Speak Like a Mainer: Master the Accent and Maine Sayings

Vacationing in Maine? Here's How to Sound Like a Native Mainah

Learn Maine Slang Before You Visit Crustacean Nation
••• When in Maine, you gottah say "lobstah.". © 2008 Kim Knox Beckius

When I left Maine to go to college out west, I was teased unmercifully about my Maine dialect. Tired of constantly being asked to say "pahk the cah at the curb," or "Muthah, Fathah, where's the cah?" I made an effort to speak without an accent. Now, years later, once again living in Maine (and determined never to live anywhere else), I'm still trying to get my Maine accent back. If you're in the same shoes, or you're a visitor to Maine (aka an "outta statah") and would like to be able to fit in with the natives, here are a few tips on how to speak like a Mainah.

Master the Maine Dialect

The key to talking like you've lived in Maine all your life is to relax your jaw. Say "Mainer." Notice the tension in your jaw and how it opens only slightly. Now say "Mainah," letting your lower jaw drop on the "ah" paht (er, I mean "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. You get the drift.

     

  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 correctly, 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. And a dee-ah can be a crittah or your sweethaht.

    So, What Do Mainers Really Sound Like?

    For a sample (no pun intended) of the Maine dialect and its peculiar pronunciations, go to Maine humorist Tim Sample's Web site, and click on a few of the video clips.

    Learn Maine Sayings

    Getting the accent down is not all there is to speaking like a Mainah. You also need to learn some Maine lingo.

    Here are a few of my favorite Maine slang terms or sayings:

    Apiece: An undetermined distance: He lives down the road apiece.

    Ayuh: Yup. Sure. Okay. That's right. You Bet.

    Bean's: L.L. Bean's famous tourist-magnet flagship store

    Bug: Lobster

    Cah: A four wheel vehicle, not a truck.

    Chout: Watch out!

    Chowdah: Chowder

    Crittah: Any furry animal

    Cunnin': Cute

    Down Cellah: The basement

    Finest Kind: The very best

    From Away: Not from Maine

    Gawmy: Awkward or clumsy

    Honkin': Wicked big.

    Italians: Submarine sandwiches

    Numb: Dumb. Stupid.

    Pot: Lobster Trap

    Prayer Handle: Knee

    Right Out Straight: Wicked busy.

    Quahog: Thick-shelled clam (pronounced co-hog)

    Scrid: A tiny piece

    Steamers: Clams

    Wicked: Very. To a high degree, such as wicked good, wicked bad, wicked exciting, etc.

    Pronounce Maine Place Names

    Of course, these dialect tips apply to Maine's popular destinations, too, so be sure to say:

    Acadia: Ahcadiuh

    Bar Harbor: Bah Hahba

    Bangor: Bangah

    Portland: Pawtlan

    More Resources