Everybody’s heard about the (Maine) words

Posted April 13, 2012, at 4:27 p.m.
Last modified April 14, 2012, at 7:44 a.m.

About a month ago, we ran a story on the Dictionary of American Regional English, a collection of the colorful and varied words used in Americans’ everyday lives, across the country, organized by region — including Maine and New England. We included a short but eclectic list of some of words specific to Maine, and asked readers to submit their own suggestions for Maine words.

We received an excellent response, and have since compiled them all and done a little research (to the best of our ability) to weed out the words used elsewhere in the country from the more strictly Maine ones. We’ve come up with our own, revised list of Maine vernacular words and phrases, a little dictionary containing words ranging from the obvious, well-known “dooryard” and “wicked” to lesser-known gems such as “laury” or “sprills.”

Our thanks to our reader contributors, including Sarah Harriman of Canaan, Nessa Reifsnyder of Bar Harbor, Sandra Brennan of Linneus, Virginia Fitzgerald of Bangor, Laurie Larkin of Baileyville, Erin Burr of Newport, Jude Gagner of Bangor, Dana Sawyer of Milbridge, Chandler Barbour of Belfast, Mary Beth Judy of Blue Hill, Sharon Hall of Islesboro, Sandra Smith of Perry and Linda Preston of Roques Bluffs.

Dooryard: The area immediately adjacent to the front door of a house; “Take your boots off and leave them in the dooryard.”

Wicked: Synonym for ‘very,’ to a high degree, extremely, exceedingly; “That movie was wicked cool,” or “That guy that cut me off is a wicked jerk.”

Ayuh: Yes, affirmative; “Ayuh, it’s spring in Maine — 35 degrees and cloudy.”

Stoved, or staved: To be in disarray or fundamentally messed up; “That lawn mower doesn’t work, it’s all stoved up.”

Cunning: Cute, adorable; “Her daughter is wicked cunning.”

Cussid: Cursed, obstinate; “That cussid car won’t start up.”

Dub: A stupid person; plural, dubbers; “Those guys are a bunch of dubbers.”

Teeming: Heavy rain; “It was teeming wicked hard last night.”

Spleeny: Feeling nervous or anxious about something; “I’m too spleeny to run right into the lake.”

Yee yaw: To wiggle something to make it work; “You’ve got to yee yaw the handle after you flush.”

Glob around: To relax, or chill out; “We went up to camp and just globbed around all weekend.”

Glom: To grab, or be greedy; “She glommed up all the leftover candy.”

Laury: Referring to overcast weather; “It’s been laury out all week.”

Numb: Stupid; “What, are you numb? Put it down!”

Jeezum crow: Mild expletive; “Jeezum crow, I thought you were gonna hit that other car!”

Yow’un: Young person; “Get those yow’uns out of the kitchen.”

Orts: Scraps left at a table, to be given to pigs; “I’ll gather up the orts and take them out back.”

Rig: Flamboyant personality; “His grandfather was a bit of a rig, always the center of attention.”

Pregnant for: To be pregnant, as opposed to ‘pregnant with’; “When I was pregnant for Shawn, all I wanted was whoopie pies.”

Scrid: Tiny portion; “All that was left of the soup was the scrids. What a ripoff!”

Drove right up: Busy; “At Christmas we’re drove right up, so it may take longer.”

Tipping: To pick fir boughs for wreaths; “We went tipping last weekend out in the woods.”

Yard on it: To pull hard; “Just grab hold and yard on it ‘til it comes out.”

Sprills: Dropped tree needles, “The roof’s all covered in sprills.”

Riley: Used to describe the color of the ocean after a big storm; “The bay was all riley this morning.”

Stivering: To walk unsteadily; “She was stivering down the street, so I got out of the way.”

Darker than a pocket: No light; “Jeezum, it’s darker than a pocket in this attic!”

No bigger than a fart in a mitten: Tiny; “Aww, look at her, she’s no bigger than a fart in a mitten!”

Number than a hake: More colorful way to say someone is stupid; “I tell you, that kid across the street is number than a hake.”

Culch: any kind of trash or rubbish; occasionally used of a person held in low esteem; “I’m gonna clean all that culch of the basement if it’s the last thing I do!”

Gaumy: awkward, inept, stupid; “Look at him singing karaoke, what a gaumy dub he is!”

Larrigan: A type of long-legged moccasin or boot; “Throw on those larrigans and grab your gun!”

Barvel: A fisherman’s apron made of leather or oilcloth; “They measured the lobsters, water splashing against their barvels.”

Finest kind: Used variously, as a general indication of approval; also used ironically; “That was an awesome dinner; finest kind.”

Money cat: A calico cat, especially one with at least three colors; “Aunt Kathy’s new kitten is a money cat; she’s good luck.”

Pull-haul: to argue, contend; “They pull-hauled the issue over all night.”

Tide walkers: A log floating, often with only one end at the surface, in coastal waters; “A couple of tide walkers collected down in the cove.”

Short: An illegal, undersize lobster; “They got fined for not throwing the shorts back.”

Eighteen-hundred-and-froze-to-death: the period of 1816-17, one of the worst winters Maine ever experienced; “Jeezum, it ain’t been this cold since Eighteen-hundred-and-froze-to-death!”

Putty: also with around; to occupy oneself with trifles, to idle; “He was puttying around with the engine all weekend.”

Slip one’s wind: to die; “She slipped her wind overnight.”

Fog mull: a heavy, stationary fog bank; “That fog mull rolled in wicked fast, and now I can’t see anything.”

Groaners: a whistling buoy or foghorn; “Those groaners are freaking me out so much I can’t sleep!”

Dry-ki: dead timber, especially that killed by flooding; dry branches; driftwood; land where such timber predominates; “Don’t build a fire there, there’s way too much dri-ki.”

Scrod: a method of salting and preserving codfish; “We had beans and coffee and some scrod for supper.”

Ploye: traditional Acadian buckwheat pancake; “Ployes with butter and maple syrup are totally delicious.”

Larrup: to give or receive a beating; “You kids settle down or you’re all getting a good larrup!”.

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