If a waitress asks, “Would you like some cream in your coffee?” you should say, “Just a dite, deah.” Photo by Brianna Soukup

Good communication can make everyone’s visit to the Pine Tree State a tad more pleasant, so what follows is a brief primer to help flatlanders communicate better as they move about our fair state.


This is considered the word. When you hear “Aloha” you think of Hawaii; when you hear “y’all” you think of the south; when you hear a crude, unintelligible expletive you think of New York; but when you hear someone say “Ayuh,” it can only mean there’s a Down Easter in the vicinity.

Tip: Although tourists too numerous to count have attempted to properly say ayuh, none have ever come close. If you should suddenly have the urge to try, don’t. It’s a Maine thing.

Blowin’ a gale

A fierce wind. “Didja go out today, Lewis?” “Hell no, it’s blowin’ a gale.”


Can’t miss it

Phrase typically uttered by someone Down East after giving directions to a tourist. Loosely translated, it means: “Ain’t no way in hell you are going to find it, chummy.”


If someone calls your child cunnin’, they don’t mean the little rascal is wily, crafty and sneaky; they mean your kid is wicked cute. It’s a compliment, so enjoy it. If a Mainer looks into your baby carriage and says, “You can’t deny that one,” that has a whole different meaning, so move on.

Dear (dee-ah)

All-purpose term used as sort of a nickname for anyone regardless of age, sex or profession.


Dicker (dick-ah)

To haggle. It’s also considered a way of being sociable. If you visit a yard sale while you’re here – and you’ll have many to choose from – be prepared to dicker for most every item you want. When dickering, seller and buyer go through an ancient and pleasantly elaborate series of offers and counteroffers until a price is eventually arrived at. Often the more worthless the item, the more intricate and complicated the dickering.

“How much for those broken clothespins and bent hangers?” “Fifty cents.”

“I’ll give you 20.”

“How ’bout 25?”



Dite (die-t)

A little. If a waitress asks, “Would you like some cream in your coffee?” you should say, “Just a dite, deah.”


This is synonymous with front yard. No matter how large or small a Maine house might be, there are always those things that won’t fit inside. Those important items – old washers and dryers, engine blocks, tires, trannys and other vital car parts, sound systems, various types of gas- and woodstoves, sofas, box springs, and the like – can be neatly “stored” in a dooryard.

Far (fah)

Opposite of near, but a distance that could be one mile to 500 miles. If you ask someone: “How far is it to Bangor?” they may say something like, “Not far.” If you press them and say, “But how many miles is it?” they will say, “Not far.”


Finest kind

General term for good or excellent. “How’s them fish heads?” “Finest kind.”

Fish or cut bait

Do something!


Clumsy, awkward.


Get your bait back

When fishing or lobstering, your goal is to get back a catch at least equal in value to the bait used to catch it. When someone uses a load of bait to catch a small mess of fish, it’s said, “He barely got his bait back.” Don’t be surprised to hear the expression used to describe a smaller-than-average baby. “Did you see Hollis’s new baby? I’d say he barely got his bait back on that one.”

Gettin’ by

Statement used to describe a person’s income, whether they are poor or rolling in cash. A mill worker who says he is gettin’ by probably means he is making enough money to pay the bills. When a lobster fisherman says he’s gettin’ by, it probably means he’s made so much money he’s about to pay cash for a $40,000 pickup truck so he can haul his 50-inch television home.


A Maine word that can be used as an adjective or an adverb, but if you have to ask what it means, you have no jeezely business using it.



(1) Trouble. “He sure has gotten himself in a mess.” (2) A lot. “I think I will go pick a mess o’ greens.”


Grab ahold and hang on for all she’s worth.

Wicked (wik-id)

The adjective. “I see that storytelling fella John McDonald is speaking down the grange hall. How is he?” “He’s wicked funny!” “Well, let’s go make a time of it.”

— from “Down the Road a Piece,” by John McDonald, published by Islandport Press

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