Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Non-rhotic Geography

The lion's share of local news personalities, with the exception of sportscasters or muckraking political commentators looking to maintain a populist veneer, adopt at least some form of the (depressingly bland) General American accent. R's roll off their tongues with practiced ease and their use of glottal stops and low vowels has been willfully suppressed.

Blood will tell, however, and what has been bred in the Bay State will come out whenever city and town names need be enunciated. It's the easiest way to tell the natives from the out-of-towners, as the former can't help pronouncing "Worcester" as "WOOS-TAH" and the latter strain mightily to keep from saying "WUR-CEST-ER." It's a trivial thing even among my list of petty irritations, but whenever I hear local place names rendered in accent-neutral Nebraskanese, I get a sensation similar to the feeling you get when you bite down on a piece of tinfoil.

"Woe-burn," my ass.

As a modest way of remedying the problem, I present this brief lesson in geographical pronunciation. Newscasters take note.

"Heading out from Boston, you will find Somerville, Revere, Everett, and Medford."

"Gloucester, Danvers, and Peabody are on the North Shore."

"Down on the South Coast, you can visit Dartmouth, New Bedford, and Fall River." (It's also where Comrade Thirdmate is currently berthed.)

"In the northwestern suburbs, one can find Billerica, Haverhill, Winchester, and most importantly, Woburn."


ThirdMate said...

Thanks for remembering us. Unlike everyone else inside 495.

Born in Fawrivvah, but traveling with Air Force and telephone company parents, I missed out on our famous accent. Which worked out for a career in radio & teevee, where they thought I had grand elocution.

It doesn't play as well on the local scene, since everyone either distrusts the fawrinnah or dislikes the smahtypants.

Jack Feerick said...

Oh, I know what you mean about that "neutral" accent. I grew up in the Western 'burbs, out past Sherborn, and one way to tell the Old Money Douchebags from the New Money Douchebags in that town was that while the former pronounced it (properly) as "SHUH-bin," the latter for some reason over-enunciated the whole thing, with an odd emphasis on the final syllable--"sher-BORN."

I can only imagine that they thought it made them sound classy; instead it made them sound like pathetic status-seeking strivers.

Philip G. said...

I lived in Bawstin for 10 years (my west coast friends still say I have an accent). I met a kid from Peabody and when he told me where he was from I couldn't believe there was a town named "Puberty." Then another kid from Danvers told me it was how it was spelled.