Newfoundland is a province in flux, with oil and natural gas replacing the cod fisheries as the main driver of the province’s flourishing economy. Sons and daughters born on the Rock are returning from what used to be greener pastures. Craft beers and hipster coffee shops are a stone’s throw away from anywhere you may find yourself on St. John’s downtown streets.
It’s not your father’s Newfoundland anymore. But some things never change.
The province has its own unique dialect, and a variety of sayings that aren’t just colourful, but reflect the province’s rich history. If these words and phrases are part of your vocabulary, chances are you’re a true Newfoundlander.
1. Come From Away
While you’ll hear this one across Atlantic Canada, it’s safe to say at this point that Newfoundlanders are known for the phrase. A Come From Away, or CFA, is anybody who is from “away”—that is, not Newfoundland and Labrador. Being referred to as a CFA might just be a statement of fact, but it’s not always a compliment.
On the other hand, a bayman—who is not necessarily a man—is someone from one of Newfoundland and Labrador’s many small outport towns along its long coastline.
The mosquitoes in Newfoundland and Labrador are nothing to take lightly—in fact, they’re so large and hungry that they’ve earned their own name here. A nipper is a large and hungry mosquito, and come June, you might hear locals saying “The nippers are out.” That means it’s time to stock up on DEET.
If you’re cranky, irritated, annoyed, or otherwise out of sorts, you could be described as crooked. “I went to put milk in my coffee but someone put an empty carton back in the fridge. I was some crooked!”
This is what happens when crooked escalates. If your mother tells you she’s savage with you, you know you’re in trouble because that means she’s mad. You might also describe someone or something as savage if it is somehow way out of the bounds of civil behaviour.
This is technically a short form of the word “boy” but b’y can be used for any gender, in a variety of circumstances. It adds a bit of emphasis to a statement, but what that indicates will change based on the tone and context. “Yes, b’y” could mean you’re excited, skeptical, surprised, mocking, or a variety of other things.
If you’re pissed off, disgusted, or annoyed in this province, you’re rotted. You’ll often hear this one used to describe someone’s feelings about the weather. “It’s snowing in May and I’m rotted about it.”
8. Shed party
When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family visited Fogo Island, off Newfoundland’s northeastern coast, there was a rumour on Twitter that the PM had been spotted at a shed party. This is not as unlikely as it sounds like it might be. A shed party is simply a party in a shed, and it’s a common occurrence in the province’s outport towns.
If you are going to chinch something full, that means you’ll be putting things in it until you cannot possibly fit anything else. If you yourself are chinched, you likely just had a very large and satisfying meal.
If someone tells you it’s a “mauzy ol’ day today” that means it’s muggy, damp, foggy, and misty—you know, great spring weather. This can often be used to describe the weather in St. John’s, Canada’s windiest, foggiest, and wettest capital city.
Even meteorologists use this one in NL. RDF is an acronym for rain drizzle fog, which is a weather combination that shows up pretty regularly in this province—in and around St. John’s in particular. If it’s an RDF day, you’ll want to wear a raincoat. (No umbrella though; St. John’s is so windy that there’s no point.)
12. Full tilt
When Newfoundlanders get into something, they really get into it—and a party is no exception. If a shindig is going full tilt, you know it’s a good time. But you can apply this to other situations too, like running full tilt if you’re really moving in a hurry.
13. Hard case
Some people are just going to do what they’re going to do. In Newfoundland and Labrador, such people would probably be called hard cases: the kind who are too stubborn or determined to change their minds. A hard case isn’t really someone who is bad, per se, just a person who is going to do what they want come hell or high water.
14. Best kind
“Best kind” is a more lyrical way of saying that you’re great. How are you feeling today? “Oh, best kind!” The sun’s actually out! “Yes, best kind outside today.” Have you met Dave’s new girlfriend? “Oh yeah, she’s best kind.” It has a lot of applications.
If you stop in at a NL convenience store and the cashier calls you “me ducky,” don’t be alarmed. It’s a common term of endearment in Newfoundland and Labrador, along with “maid,” or “me old cock,” or “sweetie,” or “captain,” or any other number of affectionate terms that you could hear from everyone, from your restaurant server to your grandmother, regardless of age or gender.
This is a term you have likely heard before, and maybe used yourself, but it’s one best avoided. Some Newfoundlanders take Newfie or Newf as just a shorthand, and others might use it themselves, but bristle a bit when they hear it from a mainlander. But many people, especially of older generations, still remember when these terms were quite pejorative and would be very offended to be called a Newfie.