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Do You Know The Right Way To Pahk The Cah In Havahd Yahd?

By Lori Wright, Media Relations

When it comes to food, New Englanders love their frappes, tonics, grinders and bulkies. They watch crowds of leaf peepers arrive in autumn, and wait with childlike giddiness in winter for Nor’easters. Those who don’t understand such terms may seem numb as a hake, but for Yankees, it’s all part of being a New Englander.

Now people everywhere can learn to talk Yankee in the new book, American Voices: How Dialects Differ From Coast To Coast, which features an article co-authored by Naomi Nagy, University of New Hampshire associate professor of linguistics and English. In “Yakking With The Yankees,” Nagy provides examples of current vocabulary and pronunciation patterns to illustrate both how New England differs from the rest of the country and what regional differences exist.

“Like many older parts of the U.S., New England and Eastern New England in particular, is characterized by a distinct local dialect that is gradually receding due to the influence of ‘general American’ speech used in the mass media and by newcomers to the region. Much of the distinct New England vocabulary was connected with traditional occupations that are less important in today’s economy,” according to Nagy. “However some local features remain, especially in rural areas in city neighborhoods with large proportions of local people.”

Perhaps the most well-known characteristic of New England pronunciation is the dropping of the r in such words as car and park. It is prominent in areas of eastern New England that include New Hampshire and large portions of Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine as well as areas of northeastern Connecticut and northern Rhode Island. “People talk about ‘New Hampsha’ and ‘Woosta’ instead of New Hampshire and Worcester,” Nagy says.

Many New England words – such as Nor’easter (winter snowstorm) and quahog (edible clam) – are nautically oriented, since the region has a rich history in ship building, fishing and seafood. Other words are tied to a particular area’s farming history. They include carting or teaming a load (hauling a load) and open and shut day (a day with variable weather).

Words still widely used by New Hampshire residents include grinder (long deli sandwich), hamburg (ground beef), tonic (carbonated drink), rotary (traffic circle) and notch (mountain pass). Other traditional Yankee words were less recognizable: belly-bunt (ride a sled face-down), pung (sleigh for hauling wood) and pug (hair bun). Words not found in older language research but that are heard today include bubbler (drinking fountain), bulkie (round sandwich roll), spa (convenience store, Boston), directional (turn signal), frappe (milkshake, eastern Massachusetts and New Hampshire), dooryard (where you park your car), numb as hake (not very bright, downeast Maine), soggie (greasy hotdog), cabinet (milkshake) and take a heart (have a heart attack, Rhode Island).

American Voices: How Dialects Differ From Coast To Coast is available through Blackwell Publishers.


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