I recently wrote a blog post and used the word “Swalley”. Afterwards a good friend of mine from the USA commented that she loved the blog post, but asked what a Swalley was (an alcoholic beverage, as in, to swallow a drink). It reminded me once again of the distinct and unique culture and language that we grew up with here on the island..
Newfoundland Screech makes a fine 'Swalley'
The problem with Newfie slang primarily, is that those who grew up with it, have no idea that it is different from anywhere else on the world. They (we) just thought it was the way people talked everywhere. Of course as we venture out into the big world, we quickly realize that much of the way we talk to each other, is just our own verbiage and slang.
Years ago, I lived on the mainland and at the time took the bus to and from work every day. As I grew accustomed to the bus route and the city, I also began to know the regular bus drivers who worked the routes that I frequented. One day as I was getting off the bus, in a nonchalant and innocent way, I threw out a ” Long may your big jib draw’, which at home would mean “Long may there be wind in your sails”, or to generally wish you well.. I could tell from the drivers expression that A). He had never heard the expression before and B). He assumed that I was being ‘fresh’ with him and was making a comment about his own ‘big jib’ .
Not THAT kinda jib!!!
Oh me Nerves!
Well, let me tell ya this little Newfoundlander was instantly mortified, and quickly tried to explain to him what the saying really meant..but in hindsight, I probably made an even bigger fool of myself and should have just known when to know you’re defeated. I could always walk to work, right?
I remember just after that incident, I was involved on a conversation with my manager and another person. We were talking about the wonderful area of Peterborough, Ont. where I was living at the time, and even more so the Kawartha Lakes region, with its river locks, canals and wonderful lakes. There I am, young and green and trying to fit in and be one of the ‘in crowd’.
Good thing we have our own Dictionary!!
My mouth opens and out it comes, “All the waterways and lakes in this area remind me of the ocean and ponds back home.” At that point I thought I had done it again. I’d thrown out another Newfoundland-ism, so I quickly backpedalled and tried to apologize for my error. I then explained that a ‘pond’ was a Newfoundland term, and was a body of fresh water that was smaller than a lake. My mortification hit a new level when they both broke into fits of laughter. There I sat, totally puzzled and confused, waiting for an explanation of why they were laughing.
Reflections -NL Flat bottom dory on the pond
Yep, I said it!!
Finally, as the laughter died down and my manager got her wind back, she asked me,
“Bobbi, haven’t you ever heard of the movie ‘On Golden Pond’ , or heard the expression ‘ Across the pond?’ referring to across the channel and over to England? Needless to say, I was thrown for a loop and and embarrassed once again….talk about your eye opener! I was honestly at the point that I didn’t know what was a regular word and what was just the slang that I grew up with. I wondered how I was ever going to fit into a mainland conversation and be able to say the proper things.
Fast forward one more time, I’m now in Ottawa with my soon to be Hubbie, at a pub. I’m at the crucial stage where I’m being introduced to his buddies. This is the place where I want to make a good impression and let his boys know, I’m good for him and I’m ok. As a I walk into the door, I smile my best smile and put on my game face. I’m ready to meet them all and make a great impression.
Our early days in the pub, at Ottawa
‘Hi, how are you?” they are all ‘mainlander’ and polite like.
My smile gets bigger and more genuine , “I’m best kind!!”
I’m met with ‘the look’ and I’m at a loss. I know there are no NFLDisms there!?! They are all just regular words…but somehow, I’m STILL talking in another language, my Hubbie has to interpret that I’m great…and I’m the foreigner once again.
Shoulda worn THIS!!
Since then, I’ve happily repatriated home to the rock and I’ve graciously accepted that we just talk differently. Not only do we have different words but sometimes we have a way of saying normal words and making them sound different. Sometimes it’s the way we twist the words round one another that makes them sound unique and special to the outside world
In my older years, I’ve even taken it a step further and started to talk in a language all of my own, my Hubby Geoff calls it Bobbi-isms. It’s kind of like Newfoundland-ism to the Nth degree. Hubby has learned to not only understand, but to embrace and interpret my own version of Newfoundland. The confidence that comes with age, is truly a blessing. It makes us confident in ourselves, whether we be a Newfoundlander, a parent, a spouse, a business person or (personally) an artist.
Wired - Home Sweet Home
So, to all ye crowd out there..Long may yer Big Jib draw!! May there always be wind in yer sails and the sun on yer back. Most important of all, may ye never wander far from the shores of yer homeland, that ye can’t get home and touch your roots whenever need be and may ye always, always be proud of where ya bes’longs.
That’s it for this time, if you have any questions, or comments, I’d love to hear them. If you’re really enjoying the BPA blogging adventures and don’t want to miss out, click follow me and add your name/email to our growing list of blog subscribers. We’ll email you when a new blog post happens, then you can read them all at your own leisure…..and remember, I’m no expert, I’m just a painter gal with some thoughts to share..
Have you ever said the wrong thing in a social setting before?