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Globe Editorial

Boston accent: What’s going on heah?

July 17, 2011

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Even in fiction, Boston has been known for its distinctive diction. “Ever’body says words different,” declares Ivy Wilson in John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.’’ “Arkansas folks says ’em different, and Oklahomy folks says ’em different. And we seen a lady from Massachusetts, an’ she said ’em differentest of all.’’

For the uninitiated, it can be difficult to puzzle out the flat “aaah’’ that often supplants more disciplined R’s here in the Hub. Or the “ear’’ that sometimes takes the place of word-ending vowels. Still, a Boston accent isn’t that hard to decipher, at least compared to the taffy-pull drawl of South Carolina or Alabama. Many older Americans’ first encounter with the Boston accent came via John F. Kennedy. From the lips of a dashing young president, its upper-crust version seemed exotic. But now, as the Globe reports, some Bostonians have decided their birthright no longer sounds right, and are learning how to lose it.

Apparently, the very same films that have spotlighted Boston - pictures like “Mystic River,’’ “the Departed,’’ and “the Town’’ - have presented the local accent as uncultured, even unsavory. That’s an injustice to an area that has long succeeded on its mental abilities. So perhaps Massachusetts should insist that any film made with state tax subsidies carry a disclaimer in the form of a prominent Bostonian delivering a simple message: “Weah wicked smaht around these pahts. So don’t be fooled by what you heah.’’