Us prairie dwellers have more in common than we sometimes care to admit. From great expanses of land to a preference for the superior flavours of Old Dutch potato chips, Manitobans, Albertans, and Saskatchewanians share a great deal in the ways of customs and culture, not the least of which is a regional dialect that is all our own.
Gibbled is a word to described something (or someone) that is awkwardly broken or maimed in some way.
“His bike was gibbled beyond repair after Martha backed over it with the minivan.”
Rig pig in the patch
Good thing prairie dwellers have a sense of humour! Rig pig is an unfortunate-sounding expression for someone who works on an oil drilling rig. The patch is a broad term for the oil industry.
A: “How do you know Candace?”
B: “Oh, we both work in the patch. She and I are rig pigs.”
This is a western Canadian term for a freshwater walleye (definitely not a pickerel, which is a whole other species of fish). The fact that it’s completely incorrect has never deterred us from using it!
“Mark and Milly went out fishing and came back with two pickerel for supper.”
You won’t be calling ‘Batter Up’ at a Prairie dugout. These manmade ponds are ideal for livestock and, well, breeding mosquitoes.
“The herd grazed near the dugout.”
Gitch/Gotch/Gonch are one’s boxers, panties, tighty-whities or briefs. Here in the heart of Canada where winter isn’t so much a season as way of life, underwear is far too broad of a term. It might mean the t-shirt one wears under their Carhartts, a zippered full-length onesie meant to wear under one’s snowsuit, or the extra layer of insulation that one wears on their legs. A separate term just for one’s skivvies is entirely necessary.
“John gave the neighbours a surprise when he went to adjust the front sprinkler in his gitch.”
The LB/the LC
It would be so much work to say the phrase ‘the liquor board/liquor commission store’ in its entirety so prairie dwellers have seen fit to abbreviate it into this much shorter (and cooler) acronym.
“Could you bring a six-pack to the Grey Cup party? There’s an LB downtown.”
Coffee Row is an expression for the informal gathering of seniors at the local café for a cup of coffee with a side of gossip! If you want to know what’s ‘trending’ or ‘viral’ in any small town on any given day, this is where you’ll find out all about it!
“Joe heard the firetruck go out at 2am. He heard from Mike at Coffee Row that one of the Smith’s granaries had caught fire during the lightning storm.”
I’d love to tell you that there’s some sort of mysterious matrix, known as the grid, that entraps unwilling citizens into living in the ridiculously harsh climates of the Canadian prairies, but it is not so. The grid is simply a term for a gravel road.
“The Fisher farm is 8 miles west of town on the grid.”
Move over Queen Victoria! It may be your birthday long weekend, but here in the prairies it’s simply called May Long and we celebrate by doing one of two things: planting our vegetable gardens and crossing our fingers that there won’t be a frost until September or putting the dock in at the cabin and holing up for the rest of the unseasonably cold weekend playing Kaiser.
“Darren didn’t have plans for May Long so he bummed a ride to the Lake.”
Lounging around in our thongs
Inspires quite the image, no? Less so when you know a prairie dweller is simply talking about her flip-flops.
“Jerry packed her sunscreen, hat, and thongs and headed to the beach.”
This term is quite literal. A bush party is a gathering of one’s friends and acquaintances at a pasture-like destination almost always involving a camp fire and alcoholic beverages. This term is something of a unifier between Manitoba and the westerly provinces who can’t seem to agree on whether their Friday night plans will include a ‘social’ or a ‘caberet’.
“I couldn’t find Eric at the bush party. He was making out with Amy in the trees.”
The word ‘cottage’ sounds a little glamourous for that rustic but homey property one’s family frequents at the lake. Here in Canada’s heartland, the word ‘cabin’ is as accurate a descriptor as any.
“Mark forgot the life jackets and fishing rods at the cabin.”
Uptown or downtown is where prairie dwellers from the sticks go for groceries. It seems that the provinces can’t quite agree on standard term, and this dispute is confounded by the fact that there are no actual hills to speak of.
“The kids were swinging from the rafters, so Mary sent them downtown for milk.”
If there’s one thing we have in spades in these three provinces, it’s class. And our use of the word ‘spitz’ (also a popular brand) in place of sunflower seeds is the perfect display.
“Carl offered to share his spitz with me at the ball game.”
After a long-winded doorknob conversation about politics or the weather, these are the words a prairie resident uses to indicate their imminent departure to a friend, an au revoir of sorts.
“Well, I better head’er. I have to pick up Emma at dance class.”
Here on the prairies, we josh about the things that do and don’t define us as individual provinces or as a collective, but we never go to bed angry. At the end of the day, it’s all settled on the sports field. We may choose sides in the NHL’s Battle of Alberta, and no doubt we’ll have our favourite to win the Banjo Bowl, but if there’s one thing we can all agree on… it’s that REAL fans wear watermelons on their heads.