Learning some of the Maine terms: A Midwesterner’s journey

Throughout my time here I’ve noticed that Mainers talk differently. I’ve gotten used to the Maine accent where they drop the “er” at the end of words and add “ah” instead. For example, lobster becomes lobstah, Bar Harbor is Bah Habah, and so on. But there are also quite a few Maine terms that I’ve learned that I thought I’d share with you as well.

Wicked good. Just another way to say “very good.” I originally thought this was a Bostonian term—not true! In fact Mainers get upset if you even mention that assumption to them. Mainers came up with wicked good, and don’t you forget it!

Wicked

Up to camp. This phrase probably amuses me the most because of how I learned it.  A friend of mine mentioned that they were going “upta camp” one weekend.

“A camp, camp? Like basket weaving, or band camp kind of thing?” I asked.

“No, not that kind of camp.”

“Ok. So a camp sight? Like a tent in the woods kind of camp?” I asked.

“No, like a summer home.”

Ah, I see. In the Midwest we call that a lake house. Everyone knew which lake they were referring to–Lake Michigan. I’m sorry, but if you have indoor plumbing, a full kitchen, and a fireplace you really can’t call that a “camp.”

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Dooryard. A dooryard is the yard around your house–front, back, and sides where you can store all the random items people usually reserve for their shed or basement.

Downeast. This means heading UP the Maine coast beyond Boothbay, not actually down at first. The way the roads are here you have to take the Maine Turnpike UP and then DOWN the coastal roads to get to towns like St. George, Blue Hill, Bar Harbor, etc.

Bean. Also known as L.L. Bean. The headquarters is in Freeport, ME and it’s the place to pick up whatever outdoor/clothing/misc. gear you might need. Since I’m from Chicago “The Bean” also has another meaning for me. It’s the slang term for the Cloud Gate sculpture in Millennium Park aptly nicknamed because it looks like a giant bean.

Maine terms
The Bean – Chicago, IL

The Loaf. Also known as Sugarloaf Mountain which is the place to go skiing in Maine.

The County. This means Aroostook County—the Northernmost county in Maine which is basically comprised of potatoes and French Canadians. When people say they’re going to “the county” I assume they mean the court house. So when I respond with something like, “Oh, what did you do?” I get a lot of confused looks.

Moxie. This is a Maine pop (err I mean soda) beverage which is…unique. Even Mainers agree that it’s like drinking battery acid, but for some reason they have a special affection for this medicinal-tasting drink.

Moxie2

The city. To a Mainer this means Portland. When Mainers hear that I live in Portland they’ll exclaim, “Oooh the BIG city!” Sure, a city of 66,000 people is totally a big city. In Illinois if you told someone you live in the city they would know you mean Chicago. There’s no point in calling it “The Big City” because with a population of 3 million people it’s just understood.

Down cellar. Mainers don’t put things “in the basement;” they go “down cellar,” or “down cellah.”

Mainers like to tease. So as much grief as I give them about their oddities they also give me a lot of grief about my accent. I’ll be the first to admit that I do talk like a Chicagoan, and I’m proud of it! I put the letter “A” in places it doesn’t belong, and over-accentuate it when it is there naturally. I’m “sarry” but that’s just how we Midwesterners talk.

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6 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    This made me smile. My boyfriend spent about 5 years in Portland and so I have heard some of these. I love all of those little tid bits that make a place so unique!

    Thanks for your awesome reporting! 🙂

    Cheers.

  2. Love this, haha. You know it’s funny, I am so bad at realizing people have accents! Unless it’s on the extreme end (certain ones you just can’t not tell). I don’t know how people always can listen to someone talk and know where there are from! Maybe this means I need to travel more ha. 🙂

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