Over the years, there have been many on-line articles and mass-forwarded emails with advice about visiting Boston, or New England in general. I may have even mentioned some before. But here are some of my own.
1) Please don't ask us to speak the phrase "I park my car in Harvard Yard", like we're some speech vending machine that was made for your amusement. Besides, the phrase doesn't make any sense. You can't get your car through the campus gates into that grassy part known as Harvard Yard, and even if you could, your car would get towed.
2) For that matter, surprisingly few people in Boston itself seem to have a Boston accent. If you travel just outside of the city to other towns like Revere, well that's another story. If you're still dying to hear some examples of really thick Boston accents, watch any of the local TV commercials for furniture stores and car dealerships.
3) If you come looking for the Cheers bar (upon which we'll immediately know you're a tourist), you'll be disappointed when you find out that the inside doesn't look anything like the TV show.
4) It is in your best interest if you don't wear a New York Yankees logo. This is most especially true in South Boston. I'm not a sports fan, nor have I ever been a sports fan, and I don't have any particular loyalty to the Boston Red Sox nor any hatred for New York things. However, I know the reality of the situation. Likewise, I wouldn't wear a Red Sox shirt in Brooklyn.
5) Like all metropolitan areas, we have vocabulary words that are different from ones used in other parts of the country. I'm not one of those myopic pricks who claims that my region's words are the "right" ones and everybody else uses the "wrong" ones. However, the difference is there. Here is just a small sample.
- Town names. This isn't really a vocabulary thing, but it deserves mention here. Many town names are not pronounced the way you'd expect them to be pronounced. But don't try to correct the people who live there, claiming that you know the "correct" way to pronounce their town name, and that all of the residents have it wrong. You will not win. Here are some examples:
- Gloucester = "GLAW - stir" (not "Glou - chester")
- Worcester = "WIST - err" (not "Wore - chester")
- Leominster = "Lemon - stir" (not "LEO - minster")
- Dedham = "DEDD - um" (not "dead ham")
- Framingham = "FRAY - ming - ham" (not "framing - um")
- Peabody = 'pee - budd - ee" (no real stress on any syllable, but certainly not "PEE - bawdy" as in the cartoon dog "Mr. Peabody")
- Haverhill = "HAYVE - rill" (not "hay - ver - hill")
- Provincetown = Always verbally abbreviated as "P-Town"
- Cape Cod = Referred to as "The Cape"
Of course, ending "err" sounds may be substituted with "ahh".
- The 'T'. This is the subway. Nobody calls it "the subway". You may see buses and above-ground trans with the "T" logo, but these are never called "The T". When you're taking The T, it means taking the subway, period. The bus is called the bus. The above-ground train is called the Commuter Rail. The good news though is that the T is much, much easier to understand than the New York subway.
- Tonic. You don't see this too often these days as it's more of an older generational thing, as is "Dungarees" (jeans). But tonic means a soft drink, not necessarily tonic water. If you see "tonic" on a restaurant menu, then they mean soft drinks, a.k.a. "soda" or "pop". You can probably still find a waitress who says "For tonics, we got Pepsi, gingah-rale, ah-range, and root be-ah."
- Wicked. You'll hear this used not as an adjective meaning "evil", but rather as an adverb meaning "very". For example, "Wow, this tonic is wicked flat!"
- Jimmies. These are black frosting shavings you put on ice cream, otherwise known as "sprinkles".
- Bubbler. This is a drinking fountain. I found out that it's actually a brand name, similar to how many people use the brand name "Kleenex" to refer to any tissue.
- Subs. These are those sandwiches known by many other names in different parts of the country: hoagies, grinders, po' boys, and so on. I don't think this is solely a New England thing, but it's worth knowing.
- The Packie. The liquor store. I guess it's short for "package store". What the connection is, I don't really know.
- Frappe. Pronounced "Frap", one syllable. This is basically a milkshake. And we've been saying it for several generations before McDonald's came out with the "Frapp - PAY".
6) My advice to people who want to visit Salem: come visit any time of the year EXCEPT October. Yes, I know everybody wants to visit Salem for Halloween, but that's just the problem: EVERYBODY wants to visit then. If you come at any other time of the year, most of the tourist attractions are still there, the massive crowds are gone, and you'll actually find parking. The same thing goes for Plymouth and November.
7) Massachusetts and Connecticut still have some ridiculous Blue Laws, presumably left over from the times of the Puritans. For example, in Massachusetts, you can't buy alcohol in a convenience store, and alcohol stores are closed on Sundays. You also can't buy fireworks in Massachusetts. However, New Hampshire (a big vacation state for Massachusetts people, and a state with NO sales tax) is another story. Plan ahead.
I could probably write a whole book on this topic, but that's enough for now.