Like most Mainers, I grew up in a small, homogenous town. I didn’t know most terms on this list were unique until I moved away to college and had to constantly explain that I didn’t think something was evil or sinister when I said it was “wicked” or that when we partied in “the pit” in high school, it wasn’t actually a large hole that we all clambered down into. These words are as much a part of us as our love of seafood and summer nights around a campfire. So, if you’re ‘from away’, you’ll need to brush up on these if you have any hope of blending in. Here are 13 phrases to know before visiting Maine.
1. From away
One of the most widely used phrases you’ll find in Maine, referring to someone who wasn’t born and raised in Maine. For some, it’s more extreme than that and they’ll go back generations for a cut-off, but let’s keep it simple. People from away can be easily identified by their accent, lack of knowledge about where to pick the best fiddleheads, and inability to get all of the meat out of a lobster.
An informal agreement that basically means ‘yes.’ Most commonly heard from the 40+ crowd in Downeast Maine. It’s also probably what you imagine when you try to concoct a stereotypical Maine accent.
3. Southern Maine
This is a tricky one dealing with sensitive regional designations. Southern Maine, or the Southern Coast, is the very bottom-most tip of Maine, south of Portland. If you’re from the northern part of the state (think north of Bangor), however, Southern Maine is everything south of where you are — essentially the majority of the state. This phrase is an excellent one to wield if you’re looking to blend in regionally — but beware of the wrath of a mid-coaster if you tell them that they live in Southern Maine.
4. The County
Speaking of regions, this is one that’s universally recognized. It is, of course, referring to Aroostook County, the ‘crown of Maine,’ and the largest county east of the Mississippi. It’s a place where the moose population is larger than the human one and it wouldn’t be strange to hear French being spoken at the local diner.
5. You can’t get there from here (he-ah).
First of all, every Mainer travels with a Delorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer, so we can probably figure out a route. But our craggy coastline and endless forests do make it pretty difficult to get places quickly. So just do yourself a favor and pick up a Gazetteer, instead of receiving this incredulous response when asking for directions.
Ah, the quintessential Mainer word. This is going to be thrown around more often than you can keep track as it can be used alone or as a modifier. Dollar shots in the Old Port? Wicked! The Black Bears’ goalie is on fire tonight? He made a wicked save! Probably a throwback to New England’s Puritan ways, it’s certainly one of the most pervasive terms in this collection.
Confusingly, this is normally not referring to someone from Italy. Rather, it’s the name for a very specific type of sandwich that you typically find in saran wrap at gas stations and bait shops. Imagine this, a white hoagie roll with ham, American cheese, thinly sliced onions, green peppers, tomatoes, black olives, sour pickles, and oil — add salt and pepper if you’re feeling deluxe. Pro tip — it’s best eaten in a canoe while fishing.
Clams! Specifically, soft-shelled clams steamed in water (or white wine, butter, and shallots — you’re welcome). Delicious, meaty, and best fresh with an ocean view.
9. To bang a (insert direction here)
Now hold on, this is not going where you think it is. In Maine, “to bang a…” means to make a quick move, most likely in a vehicle. “Bang a left” or “bang a right,” and for advanced speakers, “bang a uey” (make a U-turn). It’s crucial terminology for when you’re about to miss the last exit to get gas for the next 60 miles.
Again, not what you think it is. This term refers to an old, barely running, but weirdly resilient vehicle. It could be a car, but it’s most likely a pick-up truck with a manual transmission. It probably hasn’t passed an inspection in years. Many Mainers learn how to drive in a beater, most likely on dirt roads.
11. Dinner vs. supper
Dinner, historically the larger meal of the day, is served at noon (aka lunch). Supper is served in the evening. Some believe that this may be derived from our French Canadian and Acadian Mainers who eat ‘souper’ in the evening, a lighter meal typically centered around soup. Whatever the case, it’s good to know in order to avoid any confusion.
12. Same difference
Instead of saying ‘no difference,’ Mainers prefer the oxymoron ‘same difference.’ That’s really all there is to it.
13. Champagne of Maine
Now here we have a double-whammy, the ‘Champagne of Maine.’ It’s also known as ‘fat-ass in a glass,’ and is a typical alcoholic beverage in Maine made of Allen’s Coffee Brandy and milk over ice. Allen’s is the best-selling liquor in the state and it doesn’t top the bestseller list anywhere else in the US. In fact, 85 percent of all Allen’s produced is sold in Maine, even though it’s not from Maine. So maybe it’s possible for something ‘from away’ to find a home here after all.
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