Dear Nancy: In court the other day an attorney, trying to make his way through dense medical testimony, confessed to the doctor he was “nummah than a hake” when it comes to medical words. Say what? Isn’t a hake a fish? Signed: Buffaloed in Maine
Dear Buffaloed in Maine: A hake is a food fish, similar to cod, found in the waters of the North Atlantic off the coast of New England. It lives in really cold waters, hence it’s numb. According to MollySmiles at www.city-data.com/forum/maine, the expression “number than a hake” means “really, really stupid”. (Gotta love my quality references, eh?)
“Number than a hake” is a regionalism; you’ll probably only hear it in Maine. But it loses its local color if you ignore the wonderful Maine accent that produces “nummah than a hake.” As the down-easters say it, the accent is on num and the ah kinda trails off. Try it. With a little practice, you can even sound authentic yourself: “You can’t get theyah from heeyah.” The accent is on they and hee and the ah trails off. And can’t rhymes with want.
Local dialects can be fun to hear, but how should we transcribe them? A recent JCR article advises using the proper English spelling — unless the speaker was intentionally making a point of his mispronunciation, like Gotcha. You wouldn’t transcribe that as “Got you” cuz that’d miss the point and, frankly, look silly. So I’d opt for “nummah than a hake” in my transcript, because “number” just doesn’t cut it.
I’m sure the locals in Bah Habbah would approve!