Years After Maine, I Can Still Be Heard Doing Mainespeak
I clearly recall churning buttah (butter) with my maternal grandmother Esther Bennett Homer on her farm in Searsport Maine. Why did I say buttah instead of butter? Because that is how I sometimes still talk. I've lost a lot of my Maine dialect or accent, but not to my family, especially my granddaughter Ashley, who loves to tease me when I forget to or am unable to add the "r" sound to my words.
So, I am still somewhat a Mainer, and proud of it! My car is a ca or cah, our nearby park is a pahk, the law is the lah and lava is lavah. Sounds perfectly okay to me, but Ashley laughs and laughs. This got me to thinking about the Maine dialect that I grew up with.
My paternal grandmother Alice Southworth Healey loved lobster which she called lobstah. She always wanted to eat some when we visited Ba Harbah (Bar Harbor). Grammy Homer liked clam chowdah (chowder) when she ate out.
Though I have tried for years to say idea, it always comes out as idear. My mom and dad called me deyah (dear) and Donna, but they also called me Donnah or Donner. Yikes instead of dropping an r sound, idear and Donner added one. How confusing is that? I need a glass of watah! Then I can watch the cahfs (calfs) for a while as I ponder this.
Mainers also like a good oximoron. The one that says something is wicked good. Wicked lobstah. Wicked buttah. Wicked cold or wicked hot. L. L. Bean uses "wicked good" in some of their product line names and ads to relay the greatness of the items. Makes me wantah order somethin' now.
My dad was named Bob. In New England, folks like to use names. A conversation with him would go something like this: "Donnah, what are you doing? Nothing, Dad. Donnah, I heard you were goin' to the pahk? Dad, that is true, but I won't be stahtin (starting) to go for a while. Dad, for now I will be herah." Get the gist? Did you notice that Mainers like to drop the g when talking, such as talkin'.
I love that herah, for here. Stretch that one syllable into two and you speak Mainah. A phrase I recall is that you can't get theyah from heyah.
My dad, by the way was born in Bath Maine, but he called it Bahth. And my Aunt Jane was Auht Jane and not Ant Jane. Auht Jane called my sister and I cunnin, meaning cute. We were, and loved her sayin' it. Oh, we live in Florida now and my sister is Ant Caren, instead of Auht Caren. Too bad.
I was born in Bangah (Bangor), but now when I visit Maine, I am thought to be "from away" and have to explain that my Mainah accent is still there in part, because I am one of them. Doesn't do me much good to explain; they still think I am from away. Could I be mispronouncing Bangor?
It has been wicked exciting to write this article. Brings back so many memories and helps my granddaughter to know I am just a Mainer.
One of these days I will call Ashley's lunch box, her dinner pail. It would really catch her attention if I said suppah pail. In North Carolina we had a basement, in Connecticut we had a cellar and, for us, that meant a dirt or root cellar which we called "down cellar." Our mom did not want us to go down cellah. We also had an ice box and when we got a refrigerator we still called it an ice box. And I don't say hoss anymore. I have mastered horse.
Remembah Ashley is the one that teases me the most about my lingerin' Maine accent. I think I will agree with her on whatever she says next time by sayin' eh-yuh or ayuh instead of yes. She will love it. PS: Let's not tell her that I mostly hear ayuh on old episodes of Murder She Wrote on television. Do you agree? Ayuh!
Photo: From Flickr Commons Free; by Edward Hand