things that decay, things that rust (erlking) wrote,
things that decay, things that rust
erlking

Some of my favourite Newfoundland words and phrases

Prompted by omlaboombleigh, who added a similar list of Brooklyn words and phrases to his response to the recent Dialect Meme.

Sometimes I get help with examples from The Dictionary of Newfoundland English which has a lovely searchable online presence. Others are just my explanation!

I only chose words which I would naturally use myself.

NFLD Words & Phrases



landwash: Generally, the shoreline, but more specifically, the area between the high tide and low tide lines. You can see the whole landwash at low tide. I think this is both poetic and accurate! It's my favourite NFLD word (I only realized it was a NFLD word a few years ago).

merry-begot: Another favourite. A merry-begot is, simply put, a bastard! As in, a baby born outside of wedlock. I think it is one of our language's most colourful and poetic words. "Born from fun," is what it says to me. Merry-begot.

sleveen: a sly, untrustworthy fellow. I believe it is from the Irish. "Don't turn your back on him, he's a pure sleveen." Not always that sinister; sometimes it just means a trickster.

streel: an untidy and disorganized person, usually a woman. It applies to both grooming/dress and house-cleaning. The dictionary doesn't reflect this but I've always felt there was a bit of a sexual undertone to this word. "She's an awful streel around the house." A person can also be streelish. I believe these are Irish derivations.

birch broom in the fits: Untidy or unruly hair. A streel's hair may be described as such. "I'm in some state! Me hair is like the birch broom in the fits!"

angishore or hangashore: A lazy good-for-nothing who refuses to work; a weak, sickly person; or an unlucky person deserving pity. Usually male. Angishore is also derived from Irish. It has become hangashore in a lot of regions, leading to the false etymology "someone who hangs back on the shore" — as, in old NFLD, most of a man's work is done out on the water.

rogue: A thief or outlaw, as it is in general English, but also used as a verb for 'to steal.' "I'm gonna rogue this chocolate bar!" "How could he afford that? I s'pose he rogued it." This may not be NFLD—anyone want to correct me?

hand: Someone who does an action, originally from hands on a ship (all hands on deck!). This is difficult to explain without examples. "You're some hand to sing" means you are a good singer. "He's a grand hand to dance" means he is a good dancer. Come to think of it, I generally only know it as a positive expression. "I'm a [positive adjective] hand [infintive verb]." "My, he's a wonderful hand to write!"

whore's eggs: "You may know them as sea urchins, ma'am" (a true definition and also the title of a book by Newfoundland's master satirist, Ray Guy). In all honesty, this phrase does not come up very often — but how could I leave it out?

mauzy: Weather that is warm, humid, foggy, with little or no wind. "It's a mauzy day."

dout: "To extinguish a fire; turn off an electric light." Dout the lights when you leave the room.

firk: I only recently learned this was a NFLD word. It basically means to poke or scratch at something. Chickens firk the ground. There is an undertone of searching in it, too. You can firk through your laundry to find your favourite shirt.

pishogue, also pisherogue: Superstitions, folk tales and ghost stories ("old foolishness").

bridge: A verandah, step, or deck, attached to a house. "It was such a nice day, I sat out on the bridge with my book."

Mother in Law door:
Front doors are almost never used in Newfoundland, so when housing plans from the mainland started coming here, many people never bothered to put steps up to the raised front doors. I remember these being common even in the 90's, but they are becoming more rare now.

poisoned: frustrated with something. "To cause to be annoyed, irritated, disappointed or completely disgusted." I quite like this example, from the dictionary: "There's crowds of people goes to work every day and poisons theirselves so they can live a half-decent life and get something for their families"

crooked: does not mean dishonest, but rather cantankerous or cranky. Crookedness may either a temporary affliction (I'm crooked 'cause I didn't get to go to Town) or a permanent state (Aunt Mary's the crookedest of all the family). "You're some crooked arse" is not a comment about your anatomy; it means you are being difficult and unpleasant.

Town: Since I used it above, I may as well gloss it. When a Newfoundlander says 'town,' there is no question that they mean "St. John's." "She's from Town" is not an ambiguous statement, here. People from Town are called Townies, and they are purported to be right stuck up by Baymen (anyone not from Town).

blasty: A "blasty bough" is a branch of an evergreen that has died; the needles turn red but they stay attached. So if a tree has "gone blasty" it's basically a red evergreen (you see these sometimes). Blasty boughs are extremely flammable and are great for starting a fire, versus green boughs which are reluctant to burn and produce great quantities of choking smoke when they do.

black: A protestant. "Saucy as a black!" is not racial prejudice; it's religious! from the Dictionary: "We [Roman Catholics] might have changed and got broadminded, but they're still as bad as ever they were, the black bastards!"

badness: mischevious intent. "I hid before he came in the room, just for badness!"

ampery: Visibly infected, red and swollen. "The cut was all red and ampery." I grew up saying "ampry."

glutch: to swallow quickly and forcefully. From the Dictionary: "If a person has hiccups and wants to get rid of them, he can do so by taking nine glutches of water"

awful: remarkable or exceptional. I almost didn't include it, as the word does have some of this function in general English ("that's awful nice!") but the example in the Dictionary was too good to pass up: She said, 'He sent me an awful present.' I thought 'that's really looking a gift horse in the face' until she said, 'He sent me six hens, and they was three dollars each. My, 'twas some good of him, wasn't it?'

rampse: to wrestle or play-fight. My grandmother would constantly tell me and my brother to stop rampsin', because it made her nervous.

rory-eyed: Furious, in a fit of anger. If we continued to rampse after Nan said to stop, Dad would get rory-eyed.

slob ice: When a body of water is not quite frozen, but there is a layer of slushy half-formed ice on top of it. that slushy half-formed ice is "slob ice."

sin: Anything even mildly unfortunate, unpleasant, or unfair. "You never got to see him when he was visitin'? That's a sin!" Also, "that's a sin for you!" is a common mild admonishment. It is not meant overly literally.

maid: Any woman. My Aunts often call my mother "Betty maid." Another example: "Did many people show up?" "Yes, maid, we had three dozen or more!"

b'y: Contraction of "boy," said like "bye." Used to refer to any man, but is starting to become ungendered now. Import from SE Ireland, I think, because people in Waterford said it in the same way. Almost so ubiquotus and cliché (I'se da B'y) that I never included it. It also almost works like the Ontarian "eh?" "Yes b'y!" "Go on, b'y!" "What do you say to that now, b'y?"

Jackatar: A Newfoundlander of mixed French and Mi'kmaq (Micmac) descent. Not always used in a nice way. "There do be plenty of Jackatars out Stephenville way."

Shiela's Brush: Snow storm on or around March 18, the day after St. Patrick's Day. Sheila is purported to be Patrick's wife, sister, or housekeeper.

gommel: A stupid fellow. "You foolish gommel!"

Silver Thaw or Glitter: I'm gonna leave off with another poetic one. A silver thaw is basically after an ice storm, when exposed objects are covered with a coat of ice, or glitter. The dictionary entry for "glitter" also has "glitter storm," which I've never heard before but which I'm now in love with.
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  • modified from the original text

    The art of losing; filled with the intent to be lost Accept the fluster the hour badly spent. The art of losing losing farther, losing faster:…

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    So I like New Year's resolutions. It's a good annual opportunity to think about self-improvement. And you know, even if the initial burst of January…

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    "I don't sit in judgement of my characters. They live their lives, I live mine." - Mavis Gallant