If you ask Vernon Oickle whether he had a “bed lunch” last night, likes “Solomon gundy” with crackers or bread or thinks it’s “milding up outside,” he’ll know exactly what you mean.
For years, the prolific Nova Scotian author has been travelling the province and listening keenly to the way people speak differently, not only from the rest of the country, but from town to town closer to home. He started jotting down the lingo he found unique to the place and eventually compiled them in a funny little book called Bluenosers’ Book of Slang: How to Talk Nova Scotian.
“I tend to consider myself a collector. I pay attention to what people are saying and doing,” he said recently in an interview. “We often say a phrase that will make you chuckle.”
Nova Scotia, like every region in the world, has its own distinct linguistic shorthand. These words and phrases become meaningful over time and help to not only inform the people who speak them about themselves, but bind them together.
“Nova Scotia is blessed with a rich language. It is littered with words and expressions that vary from county to county and from fishing community to farm town,” Oickle writes in his book’s introduction.
Whether it’s someone on the South Shore asking, “Are you comin’ with?” or a Cape Bretoner declaring, “Right some good, you,” Oickle’s book, which is organized like a dictionary with words and meanings grouped in alphabetical order, is filled with expressions that might leave you wondering what you’ve just read.
“It is not definitive,” he said. “This is kind of a fun attempt to shed light on some of the things we say.”
The book’s cover includes a light-hearted warning, such as reader discretion is advised because some words and phrases, like “Whoof your cookies” or “Wouldn’t say shit for a shovel full,” may be considered offensive.
Born and raised in Liverpool, Oickle still calls the South Shore town home. A writer and freelance journalist for 40 years, he focuses much of his writing on the province’s rich history and culture. Some of his best-known books are about Nova Scotian folklore, superstitions and ghost stories. Words and slang are another part of the province’s culture, he said.
“I’m fascinated by our heritage and history.”
Readers have already let him know about words he should include in a future edition of Bluenoser’s Book of Slang. He welcomes suggestions (people can message him through Facebook).
Aside from the words, phrases and expressions he collected himself over the years, he also put out a call on social media while compiling the book. People from across the province sent him ideas, which he added to his list.
The book even includes a section on lobster jargon with definitions on everything from a gaff (a long, straight wooden pole with a metal hook on the end used to hook the buoys attached to the lobster traps) to roe (a female lobster’s egg sac, which is considered a delicacy).
“I hope the book sheds a little light on who we are as Nova Scotians,” he said. “How we speak is who we are.”
You just made a hodgepodge (a traditional, summertime meal consisting of new garden vegetables boiled and bathed in cream).
You caught your toe on the carpet and went arse over kettle (slipped and fell).
You say you’ve got a right nice car.
You invite your friends over on Saturday night for a feed of lobster.
Your kid is acting like a fart in a mitten (lots of energy).