Catch A Crab & Gorm

an excerpt from Maine Lingo: Boiled Owls, Billdads, & Wazzats by John Gould

CATCH A CRAB  To mishandle oars while rowing so that there is a splash of water. Mainers transfer the term to any mistake, error, bungling, or gory miscue.

GORM  Pronounced gawm. A favorite Maine word of delightfully obscure origin meaning to behave in a stupid, awkward manner. It is also a noun: a clumsy oaf. And an adjective: gormy and gorming. The word and its derivatives are heard in several English dialects and also in Tennessee, but not with the nuances of Maine. In England, they have the word gormless, which means nothing to a Mainer. Gorm and its derivatives have two meanings: one, “to behave in a stupid manner, to stare or gape”; the other, “to smudge or smear, especially with something sticky or greasy.” Mainers use gorm both ways. A boy with two left hands is a gorm; but a recipe for red-flannel hash says to “mix it loose but not gormy.” A mother may call at her son, “Get your big gormin’ hands out o’ that cookie jar!” A man who bungles a job has gormed it. Anybody who stumbles over his own feet is gormy. The illustrative colloquy runs thus:

“Ain’t he the boy broke your plow, smashed your cart, lost the 40-quart can down the well, and got your Edie in a family way?”


Gormy cuss, ain’t he?”