It’s not all about R’s, you know. It ain’t all pahhkin’ the cahh in Hahvahd yahhd.
But that’s certainly part of it.
So today, standing on a ladder, staining a house, the mailman came to the door with a package. “How ahh ya?” he asked me. “I’m awright,” I said looking down at him, “How bout you?”
He was awright, too.
Wait: What the fuck did I just say?
I hate the Boston accent. I’ve spent the better part of my life banishing it from my everyday diction. I don’t think it sounds ignorant or stupid, not any more so than any other accent. I do think that it sounds abrasive and obnoxious. Granted, it was fun, while I was living in Montreal and Portland, to hang out with various Boston people and get drunk and talk mad shit in the Boston accent. “Mothafuckin’ Belmohnt, dude!” “Dude, I’m gunna go get sum beahhs and get wicked trashed and fuck with s0me fuckin’ out-a-townahs, dude!” Shit like that was fun. But being surrounded by it day in and day out wears on a motherfucker.
When I first got back to Massachusetts, it was quaint. Pulling over at a rest stop outside of Worcester (“Wouh-stah”), taking a piss–everybody had a Red Sox hat on and everybody dropped their R’s. I got coffee at the McDonald’s at that rest stop and listened as people ordered “Double-quartah-poundahs with cheese” or whatever the fuck. “Home,” I thought, and I was right. But the novelty wears thin. The novelty wears especially thin when it’s ubiquitous. It has become ubiquitous, and I am contemplating suicide.
That last part’s not true.
Don’t get me wrong: the Boston accent is one of the more distinct accents in the world. It’s an immediate signifier. To the skilled listener, its various nuances indicate class, race, geography, and education-level. And it’s certainly got something that Portland, Seattle, and the West Coast lack. What that is I can’t say. Oh, wait, yes I can.
It’s got attitude.
But I don’t want it. And I don’t want attitude. I want plain speech. What was it that “signif[ied] nothing” for Shakespeare? It wasn’t an accent. I can’t even remember which play I drew that phrase from. Point of the story, I want my accent to signify nothing. I want it to be anonymous and unremarkable. I want it to not raise questions. I want it to hide in the shadows.
(This is impossible, I realize. My accent, or lack thereof, signals a certain degree of education, a pedigree of academic learning and proper pronunciation. My accent, or lack thereof, displays contempt for other accents, even my native one. And so I’m damned if I do and I’m damned if I don’t.)
My Boston accent is, in a word, coming back. It is returning. It is a cancer. For the past seven years it has been in remission. I took that as a sign that it was defeated, and I let my guard down. I shouldn’t have let my guard down, because now I’m dropping R’s and deploying “wickeds,” and I don’t know what the fuck to do about it.
Be it resolved: leave this town before the accent consumes you.
That is all.