Thursday, April 11, 2013

New Hampshire Pronunciation


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.

Other towns:

Milan      “MILE-un”

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:
http://www.yankeemagazine.com/judsjournal/oneissue.php?number=1502 

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).

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Copyright 2013, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

16 comments:

  1. I loved this post! It brought me back to the time in the late 50s to mid 60s when I lived in NH (Salem Depot and Conk-id). I only have vestiges of the NH accent now and it is very faintly heard in only a few words.

    Two anecdotes . . .

    (1) In the 5th grade at Kimball School in Concord (sadly it was recently torn down) I had Miss Degnan for home room and language and writing (yes we rotated classes in elementary school among the three 5th grade teachers: Miss Degnan, Miss Welch and Mrs. Johnson). When we were doing homophones, Miss Degnan dutifully taught us that "father" and "farther" were homophones. I knew of the existence of the letter "R" and that most people actually used it other than for superfluous addition at the end of words where it did not actually exist. I quietly but boldly pointed this out to her after class one day. She patiently asked me the definition of homophone. I replied, "Words spelled differently but pronounced the same." She then asked, "And George Washington is the what of our country? I answered, "The "FAH-tha." She nodded. "And if you were telling someone that Britts is a longer walk from here than the Granite State Candy shop, you would say, 'Britts is what than Granite State?' And at the time I had to reply, "Britts is FAH-tha than Granite State." She raised her eyebrows as if to say, "So what is your problem?" I got father/farther wrong on every test thereafter since I stubbornly stuck to the existence of the "R" in many words even though we never used it! ;-)

    (2) My entire New England family pronounces "Aunt" correctly -- we have no insect relations! My wife's family has "Ants" as sisters of her mother and father, but this was a bridge too far for me when we had two sons -- so I insisted on my side that my sister would be Aunt Susan and not Ant Susan. This Aunt/Ant distinction was always a thing with me. For decades I teasingly quizzed all the Ant-folks I encountered, "Give me one other word in the English language where 'au' is pronounced like the 'a' in ant rather than as 'ahh' in the words caution, because and Aunt, etc.!" After many, many years a friend named Betsy hesitated not a nanosecond and replied, "Laugh." I hesitated a long moment and closed the subject by replying, "I 'lahhf' at all such mispronunciations!!" ;-)

    American English and regional pronunciations are a fascinating subject -- just ask anyone from Dante (pronounced "dant"), VA or from Albany (pronounced "all-BANE-eee"), GA.
    '

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  2. Oh, my! I'm thinking back on all the times I must have been laughed at after I left a store.

    I should do a post on visiting Appalachia. Now that's really a foreign language!

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  3. Yeah Heather! You tell them!

    Having lived in Dracut, MA for most of life, this is the way I pronounce the names of many of the towns and cities Heather has listed. Dracut is a border town of Pelham, NH, pel-HAM.

    Often people try to correct me and I say no it is pel-HAM, wind-HAM, NASH-uar..., that is our dialect!

    BTW, Chelmsford, MA is prnounced CHEM-ford! :-)

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  4. I'm starting to hear young people born hear pronounce it wrong so we must correct them quickly, Kancamagus is Kanka-MAW-gus not Kanka-MAG-gus!!

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    1. Even worse is when they say "Kanga Mangus!" Yikes!

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  5. I love this! We have a Concord in California, too, but we pronounce it CONK-erd. We can also tell the non-natives by how they say Concorde, and we do laugh behind their backs.

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    1. I often get telemarketers who say they are calling from Concorde, NH and I immediately hang up. One little slip like that, and I know they are not being honest.

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  6. Heh. On my side of the river it's "New Hampsher" and "Concerd", and a flatlander is anyone who wasn't born in Vermont ("Vermon"). We also tend to drop our G's and combine words. My friends in college used to pick on me, saying that when they came home with me to visit my parents, I suddenly had an accent so thick that they couldn't understand me.

    What am I doing next weekend? "Gointa New Hampher fer the NERGC confrence." :-)

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  7. A mastaful explanation, deeah! You betta explain furtha exactly what the bubbla is, don't ya think?

    -Sandy DeFord

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  8. I love this. Do you share some of these pronunciation "rules" with the peeps in Baa - ston? I'm showing this to my hubs, who loves linguistics and is great with accents. Thanks!

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  9. Heather,

    This is such a fun post!

    I want to let you know that this blog post and your blog post, "What happened after my WARNING blog post," are listed in today's Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2013/04/follow-fridayfab-finds-for-april-12-2013.html

    Have a great weekend!

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  10. Wonderful!! In high school (Vancouver BC Canada), my shorthand teacher always confused us with placement of the strokes when she would say (for example) "warsh" for wash... The 'ah' sound meant the first stroke should be up in the air, but the 'ar' sound meant it needed to be down on the line. Yup, she was from NH. This is marvellous, Heather!

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  11. Great tips....and at all costs they should not try to pronounce Kank-ah-mah-gus lol. Loved this post!

    Signed
    Fellow Granite Statah

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  12. As a 13th generation New Englander, this was great fun! I'd forgotten some of it, such as bubblah. In Colorado, my boss would regularly ask me "Who was number eight for the Red Sox?" wanting me to say "Cahl Yastremski....

    My Uncle Parker's Massachusetts license plate was PAHKAH.

    Thanks for the memories!

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  13. Oh, yes! The bubbler! I still call it that, much to my CT-born children's chagrin. However, despite living my formative years on the North Shore of MA, my western-Massachusetts born mother trained the "R's" into my sister & I.

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  14. Never heard of the basement and down cellar ones! Great post!

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