Entering BostonIf you're new to the Boston area, here are some tips to help you understand what people are saying and help you get around.

Rule #1: Never attempt to do the Boston accent yourself. It will sound ridiculous, just like it does in the movies when an actor makes a lame attempt. This is actually true everywhere. Never attempt any local accent unless you’re from there.

That said, here’s a guide to understanding what people are saying and knowing the correct names for things.

Key to Boston Words

They say: 
We say:
Rubber band 
Traffic circle
Yield to vehicles already in the rotary.
Route (pronounced “rowt”)
Route (pronounced “root”)
Highway 114
Route 114
The DMV 
The Registry
Fast Lane
Auto tag
License plate
Scallops (“scahl-ups”)
Scoll-ups (rhymes with ball)
Liquor Store 
Package Store or packy
Tonic (something for your hair)  
Tonic (soda or soft drinks)
Paper bag
Hero (or Gyro)  
Water fountain 
Miniature golf
Tow truck

Boston Definitions

Clam Chowder: If you order Clam Chowder, it will be white. That's New England-style clam chowder. Chowder with tomato sauce is Manhattan Clam Chowder. Nobody serves it around here.

Regular coffee means coffee with cream and sugar.

Spa: It may be a place to get a mani, a pedi, a facial or a massage, but it might also be a little old corner store where they sell Chapstick and Ace combs on a cardboard stand. You could probably get a cream soda and a sandwich as well.

Jimmies: Have you wondered why chocolate sprinkles on an ice cream cone are called Jimmies? The Boston hospital now known as Brigham & Women's was originally Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (that name is still engraved above the entrance at Brigham Circle). Peter Bent Brigham's nephew, Edward Brigham, started a chain of ice cream stores in Newton Highlands called Brigham's. For an extra penny you could get chocolate sprinkles on your cone, and the money went to the Jimmy Fund that helps fight children's cancer. Thus came the name "Jimmies."

Frappe: A milkshake made thicker with ice cream is called a frappe. If you hear someone call it a cabinet, they’re from Rhode Island.

How We Say the Names of Places

New England is often mispronounced. Folks from other areas tend to say it as, “NEW England.” The correct pronunciation is, “Na-WING-lund” with the accent on the second syllable. New England consists of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. The New England Patriots is the only pro sports franchise named after a region.

Copley SquareCopley Square: Named for painter John Singleton Copley. It’s COP-lee, not cope-lee.

Tremont Street: Named for the three hills of Boston (Beacon, Copps and Fort - only Beacon remains. You can see the three hills on the BC seal.) Pronounced TREM-ont (never tree-mont).

“Gumm-un Senna” means Government Center. This is the area where Boston City Hall is.

Comm Ave.: The common name for Commonwealth Avenue. No one uses the full name.

Mass Ave is Massachusetts Avenue, but no one says the full name for this one either.

Trapelo Road: An exit off Route 128 in Waltham. Pronounced Tra-PELL-o.

Ponkapoag: An exit off Route 128 (actually it's I-93, but everyone thinks it's 128) in Randolph. The exit really doesn't go anywhere. Pronounced PONK-a-pog.

Faneuil Hall: Despite what people in Philadelphia might tell you, this is the Cradle of Liberty. In the '70s, a TV newscaster from Texas got the idea that back in the day it was pronounced "FAN-ell" and it sort of caught on, but only with media types who hailed from elsewhere. No one in Boston says it like that. It's FAN-you-ull.

Boston Nicknames, etc.

Swan BoatsC’s: The Celtics. Also called the Celts (pronounced with a soft C, not a K sound)

B’s: The Bruins

The Pats: The Patriots. Absolutely no one calls them the P's.

The Garden: The TD Garden, formerly the TD BankNorth Garden, the Fleet Center, and originally the Shawmut Center. Everyone says “the Garden” because of the old Boston Garden on that site.

The Public Garden: A completely different place. It’s next to Boston Common. The Public Garden has gardens, flowers, the swan boats, the Make Way for Ducklings ducks and the smallest suspension bridge in the world.

Boston Common: Oldest park in the country. Nickname is “the Common” (with no “s”). It’s not “the Commons.”

The Hancock BuildingThe Hancock Building: Actually there are three of them. The original is only 5 stories tall and sits between the other two. The 60-story glass Hancock Tower once had the nickname the Plywood Skyscraper because the huge window panes kept falling out and were replaced by plywood until they could fix the problem. The 26-story Hancock Berkeley Building was once the tallest building in Boston. It's the one with the weather beacon on top.

The famous poem about the lights goes like this:

Steady blue, clear view
Flashing blue, clouds due
Steady red, rain ahead
Flashing red, snow instead.
(Except in summer, when it means the Red Sox game is canceled.)

You'll hear about this each night on BEDTIME MAGIC with David Allan Boucher when he does the Four-Day forecast. "At last check the Hancock weather tower was flashing and blue."


Boston Neighborhoods

Back BayThe Back Bay: Always include “the” when referring to it. No one says “in Back Bay.” It’s a landfill, by the way. They filled in part of the Charles River Basin back in the 1880s. That’s why the streets are laid out in actual blocks and the cross streets are alphabetical. Arlington, Berkeley, Clarendon, Dartmouth, and so on. Most of the dirt was trucked in 24 hours day fom Needham. That's why the area known as Needham Heights is now the Needham flats. The dirt wound up in the Back Bay.

The North End: Excellent neighborhood for restaurants, primarily Italian. It’s easier to reach now that the Central Artery is gone, but parking is tough.

Southie: It means South Boston, not to be confused with the South End.

The South End: Not the same place as Southie. It’s just across the Mass Pike from the Back Bay.

Eastie: East Boston, where the airport is. Unlike Southie, hardly anyone says Eastie.

Dot: Dorchester. Dot Ave. is Dorchester Ave. Dot Day is a Dorchester neighborhood celebration.

JP: Jamaica Plain

Hyde Park is just Hyde Park. Don't call it HP. No one will know what you are talking about.

Rozzie: Roslindale

Chuck-town: Charlestown

Allston-Brighton: Actually two different places with different ZIP codes. Allston is 02134 and Brighton is 02135. A generation of kids grew up singing Allston's ZIP code because of a jingle about how to write to the public TV show ZOOM ("Box 350, Boston, Mass, 0! 2, 1! 3 4! Send it to ZOOM!").

Mattapan, Roxbury and West Roxbury don't really have nicknames.

Mispronounced Town Names

Famous Boston StatueBillerica: North of Boston. Pronounced ‘Bill-RICK-a." Ignore the E.

Cochituate: Rhymes with Scituate. (see below) “Co-CHITCH-oo-it.”

Concord: Where the Revolution started. Also where the grapes came from. Pronounced like "conquered." Don't call it "CON-cord."

Haverhill: Also north of Boston. Pronounced “HAY-ver-ull.”

Hopkinton: Where the Marathon starts, 26.2 miles to the west. There's no G in Hopkinton.

Leicester: To the west. Proounced "Lester," like the Red Sox pitcher.

Methuen: Another one to the north. Pronounced "Muh-THOO-in."

Nahant: North Shore. Pronounced “Nuh-HAHNT.”

Natick: To the west. “NAY-dick” (not Gnat-ick) It’s Doug Flutie’s hometown.

Neponset: It's a river, not a town. Pronounced "Na-PAWN-set." There's no Z sound in it.

Peabody: “PEE-bu-dee” (not Pee-body)

Quincy: Named for Josiah Quincy, Governor of Massachusetts and signer of the Declaration of Independence. It’s "KWIN-zee" (never "Quint-see").

Salisbury: More North Shore. "SOLLS-bry" (not salls-bry).

Scituate: On the South Shore. “SITCH-oo-it.” Rhode Island also has one.

Swampscott: North shore. Pronounced "SWAMP-scut."

Tewksbury: North of Boston. Pronounced "TOOKS-bry."

Waltham: To the west. Pronounced "WALL-tham" (not "Wall-thum").

Woburn: It’s “WOO-burn” (not wobb-urn).

Worcester: To the west. “WOOS-ter” (or “Wista” if you’re from there)

Ham or Um?

Some towns ending in "ham" are pronounced with a “ham” at the end, but some have just an “um” at the end.

Ends with ham:
Ends with um:
Tatham (Yes, there is one)

Boston Tunnels

The Callahan: The old one that goes from downtown to Logan Airport.

The Sumner: The old one that goes from Logan Airport to downtown.

The Ted Williams: The new one on the Mass Pike that goes under the harbor to Logan.

The O’Neill: The new ones (northbound and southbound - different tunnels) that replaced the Central Artery.

The I-90 Connector: It’s the Mass Pike tunnel that goes from I-93 to South Boston. You come out of the tunnel for a moment and when you go back in it becomes the Ted Williams Tunnel.

The Storrow Drive Tunnel: Inbound only on Storrow Drive from Copley Square toward Mass General.

The City Square Tunnel: It connects the Tobin Bridge with I-93. You go over the Mystic River on the bridge, under City Square in the tunnel, then up onto I-93 via the Cana Loop where you go over the Zakim Bridge and into the O’Neill Tunnel. Got it?

The Pru Tunnel: The Mass Pike and the railroad go under the Prudential Center. It’s the 16th longest railroad tunnel in the world.

The Dewey Square Tunnel: It no longer exists, really. It’s now part of the southbound O’Neill Tunnel.


Zakim BridgeBoston Bridges

The Zakim: Officially the Leonard Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge. The rather spectacular bridge that crosses the Charles when you come out of the O’Neill tunnel. It's the widest single-span suspension bridge in the world.

The Tobin: The big old green one that takes Route 1 over the Mystic River. (Remember the movie?)

The Longfellow: It is sometimes called the Salt and Pepper Bridge due to the shape of its central towers. It goes over the Charles from Cambridge Street by Mass General to Kendall Square in Cambridge. The T Red Line runs in the middle of the bridge.

Oliver SmootThe Harvard Bridge: Often called the Mass Ave bridge, it crosses the Charles in the middle of the basin.  Duck boats go down the Charles to the Harvard Bridge, then turn around. On one sidewalk there are markings called Smoots. The bridge was measured by laying a guy from MIT named Oliver Smoot end-to-end. The bridge is 364.4 Smoots - plus one ear - long.

BU BridgeThe BU Bridge: It crosses from BU over to Cambridge. Originally called the Cottage Farm Bridge, the name was changed becuase there were neither cottages nor farms anywhere nearby, but there was plenty of BU. Part-way over there is a point where you could have a plane flying over a car that’s driving over a train that's going over a boat. It’s the only place in the world where that can happen.

The River Street Bridge: Crosses the Charles at the Allston exit off the Mass Pike. It’s a truly horrible intersection.

The Larz Anderson Bridge: Crosses the Charles at Harvard. Harvard Business School and Harvard Stadium are on the Allston side. Weld Boathouse and the “River Houses” of Harvard are on the Cambridge side.

Broadway Bridge: Goes from Southie over Fort Point Channel to I-93.

Jim Kelly Bridge: Formerly the West 4th Street Bridge. Goes from Southie over to East Berkeley Street in the South End. If you want to go to the South End from Southie, take this bridge, not the Broadway Bridge.

Summer Street Bridge: Takes you from South Station to the Seaport District

Congress Street Bridge: Does the same thing as the Summer Street Bridge, just one block north.

Cape Cod BridgesGeneral Edwards Bridge:  Route 1A bridge that connects Revere and Lynn. Lynn is often referred to as "Lynn, the city of sin," but the actual slogan is "Lynn, the city of firsts." Lynn had the first iron works, the first fire engine, the first jet engine, the first roast beef sandwich and the first baseball game under the lights.

Sagamore Bridge and Bourne Bridge: These two bridges are the only way to get to Cape Cod by land. When you're heading there, you're going down to the Cape, never over to the Cape. Patti Page, the "Singing Rage" had a big hit in the 1950s called, "(You're Sure to Fall in Love With) Old Cape Cod." She also had a hit song called, "Cross Over the Bridge" and that's what you have to do to get to Cape Cod. You're not there until you cross over the bridge. Once you're there, you're on the Cape, never at the Cape.

Driving in Boston

Toll booths: Some places, like Michigan, don’t have them. We do. You’ll find them at all the exits and entrances on the Mass Pike from the New York line to Newton. There’s also a toll plaza on the Pike in Weston and another in Allston. There’s one heading into Boston on the Tobin Bridge and in the Ted Williams and Sumner tunnels. None of those has outbound tolls. Heading north to New Hampshire, you’ll hit a toll shortly after crossing the state line.

Fastlane: Get a Fastlane transponder. It’s free, you don’t have to wait in the long “Cash Only” lines and the toll you pay is lower. You get a 25 cent toll discount at the Allston tolls and a 50 cent discount at the Sumner and Ted Williams tunnels and the Tobin Bridge. If you have an EZPass from another state it will work, but you don’t get the discount.

Driving alerts: People here aren’t good about using directional signals. Here are some other important driving tips to consider:

  • A Yield sign is not a stop sign.
  • If you see a traffic signal with a flashing red light, it’s the same as a stop sign. Then again, it might turn solid red now and then, making it a regular red light.
  • Green means go. Yellow means go faster.
  • When people going the other way slow down to check out a traffic accident, it's called the "Curiosity Factor." Down south they say "rubbernecking." In the midwest, they call it "gawking."
  • Confusing Boston HighwaysHeading west on Storrow Drive, there’s an exit that says “Fenway” (to the left) and “Kenmore Square” (to the right). If you’re heading for Fenway Park, don’t follow the Fenway signs. You’ll wind up in the Back Bay.
  • Storrow Drive and Soldier’s Field Road are the same road. The name changes at the BU Bridge.
  • On Comm Ave. by BU you’re in Boston on the north side of the street and Brookline on the south side.
  • As you’re heading west on I-93 South in Canton, it suddenly becomes I-95 North with little warning and without as much as a bend in the road.
  • The signs at the Braintree split that say “I-93 North to Boston and Cape Cod” are actually a joke. Cape Cod is south, not north.

Getting Around by T (Public Transportation)

The MBTA runs trolleys, rapid transit trains, buses and commuter rail trains. The common nickname is the T.

MBTA Charlie CardCharlie Card: It’s named for Charlie, the guy who rode the Boston subway and never returned. If you take the T at all, there’s absolutely no reason not to have a Charlie Card. They’re free, you don’t have to fumble for change or wait in line to buy tokens and you pay a lower fare. The regular subway fare is $2, but with a Charlie Card it’s only $1.70. Note that a paper Charlie ticket is not the same as a plastic Charlie Card, which is a monthly pass.

Charlie Cards work on the Green, Red, Blue, Orange and Silver lines, and on T buses. They do not work on the T Commuter Rail. To purchase a Charlie Card, go to the ATM-like machine near the turnstiles, select what you want and put some stored value money on the card. That’s it.

On the subway you can switch between lines easily at most stations. Two exceptions are Copley Square and Symphony on the Green Line, where you cannot switch between inbound and outbound. If you need to switch, take the train to the next station, then switch.

MBTA T MapBlue Line: From Bowdoin Square to Wonderland. That’s the one you can take to the airport.

Silver Line: There are two of them. Make sure you’re on the one you want. One of them also goes to the airport, but it’s a bus, not a train. The other goes to the Seaport District.

Orange Line: Oak Grove to Forest Hills, through Downtown Crossing

Red Line: Heading south, the Red Line goes to two different places, Ashmont and Braintree. Make sure you’re on the correct line. From JFK/UMass station to the north, you can get on any train. They all go to Harvard Square and on to Alewife.

Green Line: The Green line has B, C, D and E trains. If you’re downtown and heading to, say, Kenmore, you can take any of them except the E. The E line branches off toward Huntington Avenue just after Copley Square. The B, C and D lines stay together until just after Kenmore, where they come out of the ground and head in different directions. The B line goes to Boston College. The C line goes to Cleveland Circle. The D line, the fastest of the bunch, goes to Riverside out by Route 128 in Newton. The E usually has a slash through it. That’s because the E line used to go all the way through to Jamaica Plain to Arborway. If you drive down Center Street in JP, you’ll see some trolley tracks that are still in the street, but with no overhead wires. A block or two later, the tracks are paved over. The slash in the E means they shortened the line and it now ends at Heath Street..

Scollay UnderAre you wondering why there’s no A line? There used to be one that went to Watertown Square, but the traffic in Newton Corner – usually congested anyway – was made worse by trolleys heading the wrong way in the middle of traffic on the bridge over the Pike. They run buses now.

If you're curious about which line Charlie took, he got on the Red Line at Kendall Square in Cambridge, changed at Park Street for an E train on the Green Line and headed for JP.  The MTA (as it was then known) charged an extra fare to get off once the train came out of the tunnel. (This still happens, by the way, on the Red Line at Braintree.) Thus, Charlie's problem. The Scollay (pronounced "Scully") Square station where Charlie's wife handed him a sandwich every day at quarter past two is now called Government Center.

Stadiums and Arenas

Fenway ParkFenway Park needs little introduction. It's the oldest major league ballpark, now in its 100th season, and it's an experience you should absolutely take in. In addition to Red Sox games, Fenway hosts concerts. Last winter the NHL Winter Classic hockey game was held at Fenway as well as Hockey East, which will return this winter.

Harvard Stadium: The game of football as we know it was invented here, and the width of a football field (160 feet) was based on the width of Harvard Stadium, the oldest football stadium anywhere. It's in Boston, by the way, not in Cambridge.

Alumni Stadium: Boston College is typically described as located in Chestnut Hill, which is partially in Newton and partially in Brookline. Alumni Stadium, which is right on the campus, is actually in Boston.

TD Garden is discussed above. The Celtics and Bruins play there.

Agganis Arena: On Comm Ave. at BU. New and nice. Named for Harry Agganis (pronounced Ah-GANN-is), star athlete at Lynn Classical High and BU. He also played 1st base for the Red Sox.

Nickerson Field:The big one at BU. It was built in 1915 as Braves Field, home of the National League Boston Braves, who are now the Atlanta Braves. BU dropped football a few years ago, so it's mostly soccer and lacrosse these days. The grandstand you see today is the old right field bleacher from the days when the Braves played there.

Paramount TheatreBoston Opera House:  Originally a palatial movie theatre called BF Keith's, later the RKO Keith Memorial and the Sack Savoy, the beautifully refurbished Opera House is home to Boston Ballet performances such as "The Nutcracker."

Emerson Majestic Theatre:  Also a former movie theatre called The Saxon, it now owned by Emerson College and has been restored to its original grandeur.

Paramount Theatre:  The movie palace that was closed for decades has also been brought back to life by Emerson College. The original art-deco marquee makes you feel like you're in Hollywood in the 1930s.

Citi Performing Arts Center Wang Theatre: This is the biggest theatre in Boston (4400 capacity). Originally called the Metropolitan, then the Music Hall, then the Wang Center, then Citibank bought the naming rights. Go down to the first row and look up at the ceiling.  It's spectacular.