If you’re new to the area or thinking about moving here, we have a primer to help you understand what people are saying and how to get around. Part One is “They say, we say.”

Rule #1: Never attempt to do the accent yourself. It will sound ridiculous, just like it does in the movies when an actor makes a lame attempt. This is actually true everywhere. Never attempt any local accent unless you’re from there. That said, here’s a guide to understanding what people are saying and knowing the correct names for things.

  • They say Rubber Band, we say Elastic.
  • They say Traffic Circle or Roundabout, we say Rotary (yield to vehicles already in the rotary)
  • They say Route (pronounced “rowt” ), we say Route (pronounced “root”)
  • They say Highway 114, we say Route 114
  • They say The DMV, we say The Registry
  • They say EZ-Pass, we say FastLane (okay, we now also say EZ-Pass, but not all the signs have been changed)
  • They say Auto tag, we say License plate
  • They say Scallops (“skall-ups” – rhymes with “pal”), we say Scallops (“scoll-ups” – rhymes with ball, fall, mall, tall, wall, etc.)
  • They say Liquor Store, we say Package Store or Packy
  • They say Extremely, we say Wicked
  • They say Tonic (something for your hair), we say Tonic (a soda or soft drink)
  • They say Pop (a soft drink), we say Soda
  • They say Pop, we say Dad
  • They say Sack, we say Paper Bag
  • They say Hero (or Gyro), we say Sub
  • They say Grinder, we say Sub
  • They say Water fountain, we say Bubbler
  • They say Putt-putt, we say Mini Golf
  • They say Tow truck, we say Wrecker
  • They say Sweet Tea, we never heard of it until McDonald’s starting pushing it in the last year or so
  • Clam Chowder. If you order Clam Chowder it will be white. That’s New England style clam chowder. Chowder with tomato sauce is Manhattan clam chowder. Nobody serves it around here.


  • Regular coffee means with cream and sugar.

  • Spa. It may be a place to get a mani, a pedi, a facial or a massage, but it also might be a little old corner store where they sell Chapstick and Ace combs on a cardboard stand. You could probably get a cream soda and a sandwich as well.

  • Jimmies. Have you wondered why chocolate sprinkles on an ice cream cone are called Jimmies? The Boston hospital now known as Brigham & Women’s was originally Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (that name is still engraved above the entrance at Brigham Circle). Peter Bent Brigham’s nephew, Edward Brigham, started a chain of ice cream stores in Newton Highlands called Brigham’s. For an extra penny you could get chocolate sprinkles on your cone, and the money went to the Jimmy Fund that helps fight children’s cancer. Thus, “Jimmies.”

  • Frappe. A milkshake made thicker with ice cream is called a frappe. If you hear someone call it a cabinet, they’re from Rhode Island.


    More to come. Next, we’ll look at the way to pronounce local names.

    Don Kelley

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