Where in the world would you be likely to find sculch in your dooryard, or ask for just a dite of cream in your coffee? Martha has the answers in this minicast about some distinctive regional terms.

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Here’s a linguistic puzzle for you.

Suppose you stopped by my home and said, “Martha, did you know there’s sculch in your dooryard?” That’s right, sculch in my dooryard.

So, in what part of the country would you expect to hear these terms?

The answer? We’d probably be in New England, and most likely Maine. There the word “sculch” means “trash.” And in much of New England and part of New York State, you’ll often hear people refer to the yard near a house as the dooryard.

Over the next few weeks, I want to talk with you about regional expressions like these. Terms that will be perfectly familiar to those who live in one part of the country, but mystifying — or even jarring — to those living somewhere else. Or, as they say in Maine, to someone who is “from away”— that is, anywhere other than their state.

Another word you’ll find mainly in Maine is dite. It’s spelled either D-I-T-E or D-I-G-H-T. In Maine, the word “dite” means “just a little, a smidge.”

As in, “Oh, give me just a dite of butter,” or “Move over just a dite, will you?” It appears the term “dite” comes from a Scots word that means the same thing, and derives in turn, from a Dutch word that means “a small coin.”

Well, that’s just a dite about some of the words you’ll hear in New England, especially in Maine. We want to know what regional expressions you found jarring the first time you heard them. Email us at words@waywordradio.org.

By the way, if you want to hear some recordings of the distinctive Maine accent, check these out.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go clean out the sculch someone left in my dooryard.

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32 Responses

  1. Angela says:

    Thank you for explaining the meaning of dooryard. Would that refer to the front yard and the back yard, or just the front yard? I moved to Maine about four years ago, and until today I thought dooryard was a puzzling Canadian expression. I never could get anyone to explain it to me. I’ve never heard anyone here in Aroostook County use the words “sculch” or “dite,” however. My husband grew up here and he’s never heard of them, either. As a person “from away,” I am always eager to learn more about why the people here say certain things. Please keep the New England lingo coming!smile

  2. UhClem says:

    I grew up in Maine and the expression I frequently heard was “culch” rather than “sculch”.

  3. Guamguy56 says:

    I agree. I’ve heard culch all my life but I’ve never heard sculch. I sure would like to know where you guys (Grant and Martha) got it.

    A few other little phrases and words:

    I’ll show him where the bear walked through the buckwheat. (Explain something that should be obvious.)

    The County (The other name for Aroostook County)

    ‘Sled (a snowmobile) You a-goin’ out on your sled tonight?

    Drive truck (It’s a job. The speaker is a truck driver.)

    Camp (a house on a lake, river, or in the woods. It might have power and plumbing or might be rustic and have no conveniences and an outhouse.)

    Deer Meat (Those from away call it venison.)

    Kangaroo (Poached, as in illegally shot, moose)

    A couple of exchanges between me and my father.

    How are you doing?
    Still fogging a mirror.

    What time is it?
    I think it’s springtime. (This was after he retired and took off his watch.)

  4. Guamguy56 says:

    Oh, and there is another that you cannot use in any way around polite society. When two men are working on a carpentry project or repairing a boat one may ask the other to cut the next piece a little longer. He will ask for it to be a c**t hair longer (or shorter). The other man may ask if he means a blonde one or a black one. Blonde is considered thinner.

    I don’t know where dad got this one but the few times he would cook supper for us he always told us he was going to make ‘slumgullion’.

  5. Matt Holck says:

    Scultch sonds like a combination between scum and mulchprehaps were a yard has been left an unkept open pile

    scowl also comes to mind.

  6. >> Please keep the New England lingo coming! >>

    Will do, Angela — keep your ears peeled!

  7. Guamguy56, these are great! Did you and your father grow up in Maine?

    And yes, as UhClem noted, it's often “culch” rather than its variant, “sculch.” Just a dite more about “sculch” here in the Dictionary of American Regional English.

  8. Amy T says:

    Thank you! I’ve always heard/used “dite,” though I always imagined it to be “dight,” even when I was very little. I have been very cautious about using it, as I don’t think most people I know use it!

    I was going to call and ask about it, but you always ask how the words would be spelled, and I couldn’t decide whether “dight” was okay!

    Hooray!

  9. Matt Holck says:

    sounds like slight*
    or perhaps dab
    dot

    *the s is next to the d on the keyboard
    or perhaps the “s” slid into the “l” and the resulting collision looked like a “d”

  10. Amy, glad to hear it! Yes, either spelling's cool. So, did you grow up in Maine?

  11. Amy T says:

    Yes, I’ve lived in Maine my whole life. I have more questions about Maine words; maybe I’ll give you a call!

  12. Stoppel says:

    The Dutch word for 'Dite' or 'Dight' is 'Duit' an ancient old copper coin.

    We have a saying: “Geen rooie duit” (No red dite), which means 'Nothing'.

  13. akaase says:

    After listening to this mini-cast, I remember there being a “Dight Avenue” here in Minneapolis! What is really interesting is that this is a very narrow street that runs parallel and between a very major thoroughfare and a busy city street (Hiawatha and Minnehaha Avenues, respectively). On some blocks of Dight Ave., it's an alley. On other blocks it's a street with parked cars.

  14. >>> Yes, I’ve lived in Maine my whole life. I have more questions about Maine words; maybe I’ll give you a call!

    Please do, Amy! As you can see, we love talking about this stuff, and I'm sure we (our listeners included) have plenty to learn from you as well.

  15. >We have a saying: “Geen rooie duit” (No red dite), which means 'Nothing'.

    Good to know, Stoppel. Dank u. So, how would you use it in a sentence?

  16. >>> After listening to this mini-cast, I remember there being a “Dight Avenue” here in Minneapolis! What is really interesting is that this is a very narrow street that runs parallel and between a very major thoroughfare and a busy city street (Hiawatha and Minnehaha Avenues, respectively).<<<

    Akaase, thanks for the photo. It'd be nice to know more about the origin of that street's name.

  17. Bill 5 says:

    Amy T: Yes, I’ve lived in Maine my whole life. I have more questions about Maine words; maybe I’ll give you a call!

    Reminds me of one of the fabulous tales from “Burt & I” (tales from Down East) by Marshall Dodge & Robert Bryan, “Arnold Bunker Testifies”.  (We lived down south, in Acton, Mass., and my Dad had Maine as part of his sales territory.  I got the LP record.  Think coastal Maine accent…)

    “I was doing the swearin' in down at the courthouse last winter, when they brought up that old fella to the stand.  He'd been witness to the accident out on the Otter Cove Road.  Summer people, speedin' along, had run over one of Oscar Glover's cows.  Same one that'd been clawed by a bear, two winters ago.  I got the witness up before the judge.”

    “What's your name?”

    “Arnold Bunker”

    “How old are you?”

    “'Bout 85.”

    “Where do you live?”

    “Bailey Island Way.”

    “You live there all your life?”

    “Not yet.”

  18. Bill 5 says:

    I can't resist one more from “Burt & I”:  (“Mad Dog”)

    “Why you so het up, Tom?”

    “Oh, I had to shoot my dog.”

    “Well, was he mad?”

    “Guess he weren't so damn pleased!”

  19. rani says:

    I wonder whether the Malay (Malaysia’s national language) word ‘duit’ which means money, was adapted from the Dutch’s ‘duit’? The Dutch invaded Indonesia once and ‘duit’ in Bahasa Indonesia means money too. Interesting!

    Stoppel said:

    Post edited 10:17AM – Feb-05-09 by Stoppel


    The Dutch word for ‘Dite’ or ‘Dight’ is ‘Duit’ an ancient old copper coin.

    We have a saying: “Geen rooie duit” (No red dite), which means ‘Nothing’.


  20. Stoppel says:

    Hi,

    You are right, the word for money comes from the Dutch word Duit.

    There is a list of Dutch words that are used in Bahasa Indonesia you might find it here

    http://reizen-en-recreatie.infonu.nl/vertaal/3902-nederlandse-woorden-in-de-indonesische-taal.html#A

    Dutch words can be found all over the world in many cultures since the Dutch merchants traded all over the world and left their words behind.

  21. Stoppel says:

    martha said:

    >We have a saying: “Geen rooie duit” (No red dite), which means 'Nothing'.

    Good to know, Stoppel. Dank u. So, how would you use it in a sentence?


     It is the equivalent to “not have/be without a penny to one's name”

    “Ik moet de huur betalen maar ik heb geen rooie duit” ( “I need to pay the rent but I don't have a red penny”)

  22. Abby says:

    I loved hearing sculch in a minicast! Everyone who took the ISTEP (Indiana’s standardized test) in the mid-80s remembers it from the instructions of the memory section. Every year we got to hear: “A baloo is a bear, sculch is junk, a yonker is a young man, to wuzzle means to mix.”

  23. flashart says:

    We moved to Maine in 1975 and Bert and I was the first intro to the “Downeastah” language. Every year it seems I discover more corners of the state with different dialects. On another show you referenced some town names in Maine such as Madrid (pronounced MAD rid) and not sure what the other one was, but I heard one the other day, Vienna (pronounced VY enna). I grew up with dite and dooryard and I seem to remember sculch but it was not very commonly used.

    Stove is my favorite up here. Whenever something is beaten up, say for example that someone crashes their truck (no self respecting Mainah owns a cah) into a tree, a passerby might say something like “you sure stove your truck up.” or “your truck is all stove  up.” Any ideas where that came from?

  24. dilettante says:

    The Compact OED has it as past or past participle of stave, and verb definition 1 fits what you describe for usage. I've also seen it in the form something or someone “stove X's head in”, some examples here.

  25. Bill 5 says:

    Not exactly down east, but, like MAD-rid, there's BER-lin NH.  (Actually, BEH-lin).

    And while we're talking posts, why on AWW WORDS do we do a Math problem to post — why not a word problem??  Grant, an ideal problem to mix your loves of computers and words…

  26. EmmettRedd says:

    flashart said:

    … On another show you referenced some town names in Maine such as Madrid (pronounced MAD rid) and not sure what the other one was, but I heard one the other day, Vienna (pronounced VY enna)….


    New Madrid, MO (site of the assumed greater than magnitude 8 earthquakes in 1812 or so) is also pronounced MAD rid.

    Emmett

  27. Glenn says:

    Street names offer still more such local pronunciations. I am aware of several from various places, but I will offer one from my home town and my personal experience: Salmon St. Pronounced /SAL-mun/ with a distinct “L” sound. The first syllable rhymes with “pal”. Still, the fish is not typically pronounced likewise there.

  28. ArteNow says:

    Then there’s Cairo, MO (pronounced KAY-ro, like the syrup).

    Iowa also has a MAD-rid (Madrid) and a Ne-VAY-duh (Nevada).

    This one isn’t an odd twin to a famous city, but in Tennessee I ran across a town called Sharon, which the locals pronounced SHAY-ron. I have no idea if women named Sharon are also SHAY-rons.

  29. EmmettRedd says:

    As a Missourian, I am only familiar with Cairo (KAY-ro), Illinois. We also have our Nevada (ne-VAY-duh), south of Kansas City.

    And, I did not think to mention, that down close to New Madrid is Hayti, MO. It is not pronounced like the Caribbean country but as HAY-tye.

    Emmett

  30. Ron Draney says:

    ArteNow said:

    This one isn’t an odd twin to a famous city, but in Tennessee I ran across a town called Sharon, which the locals pronounced SHAY-ron. I have no idea if women named Sharon are also SHAY-rons.


    Are not the “Sharon” in the phrase “rose of Sharon”, and the surname of the former Israeli prime minister, pronounced with the accent on the second syllable?

  31. Glenn says:

    I have only heard “Rose of Sharon” with “Sharon” pronounced with initial stress. I do pronounce the Israeli Prime Miniter’s name with stress on the second syllable, and with vowel shifts.

    I have some evidence that the initial stress pronunciation has been around in America for a few hundred years. William Billings, the first American composer, wrote a great song (lyrics below). Not only does the prosody demand a pronunciation with initial stress, but Billings’s music demands it, since the syllable “Sha” gets the first beat of the musical measure.

    It is quite beautiful.

    “Rose of Sharon” (1778) by William Billings

    I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valley;
    I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valley;
    As the lily among the thorns, so is my love among the daughters,
    As the apple tree, the apple tree among the trees of the wood,
    so is my beloved among the sons, so is my beloved among the sons.
    I sat down under his shadow with great delight,
    And his fruit was sweet to my taste;
    And his fruit, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.

    He brought me to the banqueting house
    His banner over me was love,
    He brought me to the banqueting house
    His banner over me was love.

    Stay me with flagons,
    Comfort me with apples, for I am sick,
    for I am sick, for I am sick of love;
    I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem,
    By the roses, and by the hinds of the field,
    That you stir not up,
    That you stir not up,
    That you stir not up,
    that you stir not up, nor awake, awake,
    awake, awake, my love, till he please.

    The voice of my beloved,
    Behold! he cometh,
    leaping upon the mountains skipping,
    skipping, skipping, skipping,
    leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.

    The voice of my beloved,
    Behold! he cometh,
    leaping upon the mountains skipping,
    skipping, skipping, skipping,
    leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.

    My beloved spake,
    And said unto me,
    Rise up,
    Rise up,
    Rise up,
    Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
    For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.
    For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone,
    the rain is over, the rain is over and gone.
    For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.

    Musical Score

  32. ArteNow says:

    EmmettRedd – I stand corrected…it’s been a lot of years since I drove through Cairo and I remembered it wrong.

    The thing I found odd about the SHAY-ron pronunciation was not that the stress was on the first syllable (although it was very heavily stressed), but that the vowel was long and the second syllable was pronounced very distinctly, like the man’s name. The two parts were so distinct it was like they were 2 separate words.

    I would normally say it more like Sheh-r’n with about equal stress on both syllables, maybe slightly more on the first, and almost no vowel in the second.

    And I would say the Prime Minister’s name sheh-RONE

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