MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc., 2009
$252 pages, $14.95
A Maine refresher course
Do you know what “jeezly” means?
If you don’t, you can find out in Nancy Griffin’s Maine 101: Everything You Wanted to Ask About Maine and Were Going to Ask Anyway.
This witty, fun book is packed with statistics and facts, but it also has the kind of information that you usually can only get from locals. (Full disclosure: Griffin is a freelance writer for Working Waterfront.)
Griffin’s book reflects the state’s wry, deadpan sense of humor. In an age of tweeting and shouting, Maine humor is still subtle. As Griffin writes in the section “MaineSpeak,” many words and expressions come from working in the woods and on the ocean. “These two occupations-still the most dangerous in the country-not only contributed many words to the Maine lexicon, but probably gave rise to the laconic, economical, understated manner of speaking (way more adjectives than befits a Mainer).”
Still don’t know what “jeezly” means? Look it up in the chapter “MaineSpeak” and you’ll discover it is “an adjective that means not so good: as in ‘I’ve never seen such jeezly fishing.'”
Some of my other favorite words in this section are: “downceller” (in the basement), “jizzicked” (done for, broken, beyond repair), “mug up” (a snack between meals or a coffee break) and “scrimey” (an adjective describing a penny pinching tightwad).
Maine 101 is the second in a series of books profiling states published by MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc. of Nova Scotia. In the book’s 13 chapters, Griffin covers everything from place names and weather to politics and the economy. There’s a handy feature called “Take 5” in which local experts talk about their favorite things in the state. Griffin also writes short articles on famous people, places, events, food and drink.
She doesn’t sugarcoat some of the harsher realities about the state. Many of us already know that Allen’s Coffee Brandy is one of the favorite beverages in the state. I bet you didn’t know that Mainers bought over one million bottles of the stuff in 2008, and that four sizes of the brandy made the state’s top 10 list of best-selling alcoholic beverages.
One of the book’s most amusing sections is called “You know you’re from Maine when…” and lists over 50 identifying characteristics.
Some of the gems in this list include:
* You know that “stove up” has nothing to do with cooking;
* You’ve had arguments over the comparative qualities of fried dough;
* “Vacation” means going to Bangor for the weekend;
* You install security lights on your house and garage and leave both unlocked;
* Even your school cafeteria made good chowder.
You can open Maine 101 at almost any page and learn something interesting about the state. If you’re from Maine, or from away, you’ll enjoy this book.
David A. Tyler is the editor of Working Waterfront.