DICTIONARY OF NEWFOUNDLAND ENGLISH
Volume 11 Number 3.
The Dictionary of Newfoundland English is "hot off the press" and I am sure will be considered as a "hot item" from now on. This reviewer is especially pleased, as she had the pleasure of watching two of the editors work on this monumental piece while she herself was employed at Memorial University's Main Library. The dictionary is a much needed addition to linguistics and Canadiana for at least two very good reasons. Researched and edited by three eminently well-qualified men, G.M. Story, W.J. Kirwin and J.D.A. Widdowson, this work fills a void in the field of linguistics and adds immeasurably to our knowledge and understanding of Newfoundland and her unique dialect. The task was not an easy one, as twenty years were spent completing the final product. Story and Kirwin were fortunate in being together in the English department of Memorial University of Newfoundland, while Widdowson, a linguist, has been commuting over the years from Yorkshire, England. Why did these three men ever produce such a work? When you live in Newfoundland, you are immediately aware of dialect all around you, not one, but many. With a population linguistically pure and insular to work with, it was only logical for these scholars to attempt a definitive work on the subject. Their sources are extensive and varied. Printed ones took them back as far as 1610, oral samples were collected on tapes and cards, and the result is approximately four thousand entries, each citing various spellings, nuances, and definitions. The most entertaining and helpful part of each entry is the example(s) given to illustrate the meaning. The source of each is given where available.
This reviewer delighted in looking up all the old familiar words such as "glutch" (to swallow), "twack" (to shop and not spend), "trout" (as a term of endearment, "me old trout"), "cardeen" (accordion) and was also delighted to add a good many more to her repertoire "fiddler" (musician who performs for a dance on an accordion), "fib" (a dance), "bam" (a false tale intended to deceive). One often comes across a word that seems quite straightforward and basic to the English language such as "abroad," only to find it is not so. Newfoundlanders over the years have given such words new or varied meaning. A glance at this dictionary will give you five definitions: 1) "spread out" 2) "open, apart" 3) "in pieces, asunder" 4) "of a field of ice, pans" 5) "to overturn." Each entry has its own definition and set of examples.
Many dictionaries have been written to reflect not only the English language, as in the OED and supplements, but also regional or national peculiarities that have evolved on their own. Dictionaries of Canadian or American English are good examples. According to the editors, the purpose of the Dictionary of Newfoundland English is "to present as one such index the regional lexicon of one of the oldest overseas communities of the English-speaking world: the lexicon of Newfoundland and coastal Labrador as it is displayed in sources. . ." Words adequately covered in other dictionaries are is displayed in sources. . ." Words adequately covered in other dictionaries are not included.
The use and value of this work cannot be overstated. Some fields of academia are flooded by the written word, others are starved. The Dictionary of Newfoundland English has served on a silver platter, a luscious piece of "pie" ("cake," to us on the mainland) well needed by a starving general and academic public. Well done!
Sylvia Teasdale-Budgell, Mississauga P. L., Mississauga, ON.
1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995
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