Fameuil Hall

Boston Trivia

Oliver Wendell Holmes called Boston "The Hub of the Universe." Some of the so-called "Boston Brahmins" referred to the city as "The Athens of America." Historians, more accurately perhaps, list it as "The Birthplace of the American Revolution." Boston is also a "city of firsts." This list is far from complete, but to give you a sampling of why Bostonians are proud of their city, please peruse this list:


Windmill (set up on Copp's Hill in Boston, 1632)
Public Park (Boston Common 1634)
Public School (Boston Latin 1635)
College (Harvard College 1636)
Military Organization (Ancient and Honorary Artillery Co. 1638)
America's First Post Office (1639)
Savings Bank (Provident Institute for Savings) (1686)
America's first lighthouse "The Boston Light" (1716)
Chocolate Factory, "Walter Baker Co."(1765)
Oldest Pub (Bell in Hand Tavern, 1784)
Oldest Restaurant still operating under the same name (Union Oyster House, 1714)


and even more...

Swimming Pool (1827)
School for the Blind (Perkins Institute 1829)
Modern Hotel (Tremont House 1829)
YMCA (1851)
Public Library (1854)
Land set aside for first Public Garden in U.S.(1859)
Free Public Bath ( L Street in South Boston, 1866)
Children's General Hospital (1869)
Subway (1897)
Marathon (April 19, 1897)
World Series Victory (1903 Boston Pilgrims)
William Billings (1746-1800), first major American composer

Medical Firsts:

  • First time ether was used as an anesthetic during an operation at Massachusetts General. Hospital in 1846
  • First kidney transplant performed in 1954
  • First open heart surgery performed at Children's Hospital in 1967

Some things that are hard to explain:

No school on School Street, no court on Court Street, no dock on Dock Square, no water on Water Street.

If the streets are named after trees (e.g. Walnut, Chestnut, Cedar), you're on Beacon Hill. If they're named after poets, you're in Wellesley.

Massachusetts Ave is Mass Ave, Commonwealth Ave is Comm Ave, South Boston is Southie.

The South End is the South End. Eastie is East Boston. The North End is east of the former West End. The West End and Scollay Square are no more, a guy named Rappaport got rid of them one night.

Roxbury is The Bury, Jamaica Plain is JP, Savin Hill is Stabbin' Hill, Mattapan is Murda-pan.


Some Hub holiday history:

  • It wasn't until 1856 that Christmas was made a legal holiday in Massachusetts.

  • Charles Dickens gave the first reading of his beloved "A Christmas Carol" at the Tremont Temple in Boston in 1867.

  • The tradition of sending Christmas cards started in Boston in 1874 with the designs of Mrs. O.E. Whitney of Boston.

  • Phillip Brooks, the 9th rector of historic Trinity Church wrote the famous Christmas Carol, "O Little Town of Bethlehem" after visiting the Holy Land.

  • F.A.O. Schwartz once had what may be the world's largest Teddy Bear at its entrance on Boylston street. The bear weighs 6112 pounds, stands 12 feet tall, and is 8 feet wide. (The Boston store is now closed, and the bear was moved to the Floating Hospital for Children at New England Medical Center.)

  • Congress declared in 1961 that Samuel Wilson of Arlington, Massachusetts, who provided casks of beef with "U.S." for American troops during the War of 1812, was indeed the real Uncle Sam. There's a statue marking his birthplace at Mass Avenue and Route 60.

"Walk the walk, and talk the talk"

WalkersWe know Boston is a "walking city" but it is a "talking city" as well. George Bernard Shaw once described the English and the Americans as "two people separated by a common language." Bostonians seem to have difficulty pronouncing the letter "r," as in beer (pronounced be-ah) or chowder (chow-da). The word for a long sandwich filled with meat and cheese? In Boston we refer to that as a "grin-dah." If you want someone to take your photograph, the word is "pit-chah." The same word can also be substituted for film and theatre.

Here's the correct way to pronounce some of the cities and towns near Boston (and they'll think you're a native!):

Worcester: Wuhsta
Gloucester: Glawsta
Leicester: Lesta
Woburn: Wooban
Dedham: Dedim (like denim)
Revere: Re-vea
Medford: Meffa
Norfolk: Nua-fuk
Quincy: Quinzee

Faneuil HallYou'll really be accepted as a Bostonian if you can pronounce one of the historic buildings - "Faneuil Hall." This is the building named after Revolutionary War-era merchant Peter Faneuil, but the entire marketplace is often referred to by this name as well as Quincy Market. Faneuil Hall Marketplace includes Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market (the Rotunda, Colonnade, North and South Canopies) plus the separate North and South Market buildings. Pronunciations of "Faneuil" abound, and there's not full agreement on whether Funnel, Fan'l, Fannel, fan-yul, or Fann-ee-yul is correct. The first is closest, and the last two are most common.


  • Frappes have ice cream, milkshakes don't. If it is fizzy and flavored, it's tonic. Soda is CLUB SODA. Pop is Dad.

  • When we want Tonic WATER, we will ask for Tonic WATER.

  • The smallest beer is a pint.

  • It's not a water fountain; it's a bubblah.

  • It's not a trash can; it's a barrel.

  • It's not a shopping cart; it's a carriage.

  • It's not a purse; it's a pockabook.

  • They're not franks; they're haht dahgs.

  • Police don't drive patrol units or black and whites they drive a crooza.

  • It's not a rubber band, its an elastic.

  • It's not a traffic circle, it's a rotary.

  • "going to the islands" means Martha's Vineyard & Nantucket.

  • The Pats = The Patriots

  • The Sox = The Red Sox

  • The C's = The Celtics

  • The B's = The Bruins

Things you should know:

  • There are two State Houses, two City Halls, two courthouses, two Hancock buildings (one old, one new for each).

  • The colored lights on top of the old Hancock tell the weatha':
    "Solid blue, clear view...." "Flashing blue, clouds due...." "Solid red, rain ahead...." "Flashing red, snow instead...."
    (except in summer; flashing red means the Red Sox game was rained out)

  • Route 128 is also I-95 south. It's also I-93 north.

  • The underground train is not a subway. It's the "T" and it doesn't run all night (fah chrysakes, this ain't Noo Yawk)

  • Order the "cold tea" in China Town after 2 a.m. & you'll get a kettle full of beer.


Harvard YardAmerica's oldest college is not in Boston, but across the Charles River in Cambridge. It is Harvard, pronounced "Hah-vahd." Practice saying it with this familiar phrase, "pahk yah cah in Hahvahd yad."

Commonwealth Ave.Commonwealth Avenue is the longest street, beginning at the Public Garden at Arlington Street and heading out to the suburb of Newton. The stately homes on both sides of the avenue reflect the Victorian style and comprise some of the most expensive real estate in the city. Tree-shaded with American and English elms, statuary, and flowers, to this day it is a pleasant promenade for walking and musing. Watch out for joggers. The cross streets going east to west beginning at Arlington are alphabetical, and named after English dukes and earls. From A-H, they are Arlington, Berkeley, Clarendon, Dartmouth, Exeter, Fairfield, Gloucester, and Hereford.

Boston Beginnings

Fanny Farmer Candies
Charleston Chew, Pez, Necco Wafers
Polaroid cameras and film
Monopoly (Parker Bros. in Cambridge, MA)
Toll House Cookies (Whitman, MA)
Ocean Spray Cranberry Products (Plymouth, MA)
Marshmallow Fluff (Lynn, MA)
Basketball (Springfield, MA)
Birth Control Pill (Worcester, MA)

The term "Boston Brahmin" is associated with -- among other things -- the American premiere of Brahms' Second Symphony. It was performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra at the historic Orpheum Theatre on Hamilton Place off Tremont St. (now home to rock concerts), built in 1852. Many in the audience walked out, and music reviewers called those who stayed "Brahmins."

Bostonians think...

... that it's their God-given right to cut off someone in traffic
... that there are only 25 letters in the alphabet (no R's)
... that three straight days of 90+ temperatures is a heat wave and six inches of snow is a "dusting"
... everything in town is "a five-minute walk"
...that using your turn signal is a sign of weakness
... that 63-degree ocean water is warm
... Rhode Island accents are annoying

Two Historic Eating Places

Durgin ParkIn Quincy Market you'll find Durgin-Park, established in 1826, where you're likely to sit at long tables and be waited on by waitresses who will tell you what to order. It is a noisy place, but you'll certainly get the flavor of Boston here, and among the traditional favorites on the menu are New England boiled dinners, scrod, beef stew, lobster and cod. Leave room for dessert - it's all freshly baked - including Johnny cake, apple pan dowdy, old-fashioned strawberry shortcake (in season) and Indian Pudding.

One block away (facing the fairly new Holocaust Memorial) is the Union Oyster House. It's been in business in the exact same location since 1826, and it beats out Durgin-Park as "the oldest restaurant in Boston" by one year. The oyster bar (with fresh-shucked oysters) is a must.

Genesis of "Boston Scrod":

Scrod (or schrod) is the fisherman's term for young cod, haddock or pollock. It is the most frequently caught fish in the Bay State area. In Boston, it can be found on most restaurant menus, but it's very rarely found outside of New England. Boston is often called "home of the bean and the cod." Although beans were a staple in the early founding of the city and a main element of trade, the cod's influence in this seaport city remains dominant to this day. "The Sacred Cod," a gilded wooden memorial to this famous fish, now hangs in the State House on Beacon Hill, moved from its original spot in the Old State House where it was first hung in 1784.

"Old Granary" Burial Ground" (on Tremont St. close to the Park Street Church)

Old Granary Burial GroundOriginally part of Boston Common, this historic cemetery boasts that "there are more people buried in 'Old Granary' who are known to more people than are buried in any other burying ground in the country." Among the best known:

  • John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and Robert Treat Paine (3 signers of the Declaration of Independence)
  • Paul Revere (he of the famous "Midnight Ride")
  • Mary Goose (better known as "Mother Goose," writer of the famous nursery rhymes)
  • Benjamin Franklin's parents

Old IronsidesThe USS Constitution, moored in Charlestown, MA is nicknamed "Old Ironsides", because the cannonballs allegedly bounced off her thick wooden sides during naval battles. But there are other legends attached to this heavy ship. Occasionally, and very much against the rules, wives of officers were allowed on board. Once or twice, pregnant wives went into labor, and had to be delivered hastily. The best (and least obtrusive) place to do this was apparently in the bulkhead near the cannons -- hence the expression "son of a gun!"