It’s an interesting thing, being a Newfoundlander. Case in point? No matter the level of success, one of the most interesting things about anyone born in NL is the fact they were born in NL. And everyone feels it, particularly those who yearn the right to claim it.
While we moved here when he was four, my son was actually born in Ontario. A military man now, he’s admitted to hating having to produce his birth certificate and reveal the truth.
With NL born parents, and with near-on two decades lived on ‘The Rock’ – the first decade in a remote outport – he feels he’s one of ‘us’ and he has the baymen language ways to prove it. From his ‘what are ye at?’ to ‘g’won wit ya?’ he certainly talks the talk. I can see the attraction to embracing the ways of this place.
Poetic foreign tongue
How many of those of us who move away find they break into ‘Newfoundland speak’ the second they converse with someone from home?
We’ve all heard it, if not done it ourselves. I remember coworkers in Ontario gathering around whenever I took ‘from ‘ome’ calls.
I went from sounding like one of the pack to speaking some sort of poetic foreign yet super fun and cool language. Each time I hung up someone had a question about some new-to-them term. I remember ‘wicked, wa?’ being one.
The comical, to them, side of the phrase was that it could be used so universally. ‘My car died.’ ‘Wicked, wa?’ ‘Our lottery pool won.’ ‘Some wicked, wa?’ ‘My dog died.’ ‘My cat came back.’ ‘My mother-in-law is moving in.’ ‘Yes b’y. Some wicked, wa?’
Little wonder it’s our language that gets much of the attention when those from ‘ome make it big abroad.
Allan Hawco made a stir on Strombo with his segment on how to speak like a Newfoundlander.
With over 905,568 views on YouTube, host George Stroumboulopoulos knew he had hit on a good thing. He had Hawco back for another popular segment on how to eat like a Newfoundlander, breaking out the Jam-Jams and providing a few tips on how to – or how not to – cook a cod tongue.
Funny stuff. Mark Critch has also been asked about Newfoundland’s fun language during up-along interviews. The comedian even made a fun video for 22 Minutes featuring Alan Doyle highlighting the attraction of one popular NL phase: What are you at?
The latest video to make the rounds features homegrown hockey stars Alex Newhook and Dawson Mercer. From ‘crooked as sin’ to ‘ya got er scald,’ the b’ys make us proud portraying Newfoundland’s unique quaintness on a world stage. Mercer’s a proud bayman and gets a laugh when he says he thought the term ‘fly dope’ was the accepted term for bug repellent. But Newhook, a townie, has all the lingo down pat too. ‘Me o’l trout,’ ‘Yes b’y,’ and ‘some stund’ are phrases we all use without thought. It’s only when it’s pointed out to the world by Newfoundlanders who have reached global status that we realize how special we truly are.
‘Who knit ya?’
That we’ve managed to hold onto our culture and language over the generations is an incredible thing to be proud of. With access to everything in an instant, seeing two of our finest hockey players and others like them proudly sharing who we are and what makes us unique in the world is a good thing.
Of course, as much as we love sharing ourselves with others, most of us still love it when something we say fools people up, too. It’s a laugh uttering ‘Who knit ya?’ or ‘Let’s have a scoff’ to a mainland friend and having them look back all wide-eyed and confused.
Of course when you live away, running into someone from back home is always a treat, isn’t it? Hearing even a faint though familiar accent or catching hint of a familiar phrase is always reason to hopefully ask; ‘Are you from Newfoundland by chance?’
The best part is when you hear; ‘Indeed I is me ol’ cock.’