Speak Like a Mainer: Master the Accent and Maine Sayings

Maine lighthouse

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When it comes to traveling to different places—even within the United States—regional accents and colloquialisms can make understanding the locals a little challenging for visitors. People in Maine, for instance, have a distinct dialect and several unique phrases they use to describe everyday things. Whether you're dining out at a local restaurant or trying to meet a Mainer (a native of Maine), you'll want to know how to understand and speak the regional dialect.

Master the Maine Dialect

The key to talking like you've lived in Maine all your life is to relax your jaw when speaking. When you say "Mainer," for instance, you'll notice the tension in your jaw and how it opens only slightly. Instead, say "Mainah," letting your lower jaw drop on the "ah" part. Practice saying it in an exaggerated manner to get the feel. Now you're ready for the rules of Mainespeak:

  1. Words that end in "er" are pronounced "ah." Mainer = Mainah. Car = Cah. Mother and Father = Muthah and Fathah. Water = Watah. Summer = Summah.
  2. Conversely, words that end in "a" are sometimes, but not always, pronounced "er." California becomes "Californier." Idea becomes "idear." Yoga becomes "yoger."
  3. Drop the "g" in "ing." Stopping and starting = stoppin' and startin', or more specifically, stoppin' and stahtin'.
  4. Broaden a and e sounds. Calf becomes "cahf." Bath becomes "bahth." Can't becomes "cahn't."
  5. Drag out some one-syllable words into two syllables. There becomes "they-uh." Here becomes "hee-ah." A "dee-ah" can be a "crittah" or your "sweethaht."

For a sample of the Maine accent and its peculiar pronunciations, go to Maine humorist Tim Sample's Web site, and check out a few of the video clips.

Learn Maine Sayings

Getting the accent down is not all there is to learning how to talk like a Mainah. You also need to learn some Maine lingo. Here are a few Maine slang terms and sayings to know:

  • Apiece: An undetermined distance: "He lives down the road apiece."
  • Ayuh: An expression of agreement: "Ayuh, I love the food."
  • Bean's: L.L. Bean's famous tourist-magnet flagship store
  • Bug: Lobster
  • Cah: A four-wheel vehicle, a car: "Get in the cah."
  • Chout: "Watch out!"
  • Chowdah: Chowder
  • Crittah: Any furry animal
  • Cunnin': Cute: "He's a cunnin' fellow."
  • Down Cellah: The basement: "The washah's in the down cellah."
  • Finest Kind: The very best: "That restaurant serves the finest kind of lobster."
  • From Away: Not from Maine: "He's from away, but he moved here 10 years ago."
  • Gawmy: Awkward or clumsy: "My toddler's so gawmy; he always falls down."
  • Honkin': Really big: "He caught a honkin' fish."
  • Italians: Submarine sandwiches: "I'll grab some Italians for lunch from the deli."
  • Numb: Dumb or stupid: "He's so numb that he forgot his own name."
  • Pot: Lobster trap
  • Prayer Handle: Knee
  • Right Out Straight: Very busy: "I would love to see you, but I'm right out straight."
  • Quahog: Thick-shelled clam (pronounced co-hog)
  • Scrid: A tiny piece: "Everyone loved the Quahog; there wasn't a scrid leftover."
  • Steamers: Clams
  • Wicked: A way to say "very:" "These steamers are wicked good."

Pronunciation for Place Names in Maine

Of course, the Mainer dialect also applies to Maine's popular destinations, too, so be sure to say the places correctly when asking for directions from locals. For instance, Acadia is pronounced "ah-cah-dee-uh" while Bar Harbor is pronounced "Bah Hahbah:"

  • Acadia: Ahcadiuh
  • Bar Harbor: Bah Hahba
  • Bangor: Bangah
  • Portland: Pawtlan
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