Odd pronunciation in the Kiss Me, Kate song "Always True to You in My Fashion"

The score of the 1948 musical *Kiss Me, Kate * has a comic song titled “Always True to You in My Fashion.” It is the type of song that Cole Porter was famous for.

Each verse is an interchangeable little comic component that essentially makes the same point over and over again in an unchanging rhyme scheme. The genius of the song is in the cleverness of the word play and imagery packed into each little self-contained verse, not in the greater message of the song. As anyone who has heard Bobby Short or Michael Feinstein sing Porter’s “Let’s Do It” knows, such a song can go on endlessly, as long as the songwriter can keep coming up with funny verses.

Okay, back to “Always True to You in My Fashion.” There’s a lyric in the song that goes:

I enjoy a tender pass
By the boss of Boston, Mass.
Though his pass is middle class
and not “Back Bay!”

I’m not familiar with term “Back Bay,” but I assume that it has some upscale connotation, like Beacon Hill. My question concerns the way the singer on the cast recording sings the line. She goes, “Though his pass is middle class and not uh-back uh-bay!”

Is this supposed to be an exaggerated upper-class Boston Thurston-Howell-the-Third-style jaw-clench accent? If so, she does a horrible job of it. The lyric is utterly indecipherable even after repeated hearings. And even after you know what she’s saying, she sounds like she’s doing a bad Chico Marx impersonation. What gives?

Gee, I thought you were going for the hiccup line: “A-alwa-ays tru-ue to-o You-u, da-arli-ing . . . .”

It’s definitely a hint of the Boston accent.

The Back Bay is an upscale part of the city that, ironically, is built on garbage.

Sorry, it’s more like a machine gun than hiccups.

Back Bay is the part of the city built on landfill (not garbage, RealityC – at least not that I’ve heard) adjacent to Beacon Hill* in the late 19th-early 20th century. Before that, it literally was Back Bay – the shallow part of the Bay that reached around Boston. Nowadays what remains of the Bay is part of the Charles River.

Because they had a fresh slate, they laid out the streets straight and wide and meeting at right angles. Compare Back Bay with the rest of Boston (especxially the North End) and you’ll see the difference. They also named the streets in alphabetical order.

It wasn’t as tony as Beacon Hill, but it was good enough for the nouveau riche (And still is – check out the prices sometime), so that seems appropriate.
I haven’t hearde the song, so I can’t say what it was supposed to be, but the OP’s interpretation sounds consistent with the lyrics.

  • Beacon Hill, properly speaking, is no more. The present top of Beacon Hill is actually the low point of the valley between Beacon Hill and its neighbor. Both got pilfered for landfill that went into the tidal flats around the Trimountain Shawmut Peninsula that is downtown Boston. I’m not sure if any of the fill from Beacon Hill went into Back Bay, or if it was all used up by then.

Ahhh, this explains the uh-stupid uh-accent uh-found uh-in Tom Lehrer’s “Fight Fiercely, Harvard.” I wasn’t aware this was a Boston thing: it sounds more generically ultra-rich preppy to me.

You mean that line is not about anal penetration? (or the lack there of?)