Thoughts on Wicked + Tangents After a Trip to Bahston


I just got back from spending Memorial Day in Boston, and my time there reminded me that for Massholes, everything is wicked something-or-other all the time! Boston kind of overdoes it with advertisements using wicked as an intensifier, like “Ticketnet: Wicked Awesome Seats!” or “Peanut Butter: Wicked Good!” (I made these up because I didn’t take any pix of signs, too busy taking selfies in front of historical brick buildings with Donna). So I googled “Why do people from Massachusetts say ‘wicked’ all the time?”…and found no definitive answers. One theory is because of all the Salem witch trials back in the day, but no one really seems to care why. However, people sure do love writing about it, posing theories in online forums, and subsequently getting in that age-old New York vs. Boston back-and-forth that quickly turns into hurtful banter that one might find in a Youtube comment section for a Justin Bieber video . It just inspires that much love and loathing.

However, NY and Boston share a lot of dialectal traits, most notably people with these accents can’t be bothered to pronounce their R’s (like most East Coast dialects). My dad’s cousin Mark told a funny eulogy about my great-aunt Margaret, who had a thick Boston accent, that when he started preschool for weeks he never responded during roll call because the teacher was calling out for Mark Egan…he thought his name was how his mom pronounced it – Mahhhk!

So after my search for an explanation behind this wicked phenomenon fizzled out, I came across this other language blog (I do have competitors!), and the blogger had complied a list of different intensifiers that have been in use (in the States at least) over the course of just this century.

Have a Hella Good Time: On Intensifiers and Antonyms.

Pretty crazy how they’ve become completely passé (the bee’s knees may only be popular at this time because The Great Gatsby is in theaters), evolved (boss, hip) but also how some have withstood the test of time (cool has not only stuck around, but has become a word used even in other languages). (! I think some ’80s/’90s ones have stuck around or evolved into something else (hardcore has definitely taken off; dope, phat, and rad are pretty ironic at this point), and random has taken on a life of its own.

I must say I kind of groaned when I read the “internet intensifiers”. Who even comes up with this stuff? Awesome sauce? Amazeballs? It’s redonk, all these words. And people legit say them. The internet needs to take it down a notch sometimes (random, but I always thought notch was spelled knotch. It’s knot).

Fergie is still the only person I’ve ever heard use flossy credibly, and I’m still not sure exactly what it means.

The blogger writes that he is from Northern California, where their version of wicked is hella (or sometimes hecka). This explains the title of the No Doubt song “Hella Good“, because being Gwen Stefani, those three other guys in her band, or the Japanese girls who trailed around her for a while is hella awesome and she wanted to write a song about just that.

And that’s it I guess for this post about intensifiers. Boston was lovely minus the rain (but New York was no better so no points!), I recommend the Harpoon brewery to anyone going up there. Nice, short, succinct tour and a wide variety of beers. They don’t have advertising because that would be so Sam Adams, so I’m supposed to pass along the good word! I left the city with a desire for a nice pair of boat shoes and perhaps a colonial era dress and bonnet ensemble.

I’ll just leave you with this.


About alicestockwellegan

Language and culture enthusiast from New York living in San Francisco.
This entry was posted in Accents, America., Dialects, Musings, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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