Contrary to popular belief, life in the Maritimes is pretty similar to the rest of Canada—our parties just tend to end up in the kitchen. And some of us still know Gaelic. And yeah, we really do have a lot of pubs.
But the Maritimes’ mix of Scottish, Irish, English, and French influences have spawned a few unique dialects and added some interesting words and phrases to our vocabulary over the years. Spend any amount of time in the Maritimes (that’s Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick), and you’re sure to hear at least a couple things you probably won’t hear anywhere else.
“Sook” in the Maritimes basically means the same thing as “sulk” does everywhere else. It can be a noun or a verb.
“Don’t be such a sook.” or “Stop sooking, it’s just a papercut.”
Although we usually use “some” the same way the rest of Canada does (“I want some pie”) some of us also use it as a modifier to show exactly how strongly we feel about something.
“That car was going some fast.”
If you’ve got a dooryard, you’ve got a front yard.
“My house is the one with the big pine tree in the dooryard.”
Don’t know someone’s name? No problem, “Buddy” works just as well—whether you’re talking to them or about them. It’s mainly used to refer to men, though.
“Hey look, Buddy left his gloves behind.” Or “Hey Buddy, how’re you doing tonight?”
“Fussy” has a couple of different common usages, but usually if you’re “fussy,” it means you’re particular about something. In the Maritimes, if you’re “not fussy” about something, it means you don’t really like it.
“I’m not fussy about Aunt Carol’s spinach dip.”
This is “imagine” with the “i” chopped off. If you’re a Maritimer, you’re probably using it in one of two ways. You’re either exclaiming it in response to a story about something unbelievable or ridiculous, like so:
“So he ate the steak but took the rinds back to the store and told them it was too fatty. ‘Magine!”
Or you’re answering a question in the “no duh!” affirmative:
Maritimer #1: “Bob’s home from out west. Do you think you guys are going to hook up before he leaves?”
Maritimer #2: “’Magine!”
7. Bed lunch
It’s not lunch in bed—it’s just another name for a bedtime snack. “Bed lunch” isn’t used consistently all over the Maritimes; it seems to be most commonly used on Prince Edward Island.
“Do we have any cereal left? I’m going to have it for bed lunch.”
If we scoff at you, we’re probably making fun of you (that’s right, we’re not friendly all the time). But that’s common usage. If we’re scoffing something down, it means we’re eating quickly.
“I’ll be ready in a second, just let me scoff down the rest of this meatloaf.”
9. Go on!
If we say this after you’ve said something, it either means we literally don’t believe you, or you’ve said something surprising.
“School’s cancelled because of a couple of centimetres of snow? Go on!”
If someone tells you you’re stunned, there’s a pretty good chance they aren’t referring to your state of consciousness (that would be weird). They’re actually insulting your intelligence.
“You posted your email password on Twitter? Are you stunned?”
11. Come-from-away (CFA)
CFA is a term sometimes used to refer to people who have moved to a new community, usually from outside the Maritimes/Atlantic Canada. There’s no strict time limit on how long someone’s considered a CFA—it could be a few months or it could be 20 years. Note: I have never actually heard “CFA” used in a non-ironic way, but apparently it happens. “From away” seems to be a little more common.
“The guy building all the condos downtown? Oh, he’s a CFA.”
12. Boughten bread
This is quite literally bread you bought at the store. It’s mainly used to differentiate between homemade bread and Wonder bread.
“We’ve only got boughten bread left—you ate all the homemade bread yesterday.”
13. Oh me nerves!
This one’s not just a Maritimism—it’s used just as frequently (maybe more) in Newfoundland. It’s usually used to convey a high level of irritation.
“It’s been snowing for a week straight. Oh me nerves!”
Like “some,” this one can also be used as a replacement word for “very.”
“Those New Brunswick boys who took that couch through the drive-through were right drunk.”
15. The inhaled affirmative
This one goes two different ways. It can be a quick inhale in response to a question, or the word “yep” said on an inhale. Both mean yes.
Maritimer 1: “I’m not fussy about donairs. Do you like them?”
Maritimer 2: * inhaled affirmative *
Describes someone who’s angry or irritable.
“He’s some owly today. Must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed.”
17. Fill yer boots
This one basically means, “Go ahead, help yourself.”
Maritimer #1: “Mind if I finish the coffee?”
Maritimer #2: “Fill yer boots.”
Maritimers play hockey just like everyone else in Canada. But here, puck isn’t just a noun—it’s also a verb that synonymous with “hit” or “punch.”
“You think I’m stunned? Watch your mouth or I’ll puck you in the face.”
19. Blowin’ a gale
This is just what it sounds like: it’s really windy outside.
“Don’t go out unless you have to—it’s blowin’ a gale out there.”
20. Go away
“Go away” often slurs into “Go ‘way,” and it works a lot like “Go on!” It’s an exclaimed response to something unbelievable.
“The journalists’ union has been on strike for more than a year? Go ‘way!”
Call someone “stunned” or “owly”? Look out, or they might biff something at you. In the Maritimes, “biff” is synonymous with “throw”.
“Did you see that? Buddy in the Corolla just cut me off. I should biff this Timmy’s cup at him.”
22. What are you sayin’?
I know it sounds like we think you’re mumbling, but that’s not what we mean. We really want to know what you’ve been doing lately.
“Oh hey! I haven’t seen you in ages. What are you sayin’?”
23. Holy mackerel!
This one belongs to a family of exclamations that includes “Jumpin’ Jesus,” and “Lord liftin’.” It’s essentially an expression of shock or disbelief.
“Holy mackerel—look at the news! There’s a guy in New Brunswick plowing snow in a bikini!”
Nope, that’s not a typo. But it does mean exactly what you think it means: slippery.
“Careful walking out there later. The sidewalk is some slippy.”
It’s not just in Canada, regional dialects are fun for everyone: