Tuesday, January 30, 2007

On The New Hampshire Accent/Dialect

Taking some “r’s” out and adding others in is the notorious characteristic of the New Hampshire/Northeastern Massachusetts dialect. The new datter gave him a new idear. Or to use Fritz Wetherbee’s excellenty phrase: Mistah waitah, now or late-ah, bring a glass of be-ah he-ah. Though these forms are slowly disappearing, merging into that standard American accent from Medina, Ohio, they can still be heard, particularly among older and rural residents. I was in fifth grade before I read the word parka, and concluded it must be the correct form of my word pahker. In the women’s name “Martha,” you get an even trade: Mahther.

Even among youngah folk, you might catch an added r in special situations if you listen closely. When the next word begins with a vowel, a soft r sound will be inserted: Lawrand order. Linderand I went downtown. Cuber is just south of Flohridder, and Nashuar is west of Reveah.

From Worcester to Portland you still might hear an older person ask for a tonic, meaning a soft drink or get a milk shake made without ice cream (with ice cream it’s a frappe). Forty years ago, no one in NH ever ate a hero, hoagie, submarine, or Italian sandwich. We ate grinders, and have since also allowed the word subs, though grudgingly. You can still drink from a bubbler – that’s “bubblah” -- here (and surprisingly, also in Wisconsin). But everywhere else in the country you have to drink from a fountain or drinking fountain. Older folks still say dungarees and sneakers, as well.

Everyone used to go down cellah in northern New England, but the use of basements for bathrooms in city schools or the bottom floor of buildings with elevators has pushed cellar into a more specialized use: the bottom floor of a house, especially if unfinished. Basement was so closely associated with public lavatories that in 1960 a child in Nashuar could ask “Wheah’s the basement?” and be told “It’s up on the second flo-ah.”

We say our vowels a little more precisely in most cases. Flohridder has the “oh” not “aw” sound, and a crayon or centaur is just that, not a crayan or a centarr. And we don’t say misCHEEVEEous. Evah.

New Hampshah Hospital is located in CONcuhd, even though no one ever conquhd CONcuhd NH. That’s not so strange, because they don’t have much concord in conCORD NC or CA either. BUHlin and MI-lan ahnt close to BerLIN or MiLAN, neither in pronunciation nor geography, but Lebanun is wicked close to Lebanon, ahn't it?

You won’t see a blowdown or a hahd-top road, anymoah, but youah mothah’s sistah, who lives kittycorner across the street will still be yoah aunt, pronounced just like it’s spelled, thank you. We had a perfectly good second-person plural all to ourselves, but now you guys all ovah the North are using it. Jeezum crow, stop stealing ouah regional distinctives, wouldja?


Jerub-Baal said...

Oh, that's music to my eauhs!

I feel younger now, thanks for reminding me of how I used to sound!

Jonathan Wyman said...

The new website at work for data programs is "datr." We assume that some developer not originally from New England is making fun of us, but it's still fun to say.

Wyman said...

I still use a lot of those, and some of them I always will. I'm unlikely to ever abandon "aunt." The mispronouncing morons elsewhere can snicker all they want.

Do you have an estimate how long "aunt" will last in New England?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

At a minimum, what's the life expectancy of Jonathan and Heidi's projected youngest child?

Jonathan Wyman said...

Dad, your comment assumes one of my brothers will get married.

Susan Gamble said...

Great post, thanks so much for sharing this. I think my friends at Home Instead Assisted Living in Laconia will get an absolute kick out of this. I'll be sure to share it!

- Sue