The WordPress weekly writing challenge wants to know about local or regional slang. For those of you planning to visit Halifax or the Maritime provinces of Canada (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island…the Atlantic provinces are the same but include Newfoundland), here are a few expressions you may want to tuck away for future use.
When drinking in the local pubs and listening to a band play on stage, you may hear one of the band members, while in between songs, call out to the crowd: “Sociable!!!!!!” You will probably sit and look around you, mystified, as the room full of assorted drinkers stops in mid-conversation, raises their glass and hollers back “Socialble!!!!!” and then takes a very sociable drink. I’m not sure if it’s to be found outside of Halifax though I suspect Cape Breton pubs are full of sociables.
Old vs New
In Halifax, the harbour is crossed by two suspension bridges, the Angus L. Macdonald bridge and the A. Murray MacKay bridge. Nobody local who has lived here a long time calls them that. the MacDonald bridge, opened in the mid 1950s is the “Old” bridge and the MacKay, opened in the early 1970s is the “New” bridge. So if someone gives you directions and suggests that the new bridge is the better route, you will know to go to the north end of the city and take that bridge rather than the one closer to the downtown core.
Which way was that?
There are a lot of people who were born and raised in Cape Breton Island who are now living and working in Halifax. Lots of them visit their home towns. They go “down home” to CB on the weekend but they are traveling “up” to Cape Breton. Hmmmm. We may travel “up” to Toronto or Ottawa or we can also go “out west”. Up seems to refer to the direction as looking on a map though Cape Breton is techincally east of Halifax and perhaps a little higher on the latitude grid. We also think of the south shore of the province of Nova Scotia as “down” as it does point a bit lower than the geographical point of Halifax on the map. The Annapolis Valley is “down” but you go “up” to Truro and Amherst, both north in the direction of New Brunswick and the rest of Canada.
And then Buddy said…
A common way to talk about someone you don’t know is to refer to them as “Buddy” but it’s always a man, never a woman. And you don’t call him Buddy to his face either, it’s only in the third person. You could be telling someone about “buddy driving the bus” or “and then buddy says (or does…)”. It’s all in how you use the word. If it isn’t used correctly, it sounds awkward. The narrative is generally in casual conversation, of course. You never ask “who’s Buddy” because, of course, we don’t know. That’s the point. It’s much nicer to call a stranger Buddy than to say “this guy”. This isn’t restricted to Halifax, you’ll hear this used all over the Maritimes and Newfoundland.
And the last thing that comes to mind is the Maritime reference to the province of Prince Edward Island. We almost never call it that. We nearly always go “over to the Island”. We *may* sometimes refer to it as PEI (pee-ee-eye). That’s as close to it’s proper name as we might get. Everyone knows what you mean and you don’t have to ask “which Island”?