Tips + Trends

Talk the Wicked Talk When You Speak in Boston Slang

Check out The Bahnyard, and book it to Russell House Tavern on JFK. (Photo: Courtesy of Russell House Tavern)

It’s universally known that the way Bostonians talk is a little, well, different. The city may be home to an inalienable American spirit, as well as a tendency toward pronunciation and oddball word mash-ups that rebel against grammar school norms. Knowing the do’s and don’ts of the original American slang can open doors, teach you about the inner workings of the city, or at least help you get your coffee order right (from Dunkin’ Donuts, of course).

There’s no better place for a grammatical re-education than a city known for its devil-may-care disregard for the establishment. If anyone calls you out as a tourist, just tell them you’re wicked excited to visit Boston. You’ll earn street cred.

“That Dunkie on Dot Ave’s got everything. It’s not Satahday, so it’ll be mostly townies. Get me a light and sweet when yah go.”

Translation: Dunkin’ Donuts is the granddaddy of them all in these parts. Started as a small shop in Quincy, MA, the store exploded into the corporate behemoth it is today. Still, the name “dunkie” is Boston slang for most any mom-and-pop donut eatery, including Doughboy Donuts and Deli on Dorchester Avenue (Dot Ave). Oh, and Bostonians usually take their coffee with a hefty dose of cream and sugar.

“If yah stickin’ around, we’ll catch The B’s at The Gahden. Just take the T from the Custom House.”

Translation: The city loves all things Patriots, Celtics and Bruins, shortened to Pats, Celts and The B’s in Boston slang. The Custom House is a grand hotel with views of Boston Harbor, close to Boston Common and City Hall. The subway is known as “The T,” and the Orange Line gets you from the hotel to TD Garden.

TD Garden
Catch the B’s at the Gahden, TD Garden, that is. (Photo: Alamy)

“After the game, let’s grab spuckies at Salumeria. Anyone who says Salumeria isn’t the best isn’t right! Then we’ll get frappes to go at J.M. Curley’s and walk around the Common.”

Translation: By any other name, the heaps of savory Italian meats and accompanying cheeses on a sandwich at Salumeria Italiana would taste just as sweet. Walking around Boston Common isn’t the place for frappe vs. milkshake debates unless you want a Boston-style life lesson. Milkshakes in this part of the country don’t involve ice cream. They’re simply ice, milk and flavoring, while the addition of ice cream takes things to the next level. The “e” in frappe is silent, the flavor isn’t.

“If yah want to check out The Bahnyard, we can book it to Russell House Tavern on JFK. It’s no keggah, but you’ll be all right in your dungies.”

Translation: Why exactly Harvard Yard is known to Boston townies as “The Barnyard” is debatable, but it probably stems from the interesting cast of characters one runs into on a night out. Russell House Tavern is classy, but you can get away with jeans (dungies) while perusing a beer list that’s massive but manicured.