Newfoundland expressions I didn’t realize were Newfoundland expressions

I always think I have a handle on my Newfoundland dialect when I’m talking to Come From Aways, but every now and then a phrase or expression intrudes my conversation without me even realizing it. I’m always stunned to find people confused and scratching their heads after I’ve expelled a perfectly logical explanation.

Some things makes so much sense to me, and yet for someone who’s studied English all her life, their nonsensical composition should be obvious.

Let’s take this video clip featuring the handsome Mr. Allan Hawco (Jake Doyle from Republic of Doyle):

I was gobsmacked when I heard Hawco trying to explain “What’s after happenin’ now?” I’ve used it more than once, yet it’s a contradiction of extraordinary proportions. “What’s after happenin’?” insinuates something of the past, but it ISN’T. The “now” I always figured was a punctuation of frustration. Kinda like “What’s the problem NOW?”

Then there’s “blocked,” as in “The bar was BLOCKED!” meaning “The bar was packed with people!”

I first said this while driving across the country with Cailin. She nearly pulled over the car, and we argued until we were blue in the face.

“But ‘blocked’ implies there was something barring the way, like a physical object blocking the route,” Cailin argued.

“IT WAS SO PACKED WITH PEOPLE THAT THE ENTRANCE WAS BLOCKED!” I screamed. She might have punched me. She’s abusive like that.

Another example from the drive, although we might have both been on the edge of delirium: There was a Styrofoam box underneath my feet, and when I stepped on it, it made a weird creaking noise. Cailin asked, “What was that?” I responded with, “Oh, I squat the box,” meaning I squished it with my feet.


I can understand the confusion that comes with this one, for the expression has become so entrenched in Newfoundland vocabulary that most Newfoundlanders don’t even think about it (except now I do, all the freaking time).

Newfoundlanders do not use “squish.” “Squat” is not a hovering-over-the-latrine verb, it means “to crush.”

Another example: “Oh no, I just squat my finger in the door!” Happens all the time.

And finally, the latest. Last week, as I walked back to the kitchen table with a handful of mail, I flicked through the envelopes impatiently looking for a pay cheque among all the bills. I threw the stack on the table angrily and yelled, “I’M DROVE OFF THE HEAD!”

My roommate was stunned. “What does that even mean?”

Furious. Absolutely freaking furious. I’m so mad, my head just came off. That’s it. Nostrils flared, steam flying from my ears and my freckled face turning the colour of a tomato. Drove. Off. The. Head.

Here’s one just for fun: “Clits” can be used to refer to tangles in someone’s hair. “My hair is all clitty!” I’m not even kidding.

What other phrases do you use?

  • February 13 2012

    I think you said “I squat dat” and I said “what??” and you were like “I squat the box” and I was like “you did what to what??” and I think I think I stopped the car and we got into a fist fight and rolled down a hill and then I said ” i hit the box with my foot and it made a noise” and i said “you squished it!!!”
    bahahahahaha OMG crazy newfs!

    • February 15 2012

      Haaaaaaahahahaa, remember “Alarm the clock?

      • March 15 2015

        Love reading your posts. Brought back a bunch of memories of my Wife and her family. Some nice b’y.

  • February 13 2012

    These are hilarious! I’m pretty sure I’d look at you as if you were speaking another language if I ever heard one. Not sure I have any strange phrases that I use, though a lot of Japanese English professors have never heard of FYI. I thought that was strange.

    • February 15 2012

      Hahaha, basically is its own language! Good grief, imagine ME in Japan, in that case.

  • February 13 2012

    Ha, I’d forgotten about clit! Glad I learned the alternate meaning for that before leaving the island…

  • February 13 2012

    haha, I’ve achieved the point now where even if it’s an expression I’ve never heard before, while I probably couldn’t explain it, I understand what the person is getting at ;)
    What I find funniest, though, is when the girls from work are not only surprised to find out such and such phrase isn’t said outside of Newfoundland. . . but when they are surprised about the ones that are :P (there’s things I’ve been saying right out the gate. . . because it’s said in PEI or Ontario as well :P )

    I am a fan of “urging”. And it’s right up there with ‘squat’ as words I might have not used in that context ever before in my life, but now make total and complete sense..

    • February 15 2012

      Yeah, I’m surprised too when I find words that are the same outside of NL! Maybe another post…

  • February 13 2012

    love it!! We just had some friends from the Rock come visit us in NYC and they told us about the iTunes app – whaddaya app. Lots of Newf phrases and their meanings.

    • February 15 2012

      Yes! I haven’t checked it out yet, but I hear it’s lovely.

  • February 13 2012

    Omg, “My hair is all clitty”??? I feel that now, more than I ever, I must make it up there one day to hang out with you. If only to hear you actually use phrases like this in everyday language.

    • February 15 2012

      Hahahaha, if I get to meet you in Florida, I will personally teach you!

  • February 13 2012

    I’ve heard of a few Newfoundland expressions, but never these ones. I can only imagine the reaction I’d get at home I told people my hair was all clitty.

    I’m not sure if there are any Alberta or prairie region specific phrases, maybe there is and I just don’t notice them. Either way I think Newfoundland definitely has the most unique phrases.

    • February 15 2012

      I think half of these are reserved for extreme rural areas…but then, maybe not.

  • February 14 2012

    My Mom says, “I’m run ragged” and “I nearly shit a rib” — those are my faves… :)

    • February 15 2012

      YES! Run ragged. Forgot about that one. Never shit a rib before, though.

  • February 14 2012

    ‘I’m Drove off the Head’?! Ha ha ha… Actually as an Albertan – I would have NO IDEA.
    This is great.

  • February 14 2012

    I’ve never heard clitty before! Sounds like how you’d describe a really small penis.

    In case anyone wondered what word we use as “a hovering-over-the-latrine verb,” it’s “quat.” You read that right. She squat the box. I quat down to pee.

    Oh, and what about “I’m sogged.” It means “I’m really wet.”

    • February 15 2012

      YES, QUAT! I can’t believe I forgot that. It deserves a whole post on its own.

      And don’t forget “rotted.” “I’m some rotted b’y da jesus.”

    • August 19 2014

      We used to say satched, not sogged. Does anyone else say that?

  • February 15 2012

    I love learning about the differences in slang across geography. Linguistics are fascinating.

    • February 15 2012

      Aren’t they?! It amazes me how language evolves. Including Internet language.

  • February 15 2012

    These are all very funny!!! I have already practiced a few of them. If I ever meet someone from Newfoundland, I will surprise them. :)

    • February 15 2012

      Bahaha, please do! And then let me know how it turns out.

  • February 15 2012

    glad you broke these down, Candice, because I get confused easily.
    Pretty sure no amount of context clues would have helped me.
    I’m not exactly blocked upstairs, you know.
    (can that just mean ‘packed’? Because the whole with people thing probably doesn’t work there…)

    • February 22 2012

      Don’t worry, it’s a fine art you learn with 25 years of experience!

  • February 17 2012

    Ha! Those are great, plus some mentioned by other posters. I just LOVE those kind of sayings. My dad had a lot, hailing from rural Saskatchewan.

    I THINK this one that might only be used in our neck of the woods in BC but I hope your loyal readers will let me know if it’s national (or international) usage. When you’re angry with someone, you give them “the greasy eyeball.” Pretty much the same as giving someone a dirty look.

    “So, I was standing there, giving him the greasy eyeball, and……”

    • February 22 2012

      LOL greasy eyeball! I’m SO stealing that!

  • February 18 2012

    I’m almost positive “I’m after….” comes from Newfoundland’s Irish settlers – the grammar is a hallmark of Hiberno English! Like a lot of Hiberno English grammar, it’s a direct translation from the Irish language. It took me a long time to get used to it, too, when I lived in Ireland (what the heck are they talking about?) but eventually I copped on that it meant “just having done” – I’m after graduating from university. I’m just after coming home from work.

    “Drove off the head” is something I’ve never heard before. Fantastic!

    • February 22 2012

      Yup, that’s a good one I’ve never even though about! I remember once, in grade two, I passed in my completed test to the teacher and then sneaked a look at my notes, and realized I had spelled a word wrong. I panicked, completely freaking panicked, and in mad desperation asked the teacher if I could have the test back because I forgot something. She got super mad at me and was like, “You’re after looking at your notes, Candice!” Horrified. Stayed with me for life.

      Good story. Hah.

  • March 27 2012

    ya gotta like birch broom in da fits or he could put the arse back in the cat.

    • March 29 2012

      I have NO idea what that means! Hahaha

  • April 13 2012

    One of my favourite Newfoundland words has got to be “luh!” “Luh! There’s a moose!!” “Barmp” is another good one. Didn’t realize that wasn’t used anywhere else until I was 19 and really confused some friends from BC and Ontario who were coming to pick me up. “Barmp when you gets here!”

    • April 18 2012

      ahaha, I forgot about Barmp! Golden.

  • June 08 2012

    Great post. Great follow up.

    Here’s one my up-along-wife says is native only to the rock but I have a hard time believing her: Happy as Larry. She thought I was refering to a specific Larry who must have been a happy chap, but no. I have no idea who Larry is but its nice to be as happy as him by all accounts.

    Also saying that something is “some ____” like “she’s some pretty” implying it’s more pretty than just unmodified pretty but most CFAs might think were knocking the pretty down a few nothches. I remember talking to my Father about the degrees to which we could boil (pronounced bile) some potatoes. The progression went like this:

    Biled , some biled, right biled and biled t’ det (boiled to death)

    Speaking of my father, despite knowing him for over 40 years he still is able to pull new newfisms out of his ass on a regular basis. Recent examples include:

    That one’s got mor guts than a 10 cent fish. And once when I popped a hot pepper in my mouth whole he commented “that one wouldn’t have lived anyway – its eyes were too far apart”. Maybe you had to be there.

    Keep it up!

    • June 13 2012

      Omg, I love this. I hope you don’t mind me using this entire commentary on a future post. It’s just too perfect. Biled t’det!

  • June 18 2012
    sandy beach

    did you know that many of us can discern from which bay we are from by our pronunciation of certain words and by certain usage, but I’m looking for specific phrases from a specific bay….bay st. george…for example, we say, “on most mondays, we shift the bed”….( change the sheets …).

    Another sees the superlative form of ugly as ‘bad ugly’.

    when something hurts real bad, it is “some sore my son” ( although that I believe is a provincial phrase).

    do you or others here know of any more phrases that is used only in that particular bay?



    • July 04 2012

      Omg, amazing.

      Good question. I know there are tons. When I went to Grenfell, Stephenville people used “dirty” as “very.” Like “That’s dirty funny!” Prob just slang for that time.

      Would love to start a collection, just need to figure out how…

  • June 28 2012

    I remember watching that Allan Hawco vid while I was living in Germany, and being equally amazed at never having previously taken note of the grammatical failings of ‘Whas after happenin’ now?’

    I don’t think of myself as having a Newfoundland accent; years away from the island have forced me to slow my speech to a speed at which foreigners can actually understand me. But I guess a couple gems stuck with me.

    Like ‘squat’. 5 years of nomadic life and it was only upon reading your blog JUST NOW that I’ve been made aware that this word: it doesn’t mean what I think it means. My mind = blown.

    • July 04 2012

      LOL! That is HILARIOUS. I’m surprised nobody corrected you on it since you’ve been abroad.

  • September 11 2012
    Jessica Nielsen

    the latest one i heard: nice weather for clothes. as in, if you had clothes on the line, that would be cool because it is not raining out.

  • September 27 2012

    Blocked and squat are Newfie expressions??? I never would have guessed. Now every single time I say these I’m going to think about how they’re only used here…

  • October 22 2012

    where are ya TO?

    they say it in Newfoundland and Wales.. no one else in the world has any clue what im on about!

  • April 13 2013

    I had just moved to Alberta and while sitting around a fire pit with a bunch of mainlanders I warned someone their pants might catch on fire by saying “watch out there’s a flanker on you” (in other words a spark), they jumped and screamed “what!?” thought i meant some strange bug. I love newfoundland and newfinese.

    check out my store of newfoundland themed tshirts

    we’re also on facebook,
    keep up the good work candice.

  • September 18 2013

    This thread makes me miss CODCO :(
    The Friday Night Girls, the Byrd family…..(sigh)

  • July 09 2014
    Bay Boy

    Anybody familiar with the use of the world “either” in newfoundland dialect? For example, say you are at Middle Cove on a sunny day in June, and someone comes up to you and says, “Either capelin on the beach?” I was trying to explain it to some mainlander friends, and suddenly was second guessing myself. They were trying to convince me that it must be a fast form for “Is there…”, but I don’t think so…

    • July 10 2014

      Yes! Except when I hear it at home, it sounds more like “Ee-der caplin over there?”

    • August 19 2014

      I asked my coworker if they would fast either day during Ramadan. I meant “will you fast at all?” I felt this didn’t accurately reflect my exact question, though.

    • January 07 2015
      Arlene White

      One might say, ‘ere one or ‘er ‘un
      To mean is there either one. If there aren’t any then one would respond with n’ere ‘un

  • July 26 2015

    Go way wit ya….You’re kidding!

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