How to Be a New Englander

From driving in the snow to underdressing like a pro, a native’s guide to the life skills, social graces, design gambits, revenge tactics, name-dropping stratagems, casseroles, idioms, boat knots, and decapod-crustacean hacks every New Englander should master.


After an eight-generation run, the New England dialect is being eroded by an influx of interlopers who pronounce their Rs and say “Mary,” “marry,” and “merry” the same way. The monsters. But there is an upside. As the region figures more prominently in popular culture, we have more opportunities to play disdainful armchair linguist whenever someone attempts the local tongue on TV (see: Julianne Moore, 30 Rock) or in movies (unless they involve Ben Affleck). Like all New Englanders, we play to win, so we interviewed a few linguists to assemble this, a connoisseur’s guide to diction pedantry. —Joe Keohane

The Rhotic Reversal: The secret isn’t removing Rs, it’s adding them. Anyone can do cah—no one ever thinks to add I was out sawring wood or note that Cuber is an island.

The Hair-Splitting City Division: That’s the Irish Boston accent, as opposed to the Brahmin one and the North End one, which are totally different.

The Needless Contraction: As in: “Mary went to the store and so didn’t I.”

The V Bomb: Vermont doesn’t have the accent anymore. Only half of it used to—because half of the state was settled by people coming up from New York—but now the line between accent and no accent moved to the New Hampshire border. All that’s left is the old Vermont glottal stop, like “President Clin’n.”

The Dot Reachback: That guy’s too old to be saying “the stolen jeans are in the basement.” It’s Savin Hill. It would be “dungarees,” and “in the cellah.”

The “I Knew Jack Kennedy and You’re No Jack Kennedy” Gambit: Oh, please. The Kennedy accent is used only by Kennedys, comedians, and imposters.

The Rhode Warrior: That woman wouldn’t call that a frappe and a sub. She’s from Lil’ Rhody. They call those cabinets for some inexplicable reason. And grinders.

The Surly Dismissal with Shibboleth Kicker: God, for all the money they spend on these things, you’d think they could at least shell out for a halfway decent dialect coach. This show sucks. Anybody want a tonic?



Illustration by John Macneill

Illustration by John Macneill

West Coasters may peacock in blinged-out Ferraris, but our ultimate status symbol is a car as indestructible as the Yankee spirit, such as a ’93 Volvo 240 GL. Nicknamed the “Swedish brick” by aficionados, its patina (not pretension) reflects our region’s Cape-sand-inside, scratches-from-rooftop-skis-outside aesthetic. Here, mechanic James Stephenson, of West Springfield’s Precision Auto Repair, explains how to keep a vehicle purring like a Brahmin dowager. —Margaret Heidenry

Practice defensive ownership. “Preventive maintenance is the key,” Stephenson says. Spotting a problem before it becomes a major issue is “90 percent of the battle. All cars are nuts and bolts. Some are just older than others.”

Keep a clean undercarriage. This is New England, where corrosive snow and rain mean your beloved ride could “rot away,” Stephenson says. To combat car-­destroying rust, he recommends a yearly protective undercoating.

Get your motor running. “Not driving a vehicle is worse than driving it every day,” he says. Idleness, it seems, makes a car “fall apart internally.”

Seek a significant other. Finally, Stephenson advocates a faithful relationship with a trusted mechanic who “knows your vehicle.” He or she can be your car’s “second set of eyes and get you to 300,000 miles.”





We’ve all been there, enjoying a perfectly civil natter with some out-of-towner who then, apropos of nothing, suddenly throws shade on one of our local successes for a career blip. While their targets—Affleck’s Bennifer years, Mark Wahlberg’s bout with boxer briefs—are as predictable as their Hahvahd Yahd shtick is tired, one must address the breach of decorum swiftly and firmly. Step one, a quick history refresher: specifically, the chapter “You Owe Us Your Freedom.” Our region’s role in the American Revolution ensured the existence of these United States, and it’s in this same spirit that our compatriots put themselves out there. Yes, mistakes were made (The Marky Mark Workout) and major setbacks endured (Gigli). But who among us hasn’t wrestled with our own personal Funky Bunch year? Step two: Remind your counterpart that homegrown heroes’ eventual triumphs bolster the entire region. Affleck found brilliant redemption in The Town; Wahlberg, with his Oscar-winning movie The Fighter. Amy Poehler eclipsed her bizarre rants in Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo by winning a Golden Globe. Can Tom Bergeron transcend the embarrassment of, well, being Tom Bergeron? You see, that’s the funny part. It doesn’t matter. Because either way, at the end of the day, we defend our own. —M.H.