07/30/2015 03:05 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Your Guide to the Maine Accent

What does it mean to talk like a Mainer? The answer is wicked complicated.

Nancy Hopkins-Davisson never really heard herself until she heard herself on television. The year was 1975, and Nancy -- then just Hopkins, a high-school student born and raised on the island of North Haven -- was one of three young people interviewed for a Maine Public Broadcasting documentary about island life. Later, when she watched the film on TV, she was struck by an interview with the father of her friend Kim. She'd never noticed the way he talked.

A couple of minutes later, her segment flitted by. "I don't believe I'll be coming back to North Haven," she heard herself saying, "because there's no job opportunities for women, unless it's in the summertime." Her hair was blonde and curly, her nose pert, her eyes down, and her r's so soft that "North Haven" was "Nahwth Haven" and "summertime" was "summahtime." Until that moment, she hadn't realized how she sounded -- not really, anyway -- or how anyone else on the island sounded, for that matter. Then a thought occurred to her: We have a lot of summer people here. How do they think we sound?

Full story (and 3 more Maine accent animations)!