When people think of B.C. usually what comes to mind is outdoorsy multicultural folks enjoying a landscape of mountains, islands and ocean. All while speaking pretty much like everyone else.
While it’s easier to pick a left coaster out of the crowd based on their Gortex jacket and Blundstone boots, there are a few linguistic expressions that set us apart.
Some terms go all the way back to European contact: when Chinook Jargon was the language of the region. A mashup of Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootka), traditional Chinook, French and English, Chinook Jargon set the tone for some of the fusion-like combinations of words that were to come: things like Chinese-smorgasbords (buffets which were popular in the 1960s and 70s) and gung haggis fat choy (the greeting that happens when the Lunar New Year and Robbie Burns day collide). While other terms seem to be based on the fact we appear to be obsessed with getting outside:
Two storey, boxy houses that were designed to put maximum house on a lot. Built in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, they were considered the predecessor to the monster houses of the ’90s.
“I can’t live in a Vancouver Special, they have no character.”
Strata housing can include condos, townhouses, duplexes and even single family homes that belong to strata corporations. Most people use the term instead of condo or home owners groups.
“I need to let my strata know the window is leaking.”
If you’re not from somewhere west of the Rockies, you’re from back east. Something that’s surprised many a Manitoban.
“Yup, buddy just drove in from back east.”
Made with Earl Grey tea, vanilla and steamed milk, a London Fog is the frothy cuppa invented in Vancouver.
“London fog to go!”
An old Chinook word that brings together chuck, which means water; and salt, which means salt. So saltchuck is salt water or the straits and other bodies of water between Vancouver and Vancouver Island.
“I’m going fishing on the saltchuck.”
Chinook again. In B.C. if something is skookum it might be really cool, especially good or super awesome. Or it could be big, brave or strong.
“The waves were skookum, man.”
Skookumchuck is fast or strong water. The Skookumchuck Narrows are one of Canada’s most famous tidal rapids and are located a ferry ride northwest of Vancouver.
“We’re heading to surf the Skookumchuck this weekend.”
Big muckamuck/ muckety-muck
Muckamuck also comes from those old Chinook words. It evolved from meaning the guy with the most food, into someone who’s a bigshot or thinks they’re a bigshot.
“Can’t be late for work, the big muckamucks are coming from back east for a meeting.”
Chinook for a newcomer; specifically one who is new to the land, wildlife, weather, and culture of their northern BC home.
“I’m taking that cheechako fishing; he’ll drown if I don’t show him how.”
The unofficial term for a strong atmospheric river of moisture that builds in the tropics and hits B.C. is the Pineapple Express.
“When it reaches the west coast, that Pineapple Express is expected to dump as much as 140mm of rain.”
A work truck for loggers, tree planters and other rural workers.
“They’re loading the crummie at 4am tomorrow. Don’t be late”
A tree planting term for easy land or an easy job. The term has spread to small towns.
“We had this creamy contract, man. It was just cream. It was really easy to smack in trees.”
A name locals give tree planters when they come in from camp for a night on the town.
“The stinkers were in last night. I think one kid dropped all his cash on chocolate bars and beer.”
How you going?
Aussie speak for ‘how are you’. Australian workers are common on the ski hills and their lingo has been adopted by locals.
“How you going?”
“Good, good. No worries.”
“She’ll be right, eh?”
Elephant snot and mashed potatoes, versus champagne and sugar
Mountain dwellers in BC have dozens of words to describe snow conditions. If the word sounds appealing, the snow will be good; less so if it’s called “elephant snot.”
“Can’t beat a day of champagne and sunshine! I didn’t even stop for lunch it was so good.”
Sports lingo for a crash or wipe out where one’s gear, usually bike or ski, is scattered after a crash.
“That guy crashed at the second bend. Total yard sale. I had to help him collect his stuff.”
The variety of gear a British Columbian possesses for one sport. It’s specialized for different uses and conditions.
“My quiver includes a road bike, a cheapie to lock up when I go out at night, a fixie and a titanium touring bike. But I think I need an Ebike.”
Very, very drunk.
“Bro got ham-boned last night. I think he’ll be late this morning.
A brouhaha, group brawl or exaggerated fight.
“We had a bit of a donnybrook and all got turfed out of the pub.”
Before extended hours and private liquor stores opened—the only place to find beer was at an off sales attached to a bar.
“He’s heading to the off sales because he didn’t get off work before the liquor store closed.
Running shoes or sneakers.
“I went for a run earlier today and now my feet hurt. I need new runners.”
Someone who is built small and is physically weak—or a really small joint.
“Dude can’t carry that dresser. He’s pins as fawk.”
Someone who has a much muscled physique.
He’s so jick. He spends half his day at the gym with the ultimate goal of being swole.
Someone who tells a lot of lies and stories.
“Dude yaps. Trump is more truthful.”
Something that’s broken or isn’t going to work out.
“We’re hooped. The car won’t start and we need to be at the ferry in 15 minutes.”
Honourable mention: the nickname
If you get invited to the Valley, the Island or the Interior you might be stumped. There are plenty of valleys around—but this refers to the Fraser Valley and covers the agricultural flood plain downstream from Hope. Likewise, references to the Island, of which we have 40,000, can only mean Vancouver Island. The Interior is pretty much everything beyond the Island, Lower Mainland and Valley. Visualize everything inland from the Coast Mountains and east until you hit the Rockies
“We can’t decide whether to drive to the Interior to do some wine tasting, go biking on the Island or spend the weekend in the Valley.