Maine is unique. It’s not quite Massachusetts, but it’s not quite Canada. Anyone who’s ever been to this northeastern state knows it has a distinctive hometown feel that can’t be replicated. Some even say it’s the “south of the north,” but with a little coastal twist. Thus, it’s no surprise that Maine has its own particular culture. If you’re planning to visit the Pine Tree State, you may want to know common Maine sayings you’ll hear from locals.
Are you interested in learning how to talk like a Mainah? Keep scrolling!
What Is Maine Known For?
People who’ve never explored Maine have probably heard of its rocky beaches, delicious lobster, and occasional moose sightings. But those who’ve taken the time to explore this state know there’s more to Maine than that.
For one, a whopping 89% of the state is forest land. And once you go up past Bangor, there’s not much civilization. This abundance of nature, coupled with Maine’s harsh winters, gives Mainers their true resilience. Because of this, people know Mainers as some of the hardest-working folks.
What Is the Maine Accent Called?
The Maine accent is also known as Eastern New England English. Many outsiders confuse it for a Boston accent. It originated from the English colonists who first came to the area. They brought distinctive speech patterns, including dropping the “R” and the added syllables.
Instead of “It’s time to take out the trash,” they might say, “It’s ’bout time tah take out tha rubbish.” “I’m going to get in the car and drive to the store,” changes to, “I need tah jump in the cah and book it to tha sto-ah.”
The Maine accent also varies depending on where you are in the state and to whom you’re talking. Folks in more rural areas and “old timers” who’ve lived in Maine all their lives will have thicker accents. Have a conversation with a coastal fisherman or a central Maine farmer, and you might even need a translator.
Traveler’s Tip: Can you hear the Maine accent when any of these Famous People From Maine speak?
How Do You Say Hello in Maine?
Saying hello in Maine can vary from the relatively normal “Hey, how’s it going?” to the more distinctive “Hey they-ah, Bub!” Again, what you hear will depend on who you’re talking to and where you are. You’ll probably hear less Maine slang in the Kennebunk, Portland, or Brunswick areas. But, people from “up north” or down east” might call you “Bub” once or twice.
Common Maine Sayings
So, what are the most common Maine sayings? And what the heck do they mean? Let’s talk about that.
“Ayuh” is probably one of the most common Maine sayings. Pronounced “ey-uh,” it’s a form of acknowledgment and a way of saying “yes.” For example, a true Mainer might say, “Ayuh! Let’s go to the cookout down at mothah’s.”
Tighter Than Bark on a Tree
Use the phrase “tighter than bark on a tree” when referring to someone who’s frugal or stingy with their money. A Mainer might say, “The fella down tha road’s tighter than bark on a tree.” This shows if he may have a tight budget or won’t lend tools to a neighbor.
Happier Than a Clam at High Tide
You can probably guess what this saying means. You’ll hear it most often along the rocky coast of Maine. This phrase is widespread in isolated island communities or Washington and Hancock counties.
For example, if a lobsterman got a bountiful catch one summer, he’s probably “happier than a clam at high tide.”
Mainers are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, but their disdain for tourists is real. During tourist season (especially along the coast or in southern Maine), you’ll probably hear the phrase “the Flatlandahs are here.”
“Flatlanders” refers to anyone who’s not from Maine. They’re most often tourists from Massachusetts who want to escape the hustle and bustle (also known as “mass-holes”).
Have you ever had a meal right before bed? Or even a midnight snack? Mainers refer to this as a “bed lunch,” and it’s not hard to imagine how it got its name. Quite literally, it’s a lunch you might eat in bed. If you stay at a Mainer’s house, they may “fix you a bed lunch” if you’re hungry late at night.
All Stove to Hell
“All stove to hell” can be confusing because it makes no logical sense. But if you grew up in Maine, it’s easy to remember hearing this phrase and know exactly what it means.
“All stove to hell” means something is damaged, beat up, or so old you can’t use it. For example, a car that got in a wreck is “all stove to hell.” This phrase also goes for any kind of equipment or items that are essentially junk.
What Do You Think You’re Doing, Ya Dubbah?
Many of us know the phrase, “What do you think you’re doing?” “Ya dubbah” is where it can get confusing. In Maine, “dubbah” is a loving way to refer to someone who’s not very smart. So, for outsiders, this means, “What do you think you’re doing, you fool?”
Get Me a Frappe at Giffahd’s
If you ask for a frappe in Maine, you’ll get a milkshake. And everyone in Maine knows Gifford’s Ice Cream is the place to go on a hot summer day. Thus, “Get me a frappe at Giffahd’s” means, “Get me a milkshake at the local ice cream shop.”
If you’re from Maine, you might not even realize that “downcellah” is a unique saying. But if you’re “from away,” you’re probably scratching your head. When a Mainer says “downcellah” they’re referring to their basement. If you grew up in Maine, your mom might have asked you to “get a bag of potatoes from downcellah.”
They Live Way Out in the Willywacks
Remember how we said that Maine is 89% woodland? This percentage means that there are plenty of people living in rural areas. When you hear, “They live way out in the willywacks,” it means that they live in the middle of nowhere. They might live up past Bangor or in “the county,” but there isn’t much around them except trees.
Catch a Buzz On
If you’re in Maine and you “catch a buzz on,” you’ve likely had a few drinks, and you’re getting drunk. Likewise, you might hear a native Mainer say they’re going to “go to the bah and catch a buzz on.” With little to do except spend time outdoors, Mainers know how to have a good time.
Are Maine Sayings Worth Learning When You Visit?
In the touristy areas in Maine like downtown Freeport, you won’t hear many thick Maine accents or obscure sayings. However, it’s worth learning certain expressions to explore the lesser-known parts of Maine.
For example, in Hancock County, you’ll meet locals who are “happier than clams at high tide.” Or, if you venture inland, you might meet a local dairy farmer who stores their canned goods “downcellah.” Either way, these authentic experiences will be much more memorable than the tourist-riddled ones. Plus, it’ll be helpful to know what the locals are saying.
What’s your favorite Maine saying? Let us know in the comments below!
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