Dictionary of Newfoundland English

Preface (July 1982)

The Dictionary which is now presented to the public is part of a plan conceived at Memorial University more than two decades ago by members of the Department of English in which the languages (especially the English language), the place- and family-names, and the folklore of Newfoundland were to be subjected to a scrutiny worthy of their importance for Newfoundlanders and their interest to others in the English-speaking world.

None of these had previously been studied with the rigour that critical scholarship demands; nor, when we began our work, were there available those preliminary and ancillary studies or even facilities upon which critical scholarship customarily builds. Work on our part of the project had, therefore, to proceed partly in tandem with that of our colleagues, and we should like to record before acknowledgement of other debts our overriding gratitude for the companionship of E.R. Seary in the initiation of the whole enterprise, and his encouragement of and participation in the progress of its discrete parts; to Herbert Halpert for his continuous and lively interest in our work, and particularly for his creation in the University's Folklore and Language Archive of an exemplary collection from which much of the oral material in the Dictionary is drawn; to Agnes O'Dea, for many years the director of the Centre for Newfoundland Studies in the University Library, who assembled virtually from scratch the materials for the printed record in our work, and who compounded this debt by setting her hand as well to a Bibliography of Newfoundland which has proceeded side by side with the Dictionary; and to our colleagues, some of them our former students, in other disciplines at the University who during the progress of our work have gradually expanded the investigation of Newfoundland history and society, language, geography and natural science, and enabled us to draw upon their findings.

The Dictionary would have been impossible to complete in the time it has taken without this shared scholarship; and its deficiencies, where they are not attributable to our own errors of knowledge and judgement, reside in the very nature of the enterprise itself: the collecting for and editing of the first dictionary of Newfoundland English. Other scholars will, in due course, carry the work further: collect from sources we have omitted, produce critical editions of the printed and manuscript texts we have used, undertake more intensive studies in the field of etymology, and complete the investigation of the phonology and grammar of Newfoundland English. Meanwhile, the present work is offered in the belief that it will fulfil the expectations of general readers in Newfoundland and elsewhere in Canada, meet many of the demands of scholars in various fields engaged in the study of the region and satisfy, in some measure, the long-expressed interest of our fellow-lexicographers in the English-speaking world.

The core of the work is, of course, the alphabetical list of words, phrases and idioms derived from both printed and oral sources and presented with dated quotations in a manner familiar to users of historical dictionaries. Preceding this is a Bibliography of the sources from which our evidence has been drawn and to which the references in the main body of the Dictionary are keyed; and the whole is accompanied by an Introduction in which we set forth a statement of the nature and scope of the work, present a discussion of English language variation in Newfoundland (a discussion for which W.J. Kirwin has particular responsibility), comment on special problems relating to the sources, and explain certain matters of editorial policy and lay-out.

The execution of the work has been a shared task of the three editors, though particular responsibilities were assumed by one or another of us at different stages with general co-ordination by G.M. Story. The collecting of the material in our files was a common effort, with G.M. Story and W.J. Kirwin jointly excerpting the printed sources and also the unpublished documentary sources, and J.D.A. Widdowson excerpting (as he had also collected) the tape recordings. All three of us contributed material from field-notes and helped solicit items from contributors specifically for the Dictionary. The familiarity with the source materials of the Dictionary thus acquired proved of particular value in the second stage of the work: the writing and editing of the entries. For obvious reasons, this was naturally the primary responsibility of the two editors residing in Newfoundland; but the successive drafts were reviewed by J.D.A.Widdowson on annual visits to Newfoundland from the United Kingdom, and although his special contribution has been the provision of the phonetic evidence in the work and the discussion of that subject in the Introduction (for which he has sole responsibility), there are few entries which have not benefited from his careful scrutiny, while he has also, of course, shared fully in all matters of editorial policy. The Dictionary is, then, a work for which in general terms we are jointly responsible; and we are conscious, now that it is completed, of the good fortune which brought us together, with our very different origins and professional training, at a particular period when an enterprise of this kind might be undertaken.

We are not less conscious of, and grateful for, the help freely given by our colleagues in the preparation of the Dictionary. Our especially warm thanks go to Robert Hilliard; when the formal editing began he offered his assistance in proof-reading the text, a service he has rendered throughout the editing process as the articles went through successive revisions in slip form. Without Joan Halley the work could scarcely have been completed in the way and time it has: she maintained the Dictionary file, typed the successive drafts of the entries through what must have seemed an interminable series of revisions, added her own. lively comments, criticisms and contributions, and maintained an unfussy calm and good cheer which lightened the long task. In the final phase of our work—the production of the book by a computer assisted technology—the resident editors were ably supported by Sandra McDonald.

The list of colleagues and friends who have contributed to the work in other ways is long and their names are recorded among the more than seven hundred contributors to the Dictionary listed in the Bibliography. We have here to record our special obligation to the following: to Leslie Harris for discussions, illustrations and precise contributions to our knowledge of the regional lexicon throughout the period of preparation of the Dictionary, and Colin Story for his help over a similar length of time with the lexicon and technology of the fisheries; to F.A. Aldrich for help with problems of marine biology; to Keith Matthews for clarification of some problems in the historical evolution of the West Country-Newfoundland fishery; to Peter J. Scott for his review of all the botanical articles; to the late Leslie M. Tuck for help with the identification and nomenclature of birds; to John Hewson, H.J. Paddock and L. R. Smith of the Department of Linguistics for help with particular problems; and for special collecting in the field, Robert Hollett. Michael Staveley of the Department of Geography supervised the drawing of the map.

Specimens of the Dictionary, circulated in 1977 in an early form, were given valuable criticism by expert readers and we have to thank, most warmly, the following: A.J. Aitken, Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue, University of Edinburgh; R.W. Burchfield and Mrs Leslie Burnett, Supplement to The Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University; Angus Cameron, Dictionary of Old English, University of Toronto; Frederic G. Cassidy and his colleagues, Dictionary of American Regional English, University of Wisconsin; Robert L. Chapman, Drew University; Leslie Harris, Memorial University; Lee Pederson, Linguistic Atlas of the Gulf States, Emory University; and E.R. Seary, Memorial University.

The late Walter S. Avis of The Royal Military College, Kingston, Ontario, Frederic G. Cassidy of the University of Wisconsin, the late Harold Orton of the University of Leeds, and E. R. Seary acted as our sponsors in seeking funds necessary for the preparation of the Dictionary; and The Canada Council, with a confidence in our work which we shall not easily forget, made available grants to cover many of our costs in the years between 1969-1979. Expenses incurred prior and subsequent to those years were met by Memorial University, which also provided us with the materials and space we needed, and to our colleagues and friends in their administrative capacities we are deeply indebted, especially to I.A.F. Bruce, Leslie Harris, M.O. Morgan, and D.G. Pitt.

The editors of a famous English dictionary issued in 1911 disclosed that the first letter they received after the work appeared was a demand for repayment of the book's cost on the ground that it failed to include gal(l)iot, to settle the spelling of which it had been bought. We are as conscious as any dictionary makers must be of the diverse expectations and demands of users of such works, and also of the improbability, despite the good company we have had along the way, that we have unfailingly avoided errors and omissions; and we shall be grateful to readers who draw our attention to the more egregious of the oversights.

St John's, Newfoundland

Sheffield, England

July 1982