When I announced in this column in June that Maine comedian Gary Crocker and I were working to create a community college course that folks from away could take to become a Mainer, the response was fantastic.
As Gary explains, “After 67 years of life in the Pine Tree State and endless rumination (solemn and deep meditation), I have concluded that if you are lucky enough to be born in Maine, you are lucky enough. So, by extension, those other poor souls who drew their first breath somewhere else on the planet must struggle through life without the benefit of being born inside our borders. In an effort to provide relief to those poor unfortunates, and even Maine natives who have lost their way, I am providing a primer of how to join us here in Maine without the benefit of birth.”
Since my June column was published, I’ve been collecting course suggestions and want to share some of them with you today.
Let’s begin with a complaint from John Rust, who reported that “the term Mainer is a modern politically correct abomination created and perpetrated by the media, you included. The correct term is Maineiac or as I prefer, just maniac (which better explains why we all stay here).”
Matthew Sceace didn’t think much of our plan, writing, “Is your address in Maine? Then you’re a Mainer. Do you love it here? Then you’re a Mainer! End of list. No accent, birth certificate or proof of purchase needed.” Don’t they wish, Matt, don’t they wish.
Tenley Bennett noted, “Mainers measure distance in time. For example, Presque Isle is about an hour from here. Ashland is 35 minutes south, unless you get behind a loaded logging truck, then it’s going to take about 45 minutes.” We’ll definitely include this measuring device in the course.
I loved this response to the column: “You were right with so much of this. My husband (a Mainer) and I (a wannabe) laughed out loud. Here’s another which relates to the make-do behavior. Shortly after we were married, whenever something needed fixing, repairing, etc., I immediately pulled out the Yellow Pages and he immediately headed for the basement, shed, attic etc., where that stuff is (which drives me crazy as a person who abhors stuff). Usually before I can locate the correct repair service, he has it fixed. He finally said to me, ‘You have to remember you came from the land of dial-a-dude, and you now live in the land of do-it-yourselfers.'”
For those of you who want to get started on the course, Gary has prepared a language primer so you can begin practicing. Here are his suggestions: “The first and most important aspect may indeed be speech patterns. And it ain’t just learning to say Ayuh with conviction. Although that is a critical step, there are other important rules. For instance, the letter R is used (or not used) in ways that may not be entirely understood in other parts of our great land — especially in southern states like Connecticut or New York. A simple description for those folks, who I will refer to from now on as flatlanders or folks from away, includes the development of an Ayuh-bonic alphabet.
“The foundational element of Ayuh-bonics is the removal or insertion of the letter R in certain important Maine words. For example, the word dear, often used as a term of endearment in Maine and other parts of the country, becomes a simple greeting by removing the R and adding AH to the end of the word. Seeing a fellow lobsterman boarding his boat, you might yell out, ‘Mornin’ dee-ah, ain’t this a corker of a day to be out on the water?’
“Another example of our challenges with the letter R includes its placement on words where it normally doesn’t appear. The word idea, which is obviously not adequate to convey our excitement about some brilliant thought, needs to have an R added to the end of it for emphasis. So the new Ayuh-bonics word would be pronounced idea-er. Simple, yet powerful.”
Finally, there was this suggestion from a Mainer: “A summer person, no matter how many summers they spend here, could never be a Mainer. You must spend at least several winters here.” Great observation.
To become a Mainer, you definitely must spend a winter here. But that might eliminate the chance for a lot of friends from away of ever becoming a Mainer. And recognizing that many Mainers flee before winter arrives, maybe we can put all of them into a new classification — Summer Mainers.
The rest of us who stay here all winter could be called Maineiacs.