By Brian Lee
Maine – I moved here after spending a year-and-a-half in Boston and the 22 years before that in Florida, where I was born and grew up. My move has required some personal adjustments, which I anticipated. But the temperature hasn’t been one of them. The biggest thing about Maine I’ve had an unusually hard time getting used to is its names. Maine is brimming with a mix of both quirky and beautiful names; intimidating names that seem hard to pronounce but are easy; names that seem easy to pronounce but are actually hard; and names that seem entirely out of place. That’s where I’ll start.
In Maine, an unusual number of towns are named after places that already exist. But instead of prefacing these names with ‘New,’ as is common in the northeast and exemplified in ‘New England,’ Maine has towns simply named Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. Then there’s Poland, Naples, and Belgrade. As far as I can tell, Maine is the only place you can get from Peru to South China in under two hours, and where it only takes 45 minutes to get from Paris to Mexico.
Maine’s rich Native American history and culture are also evident in its beautiful names with too many letters for me to count – forgive me, I was an English major. I’ve traded Florida’s ‘Loxahatchee,’ ‘Kissimmee’ and ‘Okeechobee’ for Maine’s ‘Cobbosseecontee,’ ‘Mooselookmeguntic,’ and ‘Skowhegan.’ Because I grew up with them, Florida’s names roll off my tongue, but it seems there’s nothing I can do to pronounce Vacationland’s names like a true Mainer.
Maine also has names like ‘Androscoggin,’ and ‘Piscataquis’ which look challenging, but I can pronounce. I’ve also been told by locals that, for some reason, I don’t even pronounce the easy names correctly, including ‘Saco,’ (pronounced SOCK-oh, I say SAY-co) and Sebago (pronounced se-BAY-go, I say se-BAH-go). There’s also ‘Penobscot’ and ‘Presumpscot,’ which I often confuse. And then there’s a county called ‘Aroostook,’ which I’m told is colloquially referred to as just ‘The County,’ so that’s what I’ve been calling it. But I still haven’t gotten an explanation as to why that is.
Although I’ve only lived here a few months, I’ve grown to love Maine. Even with all its quirks, I consider it my real home – even if I’ll never be able to pronounce ‘Sagadahoc’ correctly.