Newfoundland and Labrador Feature

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Newfoundland English

Newfoundland English is full of words brought to this rocky land centuries ago, when the fertile fishing grounds lured sailors and settlers from all over Europe and the British Isles. In the late 16th century, colonies of people came here with very little—except, of course, for their culture, in the form of words, sayings, and songs. Because of the province's relative isolation, accents remained strong and the archaic words took root to become Newfoundland English.

There are words for everything, from food terms like scoff (a big meal), touton (fried bread dough), and duff (a pudding), to words to describe the fickle weather, such as leeward (a threatening storm), airsome (bracing cold), and mauzy (foggy and damp). "The sun is splitting the rocks!" is something you might hear on a fine day.

There are also a plethora of terms that relate to the fishing industry: a flake is where you dry fish, perhaps after having caught them on your dory, a small rowboat. A bedlamer is a young seal. And, of course, there are plenty of words to describe all manner of people: a gatcher is a show-off and a cuffer tells tall tales.

A drung is a narrow road, a scuff is a dance, to coopy means to crouch down, and if you're going for a twack, you're window-shopping. If you're from Upalong, that means you're not from here.

To help develop an ear for the provincial dialects, pick up a copy of the Dictionary of Newfoundland English (www.heritage.nf.ca/dictionary), first published in 1982; it's now in its second edition and has more than 5,000 words.

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