New England oddities l Off Kilter

By Mike Gold | Sep 11, 2019

As we lived in greater Boston (and New Hampshire) for over 30 years, I thought it might be of interest to look at some of the odd things about living there.




When you want a soda in a luncheonette, you ask for a tonic.

State police are called “staties.”

When you want a drink of water, (pronounced wataah), you go to the bubbler (not the water fountain or fountain).

When you come to what we’d call a traffic circle, they’re (pronounced they’aah) called a rotary. A submarine sandwich is called a grinder.

A rubber band is called an elastic.

Jeans are called dungarees (which is also what they are called in the New York area).

A “time” is an event. Such as, “We’re having a time for Jerry’s retirement.”

Instead of saying, “So do I,” one says, “So don’t I.”

When you are going somewhere, you say, for example, “Goin’ down the Cape” for going to Cape Cod.

A large clam is called a Quahog. It’s the most common type of clam used in clam chowder (pronounced chowdaah).

A milkshake in Rhode Island is called a cabinet (don’t ask me why, I just used to live there).

When you want sprinkles on your ice cream cone, you ask for jimmies.

A tourist is called a puke (a common expression also used in the armed service to describe a new recruit going through basic training).

If you are going to Maine, especially towards the coast, you say, “Going downeast.”

A hoodsie is ice cream in a dish, most likely named after the Hood Company – a very famous local dairy.

When you are supposed to make either a right or left turn, you say, “Take a left hook” or “bang a right.”

When you are describing where you were, you say, “Me and Frankie were down to Southie” (south Boston – home of the infamous Whitey Bulger).

When you are describing something that is hard to do, you say, “That was wicked hard.”

A person from Massachusetts that you don’t really care for is called a “masshole.”

The evening meal is called supper (pronounced suppah).

If you want to be instantly identified as not coming from the Boston area, call it Beantown (from its famous baked beans). No native would ever use that expression.

If you’re looking for a ski area that has lots of young women, you ask, “Where is the local Mascara Mountain?” (Mt. Snow in Vermont has always had this reputation).


Dunkin Doughnuts

This donut chain – and note how they spell doughnut – was famous long before there was a Starbucks. And their coffee was the best (probably still is) around. A tradition was that on your way to work, you’d stop at Dunkies for a coffee and a donut.


Events and culture

Perhaps the most famous event in Boston’s history (besides the Boston Marathon and/or the New England Patriots) were the Salem Witch Trials. While there was a real cultural following called being a Wiccan, many Christian New Englanders didn’t really care for them thinking there was something Satanic about their practices. The female version is commonly called a witch, the man a warlock.

In the late 1600s, a couple dozen witches were tried in the community of Salem, Massachusetts. If they were found guilty of being a witch (which actually was a Pagan ritual), they were either burned at the stake or drowned. The theory was that if drowning did not kill you, it proved you were a witch. Tough crowd, those New Englanders.

Other things that are great about New England is the rich cultural history.

Great poets such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau. Writers such as Eugene O’Neil (who mostly wrote about New London, Connecticut).

John Cheever, noted short story writer was a New England product.

Early Beatnik, Jack Keruoac was born (and buried) in Lowell, Massachusetts.

His noteworthy book “On the Road” was a definitive work about the so-called beat generation. Time Magazine named it as one of the most important English language books from the period 1922 to 2005.

And we can’t forget Stephen King. I still get nightmares reliving some of his horrible tales.

Funny thing about King, he is a regular fixture at Boston Red Sox games.

That reminds me of the dry period for the Red Sox (no world series during the 86-year period from 1918 to 2004). That was largely based on the so-called Curse of the Bambino when Babe Ruth was traded from the Red Sox to the dreaded and hated New York Yankees.

Sort of that reminds me of the Seattle Mariners. Both teams have used the famous expression, “Wait until next year.”


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