While the hit Broadway musical Come From Away put the hospitality of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians on the map, our distinctive dialect and our unique turn of phrase usage has long made us stand out in any crowd.
When the Toronto Maple Leafs headed to the island last month for their preseason training camp, complete with an exhibition game against the Ottawa Senators (minus Mike Duffy of course – sorry, couldn’t resist) a video of a few team members attempting to decipher popular Newfoundland sayings quickly made the on-line rounds.
Ya got me drove!
From ‘who knit ya’ and ‘fire up a scoff’ to the always popular, ‘me nerves! Ya got me drove!’ da b’ys giv ‘er their best shot at guessing what the heck they all meant. There’s a cute story behind how that video came to be. Word is, player Auston Matthews was given a bit of sage advice from the team’s Mount Pearl born and raised equipment manager, David Roper before he pitched in this fine province of ours. The words shared were these; ‘watch out for the nippers.’
While that makes perfect sense to most of us, poor ol’ Matthews thought he was being warned about something strange and deadly (deadly in a bad way, not the cool Donnie Dumphy way) lurking on George Street.
Truth be told, even ourownselves have a hard time occasionally, particularly those of us who, for whatever reason, lived up–along for a time. I remember returning home after over a decade away and working one day in our newly purchased outport grocery store. An old feller walked in from off the wharf and strolled around looking confused. “Any c’rts?’ he asked. With a smile, I fetched him our one and only shopping cart. He looked at me like I had two heads, so I passed him our one and only over the arm basket. Helpful, right? He just looked sad. “C’rts?’ he asked a little more loudly, as if hearing was my issue. I had nothing. Finally, he asked for h’unions. That, I got, and led the poor man towards the cooler in the back. He reached in, grabbed a bag of carrots, looked me in the eye, nodded and said, ‘c’rts.’
Grasping the ‘NLanguage’
My son, who began Grade 1 in our outport after kindergardening in Ontario, had a particularly difficult time. I remember meeting with his teacher shortly after the school year began. My intelligent lad was having a hard time grasping spelling, I was told in a note. I remember staring at the teacher as I struggled with what exactly to say when she informed me my son’s issue was simply this; “When hi sez to ’ee spell ’ouse, ’ee goes hoe, h’u, h’ss, h’e, and I sez, h’atche, b’y! Forgot da h’atche!’ Right on.
It’s not only we folk or CFAs who have issues, either. Even The Herald’s fancy interview transcribing software can be left befuddled. I popped my interview with Shanneyganock’s Logy Bay born Chris Andrews into she da week and started to write my story, it looked like Andrews – who has what I’d consider a mild accent – said some pretty crazy stuff. “We’d say Listen John, the bomb damage,” (ladies and gentlemen, Bud Davidge), “Any Leonards here Toni?” (any Newfoundlanders here tonight?) and “ball-diving zombie involvement in Cleveland,” (someone said Bud Davidge wanted to be involved and I said, go way, b’y) proving you don’t even have to be human to be left confused by NLanguage.
But don’t ever let that stop ya from yarnin’, folks. Giv ‘er wherever you happen to be with whomever happens to be there. Just be on the look out for nippers and those pesky ball-diving zombies.