Many genealogists are coming to New Hampshire soon for the NERGC conference in Manchester, April 17 – 21st. I hope they are prepared….
OK, it’s pronounced N’ Ham-SHA. Let’s get that straight right from the beginning. We are notorious for dropping our Ahhs. See, we can’t even say the letter R. We save up all the dropped R’s and add them in later. Words like China become Chiner or pizza becomes pizzer. This is the Law of the Conservation of the Letter R. The best example of this is the work parka, which becomes pahker of course. Same goes for names like Martha, which becomes Mah-ther. I’ve actually seen Mahther and Hanner on gravestones (another example of the Law of the Conservation of the Letter R)
Our state spokesman, Fritz Wetherbee, who has the most beautiful New Hampshire accent, sums it all up with this one sentence:
Mistah Waitah, now or late-ah, bring a glass of be-ah he-ah
Translation: Mister Waiter, now or later, bring a glass of beer here.
If you are doing genealogy or local history research in New Hampshire, you must pronounce the towns and place names properly. Or you will be laughed at. Maybe not to your face, but certainly as soon as you leave the town clerk’s office or historical society. And the story will be repeated at the coffee shop, down at the market, and on and on… because you’ll be considered wick-id wee-id (translation: wicked weird).
Let’s start with Concord, our state capitol. “CONK-id” Pronouncing it as Concorde (that was a plane) will certainly brand you as a flatlander. Don’t do it. Pronounce it the same way you would say “Attila the Hun conquered Europe”. But don’t forget to drop the R in the word conquered.
Berlin “BERL-un” (we do this just to differentiate ourselves from the European towns)
Windham “wind HAM” don’t say “WIND-um”
Same goes for Pelham, it’s pronounced “pel HAM” not “PELL –um”
Nashua “NASH – uar” (the law of conservations of the letter R prevails here)
Coos County is pronounced “Co – OSS” with two syllables. ALWAYS
Speaking of genealogy- don’t ever pronounce the word AUNT like the insect. While you are in the library or town clerk’s office and you suddenly need to use the facilities, ask for the basement. Don’t be surprised if the basement is on the third floor. * If you are thirsty while researching here, ask for the bubbler (but pronounce it bub-LAH) translation: a bubbler is a water fountain.
The answer to any question might be “Ayuh”. This can mean a positive or negative answer. Only a true New Hampshire person can discern which is which. People from away can be wicked confused about this peculiarity.
For the truly curious:
See the Cow Hampshire blog for more on New Hampshire language:
Rebecca Rule teaches how to speak New Hampshire
Listen to Judson Hale, editor-in-chief of Yankee magazine, explains the lost "R" in the New England accent in this essay (click the "listen" button) to hear him read this aloud:
Listen to Robert Frost reading one of his poems:
Pay attention to the words horse, queer, farmhouse, near, year in the second stanza:
“My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.”
*This dates back to when public restrooms were located in the basements of buildings, especially schools. Never use the word “basement” in a private home. If you are in a home refer to the basement as “down cellar” (but drop the R).
Copyright 2013, Heather Wilkinson Rojo