The Harvard "R"?

I’ve been curious about this for a long time. Is it grammatically correct, is it a colloquialism, an affectation…what is it?

It’s a Boston accent.

Yes. If you go to Boston, you’ll hear plenty of people speaking that way. It’s just an accent like a southern or British one.

The Boston sound is harsh. The preppy, snootie, snotty way, is soft.

Why would it have anything to do with grammar? Or a colloquialism?

It’s just how we learn it when learning to talk. An imitation.

It took me YEARS to get rid of it after I left Boston.

Pardon my ignorance, but what exactly is the “Harvard R”? Is it a form of pronunciation? Do Bostonians pronounce their Rs differently from the rest of the country?

when a vowel is followed by a vowel (-er and -ar being the most obvious), Bostonians do not pronouce the “r,” and give the vowel a long sound. Hence:

Paaak the caaaaa in Haaaaavaaaaad yaaaaad.

Listen to Mayor Quimbley on the Simpsons.

So, it’s kind of like a British accent, right?

Don’t get the Simpsons in Korea, but I do know a guy from Boston who goes to my church. I do recall him skipping his Rs, but I think I assumed he’d lived in England or something. :smack: Thanks for fighting my ignorance.

Actually I was thinking of the habit of adding an “R” sound to the end of words that normally have an “uh” sound, like idea becomes i-dee-er. I’ve lived in New Hampshire and visited the Boston area and it seems like the more educated people do this, the ones you think would know better, unless there’s some isoteric grammatical rule that I’m unaware of.

Think David Ogden Stiers in M.A.S.H. He actually pulled off an exceptional old-school Hahvahd blue-blood accent. Jim Backus, the Millionaire of Gilligan’s Island, did a somewhat exaggerated, but still mighty convincing job of it too.

My wife’s mother went to Radcliffe, and she has a funny parody. Put on a very dry version of the Millionaire accent and recite “Haich ay ahh, haich ay ahh, haich ay ahh with a vee. Vee ay ahh, vee ay ahh, vee ay ahh with a dee. Hahvahd. Hahvahd. Rah.”

And in some Southern accents, the “r” would be dropped, too. Remember how Jimmy and Roselyn used to pronouce their last name? Cah-tuh. Differently than the way a Bostonian would, but just as r-less.

Oh, that. Nope, that’s just the way some people talk. Don’t confuse spelling with pronunciation. English isn’t written phonetically, so there’s no need to assume a certain pronunciation is “uneducated”.

This is called “hyper-rhoticism,” and the unvoiced “r” after a vowel is called “non-rhoticism.”

The Boston accent is therefore hyper-rhotic and non-rhotic. Perverse buggers.

Panache is correct. It’s not about grammar. It’s about dialect. And panache45 is also correct that colloquialism has nothing to do with it. Colloquialism is like like saying “fax” instead of “facsimile.”

Yes. Quimby is obviously a jab at Edward Kennedy. The funny thing is that the “Simpsons” is popular in Latin America. I lived in Colombia for two years and was repeatedly surprised that it was so popular. How would they even get the joke that the mayor of Springfield had a “Boston” accent? Voiceovers for the “Simpsons” in Latin America are all done by Mexicans. (They recently went on strike.)

BTW, I saw the “Lion King” for the first time in Colombia, and my fiancee kept laughing at some of the characters. She later said that they had Cuban accents.

Thanks, I knew someone would provide a definitive answer.

I always thought Quimby was a jab at John Kennedy. His wife is Jackie to a T, complete with pillbox hat.

Wife: Why Joseph* I had no idea
Mayor: Come on now, you were working here

*Joseph Kennedy was the father of all the 2nd generation Kennedys.

Since I lived in Boston during the Kennedy Days of Camelot, the Quimblys crack me up!

At Cornell, it was incorporated into a very long song/cheer that the band (and others) used to do before football games. Since the whole thing eventually made fun of eavery other school in the league (except Columbia for some reason), it was all-purpose, appropriate for belting out while trying to get rid of the morning hangover.