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Paahk your caah at Pahkaah Centaah

Style & Culture

"I did not bring my interpreter with me, so I hope the Boston accent with some New York nuances will not be too difficult to understand." --William Bratton

October 13, 2002|Elizabeth Mehren | Times Staff Writer

Memo to police chief-designate Bratton:

Freeway etiquette, earthquake preparedness, the location of the nearest Trader Joe's. So much to learn about Los Angeles!

Oh, and out here our alphabet contains 26 letters.

All these years, as a good Boston boy, you've been making do with 25. (Yankees are frugal even when it comes to speech.) But like a really bad suit from Filene's Basement, that won't cut it in Palm Paradise.

Quite possibly, the surprise quiz you may encounter when you face City Council confirmation is, "What letter comes between Q and S?"

Hint: The answer is not AAAAAAH.

Stay in Southern California long enough, and you will discover that R is a lovely concept. Think: din-NER; thea-TER; dri-VER; may-OR. Roll that unfamiliar sound around in the back of your throat. Grab that R and growl it. Say it long enough and loud enough in front of your mir-ROR and soon, that forgotten letter will sound elegant, cosmopolitan, charming. Definitely western.

Your troops may look perplexed if you tell them to work "haaadah," or if you commend them for pushing their standards "hi-ya." But adding an unnecessary R at the end of some words is a Boston blunder. Get the ideer, chief?

In L.A., the most important word is the one that describes a motorized vehicle. Since a remedial R program may take time, you may want to announce that henceforth an auto in L.A. also will be known as a caah.

Along with pronunciation issues, you will discover that Angelenos use the language differently. Don't be surprised if your audience goes blank when you commend your force for doing a "wicked good" job of solving some crime. In L.A., "wicked" refers only to stepmothers, one of the city's most revolving career options.

(Q: What do you call a sugary, nonalcoholic carbonated cold drink that comes in a can or bottle?

A: Unlike in Boston, the correct response is not "tonic.")

As a Bostonian, you may be inclined to show enthusiasm through unusual sentence structure. When someone in L.A. asks if you enjoy something, resist the urge to reply, "And so don't I!"

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