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7 Maine Slang Words that Only Locals Know

If you’ve ever encountered Maine slang words on your travels, it likely left an impression. Maine has always forged its own way of doing things. The unique way they speak is one of the first things you’ll notice. 

Throughout the States, each place has its own distinct vocabulary. For example, outside the South, you may get funny looks for saying “y’all.” The speech of the northeasternmost state, though, is particularly colorful. 

If you’re planning a trip to Maine, this list can help clear up confusion before it happens in real time. 

Let’s check them out! 

How Do People in Maine Speak?

The Maine accent developed initially from the early English colonists. You can still hear traces of London, Yorkshire, and Lancashire inflections. They use long vowels to stretch syllables and soften their r’s to a barely-there sound. And the o’s are especially stretched, like the “augh” sound used in “caught.” Linguists who study languages have a special name for this habit, the “cot-caught merger.” 

Another important thing to remember is their signature sh sound for s’s and z’s. All of it adds to an unhurried way of speaking, where even short phrases stretch out. 

This is less cut and dry than visitors may hope. Even within Maine, islanders and city folk have different dialects. The Downeasters also have their own distinct sound. 

So if you’re “comin’ from away,” it may take some time to get used to the dialect of the Pine Tree State. You can try to fit in with the locals by adopting some Maine slang, but it takes practice. 

Pro Tip: Use these tips on How to Spend a Day in Machias, Maine for an epic adventure.

Maine on the map
Head to Maine for some unique slang.

#1 Cunnin’

If someone calls you cunnin’, they aren’t accusing you of anything devious. In fact, it’s actually a compliment. 

Cunnin’ is used mainly by older Mainers to say someone is adorable. This comes from an archaic usage of the word that’s still going strong in the state. 

Locals generally save this word for grandkids or nieces and nephews. It may even come with a pinch on the cheek for good measure. Sometimes it’s a way to describe kittens or puppies, but you wouldn’t want to use it to flirt. 

#2 Apiece

This Maine slang word is the perfect catch-all for any measurement of a distance you want it to be. For example, if someone tells you the nearest store is just apiece down the road, it could be a few blocks or a few miles. 

Most Mainers will clarify what they mean with a hand gesture so you’ll have a slightly better idea. You know what they say about Americans, though. They’ll use anything but the metric system. 

#3 Ayuh

This helpful word acts as a greeting and a way of agreeing with someone.  It’s often used in bursts, like when you want to show strong agreement with someone. You’ll hear folks say it as they pass each other or while nodding along when a friend is talking.

You’ll want to practice this one, though. The first sound should rhyme with “hey,” and the “yuh” should rhyme with “chowda.” Say it wrong, and you’ll show your true colors if you’re trying to pass as a local. 

#4 Bug

Few people think of Maine without considering the lobster the region is known for.  And if someone offers you bug for dinner, they don’t mean crickets. Bug is the Maine slang for the seafood that most local fisheries depend on for money. 

Because bug is so cheap and plentiful in the state, it’s not the luxury item it is in other parts of the country. Eating bug for dinner on a weeknight is standard fare, so be sure to enjoy it while you visit. 

Maine coast
Speak like a local by learning some slang while exploring Maine.

#5 Puckerbrush

If you enjoy hiking, you’ve likely encountered more than your fair share of puckerbrush. 

That’s how New Englanders describe the unpleasant, spiny grass or shrubs you encounter when you take the road less traveled. They may also use the phrase to describe poison ivy, which grows readily on neglected farmland. 

Sometimes, you may hear someone say, “out in the puckerbrush,” if a person is lost or confused. The term likely came to Maine from Canada. 

#6 Upta camp

Maine offers plenty of wonderful sights off the beaten path. Many locals like to spend as much time enjoying the natural beauty of their state. If someone plans to go “upta camp,” they mean they’re ready to get away from the city. 

Upta camp could mean you’re headed into the woods, down to the coast, or even going lakeside for a while. It’s a quick way of saying you’re looking for the “finest kind” of sights and sounds nature offers. 

If you’re taking the RV into the backcountry, be sure to tell local friends you’re heading upta camp. They’ll get the idea and may even be a little jealous.

#7 Hard Tellin’ Not Knowin’

This is a fine example of the unique sense of humor in Maine slang. It’s really just a roundabout  way of saying, “I don’t know.” 

The salt-of-the-Earth types in Maine are as humble as they are friendly. If they don’t know the answer to something, they won’t pretend to. Saying “hard tellin’ not knowin’” is their way of admitting it.

But sometimes, they may use this expression even if they know the answer. It’s just another way of saying it’s not their business to spread. 

Pro Tip: Explore Maine by using our guide on How to Spend a Day in Windham, Maine.

Maine Slang Remains Strong

There’s no standard American accent. Before the time of television, it was a lot easier to notice the nuances of dialects from across the U.S. But as more people strive to talk like TV actors, they’re watering down some of the unique regional vernacular. Fortunately, Maine slang is going strong, and the people living there enjoy preserving their unique way of speaking. 

What’s your favorite expression from the Old Dirigo State? Let us know in the comments.

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