• Joel Brown

    Staff Writer

    Portrait of Joel Brown. An older white man with greying brown hair, beard, and mustache and wearing glasses, white collared shirt, and navy blue blazer, smiles and poses in front of a dark grey background.

    Joel Brown is a staff writer at BU Today and Bostonia magazine. He’s written more than 700 stories for the Boston Globe and has also written for the Boston Herald and the Greenfield Recorder. Profile

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There are 4 comments on One Class, One Day: On the Trail of Boston’s Missing Rs

  1. Dear Joel,
    As a “child of Boston” (during the 50’s & 60’s I grew up in the Hyde Park section of Boston, where we certainly were “r less” in our speech patterns!), I very much enjoyed your article regarding Neal Myler’s class relative to the “r-less-ness” of the Boston accent! While it has been 34 years since I’ve lived in Boston, I remain “r-less” in my day-to-day speech. (You can take a “kid out of the city,” but you cannot “take the city out of the kid!) While my husband and I raised our children in the Town of Medfield, MA, we have 1 son who will never forgive us for not having raised him in Boston. (Tim is now living in L.A. doing music & sound for movies and TV shows, after having graduated from Berklee College of Music in Boston. According to his wife Paula, (WHOM WE REALLY LOVE!) Tim is out there in L.A. “lying to people,” by telling them he “grew up in Hyde Park.” When I called him out on this matter, his response was “Mah, nobody here in L.A. ever heard of Medfield!” To which I replied, “Well, they never heard of Hyde Park either! Boston? Yes! Hyde Park! No.” (The exception, here would be actress Maura Tierney, who grew up 10 minutes from where I grew up!) And, if Neil would ever like to have a “TRUE Bostonian” (who is also a BU graduate… COM Class of 1985!) come to his class and do a bit of “speaking” in his class, I would welcome the opportunity! Best, Carol A. Suby

  2. The last two paragraphs are the most informative, or rather non-informative, because he admits to not being able to understand the origin of r-less-less. Simplifying consonants and consonant clusters would be a very good example of how dropping or altering certain consonants occur, but it doesn’t explain that very distinctive feature of the Boston dialect. I find it much easier to say “enner” instead of “enter” and that’s a very simple explanation of why the “t” is not pronounced by most Americans. The same would be said for the comparison of the homophones “liter” and “leader.”Changing the “t” sound to the “d” sound is easy and natural. But dropping the “r”? Not so. It takes a certain effort, both physically and mentally, to make a very distinct phonemic consonant sound disappear completely. Dropping the R is not at all the the same thing as the mis-named “dropping the g” as in “bikin'” in place of biking, which is not really a case of dropping the g, but replacing the ng sound with the n sound. I’m still looking for a linguistic explanation for r-less-ness and so far have come up nothing. But thanks for trying.

  3. I grew up in the Dorchester part of Boston which we more often than not change the 1st “r” to a “t” sound and the last “er” to sounds like “a” or “u” which phonetically in English sounds like a “u” like in “up” when done incorrectly would look like “Dotchesta”.

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