Friday, March 19, 2010

Ipomoea Alba, Morning Glory, September 5, 2005, Hiram, Maine, John Bonanno photo

Maine Word Of the Day
Part One

Lately on my facebook page I have been promulgating (to use a venerable Navy expression) a "Maine Word Of The Day" which is mostly words and meanings found and adapted from John Gould's "Maine Lingo" a Down East Book published in 1975. It's out of print but there are some used copies available on

It's one of those books that is handy in the "convenience" (the outhouse, the cloakroom, the necessarium, the bathroom, the toilet, the john, the privy, the lavatory) to pass a little time. The explanations and examples showin' off the use of the word are usually my own. So, as the feller says, I'll take all the blame for them. The audience here is mostly postal employees and I tend to write this feature with them in mind.

Here are some of the words we have studied so far:

Maine word of the day: "Gorm" pronounced gawm n. or v. to behave in a clumsy and stupid manner, also one who can be counted on to do so, also to stare and gape with a blank look on the face (and one who does so) and less commonly, to smear something up, esp. with a greasy substance. examples: "When I told the gormy supervisor that I needed help he just stood there with his mouth hangin' open." "That cart was just rusted up froze so I gormed up that axle real good 'til she let go." or, "My gormy neighbor got it in his mind he's some kinda rancher. He got himself a steer calf and leaves it tied out. That thing is drivin' himself and me up the wall with his all day long  bellowin' and pacin'. 'Though I can't say I blame him."

Maine term of the day "jumper" or, "jumping Frenchman" a trait characterized by an unusually extreme startle reaction. The startle reaction is a natural response to an unexpected noise or sight. This disorder was first identified during the late nineteenth century in Maine and the Canadian province of Quebec. Lumberjacks of French Canadian descent were originally associated with this phenomenon but it has since been observed in other societies in many parts of the world as well. "Jumping Frenchmen" is suspected to be a genetic disorder and/or an extreme conditioned response to a particular situation possibly influenced by cultural factors. Symptoms tend to improve with age. (This unfortunately named condition is real and the description above is taken word for word from the website. Political correctness was an unknown concept in the 19th Century. ) example: "I don't believe our new supervisor is gonna last long. Looks like a jumper." or "That lady down at the end of Gleckler Road is a real jumper. It's kinda fun to sneak up on her when you're deliverin' her mail."

Maine word of the day: "touchin' up" or stealing, or maybe just borrowin' without lettin' a fella know. As in, "Hey Joe, you the one been touchin' up my traps?"

Maine word of the day: "Plegged" two syllables pronounced Pleg-ged (plagued, but actually and usually plaguing) as in "I retired early from the Post Office on account of the stupidity of them plegged managers.

Bonus Maine expression of the day: "Son of a Whore" most  would never refer to a person this way, unless they were lookin' for trouble.  Inevitably, recalcitrant inanimate objects such as equipment one is workin' on  will be cursed as a "Son of a Whore" and quite rightly. Sometimes a gormy domestic animal is the recipient of  this appellation.

Maine expression of the day: "clam digger's hands" basically a unit of measure of coldness, as in "her heart is as cold as a clam digger's hands" If you wanted to intensify the effect you could say something like: "Could be on account of bein' late pickin' her up or maybe havin' liquor on my breath, but by the time I finally tried to make my move, she was as cold as a clam digger's hands in January."

Maine word of the day: "some" a vague adjective, often utilized when making an understatement which is a favorite Maine verbal tactic. The meaning is wholly in the context of its use, "I was some worked up at my bonehead boss today." or "That was some pahty last night."

Maine word of the day: "culch" or "cultch"-the debris oysters hang on to, or, any accumulation of rubbish or junk, as in, "That feller from away paid me fifty bucks for all that culch granpa had in the attic."

Maine expression: "deacon seater" or "stretcher" a tall tale, a story that stretches the truth, the "deacon seat" is at the front of the church, or, in a lumber camp, near the fire; he who sits in the deacon seat had better be able to tell quite a stretcher to keep it.

Maine phrase of the day: "Changing Water" what a lobsterman does when he pulls up an empty pot It can be applied to any unproductive labor such as: "Every day all this friggin' with scan points is nothin' but changing water."

Maine word of the day: "Siddout" to go with the best intentions (as far as anyone knows) to do something, as in "I siddout to go to the store for milk but I ended up at the Gardens." Or, "I siddout to get back by five but there was no fucking way with all that mail." But no explanation for failure is really necessary.When one uses this expression, it is generally to indicate that something did not happen.

Maine word of the day, from. Maine Lingo by John Gould, "Crowder" a horse (fearing he will soon have to go to work) who resents a farmer's intrusion in its stall and leans on him against the wall. A crafty farmer carries a stick a little wider than himself to cure the "crowder" of his habit. No "crowder" has ever been known to crowd a farmer in possession of such a stick twice. This may be an effective tool to use on an aggressive supervisor.

Maine word of the Day: "Dressing" manure applied to the land; may be used metaphorically. "This morning our supervisor applied a lot of extra "dressing" when he gave his service talk."

Maine term of the day: "Dude Cruiser", the Maine equivalent of a Dude Ranch, a schooner outfitted for people "from away" to tour the Maine Coast; these vessels are also known as "Skin Boats" due to the sunbathing activity which may usually be observed aboard. "Charlie likes to make fun of them dude cruisers but I noticed he was takin' his time workin' traps where that skin boat covered with half nekked Euros was moored."

Maine word of the day: "Gloryhole" [Not what you think you dirty minded people.] A ship's treasure store or lockup for valuables, later a catch-all closet.

 This is Joe Burman, retired letter carrier, and a Peaks Island stalwart with his special friend.

Maine expression of the day: "Snedricks", snide tricks, craftiness, as in: The letter carrier's supervisor suspected he was extending his street time so he walked the route with him. As it turned out, the carrier knew the contract, the M39, the M41, proper safety practices, and all the other sundry rules put out by management better than the supervisor and by so doing everything he was supposed to do, he more than justified his street time. Snedricks!

Maine word of the Day: "hand-scythe" One would think this is redundant but it is a good example of an old Maineism. The old timers would apply the prefix "hand" to almost any tool, even the ones that are obviously and always used with the hand, like hand-hammer, hand-tracer, hand-awl, hand-chisel, etc. Example: "The heater fan in my LLV was a little balky so I gave it a little encouragement with my hand-scanner and off I went."

No comments: