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This article is taken from PN Review 40, Volume 11 Number 2, November - December 1984.

Word-Stock Anthony Bailey

A natural sense of being not only separate but special attends people who live on islands. In Newfoundland, an island which is at once the easternmost projection of the North American continent into the Atlantic Ocean and the last of the stepping-stones westbound European travellers have used to cross that ocean, the feeling of difference is substantiated by and demonstrated in the language of the place. How Newfoundlanders have lived and worked, where they have come from and whom they have made contact with, is manifest in words. The editors of the seven-hundred-page Dictionary of Newfoundland English (University of Toronto Press) write that they intended to compile a 'regional lexicon of one of the oldest overseas communities of the English-speaking world', and in the process establish a record for Newfoundlanders and their descendants and for readers and scholars who need to know about the speech and culture of the region. To this reader, they have also produced a book which is salty as dried cod and as invigorating, verbally, as a windward sail on a day of sun and south-west breeze.

G. M. Story, W. J. Kirwin, and J. D. A Widdowson, the editors and lexicographers involved (two Newfoundlanders and one Englishman), have sought words which - although possibly used elsewhere - have been given a new form or meaning in Newfoundland (properly pronounced Newfunland); words which are survivals of words in former use in the British Isles; words which appear to have been invented in Newfoundland ...


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