New England Speak

I've talked about New Englanders and their accents … chowdah and lobstah, for example. Though I've been away for years and pretty much lost the accent, it's easy to slip back and every once in awhile I can hear David chuckle as I tell him I'm heading over to my “sista's” house. Beyond the accent, we also have our own vocabulary in this part of the country. Here are a few of my favorites.  

package store


The package store … does not sell packages nor do they package up stuff for shipping. No, a package store is the local term for a liquor store and we sometimes refer to it as “the packie”.


cabinets at the Modern Diner


How about a cabinet? Got you on this one, huh? In Rhode Island, a cabinet is another word for a frappe (silent “e”). What's a frappe, you ask? A frappe is a thick milkshake. Rhode Island also serves coffee milk: milk with coffee syrup, like chocolate milk.


deli grinders


We eat grinders instead of submarine sandwiches.




New Englanders love their clams. There are steamers (steamed clams) and quahogs (pronounced coh-hogs) which are super-large clams, used for clam cakes, chowdah and stuffed clams. Then there are littlenecks and cherrystones, tender little guys usually served raw with a horseradish-based cocktail sauce and lemon. And don't forget fried clams … only whole bellies, no strips! We wash it down with bee-ah or perhaps tonic. Tonic is soda elsewhere or any carbonated beverage and not necessarily Schweppes tonic water with quinine, although it could be.




If you're in a Dunkin Donuts aka Dunkies, the #1 donut shop in all of New England, and you order a regulah coffee, you'll get it with cream and two sugahs.


wicked awesome


Wicked is a particularly well-used adjective here. It replaces “very”, but in a more emphatic way. I'm not sure if it's from our heritage of witchcraft in Salem or what, but things are “wicked awesome” or “wicked weird”, but rarely just wicked. Sometimes wicked is used in conjunction with frickin which is a more courteous way to say the “F” word, e.g. frickin' wicked.




Then there's a bubbler. You might know it as a water fountain or a drinking fountain elsewhere. Three deckers and triple deckers are better known as tenement houses or three-story apartment buildings in other areas of the country. The cellar (pronounced cellah) is known as the basement in other parts of the country. In fact, most times we don't even use “the”, we just say “I'll take it down cellah.”


mass pike


Turnpike is another word for a toll road. The Mass Pike (aka Interstate 90), or simply The Pike, is probably the best known toll road in the area. Lots of toll roads in the East; not so many in the West.


candlepin bowling


Candlepin bowling allows you three tries to hit the ten narrow little pins at the end of the alley. It's the only kind of bowling I'd ever done until I moved to New York where they had the “big balls”, aka ten pin bowling. Nowadays, there's both here, as well as duckpin bowling.

If you ever plan to come to Boston, you might want to learn the language. Check out The Wicked Good Guide to Boston English.