Article | Newfoundland and Labrador

Yes, b’y! A Guide to Newfoundland English

On a journey to Newfoundland and Labrador, you’ll soon come to appreciate how the province’s vibrant culture is anything but ordinary—right down to the very words the locals utter. Even if you’re a fluent English speaker, don’t be surprised if you feel like you need a travel dictionary!
Trinity Newfoundland colourful houses seaside

© Victoria Polsoni

Greetings

Whaddayat?

Used as a greeting similar to “What are you up to?” or “How’s it going?”

Dissisit.

Used in response to “Whaddayat?” to mean “Not a whole lot” or “Just fine.”

Where do you belong?

Used to inquire as to where someone was raised. Alternatively, "Where you from?"

How ya gettin’ on?

A greeting to ask “How are you?” or “How’s it going?”

Best kind, b’y.

Used in response to “How ya gettin’ on?” to mean “Great” or “Couldn’t be better.”

Insults, Derogations, and Rebukes

He’s so skinny you can see the sins on his soul.

Used to remark upon someone’s body size. Antonym: "He’s sure handy with a fork and knife."

Who knit ya?

Used to ask about someone’s family heritage or who their parents are; also a derogatory reference alleging insufficient qualities to have been born. For the latter case, alternatively, “Who knit ya at’ll? Whoever it was dropped a stitch.”

Didn’t get past the porch

Used to describe an unsuccessful undertaking.

If you scald your arse, you’ll have to sit on your blisters.

An important life lesson, used to remind the listener that one must suffer the consequences of inappropriate actions.

Sleeveen

A mischievous person.

Time, Weather, and the Natural World

Duckish

Dusk, between sunset and nighttime. The last light of the day.

The once

Shortly, right away, very soon.

Some/Right

Similar to the term very, used to describe how much something is. For example, "right cold" is colder than "some cold."

Mauzy

Cloudy, foggy, drizzly.

Flanker

An ember from a fire.

Slob

Ice particles in the ocean.

Tuckamore

Coniferous tree growth, stunted and deformed by strong winds and sea spray.

Splittin' the rocks

Hot, beautiful, sunny weather. A perfect summer's day.

Body Parts & Movements

Kingcorn

The Adam’s apple of a man’s throat.

Dunch

A loss of sensation in the backside from sitting too long, as in “My arse is dunch!”

Swarve

To wander aimlessly with no clear sense of direction.

A scuff and a scoff

A dance and a meal

Special Expressions

Come from away

Everyone who’s not a Newfoundlander is called a come from away, sometimes shortened to CFA.

Right off the Kyle

Brand new; the Kyle was a vessel which distributed goods to remote Newfoundland and Labrador outports.

Yes, b’y!

Used as an agreement or an enthusiastic endorsement.

I dies at ya.

You’re hilarious!

About the Author

Tony Oxford

Tony Oxford

Musician, Cultural Educator

Born in a tiny rural Newfoundland fishing village, Tony has lived and learned the charm of outport living. Although at the insistence of his father he chose a career path other than fishing, he has kept a close eye on the fishery’s evolution. In many of his provincial, regional, and local volunteer roles, he has been a strong and outspoken advocate for rural Newfoundland. He is always delighted to visit tiny and remote communities of his home province.

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