The Things We Say in Maine

Last Saturday, our friends Dawna and Jim invited us over for dinner, where we deliciously jump-started spring and summer by drinking Dawna’s  homemade margaritas. (Hers are the best!) We also had chicken tacos and a tasty rice dish. What a way to celebrate the end of March and the beginning of what we hope will finally be spring.


After dinner, we settled in the living room and talked about this and that. During the course of our conversation, Jim described someone as being “tough as a bag of hammers.”

That was a new one to me, but when we got home and I asked Clif about it, he said he had heard this before. (Both Jim and Clif are from the Bangor area. Maybe it was a common saying up there.) As Clif and I discussed “tough as a bag of hammers,” one saying led to another, and we came up with a short list of things we say in Maine:

  • Happy as a clam at high tide. This seems like a rather ubiquitous expression that might be said by anyone who lives in a coastal state.  Nevertheless, Clif and I grew up hearing it quite a lot.
  • A few logs short of a cord. Around this time of year, that’s pretty much the way most Mainers feel, but usually it refers to people who aren’t clever.
  • Numb as a hake. This tells you how Mainers feel about hake.
  • The whole of it, rather than all of it. Why we say it this way, I don’t know, but I catch myself using this expression all the time.

Then, of course, there is the way we say or don’t say our Rs, and Clif and I are guilty as charged. We drop them, we add them, and most of the time we don’t even realize we’re doing this.

When my daughters went to college, they both were ribbed about the way they pronounced drawing. I know. It only has one R, but we Mainers pronounce it with two RsDrawring. Somehow, teasing be damned, that word just doesn’t sound right to us without the second R.

We add Rs. I often refer to my friend Dawna as Dawner. We drop Rs in Mainer so that it sounds like Mainah. Or, it works like a chahm rather than a charm.

I realize most people don’t speak this way, and on Public Radio, people mostly say their Rs the way they should. But every once in a while someone from New England is interviewed, and he or she drops and adds those Rs just the way it is done in Maine.

And when I hear this, it always warms—or rather wahms— my heart.



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