October 09, 2013
NORTH COUNTRY – Have you ever heard the words "pee-shoes" or "mee-noos" used often? If you have, then more than likely you are from French-Canadian descent or from the North Country. If you are from here, have you ever said a word, phrase or an expression in another city or state and had someone look at you like you have three heads?

The Berlin Dictionary is an illustrated book full of words and nicknames edited by Berlin native Rachelle Beaudoin written by about 70 contributors. The words are commonly used in the area, but not so commonly used in the rest of the country. Most of the words derive from French-Canadian language, and since we are close to the border, it is natural that some of the lingo has been incorporated into ours. A lot of the language from Berlin natives has been broken in a way that mixes American-English and French-Canadian. This combination of languages has been so called "Frenglish." The Berlin Dictionary can be purchased at Savoir Flare on Main Street in Berlin, The Coos County Historical Society, and Wonderland Bookstore in Gorham.

Besides the Canadian influence, some southern lingo and dialect, such as from Boston, has been incorporated. Someone from here, as well as Boston, may say "Pak the cah in the garage," which means "park the car in the garage." It is apparent that the annunciation of the letter "R" is being omitted in such broken dialect. Also, the expression "wicked awesome" is another commonly used expression used both in the northern and southern parts of the northeast part of the country. The word "wicked" is used as an adverb followed by an adjective as an expression.

There are many nicknames for products and establishment that might not be recognizable in other areas of the country. It is common up here to refer ground beef as "hamburg," yet it is not the correct word. If someone says "we are going to eat at 'the yard' or 'yoko's'," it would be in reference to The Millyard restaurant and Yokohama restaurant. Other locally popular nicknames for establishments include "The Arena (Notre Dame Arena)," and "The Pub (Fagin's Pub)."

Many prepared foods up here may be unknown to others around the country. Chinese pie (pâté chinois in French) is a Canadian casserole made with ground beef on the bottom, layered with corn and mashed potatoes on top. It is said to be a variation of shepherd's pie. Another popular North Country pie is meat pie, commonly served in other parts of the world, but not the US. Of course, it is popular in Canada. And, because of the Japanese restaurant, Yokohama, located in Gorham, Kushikatsu, or "kushies" are a local favorite. It is Japanese style battered deep-fried chicken on a stick with onions and green peppers. After Yokohama made it popular, restaurants like Sinibaldi's started adding it to the menu. The common sauce used to flavor "kushies," introduced up here by Yokohama, is known as bulldog sauce, and it can be sold at our IGA grocery store. Poutine is also added to menus all over the North Country and Canada. The ingredients include French fries, brown gravy, and melted cheese.

Canadian lingo is very strong in the North Country. If you have been here long enough, chances are you have heard an aunt and an uncle referred to as "ma (feminine 'my' in French) Tante" and "mon (masculine 'my' in French) Oncle." Most of the country has the pronunciation "ant" for aunt, yet, up here, it is often pronounced as "ahnt." Other common words used up here are "piton (pronounced 'pee-toe')" meaning a button or switch, "pitou (pronounced "pee-too") meaning a puppy, "minou (pronounced 'meenoo')" meaning a cat, and "pichous (pronounced 'pee-shoes')" meaning slippers. The expressive exclamation "eee!" is used quite often and usually it is followed by "boy" or many different English slang and Canadian cuss words. It is used similarly to the English exclamation word "oh!"

Oh, and, if you hear someone say "up the riva," it probably means heading north towards the thirteen mile woods along the Androscoggin.

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