Introducing... Terry Pratt: author of Prince
Edward Island Sayings and Dictionary
of Prince Edward Island English.
The first day I was on Prince Edward Island (1972, age
29, just hired from Toronto as a U.P.E.I. professor), I
was taking a stroll around Charlottetown, when I met a
little girl with a big black dog. What a nice
dog! I said. You from away? she
instantly replied, an expression I had never heard
before. So this was the first saying I ever collected,
along with the knowledge that there was something
foreign (which can mean the same as
from away) about the way I spoke.
As I got into analyzing Island speech, I realized that it
was a highly complex blend of uniqueness and sharing with
other dialects. From away, for example, is
used in several places that consider themselves special
and apart, and need a cover term for the rest of the
world, including Newfoundland, Nova Scotias south
shore, Maine, Boston, Kentucky, Georgia, and the West
Indies. Then again, Islanders (a VERY tricky
word) dont always fix the outer limit of
away at the world or universe, but may mean
North America or the rest of Canada only. The rest are
foreigners. People from Ontario, I have
learned, are especially said to be from away. And it is
only non-native Islanders who refer to themselves as
PFAs or CFAspeople, or
come, from away.
Meanwhile, other Maritimers may NOT be from
away but from the other side, which is
much friendlier. Anne of Green Gables was from the other
side; she might never have made it in Avonlea at all if
she had been from away.
Prince Edward Islanders have uniquely mastered a
language fondly referred to as Islandese.
Islanders are accustomed to responses such as
whaaa? when someone hasnt heard what
has been said and Im donna that, when a
task has been completed. When asked how a person is
feeling some typical Island responses may include
Im feeling right happy, eh, and
Im fine altogether. Words such as
wash are more often pronounced
warsh and frequently slippery is
replaced with slippy. Ironically, what may be
a well-known saying in Prince County may never have been
heard in Kings County. Here are some sayings that are
commonly heard throughout Prince Edward Island.
As big as a haystack. Describes very large,
well-fed senior men.
If their brass were gold, they would be
millionaires. Describes a saucy or brazen person.
They couldnt afford the first instalment of a
free lunch. Describes someone extremely poor.
Not operating on all batteries. Describes
someone not behaving in an intelligent manner.
Running around like a fart in a mitten.
Anxious, overworked, acting at random with little effect.
As wide as a two-by-four. Used to describe a
small or thin person.
Is it cold up there? Common expression when
speaking with a tall person.
Crooked as a crowbar. Describes a
fundamentally dishonest person.
They couldnt carry a tune if it had
handles. Describes one who could not sing in tune.
Too cold for a fence post. Describes below
average temperatures and wind chills.
Wouldnt that boil your britches.
Describes a shocking or anger provoking event.
You could have bought someone for two cents.
Describes someone showing embarrassment.
As bright as a burned out light bulb.
Describes someone not especially bright or intelligent.
Busier than a cat having kittens. Describes
someone very busy or absorbed in their work.
You could fry eggs on the floor. Too hot in
hormones. Commonly used when trying to calm a
Clean the dirt out of your ears. Said when
someone has not heard a statement that was made.
They must have run that cow to death.
Describes a meal with extremely tough meat.
Always a day late and a dollar short.
Describes someone repeatedly unreliable.
Ive been better but it costs more.
Humorous reply to the question How are you?