All aboard!: Boats in the DNE

Boats at Jerseyside, 2009. The harbours in this area see lots of action and lots of boats. Photo by Suzanne Power.

Boats at Jerseyside, 2009. The harbours in this area see lots of action and lots of boats. Photo by Suzanne Power.

Now that summer truly seems to be just around the corner, you might be thinking of taking to the water in the near future. Many boats are already in the water and have made their first trips to sea, to the pond or lake, or maybe down the river. There can be quite a lot of work involved in getting your craft ready to sail and, with the long history of a people on the water, it’s no surprise that Newfoundland English has quite a number of boating terms. This month, Twig’s focus is on types of boats, but that only scratches the surface of boat culture in Newfoundland and Labrador. Inspiration for this theme came from the Online Dialect Atlas of Newfoundland and Labrador English materials which will feature an extensive section of words related to boats. The Dialect Atlas launch has been pushed to October so keep an eye out for announcements over the next few months.

On the northeast coast and Labrador, you might find a bully or a bully boat. The skipper of a bully boat is called the bully man. The file below shows a sketch of a bully by a resident of Broad Cove, Conception Bay from 1973.

Bully

Word-file with image for ‘bully’. Reproduced by permission of the English Language Research Centre, Memorial University, St. John’s, NL.

A jack is similar to a bully. A jack-boat, on the other hand, is a smaller boat but is said by at least one informant to be used to carry a dory (see more on dory below). In the DNE, jack-boat falls under the head word jack 1 n as one of the linked compounds.

Jack

Word-file for ‘jack’ from Francois, collected in 1972. Reproduced by permission of the English Language Research Centre, Memorial University, St. John’s, NL.

 A by-boat is a second boat typically belonging to the merchant or master of a ship. These boats were used mainly in the inshore migratory fishery and then left behind when fishermen returned to their homes across the Atlantic in the winter. The word file below was excerpted from a printed source from the Colonial Office Series in 1675.

By-boat

Word-file for ‘by-boat’. Reproduced by permission of the English Language Research Centre, Memorial University, St. John’s, NL.

One of the most popular terms for a boat in the province is dory. A popular tune on weekend radio shows featuring traditional music is the gem recorded by Ray Johnson from Buddywasisname, Fishin’ in a Dory. You can have a listen by clicking here, complete with lyrics and some commentary. The drawing on the word-file below comes from a resident of Gillams and was collected in 1973.

Dory

Word-file and images for ‘dory’. Reproduced by permission of the English Language Research Centre, Memorial University, St. John’s, NL.

Another popular term for a boat is punt. There are many word-files for this term in the DNE collection. There are a couple of proverbs involving punts in the files. “A fish in the punt is worth two in the water” and “With a leaky punt and a broken oar, it’s always best to hug the shore” come from England, 1924 Vikings 255. The word-file below gives a nice description of a punt in comparison to other crafts.

Punt

‘Punt’ word-file. Reproduced by permission of the English Language Research Centre, Memorial University, St. John’s, NL.

A rodney is another type of small boat, similar to a punt but the rodney is round-bottomed and with one square end where a punt is normally sqare at both ends and is flat-bottomed. Back in 2007, boatbuilder Jerome Canning was onsite at The Rooms in St. John’s, NL to build a rodney in a living exhibit. Read more about Jerome and his boats by clicking here.

Rodney

Word-file for ‘rodney’ from an informant in Winterton, Trinity Bay who was born in 1918. Reproduced by permission of the English Language Research Centre, Memorial University, St. John’s, NL.

Larger vessels include the skiff and shallop. Interestingly, a skiff in its first sense refers to a large partly-decked fishing boat mainly used to set and haul nets but in its second sense can refer to a smaller boat of up to 20 tons. A shallop is used in the cod and seal fishery and refers to a large partly-decked vessel rigged-out with lug-sails.

Skiff

Word-file for ‘skiff’. Reproduced by permission of the English Language Research Centre, Memorial University, St. John’s, NL.

Shallop

Word-file for ‘shallop’. This is a note between DNE editors Dr. William Kirwin and Dr. George Story. Can you decipher the handwriting? Reproduced by permission of the English Language Research Centre, Memorial University, St. John’s, NL.

A western boat is a schooner-rigged fishing boat of between 10-30 tons and is very similar to a cape boat. The word-file below describes the difference between a western boat and a bully.

Western boat

Word-file for ‘western boat’ from 1966. Reproduced by permission of the English Language Research Centre, Memorial University, St. John’s, NL.

Do you have a boat? Do you have names for vessels that aren’t listed here? If you have photos of your boats on land or on the water, perhaps even inside a bottle, please feel free to share them, especially for those readers away from home missing out on the glorious weather and a great season to be out on the water!

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One Response to All aboard!: Boats in the DNE

  1. baylou says:

    Love your blog!

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