What can a newly settled Massachusetts resident do, but stare in confusion as his friend tells a story of driving to the packie, but gets into trouble and gets pulled over by a statie while trying to hit a U-ey after Missed a rotator turn?
Imagine if the situation happened in Leicester or Billerica or some other oddly spelled town in the Bay State. Local lexicon clutter can be nearly impossible to overcome.
Massachusetts slang and regional pronunciations may be second nature to longtime Commonwealth residents, but new additions to the region can often be left swimming in a sea of bewildering phrases – especially if they’re from the Midwest and walk into a 7-Eleven looking for a bottle of pop.
But this handy guide can help.
A few key phrases for beginners
Pack “The liquor store, pure and simple. Don’t try to send anything from the pack. It’s short for “parcel store”, although many locals still call it the liquor store.
Nasty – Not necessarily a negative term, mean is just used in place of “really”. Often used in conjunction with “pee” (see below) for people trying their hand at a Mark Wahlberg print.
piss — Pronounced “pissah”. For those who think they could have made an extra in The Departed, or those trying to describe something awesome. When paired with “wicked” it means really awesome.
Masshole – The Oxford English Dictionary has defined it as “a derogatory term for a native or inhabitant of the state of Massachusetts” – or just about any driver in Massachusetts.
State – A Massachusetts State Police trooper. You can see them by the side of the highway or around town. If you imagine yourself being a speed racer, you can also see them in your rear view mirror with a set of bright blue lights activated.
Where am I?
City names “It will take time. Try practicing with Amherst (“where only the ‘H’ is silent”), Haverhill (“Hayve-rill”), Stoneham (“Stone-um”), Billerica (“Bill-rick-uh”), Gloucester (” Glah-stah”), Worcester (“Woo-stah”), Leominster (“Lemon-stah”) and Leicester (“Lester”). There are 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts.
The Cape – Cape Cod, which advances from southeast Massachusetts into the Atlantic Ocean and returns to Boston. At the end is Provincetown – more commonly referred to as “P-Town”.
The vineyard — South of the Cape are two islands, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. The vineyard is on the left and Nantucket is on the right (as seen by looking at a map). Most people take the ferry to get there.
The pike – The Massachusetts Turnpike crosses the state as part of Interstate 90. Most people will simply call it “the pike.” From Boston it traces a westward course, passes south of Worcester, passes through central Massachusetts and heads just north of Springfield en route to the Berkshires and the New York State border. Many states.
The North Shore — A collection of towns near the coast north of Boston, including Salem, Marblehead, Gloucester and Rockport. Good Harbor Beach and Revere Beach are two particularly popular spots for those looking for sun and sand.
The South Shore — North Shore’s counterpart south of Boston. It includes Hull, Scituate, Plymouth and other towns close to the coast. Nantasket Beach and Duxbury Beach are particularly popular beaches.
The T — Abbreviation for Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, the Boston area public transportation system. “The T” usually refers specifically to Boston’s subways, although there are also buses. Fun fact: the CharlieCard, name of the MBTA pass, takes its name from a song on a man named Charlie stuck on the train.
Troubleshooting route “Some other states call it the shoulder. There are only two reasons a person notices the recovery lane on a highway: because their car has broken down and they are using it for its intended purpose, or because a moron simply used it to pass her on the right during rush hour.
Hit a U-ey — Execute a U-turn. Make sure it’s allowed on the street first.
Rotary – It is a roundabout or roundabout in other parts of the country, but here drivers call the circular intersection where cars are traveling counterclockwise a roundabout.
Crusher — A common term in some areas, a grinder is simply a sub or a hoagie — depending on where you’re from.
bubbler – More of an Eastern Massachusetts thing, a bubbler to some people is a drinking fountain or water fountain to others.
Struck — In New England, a hit is generally what other places call a milkshake. It is always pronounced as a one-syllable “frap” and never as a two-syllable “frap-pay”. Nothing like a black and white shot on a hot summer day.
chowder – Clam chowder, especially the paler New England variety. Don’t try to find the red and tomato Manhattan version here.
Hoodie — Also called Hoodsie cups, these are small bowls of vanilla and chocolate ice cream, served with a small wooden spoon at a birthday party, barbecue or school cafeteria. Even if the name doesn’t sound familiar to you, you would recognize a Hoodsie if you saw it.
Fluffnutter — When it comes to marshmallows, Massachusetts innovates. The Commonwealth both invented Marshmallow Fluff and found a great excuse to eat it for lunch. A Fluffernutter is our version of PB&J, replacing sweet marshmallow creme in place of jelly.
Soda, not pop – Midwesterners take note: This fizzy drink is a soda, or maybe a tonic. But it’s definitely not pop.
dunks — Dunkin’ Donuts, which officially changed its name to Dunkin’. Iced coffee season is year-round here.
A bit of local culture
Bowling by candlelight — It’s like regular bowling, but with smaller, smaller balls and weird, skinny pins. People here love it.
Jack and Jill — This is a pre-wedding celebration that has historically raised funds for the couple. Generally, an admission fee is charged and guests also participate in raffles. It is separate from a bridal shower and the bride and groom attend.
The B’s — The Boston Bruins. They play hockey.
The C — The Boston Celtics. They play basketball.
The pats — The New England Patriots. They play football.
The Soxes — The Red Sox. They play baseball.
The monster — The iconic left-field wall of Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox, and the namesake of Wally the Green Monster, the team’s mascot. At 37 feet and 2 inches tall, it is the key element of America’s most beloved baseball stadium.
bean jar – A college hockey tournament that takes place every year in Boston between the same four local teams: Boston University, Boston College, Northeastern University and Harvard University.
patriots day – Unrelated to the previously mentioned football team, Patriots’ Day is a Massachusetts and Maine-specific holiday that celebrates the Battle of Lexington and Concord on the third Monday in April. This is also when the Boston Marathon takes place.