A Newfoundland Language Lesson Part 5: On Scalded Goats and Favourite Expressions

While in Mexico, the New York ladies were practically giddy when I added “eh?” to the end of a sentence, but they said I had no trace of a Canadian accent. They also didn’t pick up on my Newfoundland accent, leaving me to conclude I’m like a travel chameleon and can suppress my small-town ways to mimic the more civilized folk. And then I slammed three margaritas at breakfast and passed out in the hot tub.

I don’t have an accent? Oh, buddy. You haven’t heard me talking to my family.

cod tongues

These don’t have much to do with language, but cod tongues are delicious.

The Newfoundland dialect is fun and light-hearted, like the Irish lilt. We’re enthusiastic story-tellers and big on exaggeration…in case you haven’t noticed. (I can practically feel the “small-town folk” just stewing.)

In many ways, I don’t really have an accent, and it’s generally being phased out across the island as Newfoundland becomes more accessible. While home for Christmas, I went visiting some of my older relatives and found myself often being unable to keep up with the conversation. Not kidding. I laughed my face off while my uncle wrapped up an epic childhood story about how his pet goat got so cold one winter night he wound himself around his tether, froze his head to the pole, and then my very young uncle accidently killed him when he poured scalding hot water on his face. I stopped laughing to realize, “Whoa, that’s actually incredibly sad.” It’s the story-telling gift, I tell you.

(Don’t judge my uncle. He was 5.)

But I digress. Here are some of my favourite expressions and words for your practicing pleasure.

Arn – Meaning “any.” To inquire about availability of potatoes, you’d ask, “Got arn potato?”

Narn – “Meaning “none.” In response to “Got arn potato?” You’d say “Narn.”

I, however, prefer to omit unnecessary words when possible.

Another favourite is ending sentences with prepositions, like “to.” This leads to my all-time favourite expression when telling someone to wait for me:

“Stay where you’re at and I’ll come where you’re to.”

Now da once – Meaning “soon.” I probably use this one most often: “I’ll be there now da once.”

Sometimes I combine the previous two: “Stay where you’re at, and I’ll come where you’re to. Now da once.”

And finally, a more modern expression taken up by the masses (especially St. John’s folk): “best kind,” meaning “awesome.” You can use it to refer to someone, i.e. “He’s best kind!” Or you can just use it as a general expression of happiness: “Best kind, sure!” Finally, you can whittle it down to appeal to the text-generation: “BK.”

  • March 03 2011

    I was kind of guessing on the meaning of ‘narn’… few of my clients use it… but I wasn’t sure! :D

    also, thanks for clarifying ‘now da once’… I had *thought* it meant soon… but then you’d include it in a text message, i would also leave soon, and you wouldn’t be ready at all ;P

    “Best kind” is one of my favourites – picked it up from clients, use it all the time :) At a party once I said it and someone said “wait, i thought you were the one from away?” ;P

    also, your accent is not bad – i’d say at least half the people i deal with at work have stronger accents than yours. But you definitely sound different when you’re talking to your mum – so you probably are a bit of a chameleon, and the lose the accent a bit when no one else around you has it.. ;D

    • March 03 2011

      Hahaha, I wasn’t sure if people still actually use “narn” in normal conversation…damn.

      And you were right about “now da once,” I’m just a flake.

  • March 03 2011

    Here in Ireland we have a tv show called ‘Republic of Doyle’.
    Think its based in St Johns. I love the accent even if there is an over use of the past tense ;-)

    • March 03 2011

      Lol, Katie! Do you really watch it over there?! Awesome. :D

  • March 03 2011

    Nice insight Candice.

  • March 03 2011

    You’re best kind. Did I get it right Candice?

  • March 03 2011

    Love this! We’ve been working with a tour operator in Newfoundland, CapeRace Cultural Adventures (http://www.caperace.com/), it makes sense to see why CapeRace can be so successful with their idea (trying to preserve living culture and not have it be phased out) when you realize how well Newfounlanders can tell a story :D

    • March 03 2011

      Ohh so lucky, CapeRace is an AMAZING group! I really want to do a tour with them sometime. Their employees rock.

  • March 03 2011

    I used to work with a lady from Newfoundland and a man from England. It’s so funny how different English can be. She’d alway ask “where ya to?” and it would drive him crazy. I loved it, it was hilarious to see them fight over linguistics.

    • March 04 2011

      LOL! I can only imagine how insulted an Englishman would be for us butchering their very own language…

  • March 03 2011

    We have to make a video version of your language lessons :)

    • March 04 2011

      LET’S. DO. IT. I’m taking you to Fiddler’s Pub!

  • March 03 2011

    Love it!!! And yes Cailin, convince Candice that you have to make a language lesson video, that would be BK!!

    I remember going to a party in the countryside outside of STJ and after a few blue stars (yes embarrassingly I enjoy this beer) I was sitting next to some old fella and he was telling me a story. I can honestly say I picked up probably 3 or 4 words total in talking to him for 30 minutes or so. His accent was so thick. Luckily he was cut and we had some good laughs.

    I love the language and love that I know a little more now. Cheers!

    • March 04 2011

      Hahaha, BK indeed!

      Hey, Blue Star isn’t a terrible beer choice. ;) But I love that you guys hung out and drank with the locals. Don’t worry, even if you don’t understand a story being told, nodding and smiling will do the trick! Lol.

  • March 03 2011

    I dont think i realized that best kind was a Newfoundland only thing, i should be ashamed. I also dont think i heard Narn being used before, however my mom always makes this joke (making fun of people im sure)

    “whats the worst thing to have in your head”
    “-Nar Toot” (not a single tooth) – i guess Narn and Nar are related then!
    Also, its awesome people watch Republic of Doyle in Ireland!

    • March 04 2011

      I wasn’t 100% sure if “best kind” was Newf, but Urban Dictionary confirmed it. And UD never lives.

      I LOVE that people in Ireland watch RoD too, haha.

  • March 03 2011

    cod tongues = yum! Any kind of tongues have a history of being tasty, right?

    and…the use of “to” as in “come to where you’re to” is super fun to say! I think I am going to adopt that and bring a little Newfoundland love to Seattle, it will be a hit!

    • March 04 2011

      DO IT! And try to find some cod tongues while you’re at it, cover them in flour and fry them up in a shit ton of oil. Delicious.

  • March 04 2011

    Oh good lord I’m glad you wrote this out. I need to carry a copy of Candice’s Canadian for beginners with me. <3

    • March 07 2011

      Hehe, well, this is only applicable for Newfoundland…talk like this in the rest of Canada and you’ll probably get a lot of stares. ;)

  • March 04 2011

    I’ve picked up so much slang living here the past 6 years. my mom always calls me out on it whenever I call home or go home for a visit. she just shakes her head at half the stuff that comes out of my mouth and says I have more of a newfoundland accent then some of my friends she has met while over visiting. I take it as a compliment.

    • March 07 2011

      Hahaha, it’s inevitable. Soon you will be 100% converted to true Newf.

  • March 05 2011

    I hope your dialect doesn’t die out, Candice. It’s very charming. You should encourage people back home to work to keep it going. It’s worth keeping, I think.

    • March 07 2011

      Agreed! Most people consider the accent to be practically derogatory, however. I think it’s worth keeping too.

  • March 07 2011

    Ha, I love it! I hadn’t heard of some of those sayings before. But the poor goat!

    I live in Texas, where people definitely have their own dialect. I grew up in Houston and now live in Austin–both big cities where people use some Texas slang (we say “y’all” all the time), but don’t really have accents. Though the big cities do have lots of people who have moved there from the country, and the drawl is really fun to listen to. I find that when I’m around people with accents, I talk more Texan-like.

    • March 07 2011

      Yeah, I definitely didn’t notice you had an accent at TBEX! I love the Texan drawl. It’s fun. :)

  • March 07 2011

    hahahaa. Cape Bretoners use “at” like we use “to”. its quite funny. also, i used the word “sure” ALL THE TIME. after 15 years, i’m starting to become a newf :)

    • March 09 2011

      And you’ve resisted for so long!

  • March 07 2011

    Love it! Maggie says ya’all say “urge” for throwing up…I really like that one too!!

    • March 09 2011

      Hahaha, oh yes! Classic example of a word I think was universal but turned out to be Newf. Oops.

  • March 08 2011

    I am not sure if I agree with your comment that ‘the Newfoundland accent is being ‘phased out’. Take the 5:05 Air Canada flight to TO/Ft. Mac some morning, it is an all-ages accent festival.

    The Newfoundland accent, (whatever that is) is definitly changing – the St. John’s accent has become more universal. And linguists have also pointed out that local dialects are significantly stronger among young men then women. The more educated the young women, the less the accent. This has perhaps more to do with local social pressures and expectations then isolation. You can see this phenomena in any bar in St. John’s – in any mixed group of young local people, the females will have marketly less accent then the males in the same group.

    • March 09 2011

      Hahaha, thanks, Hallett. I really hope you’re right. I’ve mostly noticed it in my hometown but we never had incredibly strong accents to begin with, I think.

      Interesting theory on the young men having stronger accents than women, though. I’d love to learn a little more about that.

  • April 03 2011

    Hey, glad to hear the good review of Cape Race. H and I are visiting Newfoundland for the first time (from B.C.) at the end of April and I just talked to Ken Sooley last night about setting something up for us. We don’t have that many days (April 28 – May 4) so I want to make the most of it.

    We’re from a small town (pop. 3500, bigger in the winter for the ski season) and I’m trying to think of any sayings that seem to be local…..I think maybe this one might be: “giving someone the greasy eyeball” which means you’re mad at them and among young men, spoiling for a fight.

    Have really been enjoying your blog–it’s great!

  • September 19 2011

    OMG, I almost wish I hadn’t read this entry (kidding!), because I am so SCREWED now. For our upcoming visit to the Rock, I am NYC-raised but have lived the last 20 in the Southern USA including the last 10 in Mississippi, and my buddy/travel companion is also NYC-raised but the last 15 in Boston. The locals aren’t going to be able to understand us any better than we will understand them!

  • February 07 2012

    Mmm, I grew up in NL and used “da once” as “later”. “I’ll be with you da once”.

    And what about “Oh, yes b’y!”. It has multiple meanings!

    • February 09 2012

      I think it works either way, although I’ve used it mostly for “soon.”

      I talk about “b’y” in another blog post! The basis of my language, really. Hahah.

  • June 05 2015
    Aidan McC

    you need’nt use the “now”, just say “da once”. best kind.
    and, “whadda-ya-at?” wittled down by townies to, “y’at?”.
    “me nerves”. “lord lift’in”. “lord tunderin’ “. “i lau” never could figure out how to spell “lau”, but it is the the same as the “low” in “allow”, as in “will yee be goin’ to ‘da dance?”, andswer “i lau i will, but depends on ‘da missus”.
    for da luv o’ da lord lift’in tunderin’ j#@*s, i misses ” ‘ome”, “mahhm”, “nanny”, “buddy whas-is-name” and the rest of them, so sooo much! :)
    thanks for the smile you gave me this morning.
    Candice? sure she’s ‘da best kind, sure!
    happy travels


    p.s. (referencing your pics) sure i knows now she’s n’ar bit pretty. (newfie sarcasm as a compliment)

  • January 26 2018

    Newfs are the best people, hands down, in the world (as evidenced by this string of comments. N’ar a negative word in the lot. I married a Newfoundland girl and can only wish that I had been blessed to also be born there. Stand proud.

    • February 04 2018

      I’m glad you think so, Jeff! :)

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