Dictionary of Newfoundland English



The Main Words are entered in the Dictionary in alphabetical order. Because of the complexity of a number of terms, especially some connected with the fisheries, a compound or combination may be moved from others of its kind within a massed entry and itself presented in a separate article; cross-references have been provided within such complex entries to show that the combination has in fact been treated in another place (e.g. newfoundland dog: see NEWFOUNDLAND DOG; stage head: see STAGE HEAD). Occasionally, also, a combination has been separately treated if its affiliations recorded in the historical dictionaries deserve full, specific treatment in the headnote (e.g. SALT WATER). Homographs of the same part of speech are arranged, in sometimes arbitrary order, with identifying numerical superscripts: cat1 through cat7 is an extreme example.

The treatment of Main Words in this Dictionary is divided structurally into four parts: the word and accompanying technical information, presented in highly compressed form; the definitions, glosses or synonyms of the term in numbered sections arranged usually in historical order, but if early evidence is not available, then a logical order may occasionally be followed; the phrases, collocations, compounds and combinations related to the main word, also arranged in numbered sections and explained; and, in most cases, for all the definitions illustrative examples of the use of the term from printed material, speech or other identified sources. The spelling and hyphenation of all editorial matter in the Dictionary, with the exception of cited material, contractions and local vernacular, follows British practice as specified in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed rev., 1955).

The Vocabulary Entry and Headnotes. The Main Word is printed in bold type and, for the sake of typographical uniformity on the page, without initial capitalization, even of proper nouns. (The supporting quotations, of course, illustrate the capitalization usually found in proper nouns, e.g. in the entries for christmas, labrador, newfoundland). The word is presented in a spelling supported by the printed evidence, in a spelling of the associated word in British usage, or in a spelling selected from among several available variants or even newly devised to represent the pronunciation of a form recorded only in speech. In the last situation the vocabulary entry is marked with an asterisk: sheveen*. These shifting criteria for the choice of a spelling are necessitated by the diverse kinds of often complicated evidence that have been reviewed. In general we have tried to help readers to relate the word to the printed tradition or to speech. For most entries there was no occasion to select one spelling rather than another, but in some cases, as with angishore, clumper, hurt, skerwink, skully, tawt and tole pin, a choice had to be made among close contenders.

The designation of the part of speech, or word-class, follows the headword; the abbreviations employed are identified in a list at the end of this Introduction. Verbs have been combined under general definitions without the separation of transitive and intransitive uses which would have excessively fragmented the articles. A small number of words present difficult problems of classification, and in such cases the designation has been arbitrary. For example, commands, calls, names and exclamations, together with idiomatic nautical usages and cures and grades of fish (e.g. tal qual), especially if contextual evidence is not extensive, could conceivably be analysed in other ways. The illustrative quotations in the body of the entry display the complex syntactic relations, or even outright ambiguity, of these knotty words.

Alternate forms of the headword have next been presented selectively in alphabetical order. Because of the vernacular nature of many terms, invented spellings have appeared in print and seemingly endless oral variants are found in the manuscript and taped data. All important printed variants are listed, but suspicious spellings or errors in newspapers or ballad collections have usually been omitted. Variants not recorded in print are followed by an asterisk, and are either in the spelling of a contributor or in a devised spelling to suggest the approximate pronunciation. See ballicatter or copy for the abundant variations that have been noted in both print and regional speech. All printed and oral variants judged to be significant in local usage or of high frequency have been duly entered with cross-references in the alphabetical sequence of the dictionary. Exact repetition of the headword or of a form just presented is symbolized by the swung dash ~: baccy hurt ... backy ~.

The headnote includes further precise information on the pronunciation of the word in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) transcription for many entries (see PRONUNCIATION AND PHONETICS above). It should be noted that these transcriptions are presented only when there is firm evidence from speech or tape, when the regional stress-pattern is distinctive (e.g. newfoundland, tom cod, stage head), when the spelling of the headword is misleading (e.g. lead; stalk rhyming with talc) or when the recorded variants are potentially useful for dialectologists. For some words the only indication of pronunciation is recorded orthographic forms, and the original pronunciations of these are unknown (e.g. ownshook).

The main body of the headnote is taken up with the comparative evidence presented in other pertinent historical and regional dictionaries, lexicons of other languages and a variety of published works found to be useful. The purpose of these sometimes lengthy notes citing information from the OED and its Supplements, the Dictionary of Canadianisms, Dinneen's Irish-English Dictionary and other specialized works is to place the Newfoundland term historically, geographically or linguistically in relation to its authenticated usage elsewhere. The data shows succinctly the chronology of the word in other speech areas; and the overlap of the word with dialect areas in the English West Country, Ireland, the Canadian Maritime Provinces, the Atlantic seaboard of the United States, or on the high seas—in maritime usage. It shows relevant senses reported in other dictionaries, and therefore suggests origins or close semantic relationships of the term.31 Combinations and phrases reported elsewhere are fully recorded, with the earliest dates. The Dictionary thus attempts to present in its headnotes concise but comprehensive annotation for general readers without extensive libraries as well as for specialist scholars.

Etymological information in the headnotes, in this first extensive examination of the Newfoundland lexicon, has been limited to words either traceable to foreign languages, principally Irish, standard and dialectal French,32 Portuguese, Beothuk and Micmac [Mi'kmaq], Eskimo [Inuit], etc, or to terms that have long exercised local commentators and elicited numerous unsupported explanations in print and in oral speculation (e.g. bedlamer, copy, cassock/kossa(c)k, crunnick [chronic], tickle).33 Familiar English forms with comprehensive derivational notes in the OED or in Onions's Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology have not been etymologized, although of course the extensive headnote references to the numbered senses and combinations in the historical and regional dictionaries imply the presumed derivational affiliations of these terms. Occasionally a word is compared to a recorded instance in another dictionary (with the direction cp) merely to show that the form and associated sense are extant elsewhere, even if that word is not the 'source' of the local word (e.g. scurrifunge). Furthermore the purpose of many cross-references in the Dictionary is in a sense etymological: they point out to the reader the standard or basic form in Newfoundland usage underlying variants in the vocabulary (e.g. the swale, swile, swoil group comprehensively treated at seal).

Where editorial guess-work has been involved, all the discovered documentary evidence is presented as clues to the possible derivation of the term (see catamaran, fool, ose egg, squid, touton). Where all the sifting of data in reference works and specialized treatises has not produced any clues, no etymology is offered (see killick, rodney). No popular explanations or folk etymologies have been given a place in the headnotes, and the manifold explanations of terms in the citation files have been scrutinized with care before they have been considered for reprinting among the illustrative quotations. The data on spellings, pronunciations, meanings and related uses elsewhere which has been assembled in the Dictionary prepares the ground for subsequent intensive exploration into the origins of a handful of untraced words. The final information presented in a number of headnotes is cross-references, printed in small capital letters, to other Dictionary entries which contain complementing information and evidence.

The Definitions. To display the historical development of a vocabulary entry or for convenience in classifying more or less distinct senses, the definitions of the term, where there are several, are presented in numbered sections. More than in some other dictionaries of its kind, the reader will find here complicated technical words, the large number of which is a distinctive feature of the work and the defining of which, often for the first time, has been one of the greatest challenges to the editors. An effort has been made to make the definitions of these technical terms self-sufficient by indicating briefly in a defining formula the context of the word: 'in setting a cod trap,' 'in coopering,' 'at the seal hunt,' 'in the Bank fishery,' 'in the fur trade,' and so on. Some of these defining formulae also place words in their geographical setting: 'along the north-east coast,' 'at the Labrador fishery'; others place the word historically: 'in the West Country-Newfoundland migratory fishery,' 'a term formerly used in,' and so forth. Definitions also take the form of a series of near synonyms drawn from standard English. Synonyms appearing in small capital letters, however, are themselves treated separately and fully in the Dictionary, and the relevant articles contain further explanations and distinctions.

An attested sense not actually supported by a contextual quotation is followed by a reference to the glossarist or contributor set in parentheses. For flora and fauna the common or popular names, and sometimes a brief description, are given, followed by the scientific identification.

Definitions have been written with an eye to clarifying the term for the reader and to placing it in its regional and linguistic context. They are

mainly deduced from the accumulated glosses, sentences, passages and tape excerpts in the vocabulary file, but what often is ultimately produced is a definition based not only on the filed evidence but on the experience, contacts and reading of the editors. The artifact has been seen, the peculiar soggy wind has made one's clothes heavy with moisture, the operation in the home or on the fish-flake has been frequently witnessed, the tone of voice of the story-teller is still echoing. Nuances [gained] from thus living within the culture, with different vantage points for the three editors and their colleagues and critics, have frequently been incorporated in the definition, whereas in fact all the citation evidence, printed in the entry or omitted, may not always add up to the definition, written, argued over, amended and revised.34

The phrasing of a definition is sometimes made more direct or concise by the use of a regional term. This term should be clear from context, and it is enclosed in single quotation marks, indicating that it is local usage and is explained in its own entry (e.g. spottedy: of a harp seal's fur, spotted during the colour change from 'white-coat' to young adult).

Phrases and Combinations. After the main senses of some vocabulary entries, selected proverbial phrases employing the term and grammatical and idiomatic sequences are presented. In the entry for salt, for example, the following phrases illustrate material that is typical: as salt as Lot's wife; spare the salt and spoil the scrod; under salt. Where other dictionary- makers35 and linguists struggle with decisions over classifying compounds, attributive nouns modifying noun heads, and looser combinations of two nouns in sequence (and the attendant typographical problems of hyphenation and whether or not to print two nouns solidly), editors relying heavily on manuscript sources and oral evidence are not always able to solve this thorny problem of compounds neatly and consistently. This is the principal reason why so many of these sequences in the Dictionary are labelled 'combinations.'

A number of practices have been followed in the presentation of these combinations in the large massed entries. If the principal stress is customarily on the second element, the combination is always printed as two words (e.g. spruce beer). Many other combinations, where the stress pattern is variable or unknown, are also printed as two words (e.g. fish glass). Only combinations in which the printed evidence shows a strong tendency of writers, especially in recent decades, to favour other typographical conventions are here printed with hyphens or in undivided form; unsettled usage in the printed evidence has sometimes necessitated arbitrary editorial decisions, and it follows that only the phonetic transcriptions in the entry systematically indicate what the customary local stress patterns are.

Modifiers other than nouns, such as adjectives, participles and intensifiers, are separated from their headwords, unless evidence in books and newspapers shows a preference for another presentation.

With a handful of exceptions, each of these sub-entries or combinations is accompanied by a gloss or by a cross-reference to a fully defined synonym.

Quotations from Printed and Oral Sources. The organization of the articles in the Dictionary and the definitions of the vocabulary entries and any accompanying sub-entries are based upon the corpus of our collected quotations, a number of which have been selected for each article to support and illustrate the sense and usage of the word or related combinations or phrases. The usual order in any sub-section is chronological, with information for each quotation giving the year of writing (sometimes in square brackets), printing or submission by an informant. In exceptional cases, in sub-entries where a series of senses relate to one concept (such as articles of clothing, or a device used in an occupation), a general cover definition is given with the associated cluster of combinations, and the illustrative citations in these cases are arranged alphabetically (see labrador, sense 3 [names of animals and birds], or spring2, sense 4 [names of devices]).

Citations drawn from other dictionaries of material that has been otherwise unavailable to us are duly acknowledged after the quotations, although there are fewer than a score of these. Occasionally a sentence in a foreign language or background material is also cited in an entry, and if the Main Word is not employed, the quotation is set in brackets. Portuguese, for example, is quoted at baccalao [c1504 ... ], and spruce beer is explained but not mentioned at spruce [1712 ...].

Citations from printed works are identified either by the date and the author's name in small capital letters (1861 DE BOILIEU 162) or, in the case of composite works, simply by the title (1977 Inuit Land Use 225) as the most efficient reference; periodical sources are given in italics ( 1874 Maritime Mo iii, 542). Authors of major manuscript sources also appear in small capitals together with title (1868 HOWLEY MS Reminiscences 20). Quotations from newspapers identify the year, name, date, and, for recent years when local papers have increased in size, the page number as well (1957 Daily News 16 Oct, p. 4). All newspapers with places of publication not specifically designated have been published in St John's (1906 Week End [N.Y.] Apr, p. 8). To provide further detail for interpreting the many quotations from verse, the ballad's or poem's title has been included in the identification of the illustration. Citations from printed sources are reproduced verbatim, with conventional indications of omitted words and with correction of typographical errors found in newspapers and ballad collections. Names of vessels have uniformly been italicized. The typographical practice of the Dictionary is to present all single and double quotation marks in our sources as single. This convention, however, is modified in a few cases where the source itself has potentially confusing marks of punctuation (e.g. “’and-sled,” they calls it).

Quotations from the Archive card and manuscript collections, other individual contributors, returned questionnaires, and taped conversation are identified with codes beginning with c, m, p, q, and t respectively. The wording of citations from the Archive materials and of contributions by many other individuals cited in the Dictionary has been treated more informally than the quotations from printed sources. The demands of readers perhaps unfamiliar with many aspects of the regional culture have been considered above all, and the phrasing and syntax have sometimes been rearranged and trimmed for greater clarity, at the same time preserving all the words and turns of phrase that are authentic vernacular. Naive spellings of both standard and regional words have been altered for ease in reading, and a contributor's ad hoc spelling of the word being illustrated, where the form is inconsequential, has at times been adjusted to agree with the form of the headword (e.g. stud 'n tilt: studden tilt; whitens: whitin's).

Excerpts from taped speech have been reproduced with close attention to the original informal flow of words and the conventions of printed speech. Vernacular terms have been spelled either according to this Dictionary's selected forms or in a manner reflecting the variant pronunciations of the speakers. All the speakers' grammatical forms and syntactic patterns have been recorded faithfully. Clauses and sentences have been punctuated to indicate both sense and rhythmic units. Nevertheless, incomplete constructions, excessive repetition, habitual interrupting forms like see, well, and you know, and clauses that are extremely involved yet unessential for illustrating the Main Word have frequently been omitted to allow the speech, easily comprehensible when the informant was speaking in person, to be similarly comprehensible in the different medium of writing. To put it another way, the verbatim transcription of the tapes is often fuller than the excerpted quotations presented here. We have been conservative about replacing letters with apostrophes, as in birdin', o', and an', and we have avoided making the quotations appear illiterate or quaint by the overuse of spelling devices and marks of punctuation, in the manner of some writers of literary dialect. Indeed, the accurate transcriptions of many taped speeches in neutral spelling and light punctuation found scattered in the Dictionary display remarkable rhythmic patterns of delivery. A number of taped specimens are dense with local words and idioms, all of which are explained elsewhere in the Dictionary.

The work contains for many articles a greater number of illustrations than is customary in some historical dictionaries; we have not, for example, limited our quotations to one for each fifty-year period. Especially is this true for the sub-entries of terms that have critical economic or environmental importance in Newfoundland, for example, fish, seal, wood(s). Where there are large numbers of reports we have selected those which show the variety and specificity of application (e.g. caplin, stage, trap). At the other extreme, the Dictionary includes entries with only a small amount of exemplification. The reasons for this are various: our questionnaires, for example, may have simply elicited numerous identical responses, or the collected evidence is meagre, although we have judged it to be valid. In the main, however, the more common problem in writing this Dictionary has been to select from many worthy and informative citations in order to keep the work within bounds.

31. Clarence L. Barnhart comments on the usefulness of such a practice in 'American Lexicography, 1945-1973,' American Speech, Iiii (1978), 89.

32. See William J. Kirwin, 'Selected French and English Fisheries Synonyms in Newfoundland,' RLS 9 (1980), 10-21.

33. See W. Kirwin, 'A Collection of Popular Etymologies in Newfoundland Vocabulary,' RLS 3 (1971),16-8, and 'Folk Etymology: Remarks on Linguistic Problem-solving and Who Does it,' in Languages in Newfoundland and Labrador, 2nd prelim. ed, Harold J. Paddock, ed (St John's: Memorial University, 1982).

34. William Kirwin, 'Selecting and Presenting the Lexicon,' RLS 6 (1975), 8.

35. See OED, vol. 1, xxxiii, 'Combinations.'