston says, “He’s being wicked pissa,” they probably mean he’s being really annoying.
One of the most popular Boston slang terms is “Green Monster.” This is the 37-foot-tall left field wall at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox.
The wall got its nickname because it’s so big and green. It’s notoriously difficult for batters to hit home runs over it. In fact, only a handful of players have been able to clear the Green Monster in a game.
If a rude driver has ever cut you off, you might have been the victim of a “Masshole.” This derogatory Boston slang term describes someone who’s excessively arrogant or aggressive. Massholes are notorious for their bad driving habits. They’re also vocal in their complaints and criticisms.
Many of Boston’s local expressions go back to the city’s long history. One example is the term “triple decker.” This refers to a three-story house, which was once a common sight in Boston. The term came about because each floor of these homes housed a different family.
This style of house came about in the late 19th century to house Boston’s influx of immigrants from Ireland and Southern Europe. Many have since turned into single-family dwellings or apartment buildings.
If you’re from Boston, you probably know that “tonic” is a slang word for a soda. It’s a common Boston expression but one that often confuses outsiders.
Traveler’s Tip: While in Boston, grab a tonic (or something stronger) at the Oldest Tavern in America.
Are Boston Expressions Worth Learning When You Visit?
Bostonians are a proud bunch and with good reason. The city is rich in history and culture, not to mention the amazing food scene.
If you’re planning a visit, it’s well worth your time to learn some of the local expressions and slang words. You may just find that they make navigating the city a little bit easier. And they definitely add to the fun of experiencing Boston firsthand.
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