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The Accents of Bus Stops

There once was a man from NAN-tucket, or so says the RIPTA bus.
I have a lot of fun on the bus listening to how the automated system mispronounces words.

I don't think I'd be the first person to muse over the dialect or accent of an automated bus stop announcement, but maybe this is a first for talking about it in a Rhode Island context. I wonder if anyone else thinks about this much?

The biggest faux pas that the bus announcement makes is that it says Pawtucket as PAW-tucket (Who took it?), instead of Pawtucket without a front-loaded emphasis (like "potato"). 

Today I noticed that the R-Line says "University Heights" not only without Canadian Raising, but I think also with a glide deletion (like "University Hahts" instead of "University Hi-eeghts" like most people in the Northeast and parts of the Upper Midwest and Canada). I wonder if the person who recorded the R-Line bus stops is from Dixie?*

I haven't taken the R-Line far enough south to get to the Cranston line, so I still wonder what "a" it uses. Does it use a "lax" a? A "broad" a? Or a "tense" one? A lot of New England dialects don't seem to have as much of a focus on the difference between "tense" and "lax" a--Philadelphia and New York have a similar system for sorting these out**. But the word "Cranston" itself seems to be an exception: When Rachel (whose dad and paternal grandparents are from Rhode Island, and who is herself from Central Mass.) makes fun of people from Cranston, she says the word with a tense a (the way I would say it). It sounded so natural to me that I kind of wondered aloud how else someone might say the word (would you say "Crahnston" like a Boston Brahmin?). Bonus points if anyone can tell me why Cranston is said this way rather than the other way--is there a pattern of people coming and settling there from Long Island?

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I think it would be kind of fun, if not terribly cost-effective or necessary, to get somebody with a good strong New England accent to do the bus announcements. Maybe Frank Carini from EcoRI News? What do you think, RIPTA?

I also would like to hear what people living here think who are either a) lifelong Vo Diluners, or b) from totally different places but not from the Mid-Atlantic. It'd be interesting to hear how the bus announcements are interpreted depending on where you're from.


Canadian Raising is slowly taking over
the Northeast. (Don't tell Moose or 
*A really good example of Canadian Raising is the way most Northeasterners say "high school" differently than "high" as a stand-alone word. My own Philly dialect goes kind of crazy with this--people with really thick Philly-speak will say something like "Noice!" when they're really excited about something, or call their friend Mike "Moik". I thought when I first moved here that Rhode Islanders didn't do this, because a friend who grew up in Johnston said "high school" just like "high", but I think he was unusual because other people I've talked to do seem to do it, and all the literature I've checked out says so.

Not only are some of the fish byeahd for me, but they swim in
wood-er. But a New Englander would say bahd and wahtah.
*Tense and lax a are hard to explain to people who don't have them, and (I think?) New Englanders mostly don't. Here's an explanation. Anecdotally, when I read the book One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, the sentence "some are sad, and some are glad, and some are very, very bad" doesn't rhyme (sad is said the same as New England, but mad and glad are tensed). My parents were not aware that this was even an accent, as far as I know, and I remember this is how I learned what a slant rhyme was--my mom said Doctor Seuss was just trying to rhyme words that came close to rhyming. I'm pretty sure since Theodore Geisel was from Springfield, Mass. that the words did rhyme for him.


  1. I take exception to the New England accent stereotype. In my mind, there are two main (among several smaller sub) accents-Coastal, and Interior. While a Bostonian might say ¨I pahked the cah in Hahvahd Yahd¨, An archetypical Vermonter would almost sound Quebecois with ¨Mee, I parked-uh deh carr in 'Arvard~Yard.¨ I still can't help but make guttural sounds, which Rhode Island find amusing.

    1. Yes! Agreed!

      Rachel is from near Worcester, which is the border area of that guttoral sound, and says bo--le for bottle sometimes.

      I also think Rhode Island has a lot more aw sounds than points north. Rachel says "cahfee" instead of "cawfee" like a Rhode Islander. I like to think I've lived at the northern and southern extremes of the "cawfee" zone, being from Philly and having settled in Providence.

      Added Rs are also fun. People here say "drawr" for "draw". In Philly a consonant is added too: I say "drawl a picture."


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  3. I've noticed that when bus drivers call the Rochambeau stop on the 1 bus, they often say ROE-sham-bow, rather than roe-sham-BOW.

  4. That's a good one.

    Philly has an Olney neighborhood which is said "Olluny" whereas Olney St. and Olneyville are pronounced Ohlny here.