Funny You Should Say That

Funny You Should Say That

A salute to the local words, phrases and idioms that have added a distinct accent to country speech patterns for generations.

If someone asked you to “Pass o’er de nun’s farts, willya ol’ boy?” would you:

a) be insulted;
b) stare back confused;
c) lick your lips and reply, “Only after I get my hands on a few.”

If you answered yes to either of the first two, you may be missing out on an important part of what it means to be Canadian: Speaking Canadian.

So says Lewis Poteet, a Concordia University linguist whose collection of books includes Talking Country, a celebration of regional speech patterns in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. There, the Anglophone settlers were remote enough from the mainstream to develop their own unique idioms. The blend of English, French and American influences led to some colourful turns of phrase, including the aforementioned ‘nun’s fart,’ a term not as rude as you might guess. It refers to a cinnamon pinwheel cookie made from leftover pie dough, after the French pet de soeur.

The Townships aren’t the only place in Canada with its own patois. Wherever Scots and Irish farmers settled, musical Gaelic words permeated the language. The same with German phrasing in Mennonite communities. The Ottawa Valley was once rich in local parlance and pockets of the Maritimes also had their own English. Newfoundland’s dialect is still going strong, but the same cannot be said of most others.

These speech patterns typically evolved in outlying areas and, like many things rural, were frowned upon by the more urbane. Likewise, such colloquialisms were seen by the Anglo establishment as corruptions of the Queen’s English. As a result, many localisms are dying out and while schoolteachers might say good riddance, we think it’s a shame.

Today, these phrases seem like the last vestiges of a unique identity quickly being homogenized by Hollywood and telecommunications. And more’s the pity. Maybe it’s time to turn off the tube, invite the neighbours over for a ceilidh and snug up for the night.

Talk isn’t cheap when you’re making history.

LEXICON OF LOCALISMS

As sent in by Harrowsmith readers.

“Slow as cold molasses running uphill in January.”
“Wouldn’t know beans if the bag was open.”
“He’s as handy as a pocket in a shirt.”
-FROM IRENE A. HAYWARD OF FREDERICTON, NEW BRUNSWICK

“You’d have to set up a stake to see if he’s moving.”
-FROM FRED HARP OF TREHEARNE, MANITOBA

“A day in the bone” (a rainy day on which no farm work could be done)
-FROM JACK WHITE OF STIRLING, ONTARIO (AS HEARD IN THE BEAVER VALLEY, NEAR COLLINGWOOD, ONTARIO)

“Gut-foundered” (hungry) S “Mind the time” (to remember)
“Foolish as a capelin” S“Riz” (rise)
-FROM KIM PADDON OF HOCKLEY VALLEY, ONTARIO (AS HEARD IN NEWFOUNDLAND)

“Back east” (anywhere east of the Rockies, to someone from B.C.)
“Back east” (the Maritimes, to someone from Ontario)
“West coast” (anywhere west of Ontario, to someone from the east)
“West coast” (the Pacific shore, to someone from B.C.)
-FROM ERICA CHENG OF BELLA COOLA, B.C.

“Come over sometime if it fits and you have nothing on, and if
it doesn’t fit, shove it up until tomorrow”
-FROM DAVE BERGEN OF STEINBACH, MANITOBA (AS HEARD IN MENNONITE NEIGHBOURHOODS OF RURAL MANITOBA, USING ENGLISH BASED ON THE RULES OF GERMAN GRAMMAR)

“Come on John and eat, yourself. Ma’s at the table and Pa’s half ett.”
“Turn the corner around and throw the horse over the fence some hay”
-FROM MRS. ERLAND GREENWOOD OF LISTOWEL, ONTARIO (AS HEARD IN NEUSTADT AND AYTON, ONTARIO, USING THE SAME PRINCIPLES AS ABOVE)

“Double biter” (an axe with two blades)
“Girling” (courting a young woman)
-FROM KEN BARTER OFWELLINGTON, ONTARIO (AS HEARD IN ANGLO REACHES OF THE GASPÉ, QUEBEC)

“Might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb” (if you’re going to do something risky, do it in a big way)
“Call him lambie when you want to call him piggie” (be diplomatic, hold your temper)
“A great big pile of God Help Us” (a good-for-nothing lout)
-FROM MARY BROWN OF SEBRINGVILLE, ONTARIO

“’Tis a braw bric moon-lic nic” (Gaelic-tinged phrase for: ‘it’s a raw (cold), bright, moonlit night’) “Steeples” (staples)
-FROM SANDRA FORSTER OF KINCARDINE, ONTARIO (AS HEARD IN WESTERN ONTARIO)

“A do” (a party)
“The goin’ fever” (wanderlust, the urge to travel)
-FROM KATHLEEN SOMERS OF HAMILTON, ONTARIO

“Rench out” (wring out)
“A quelch of water” (a swallow of water)
“Boot” (rhymes with ‘foot’)
-FROM LENORA AND KEN SWORD OF NORTH BAY, ONTARIO

“Got a jag on” (carrying a large load, too much to drink)
“He’s some able” (a very strong man)
“Chewin’ the rag” (complaining constantly)
“Guzzle him” (to throttle someone, what Homer does to Bart)
-FROM MAUREEN GLENNIE OF RIVER HEBER, NOVA SCOTIA

“Enough to make a preacher swear”
“A Methodist axe” (an axe with two blades)
-FROM REV. MAURICE MCLEOD OF CARRYING PLACE, ONTARIO

“Carkey” (khaki)
“Go worsh yer hands in the zink”
-FROM LYNDA HUNTER OF ERINSVILLE, ONTARIO (AS HEARD ‘ALONG THE FRONT’ A.K.A. THE UPPER ST. LAWRENCE RIVER)

“His’n, her’n, our’n, their’n”
“Don’t get your meat where you get your bread” (don’t look for romance at work)
“Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise” (if all goes well)
“So cold the saw horse tried to get into the barn”
-FROM LLOYD HANNA OF OSHAWA, ONTARIO

“Flankers” (sparks from a campfire)
“Yaffle” (an armload, as in: ‘he carried a yaffle of firewood)
“A time” (a community dance; a ‘scoff,’ or banquet, would be served at this function)
“Bibber” (to shiver and shake with excitement)
-FROM LEO HEFFERAN OF BELLEVUE BEACH, NEWFOUNDLAND

“Stepmother’s breath” (cold)
“The wolf was at the door so long, she had pups on the steps”(a long period of bad times)
“Chase a crow a mile” (a warning not to waste any stored food or firewood, as in: ‘you’ll chase a crow a mile for that turnip come spring’)
“Born tired and never got rested” (would roughly translate to chronic fatigue syndrome today)
-FROM GEORGE WHITNEY OF ORILLIA, ONTARIO

“Bear jam” (traffic chaos caused by tourists watching bears by the roadside)
-FROM SUZANNE MURRAY OF CANMORE, ALBERTA

“His name is travelling further than his feet” (his reputation precedes him)
-FROM ANN HAY OF BELLEVILLE, ONTARIO (AS HEARD IN CORNWALL, ONTARIO)

“Snug up” (too many people staying over and not enough beds)
-FROM LEWIS POTEET, AS HEARD IN THE EASTERN TOWNSHIPS, QUEBEC

“Slow as a day’s rain” (an old horse that won’t trot)
“In need of a hardwood shampoo” (a cow that kicks)
“Fine as frog’s fur” (something that goes according to plan)
“Like having two good men not show up” (having inept help)
-AS HEARD BY HARROWSMITH’S OWN BACK-PAGE COLUMNIST, DAN NEEDLES, IN CENTRAL ONTARIO FARM COUNTRY

Yolanda Thornton
Yolanda Thornton

Yolanda Thornton founded Moongate Publishing a custom content, branding and strategic communications company in 2009. Her experience spans over 30 years in the communications industry, and roles with national consumer lifestyle magazines and broadcast sales including 14 years as the Director of Advertising Sales and Marketing at Harrowsmith Country Life Magazine. Yolanda has a deep understanding of how organizations, business sectors, and Canadians get their information, entertainment and engage socially. She’s well versed in developing traditional and online communications strategies, magazines and content to create audience engagement, community involvement, and loyalty.

www.moongate.ca

By The Same Author:

Posted on Thursday, September 2nd, 2021
Filed under Travel & Culture
Tagged: funny


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