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Ayuh, the Northern New England
Accent in a Nutshell.
By Mike Szelog

As a very basic overview of the
New England accent (northern
New England), you’ll note a few
things — we don’t seem to have
the letter "r"— it’s usually replaced
as though the word was spelled
with an "a-h". (This, by the way,
happens only at the ends of syllables, not at the beginning).

So it’s "
pahk", not  "park".  If the word ends in "r" itself, typically preceded by an
"e", "i" or "o" we generally insert a  "y" sound in the case of  "e" and "i" and a  "w"
sound in the case of  "o" before that final "ah".  

So, it's  "theyah" (not "there"),  "deeyah" ( not "deer") and "doh-wah" (not "door").

The combination "er" at the end of a syllable represents a very unique sound
that is very difficult to describe; it's best described as a sound very similar to the
German letter "ö" or the French "eu".

If, however, you listen closely, you’ll notice we put  "r" on the ends of words
that end in "a"— now it ain't New Hampshire (say "sheer") or New Hampshire
(say "shire"), what it is, is

Our capital city is not Concord, but rather Concord (KON-k'd).  The country I
live in is Americar — it lies to the north of Cubar. Our southern most state in the
continental US is, of course, Floridar. This "ar"  by the way, is pronounced as if
written "er".  

The "ing" endings on words tend to be dropped in favor of "in," so it's
not speaking.

The intonation, I find, is also rather unique. Some will say it’s as flat as a
pancake with the exception of a phrase ending slur (whatever that may be).
Though that form is correct, what I tend to hear more of is the distinct sing-song
type quality of the intonation. It’s quite possible that this may be a remnant of
the so-called Irish lilt and the Scottish burr from earlier times when most New
Englanders were from these two countries along with, of course, the English.

It’s generally difficult, unless you’re trained in the field, to tell if someone is
from Maine, New Hampshire or Vermont — we all tend to sound alike in the tri-
state area. The accent of the Maine coast is very similar to the accent of the deep
New Hampshire woods.

Massachusetts, however, has a slightly different variety of the New England
accent — I dare say, it’s partially influenced by the typical New York accent.
People from Connecticut and Rhode Island, though located in what is
geographically New England, do not speak with a New England accent — it’s
actually more of a New York accent.

Ayuh and Wicked

I feel I have to address what may be the two most quintessential words in the
Northern New England repertoire. They are, of course, "
ayuh" and "wicked."

Now, it really irks us when you get these people "from away," like down to
New Jersey, who try and imitate these words and their uses.  It just don’t work!!

The word "
ayuh" -- though it may seem at first to have a positive connotation --
may in fact be used both positively and negatively. It has extremely subtle
undertones which, if you’re not native, you can never hope to master. Only a
native New Englander can discern exactly how the speaker intends it by the
subtleties of intonation. Something which confuses people from away some

The other word "
wicked" — in addition to its normal meaning of bad/evil
(same meaning as in other parts of the English speaking world) in New England
has an added attraction. It is essentially an intensifier and may be used, like
"ayuh," in a positive or a negative way or even a fairly neutral matter-of-fact
way—again, depending on the situation at hand. To complicate matters even
more, the word that “wicked” intensifies is frequently omitted!

Here’s an example of the use of "ayuh" and "wicked" (written in a wicked
thick/broad New England accent…something like you’d hear in the backwoods
of New Hampshire):

"Hey, John! Heard Chestah an' Vern went up to Berlin (that’s BER-lin) this
pahst week ta do some huntin', snow and all!"

"Ayuh, said they had a wicked hahd time gettin' up there with the snow, but
the huntin' was wicked good. 'Course that blizzahd they had the lahst night
theyah was a wicked pissah, ayuh! Guess they couldn't get that Joe-Jeezly cah
of Chestah’s stahted the next mornin' thought they’d have to go the bahn and
get that John Deeyah tractah goin' and ride it all the way back to Franconiar!"

“Ayuh, but it was worth the trip—heard they got a moose and a couple a
wicked crunchahs."

As you can see, the use of "ayuh" and "wicked" varies here. A "crunchah,"  by the
way, is a wicked big deer.

The spelling above is a bit misleading as it doesn't represent the full flavor of
the accent. You have to hear it to fully appreciate it. To hear a short folktale
narrated in the (Northern) New England accent, have a look at the following:

Click here to hear a REAL northern New England accent

Ayuh, so, there we have it, folks—the New England accent in a nutshell.

About the author Mike Szelog, who is a linguist, is a native New Englander born and
raised in Manchester, New Hampshire.
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