Paul Doiron here —
One of the most difficult decisions an author must make is how to render colloquial speech in dialogue. How do you announce that a character has an accent? Do you do it through diction and the careful use of regional expressions? Or do you go the “Full Huck Finn”*?
“Say, who is you? Whar is you? Dog my cats ef I didn’ hear sumf’n. Well, I know what I’s gwyne to do: I’s gwyne to set down here and listen tell I hears it agin.”
Early on in my writing career, I decided that I couldn’t bring myself to go down Mark Twain’s road with my Maine characters. Instead I aimed to suggest that, for example, Chief Warden Pilot (Retired) Charley Stevens has a Down East accent through the use of various phrases and neologisms one only finds in this part of the world.
This wasn’t hard, as I have always been a collector of Maine lingo, both at Down East magazine, where I write up occasional entries for our “North by East” section, but also for my own personal amusement.
Here are a few of my favorites. They might make it into a novel someday (but probably not):
CAT SPRUCE: White spruce (Picea glauca), so named for the odor it gives off, especially when burned, reminiscent of a litter box. As in, “That fool Harris threw some cat spruce on the fire and stunk up the whole camp.”
MOLLYHOCKED. Broken beyond repair. As in, “Loaned the F150 to my numb-nut nephew Travis the other day, and the kid took it over to North Anson to go muddin’ with his friends. Now the shocks are all mollyhocked.”
PRAYER HANDLE: The knee. As in, “I knocked a prayer handle on Len’s trailer hitch, and it’s still smarting like a son of a bitch this morning.”
PRIT’NEAR: Just about, almost. As in, “Melvin prit’near had a heart attack when he saw the bill for that pantsuit I bought over to Reny’s.”
YARD ART: The wheel-less cars and nonfunctional kitchen appliances many Mainers use to decorate their front lawns. As in, “If Carl and Debbie wants to sell their trailer, they might want to get rid of that yard art first.”