Deciphering Downeast

So, exactly what comprises the area known as DownEast Maine?  Washington and Hancock counties are generally accepted as Downeast. 

Many people wonder why this area is refered to as “DownEast” when clearly (geographically speaking), Maine is definitely Northeast.  So where does the “down” come from?  The only likely explanation comes from the fact that a ship could sail down wind from Boston to Maine.

 The single most confusing issue is the reference to other locations.  Please, allow me to explain:  If I am planning a trip to Connecticut, the accepted phrase would be, “I am going up to Connecticut.”   Friends and family coming to visit from Florida?  Well, that’s easy!  They are coming down to Maine for a visit.  Makes perfect sense, right?  Right?

Folks from DownEast aren’t geographically challenged (well, no more than the next person), it’s just the way it’s said and make no mistake, if you say, “I’m headed down to Florida next week,” you will be gently, but firmly, corrected.

Of considerable interest is the way they take the stairs in DownEast Maine.  Most everyone I know goes up stairs or down stairs.  Not here, no siree.  You go “up over” the stairs and come “down over” the stairs. 

“Down” or “up” is just the beginning of deciphering the DownEast “language”.  The locals have accents ranging from the barely there to the downright hard to understand.  The letter “R” is nearly nonexistent (deah/dear, cah/car, theyah/there) unless they can put an “R” in where it doesn’t belong (case in point:  Washington County becomes WaRshington County.  Don’t even get me started on “Grandmother and Grantfather”…

 They also have words and phrases which don’t help much to the uninitiated and here is a sampling:

Right“- Despite what I have always believed, “wicked” is not the predominant adjective used  DownEast; it’s “right” (It’s right hot outside or That was right tasty).  Please don’t  misunderstand, “wicked” is sometimes used but almost always in conjunction with “right”.  A 90 degree day would be “right wicked hot”.

Dinner/lunch/supper“-  this can get confusing.  Dinner is your noon meal unless it’s something a little fancier (for lack of a better term,) in which case it’s lunch.  Supper is your evening meal.  You don’t “go out for dinner”, you “go out for lunch”.  Ayuh.  I have been corrected more than once for saying “dinner” when “lunch” was appropriate.

There are some phrases that are colorful (or perhaps off color) such as  “She’s been around more times than a button on a shit house door”, which implies a woman of questionable morals. 

You say “water tower”, they say “stand pipe” (You knew that, didn’t you?) and the list goes on.

If all this has you confused, don’t despair.  I live here and at times it leaves me feeling “crazier than a rat in a coffee can.”



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