Tyler Vendetti
March 16, 2015 6:00 am

Even as a longtime resident of Boston, I’ve learned that you can never make assumptions about how to pronounce the name of a given town in Massachusetts. Let’s just say it’s complicated, and it takes first-hand experience to get a handle on how to properly request directions for a local place without getting quizzical looks. So if you’re traveling in the New England area, or if you’re a fellow Mass resident who can lovingly relate, you’ll appreciate this guide to pronouncing local destinations.

1) Leominster

How you think it’s pronounced: Leo-min-stir

How it’s actually pronounced: Lemon-stir

I went to Leominster once for a soccer game many moons ago and when we pulled into the parking lot, I was surprised to learn that the opposing team’s mascot was not a lion or Leonardo Dicaprio but a “blue devil.” Why a town with the name “Leo” in the title would not take advantage of a built-in mascot opportunity was befuddling at first, until I learned that the “Leo” isn’t even part of the pronunciation.

2) Worcester

How you think it’s pronounced: Wore-chess-tur

How it’s actually pronounced: Wuss-tur

This is the ultimate no-no. The quickest way to out yourself as an non-Bostonian is to say Worcester with three syllables and even the nicest Massachusetts resident will jump on the opportunity to point out your mistake. I couldn’t explain to you how “ch” became “s” but I’m sure it somehow connects back to our determination to avoid the letter “r” at all costs.

3) Reading

How you think it’s pronounced: Reed-ing

How it’s actually pronounced: Red-ing

Reading (like reed-ing) is a verb meaning “the action of interpreting written characters.” Reading (like red-ing) is a town in Massachusetts with cute little colonial buildings and a million elementary schools. If you announce to your group of friends “I’m going to Reed-ing!” half of them will assume you have poor sentence construction skills and the other half will recognize your error and laugh. Avoid both situations by saying “Red-ing.”

4) Needham

How you think it’s pronounced: Need-ham

How it’s actually pronounced: Need-um

Needle in a haystack? Try needle in a…ham…stack…okay, what I’m trying to say is that “Needham,” though it looks like a demand for more deli meat, actually sounds more like a nervous student trying to ask their teacher for something. Imagine a boy in kindergarten searching for a pair of scissors who becomes so frustrated that he musters up the courage to ask the teacher for help but when he gets to her, he blanks and get only get out the words “I need…um…need…ummmm.” There. Now you’ll never forget it.

5) Scituate

How you think it’s pronounced: Sigh-two-ate

How it’s actually pronounced: Sit-twu-it

Scituate doesn’t start out sounding like “science” or “sci-fi” or “sigh.” Rather, it sounds more like sit-twu-it. I know, I know. It’s confusing. I’m right there with you.

6) Gloucester

How you think it’s pronounced: Glow-sess-ter

How it’s actually pronounced: Glaw-stir

Gloucester and Worcester live in the same category. They both look like they should have three syllables and they both involve a weird combination of letters that somehow end up dropping a few sounds.

7) Barnstable

How you think it’s pronounced:  Barn-stay-bull

How it’s actually pronounced: Barn-stubble

It’s very easy to pronounce Barnstable, actually. Picture a barn. Got it? Now picture it with a beard. Now shave that imaginary beard. Now let the beard grow back in a little. The barn has stubble. Barn stubble. Barnstable. See? Easy

8) Quincy

How you think it’s pronounced:   Quin-cee

How it’s actually pronounced: Quin-zee

Quincy’s pronunciation quirk is so slight, you probably haven’t even noticed. The “c” in Quincy is deceiving: it actually sounds more like a “z.” I don’t know why they didn’t just write it with a “z” because Quinzy is significantly cooler than Quincy anyway but maybe they had their reasons.

9) Suffolk

How you think it’s pronounced: Suf-folk

How it’s actually pronounced: Suf-fick

Another slight pronunciation change, but Suffolk is actually pronounced Suf-fick, which I can see no logical explanation for. “Suf” is fine. “Folk” isn’t complicated. And yet, putting the two together causes problems. They need to see a Grammar Therapist or something.

10) Carlisle

How you think it’s pronounced: Car-liz-lee

How it’s actually pronounced: Car-lyle

It pains me to say this but anyone that reads Twilight has an advantage here. Carlisle (which happens to be the name of Edward Cullen’s vampire-doctor dad in the Meyer series) is pronounced Car-lyle, not Car-lis-el or Carl-isle.

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