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Somerville is packed with intelligent people who know how to “talk proper” when we have to. But that doesn’t stop us from reverting to our language comfort zone. Maybe when we are among fellow long-time residents, or lifers, do we go back to using good old Somerville slang. Now this does not include everyone so you may say, “Hey, I never said that!” Well, you may never have said it but a lot of us have! Most of these slang terms pertain to most of the Boston area also.
When we say “this afta” we mean this afternoon. Do you live in a 3-“decka” or a three family home? Once again I have enlisted the help of my friends to share some of their Somerville native local language, slang, and verbal gems.
Somervillians, or “‘Villens” as we have recently come to be known as, not only have the traditional Boston accent, but a few slang terms and words that we feel are our own. We didn’t invent these colloquialisms, but we sure used them a lot. Somerville people didn’t sit on the front stairs. We sat on the “stoop.” And often while we were relaxing and trading stories with our neighbors, we sipped a nice cold “tonic.” My uncle worked at the Cott Bottling Co. in Somerville. As the advertisement said, “It’s Cott to be good! When we were heading to Davis, Union, Teele or Magoun Squares, we were simply going “down the square.” We buy our liquor at the “packy.” We use “elastics,” not rubber bands.
We eat off plates instead of dishes and when you go down to the basement, you are in your “cella.” We don’t eat dinner we eat “suppa.” We don’t eat grinders, we prefer subs. I still hear some people say “brefast” instead of breakfast if they are talking fast. Only Somerville people know what sledding up Powder House means. We know that the rotary is the circle of hell. We eat Nutty Buddy’s (ice cream cones with nuts and a chocolate shell) not drumsticks. We keep our clothes in the bureau and sometimes the dresser. When we are out of milk and bread, we run to “Stah” (as in Star Market). We flick on our “blinka” instead of our directional. It’s not really cool…it’s wicked nizza (and that p- word !!) We sit on the piazza and the veranda, and occasionally on the porch.
We have somehow turned the one syllable word “mine” into a two syllable word and say “my-in.” Here’s an example, “Hey, that tonic’s my-in!” We drink from a “bubbler” not a water fountain, or dispenser. “Get out of here” was pronounced, “Get ahtah heah!” You do not “have to” you “hafta!” My son reminded me once that I said “troat” instead of throat. Maybe I should get my money back from Emerson College, the college of the spoken word!
“Na-ah” means no. Here are some names that only long time ‘Villens would know such as, Nan’s Sub Shop, Fields Stationary, and Apple -A- Day. Nan’s was a sub shop directly across from Somerville High School. Field’s Stationary was in Davis Square managed by our old friend, and Davis Square staple, Mr. Wise. And “Apple a Day” was a fruit and veggie store that was in Davis Square for quite a while. Only dyed in the wool Somervillians know who “Butchie” and “Brownie” are. I don’t even want to start the discussion on whether that stuff you put on spaghetti is sauce or gravy. FYI – in my family gravy is brown and sauce is red! And just so you all know, at this wonderful time of year PC stands for Peaceful Christmas.
All this talk of food is making me hungry. Excuse me while I go “up the house” to make myself a “wicked nizza sangwich!”