Maine Swear Words for Snow.

This New Maine News story is just a bit of fluff, and I really should have posted it on April 1, but what the hell, it’s still snowing occasionally here so it resonates with me. Here’s the start:

Orono — Linguists studying the distinct Maine dialect believe they’ve cataloged every possible swear word Mainers have for snow.

Currently there are 73 swear words Mainers use to describe snow, but linguists with the University of Maine say that number could increase.

“There are obvious ones, the ones that most easily spring to mind when you first have to shovel a path through the dooryard,” said lead researcher Donna Ingalls.

“As the season progresses and snow accumulates, more words enter the lexicon.”

Ingalls said by March, Mainers are stringing together seemingly unrelated swear words to describe the late-season snow.

“Oh, absolutely. It almost sounds like a random barking of obscenities, but the way the Maine dialect works, the swears are often repeated for emphasis in long, long rants.”

Ever-resourceful Mainers will even sometimes invent swearwords on the spot.

And yeah, having to shovel the snow around the mailbox so the goddamn friggin mailman doesn’t have to get out of his goddamn delivery truck is a goddamn pain.


  1. I can think of no better justification for failing to pay your bills (and what else comes to us in the mail these days?) than that the Post Office was unable to deliver them.

  2. I thought people in Maine just said “Ayuh”, if that.

  3. marie-lucie says

    having to shovel the snow around the mailbox so the goddamn friggin mailman doesn’t have to get out of his goddamn delivery truck

    Having to get in and out of his (or her) truck at every house and struggle through the snowbanks left by the snowplow is not the most pleasant aspect of a mailperson’s job.

  4. @Y: The more gregarious ones will tell you that you cahn’t get theah from heah.

    Also, one of the chief ways of dealing with winter malaise in Maine seems to be coffee brandy, which is hardly known anywhere else.

  5. Dooryard? Are they still leaving in 1950s?

  6. Also, one of the chief ways of dealing with winter malaise in Maine seems to be coffee brandy…

    With a link going back to Atlas Obscura, which came up here recently. Language Hat sometimes is a little like Pedro Camacho’s later novelas.

  7. As soon as I saw coffee brandy I thought of Vana Tallinn, which is great in black coffee. Sure enough, it gets a mention downpage.

  8. From the lede I thought “orono” was a Maine swear word for (super annoying) snow. Now I’m guessing, without delving deeply into the, um, research, that these are just ways of combining normal swear words with normal words for snow, rather than 70 actual swear words that mean “snow”, which would be flurryin’ awesome.

    PS. lay off “dooryard”, which I’m guessing no-one from outside NE, and most people inside NE, can’t pronounce.

  9. “When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d” was written by a Long Guylander, not a New Englander.

  10. As a Mainer (though technically “from away” since I was born in distant New Hampshire), I’m very curious to see how “they” think we’re swearing about snow: I think D-AW is probably correct that the dozens of words are compounds built from usual suspects. And I can certainly confirm that we never say “dooryard.” We just have a yard.

  11. I also associate dooryard mostly with New England, although I cannot point to any specific reason why. (My other association is that forum is cognate with the door part of dooryard, and they are homologous in meaning.)

  12. Before WWII eastern Long Island almost was New England.

  13. Eastern Long Island was literally New England until 1664.

  14. J.W. Brewer says

    Whitman was born in that easterly part of Long Island but moved to the island’s extreme west (i.e. Brooklyn) when he was four years old and only lived in later life back in the easterly bit for a few (generally non-consecutive) years. So I don’t know how many highly NE regionalisms his idiolect would have had, as opposed to his poetic register having picked up a large and varied lexicon of various origins in a more magpie-like fashion.

  15. J.W. Brewer says

    Separately, the linked article concerning these research findings links to a site whose logo is a modified version of the Maine state coat of arms, with the modifications including a bottle of that coffee-flavored booze on the shield and a cannabis leaf in the crest.

  16. Indeed, Whitman was born in Huntington, which at that time included Babylon, just east of the border between Dutch and English settlement (today the county line between Nassau and Suffolk Counties). In 1660, Huntington/Babylon actually voted to join Connecticut, but was returned to New York four years later when the British seized New Amsterdam. If the British had let the fait accompli stand (Connecticutensians were a slippery bunch with a talent for getting their way), the whole of eastern Long Island might indeed have been part of New England.

  17. Nobody seems to have answered D-AW about the mysterious Orono, which is the article’s dateline: that is, the story is set in the town of Orono, Maine.

  18. Per Wikipedia, pronounced /ˈɒrənoʊ/ and named in honor of Chief Joseph Orono, a sachem of the Penobscot nation.

  19. J.W. Brewer says

    Alas the story that set up this thread can no longer be accessed as the relevant website apparently no longer exists.

    I was going to belatedly add the detail that Orono is the location of the primary campus of the University of Maine and thus an obvious dateline for a story sourced (whether truthfully or as an April Fool) to university faculty.

  20. I have substituted an archived link, so you can read the final few sentences if you want (I don’t know why I didn’t just quote the whole thing).

  21. Heard at a Maine meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous:

    “Them girls was drinking coffee brandy—what we used to call ‘bitch whiskey’.”

    Dooryard is still used here, but mostly by folks over fifty. “Here” is coastal Maine. In the more isolated interior it may be more common.

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