The remains of European languages in Newfoundland
A great deal of the settlers on the island of Newfoundland in the 18th and 19th century were coming from Ireland, and some say as much as 90% of them, at one point, spoke only the Irish language they carried over from their homeland. Unfortunately, the language was never passed on through the generations and most settlers adopted English – which would have been required for work and trade, in all likeliness. A particularly old dialect of French is the only European language other than English still spoken as a mother tongue in Newfoundland, and those settlements are fading away as rural and traditional lifestyles dissolve. Despite this, there are remnants of the Irish language found in everyday Newfoundland English.
Hangashore (borrowed from Irish aindeiseoir) refers to a lazy person (“That buddy’s nothing but a hangashore, by.”)
Scrob (scrawb) means to scratch (“The cat scrobbed me.”)
Streel is a word for a messy or dirty person (“He’s some streel.”)
Slob is dense sea ice (in fishing/sealing terms), coming from the Irish word for mud.
A variety of expressions such as my son (“Yes, my son!”), go ‘way (“Go ‘way, wit ya!”), and to be poisoned (“I’m poisoned with you!”).
Linguists say the Irish and French folk of Newfoundland speaking English (with Irish or French as a first language) created a lot of everyday grammatical patterns. The “backwards” nature of Newfoundland English can be found in phrases such as: “she’s just after leaving for the store” or “throw mother down the stairs her purse”. There is more to come in the future on Newfoundland English and the language of the fishery/sealing industry.
Justin Oakey is a filmmaker and avid outdoorsman born and raised in Newfoundland whose work reflects his passion for the rich history and traditions of his island.