Welcome to the New Year! It’s a big year for the Dictionary of Newfoundland English. 2012 marks the 30th anniversary of the DNE and you can be sure that there will be much celebration around the English Language Research Centre (ELRC). Please keep an eye on the ELRC website or Twig’s Facebook page for upcoming events.
Before the celebration ensues, though, come another three or four months of winter. This year there is a nasty rumour flying around the streets of St. John’s that the Province is in for a long cold winter. Since the 8-foot snow banks of the bone-chilling winter in 2001, the winters have been milder, without as much snow as some of you might remember from childhood. So far, the keen or cold, crisp and clear weather, storms and blizzards have stayed away for the most part, but when the winter winds start faffering and it’s “[c]old enough to freeze ice-candles [or icicles] on your liver”, you might be sprayed and bazzom meaning chapped and blue. This month, Twig’s focus is on how to stay warm in the treacherous conditions that will surely materialize. Aside from working up a sweat shovelling or sitting by the fire, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have many words to talk about the cold as was covered in last December’s blog and they also have a lexicon for how to beat the cold.
There is a saying that goes ‘If you don’t like the weather here, wait five minutes’. Dressing for the ever-changing weather entails layering and then layering some more. In the winter months, these layers might include a good lot of arse bags, or ample underclothes, as a foundation on which to build. Some days, though, the cold is enough to clip you and no matter how prepared you think you are, you’ll need to get a warm.
It is no secret that the temperature tends to plummet overnight and this may make it difficult to stay warm. Can you imagine not having a nice warm bed to curl up in when you come in from the cold for a good night’s rest? Well, explorers, hunters, trappers and so on did not always have that warm bed so they would sleep on the floor in their clothes, known as sleeping in puppy’s parlour.
Unfortunately, having a bed to sleep in might not bring much warmth on the bitterest nights when the best indoor heating system can’t take the chill out of the air. On these occasions, you might consider using a lap rock a while before you call it a night.
If you lived on the west coast of the island, mill blankets served to provide a little added warmth through the night.
Staying warm at sea or on the ice could be a matter of life or death. On fishing vessels, a stove used for heating was called a bogie (with variants bogey and bogy). Typical seafaring clothing might include a monkey jacket or cassock. Ganseys are heavy wool sweaters that were also common attire at sea. At sea or on the ice, fishermen and sealers would wear nailbag ganseys.
In Labrador especially, you might want to find an adikey made of either seal skin or cloth to keep out the blistering northern temperatures. This term is linked to cassock in the DNE. Interestingly, the term cassock can refer to a loose fitting garment made of animal skin or ship’s canvas worn by the Beothuk (sense 1), a pull-over garment with a hood of the same materials worn by the Labrador Inuit (sense 2) or a garment worn over the head and shoulders in winter (sense 3) . The OED defines cassock as a long loose coat worn by “rustics [and] sailors”.
While many of you might be familiar with the sou’wester, what about the north-wester designed for severe weather conditions? Little flaps of flannel known as pinovers were sometimes fastened to the sides of the north-wester to protect the nose and chin from the frosty air.
Another type of cap worn in the winter is the elsinore with two ear flaps and strings that is typically crafted from leather.
Some of you might have heard the phrase “button up your craw”. In local usage, craw refers to the breastbone area but the OED lists variants from English and other languages that refer to the throat or the stomach. You might also cover up your craw with a cloud or a cravat.
On your feet, chances are you’ll want a nice warm pair of wool socks. A hoggelly bog could be worn over the socks.
Moving on from winter-wear, warm drinks can be taken to beat the cold but alcoholic beverages can also help warm the insides as well. One such beverage, callibogus, has been noted in Eastern North America since at least the 16th century and was added to hotel menus in Newfoundland in the mid 1960s.
In the early morning, when the woodstove dies down, you’ll likely be tissy or tished. In its first sense, tissy means angry or irritable. The second sense means strikingly cold. If you wake up to a depleted heat source on a cold Newfoundland winter morning, you’ll likely be both senses at once. To get the fire going again, make sure you have lots of bavins, chovies, and splits on hand.
Nowadays, it’s easy to take winter shelter for granted where housing innovations allow even seaside homes to remain relatively unaffected by the Atlantic gusts. In days gone by, families and even communities of people who inhabited deforested areas like the coastline would pull up stakes and build winter shacks just to survive the winter. These winter houses were typically inland and were sometimes built with logs and moss, alternatively called tilts by some informants. Although not as common today in Newfoundland and Labrador, many cultures worldwide still practice seasonal migration (called transhumance in scholarly literature). Winterhousing, a modern term, is not specifically covered in the DNE but has been discussed at length by Anthropologist Philip E. L. Smith.
Most likely you do not have to move house and home to make it through the winter but what do you do to avoid becoming hard afrore with the cold? Do you go into hibernation mode or are you prepared to meet the winter weather head on? Whatever you do this winter, make sure you stay warm!