North Shore Accents vs. South Shore Accents

Listen and learn.

Above: Seth Meyers demonstrates a “tour de force of dropped Rs” in Boston Accent. Don’t be like Seth. Read on…

What distinguishes North Shore and South Shore die-hards? Some would say it’s the way they talk. And yet it’s hard to place a finger on what, exactly, separates the two accents. For Thom Jones, a longtime dialect coach and head of voice and speech at Brown University, it’s all about vocal placement—that is, where the voice “lives” in a speaker’s body. Jones says North Shore residents are likely to have more-forward vocal placements, which resonate in the face and head and cause speakers to sound more nasal than their South Shore counterparts, who have glottal placements that resonate more in the throat. John McCarthy—a linguistics expert at UMass Amherst—points out that there can also be noticeable differences in vowel pronunciation. Below, our quick-hit guide to talking the talk of both shores.

Word: “Cot”

North Shore Pronunciation: Caw-t

South Shore Pronunciation: Cah-t

Word: “North”

North Shore Pronunciation: Naw-th

South Shore Pronunciation: Nore-th

Word: “Aunt”

North Shore Pronunciation: Ahn-t

South Shore Pronunciation: An-t

*** WINNER ***

Tie.


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  • ChazzyJoe

    I guess I’m getting my Masshole card revoked then because I didn’t even know there was a difference between the two.

  • LCT

    no one on the south shore says “ant” for “aunt”

  • Harling

    Meh, everyone knows there’s no ‘d’ in “Medford” (2:09)…

    • Tim McLaughlin

      I have no idea where this idea of “Meffa” came from. I’m not from the town and have never lived there, but have lived in the area for most of my life and did live in Malden for almost 3 years. The way most people say it, Medford townies included, is closer to “Medfid” than “Meffa.”

  • smm

    This is super wrong! The South Shore pronunciations are so inaccurate. If there’s a difference between North Shore and South Shore accents, this certainly isn’t it! (PS I’m currently writing a doctoral dissertation on the metropolitan Boston dialect area, so reading this has made me irrationally angry– couldn’t not comment)

    • Scott

      Totally agree that the South Shore pronunciations are all wrong. Nobody says “ant” for “aunt”. Plenty of people on the south shore say “nawth” instead of “north” but I hear both. Last but not least, NOBODY with an accent says “caht”, but rather “cawt”.

      One of the main differences I seem to notice between the two is how south shore people put an emphasis in certain words like “shore” or “course”, which can sound like they have two syllables instead of one. It’s incredibly tough to spell out an example accurately, but “shore” would be something like “shor-wah”.

  • Davevail

    I think someone is confusing “south shore” with “south coast” (Fall River/New Bedford area)

  • nlpjep

    Nope-never said “ant” for “aunt”

  • Megan McCabe

    I’m from the South Shore and I’m an Auntie, not an Antie. I don’t understand how people either can’t read or say the word properly.

  • Davevail

    Revisiting this – Ms. Timpano, this is SO wrong, it needs to be deleted, Seriously.