Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Wikkid Truth

If you have been following my other ongoing project for any length of time, you've probably noticed that I have a strong sense of regional pride -- for Massachusetts, for Boston, and especially for Woburn, the middle-ring suburb that sits ten miles northwest of the Hub, astride the interchange between I-93 and I-95.

My pride isn't a matter of blind parochial chauvinism born of sports rivalries and narrow-focus bias. I'm well aware of the faults and follies of the region and its residents, but despite the occasional (okay, frequent) bouts of teeth-gnashing and directed torrents of profanity, I find those idiosyncracies to be part of the total endearing package. We're an impatient breed of inveterate complainers who stick it out today for the sake of finding something else to complain about tomorrow. Taxes, bad roads, local politics, the fortunes of the various home teams -- we are spoiled with objects of potential ire.

Yet despite the inferiority complexes and grousing, I wouldn't leave this place if you paid me. I'll take a nonsensical tangle of streets based on 17th century cowpaths or a treacherous rotary over a neatly laid out road grid any day. We don't need logic or transparency. We've got character born of nearly four centuries of history.

...and that brings us to the subject of the Boston accent, oft imitated (and mocked) by outsiders, but rarely duplicated successfully by the same. Rooted in Colonial Era English and filtered through the various immigrant groups (especially the Irish) that settled in the area, it is more than just a broad impersonation of Kennedy-speak (and honestly, only the Kennedys talk that way) or a vaguely Brooklynese patois featuring dropped r's and liberal use of "wikkid." It is a creature unto itself, my native tongue, and the most obvious manifestation (next to aggressive driving habits) of our shared sense of regional identity.

Which is why it pains me when I hear my nieces and nephews speak in the generic accent of Nickelodeon sitcom characters. Within the space of a generation, the global media village has made massive in-roads in panel-beating regional speech patterns into flat neutrality. While previous incursions by exotic dialects into the region, like the 80's "val-speak" fad, have been handily assimilated into the local accent ("Oh my Gawd, he bahfed in the back of my cah!"), this new strain, aided by the decline of regionally-based media, has been steadily supplanting the native one.

"Are you cutting keer-its?" Maura's nice asked her recently. "No, I'm cutting kah-its," was Maura's reply.

I accept that one man swinging a rusty sword will not hold back the incursion. What I can do is present to you, my dear readers, a sampling of audio clips spotlighting the glories of the Boston accent as applied to a variety of material, and offer it to you every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. So feel free to email me any requests for things that you wish to hear rendered in the language of bean and cod.

Our inaugural clip comes courtesy of a suggestion by a Mr. Christopher Sims of South Carolina, whose unhealthy fascination with (and hysterical laughter over) my pronuciation of "Star Wars" livened up many an XBL multiplayer session and was the true inspiration for this project. The context behind the choice of material can be found here.

Gee, Scarlet!

Short, sweet, and right to the point. See you on Wednesday!


Anonymous said...

Dude, yer gonna make me all homesick! :p

BTW, I'm contemplating whether or not to suggest you should post Al Kaprelian at some point...he's an accent unto himself, and I think he should only be used in case of flamewartime. ;)

Baal said...

That was awesome! My sister had the worst Dorchester accent when we left Hull thirty years ago and I kidded myself I had no accent to lose, having spent my first six years in the Berkshires. Only last year did I realize when I wait on people from New England suddenly I do jave an accent...

ThirdMate said...

I'm gawna stawt an awnline jonnel called "Swampers Ashore!"

(Although I actually pronounce it Swompiz Ashaw.)

Dickie said...

Q: What do you got when you find a blind buck?
A: I have no idea...