PORTLAND (AP) – Linton Millett’s accent gives him away as a true Mainer – make that a Main-ah.

Millett, an 82-year-old toll collector on the Maine Turnpike, has such a distinctive Maine dialect that he will be included in a PBS documentary, “Do You Speak American?,” that looks at the varieties of American speech and how they evolved.

Millett is scheduled to be interviewed Monday by correspondent Robin MacNeil, formerly of The MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour, as MacNeil drives through the York toll plaza.

The show’s producers said they chose Millett because he sounds like a classic Mainer with his gentle drawl, dropped R’s and stretched one-syllable words. As a bonus, the producers are getting an amiable fellow and a venerable storyteller.

Millett, who lives in Scarborough and has worked on the turnpike for 20 years, said his Maine accent has always been noticeable to others, even when he joined the Army in World War II.

“When I first went into the service, they said they knew I came from Maine,” Millett said. “I guess people have an accent wherever they come from.”

Christopher Buchanan, an associate PBS producer, sought out a toll collector on the Maine Turnpike because the two-hour show is organized as a travelogue, starting in Nova Scotia and ending on the West Coast. MacNeil will travel by car, boat, train and plane.

Buchanan interviewed three toll collectors before choosing Millett. He hung out with Millett at the toll plaza at Exit 8 in Portland, where Millett works 40 hours a week as a supervisor.

“I spent 40 minutes in the toll booth with him and he had a lot to say,” Buchanan said. “We chose him for his personality, his accent and the fact that he’s been doing it for so long.”

On Monday, Millett will speak for all Mainers when he chats with MacNeil. He’s not sure what he’s going to say, but he’s not worried.

“I don’t get nervous,” Millett said. “Those days are gone.”

AP-ES-06-08-03 1316EDT



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