Canadians aren’t saying ‘aboot.’ But what they are saying is much stranger

Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street, where we’ve learned that a diphthong is absolutely not an undergarment, but rather a pair of vowels squished into a single spoken syllable.

This is relevant to the Big Idea at the end of tonight’s newsletter, which explains that everything you thought you knew about the Canadian pronunciation of “about,” is wrong.

Read ahead and find out – oot? – for yourself.

Closer to the Forest City, here are some things that have caught our attention.

What we’re talking about

This week in Portland history Frank Modoc – locally known because he was from Oklahoma’s Modoc Tribe, a rarity in these parts – died of tuberculosis in 1886. He waged war against the U.S. government and then became a Quaker pacifist, and his dying wish was to go home and see his son one last time. The BDN’s Troy R. Bennett has more on this fascinating man here.

The June election day kind of sneaks up on you — Polls open tomorrow morning, when you can vote whether the state should borrow $50 million to fund research and development projects, as well as any local budget questions or races in your community. Find out where you’re supposed to vote at this link.

The Maine Senate dumped a bill decried as anti-union  — By a 20-13 vote, the Republican-controlled Senate voted against a bill that would allow labor unions to vote every other year on whether or not to dissolve. Supporters said it would give union members who feel unfairly forced to pay dues more regular chances to vote to eliminate that obligation. Opponents decried the bill as just the latest in a long line of proposals by certain Republicans to weaken labor unions.

It’s super hot out, but you can still freeze — The temperatures in Portland hit 90 for the second straight day today, which you probably know if you stepped outdoors at any point. With that in mind, the Department of Environmental Protection has some things it wants you to think about: The air quality is bad, so don’t do anything too strenuous outside in the heat, and the ocean water is still really frigid, so don’t go in for extended stretches or boating without life preservers.

Portland man wins second Tony Award — Add another one to Christopher Akerlind’s trophy case. At Sunday night’s Tony Award ceremony, Portland’s Akerlind took home the award for Best Lighting Design for a Play for his work on “Indecent.” He previously won in 2005 for his work on “The Light in the Piazza.”

Tweet of the day

From Wessie P. Thon

The Big Idea

As it turns out, Canadians never really say “aboot … their pronunciation of “about” is, linguistically, actually much stranger to U.S. ears. It’s actually closer to “a-boat,” but even that’s not quite accurate. The vowel sound Canadians use in words like “about” is, “bizarrely, not represented in American linguistics, period,” according to this piece posted by Atlas Obscura. “This is an exclusively Canadian sound, one that the vast majority of Americans not only don’t use where Canadians use it, they don’t use it at all. It’s completely foreign.”

Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email Jake Bleiberg at, or tweet @JZBleiberg.

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