“Stay where yer to till I come where yer at.”
The Newfoundland language is sometimes happily easy to understand, but at other times we were totally lost. At those times, we responded to Newfinese with blank stares, raised eyebrows and an awkward smile, thinking “Huh?” or “How can I reply when I never understood a word of what you just said?“
We spent three weeks in Newfoundland this summer, and by the way, they are very serious about pronouncing Newfoundland as New Fun LAN, with the emphasis on the LAN. They will tell you that you have to say it like it rhymes with understand. Newfunland-understand. Understand?
Even more fun is the everyday Newfinese language in Newfoundland. Sometimes we could understand the Newfies, other times, only the odd word. Moreover – don’t ever say the word “Newfies” in front of a Newfoundlander because “Newfie” is the equivalent of “Nigger” and it is extremely offensive to a Newfoundlander.
Don’t even think about calling them Maritimers either. Newfoundlanders are much rougher and tougher than Maritimers, and they will fight you to prove it. Therefore, in Newfoundland, the people are called Newfoundlanders.
In Newfoundland, you will hear a few common Irish phrases, phrases like “Lord Tunderin Jesus” and “Jumpin Jesus”, but after all most Newfoundlanders are the offspring of Irish seamen. Besides that, the F word is also used often, and with great zest.
Now as I was saying, sometimes we could understand Newinese with ease; at other times we were totally dumbfounded and scratching our heads.
Here is the Newfoundland Language or Newfinese Test. Set awhile (no rush in NL you know,) and see if you know the meaning of these phrases.
Newfinese Language Test
Just see if you can figure out the real meaning of even a few of them! Without cheating of course… answers are lower down.
- Yes b’y.
- Where y’longs to?
- Who knit ya?
- It’s a mausey day.
- I dies at you.
- Long may you big jib draw.
- Whadda y’at?
- Nuttin’ b’y.
- Ows she cuttin, me cocky?
- Best kind b’y. Ow’s she gettin on?
- I’ll put da ol’ slut on. Put da wood in d’ole an we’ll av a yarn.
- Do you want some taken up?
- I’m gutfounded.
- Yes b’y. Fire up a scoff.
- Stay where yer to till I come where yer at.
- Yer some crooked.
- I’m after buying the wrong lightbulb.
- I’m rotted.
- This smells fousty.
- We went to the bar, but it was blocked.
- Go on in out of it.
If you can imagine a string of these phrases put together, would you get the gist of the meaning? Or would you be mumbling a nonsensical response?
- Yes b’y. This is a basic Newfie phrase. It is used to show the emotions of amazement, disbelief, agreement, etc. It could mean “Ok” or “Is that so?” or “No way” or “Really it’s true” or Wow or I don’t believe you. It’s a little like other Canadians use “Really.” or “Really?”.
- YFA (Ya come from away) A traveller in Newfoundland. This is likely one of the first phrases you’ll hear shortly after you arrive.
- Where y’longs to? Where are you from?
- Who knit ya? Who are your parents?
- It’s a mausey day. It’s a foggy wet day
- I dies at you. You make me laugh.
- Long may you big jib draw. May you have good fortune for a long time.
- Whadda y’at? What are you doing?
- Nuttin’ B’y. Nothing boy.
- Ows she cuttin, me cocky? How are you my friend?
- Best kind b’y. Ow’s she gettin on? I’m feeling great. How are you doing?
- I’ll put da ol’ slut on. Put da wood in d’ole an we’ll av a yarn. I’ll put the kettle on. Close the door and we’ll chat.
- Do you want some taken up? Want some supper?
- I’m gutfounded. I’m really hungry.
- Yes b’y. Fire up a scoff. Yes indeed. Make some food.
- Stay where yer to till I come where yer at. Stay where you are till I come there.
- Yer some crooked. You’re crazy/grouchy/hard to get along with.
- I’m after buying the wrong lightbulb. I’ve bought the wrong lightbulb.
- I’m rotted. I’m annoyed.
- This smells fousty. This smells musty, stale-smelling.
- We went to the bar, but it was blocked. We went to the bar, but it was crowded/packed.
- Skeet. Someone aggressive, uneducated, unruly and usually associated with petty crimes.
- Sleeveen. A scoundrel, rascal.
- Chummy. A thingamajig, whatsit, or doodad
- Go on in out of it. Remove yourself from the situation, and go home.
The Newfoundland language may sound a bit unusual, yet when a Newfoundlander speaks, it is with a lovable charm and warmth that oozes authenticity. The above phrases differ in each region of Newfoundland, but even though their turn of phrase may sound odd when you meet a Newfoundlander, instantly you know every word comes straight from the heart, and with a twinkle in the eye.
Hope you got a chuckle or two from these Newfoundland language twists, and that you are now a little more prepared to meet a few spunky Newfoundlanders.
How well did you do on the Newfinese test? Can you speak like a Newfie now? Err, I mean like a Newfoundlander?
Here’s a little video test that demonstrates a Newfinese conversation:
Ya git ah dat b’y?