Twenty years of labour and love
The Dictionary of Cape Breton English is finally ready
From ach to zombie, it’s all there. Quintal, frigget, smack, sloven, feis, Fat Archie, and hundreds more words, both common and unusual, all part of the recently released “Dictionary of Cape Breton English.”
This was a project of love as I know that both William Davey and Richard MacKinnon were working on this for at least 20 years, squeezing in research time between teaching and administrative duties at Cape Breton University. How extensive is the research? Well, I counted 85 pages of reference notes that they plowed through: Books, newspapers, magazines, essays, papers and hours of recording from any number of sources.
The book is carefully and clearly presented, with numerous citations for each word or term. Most you will likely know, some are older and may have fallen out of use years ago, some come to us from other languages such as French or Gaelic. There are fishing terms, mining, farming and steelmaking terms, and terms common in every household. Like I said, it’s all there!
And what do some of the words that I mentioned mean? Well, zombies were not the walking dead of today’s movies but Second World War conscripts who refused to volunteer for overseas duties. Quintal is a measure of salted or dried fish; frigget (sometimes called faggot) is a loose pile of dried fish; smack is the boat that collected (and bought) fish from the local fishermen; feis is a festival celebrating the Gaelic language and culture; sloven is a horse-drawn wagon (sometimes a sleigh) used for heavy loads; and Fat Archies are soft molasses cookies (but you already knew that one). And ach? Also spelled och, it’s a common Gaelic interjection that can express regret, surprise, anger and other responses. Ach yes, that’s what it is!
Like I said, it’s all here, an essential information source for anyone trying to figure out just what we, as Cape Bretoners, are talking about. Have it on hand to prevent being a gomach and getting a puck with a gum rubber because you brought Krim-Ko to the pound party. ‘Nuff said?
The lights have gone out at The Vinyl Café. The memorabilia stored upstairs, the rock posters on the wall, the friends who met at Wong’s Scottish Meat Pies, the Cape Breton folks from Big Narrows: All stilled and greatly missed. All those stories yet to be told will now, forever, remain silent. The weekly friendships with Dave, Morley and their family, now all gone, lost to the untimely passing of Stuart McLean. For over 20 years as a regular fixture on CBC Radio he told stories, with impeccable timing and a gentle humour that won fans across Canada and beyond. There was a presence, on stage, on radio and in person, that came across as genuine and sincere. His delight in introducing often unknown musical acts to a new audience came a close second to his pleasure in bringing forth a memorable and creatively presented yarn.
I’d met Stuart several times and had a small role in arranging several of his musical guests. My library holds a number of his books, publications that I return to with relish on occasions when I just want a good read. There is one more, his most recent book, that I still must consume, and this will be approached sadly as I will miss the time I spent listening to his stories on radio.
My thoughts go out to his family, his sons and siblings, and his Cape Breton in-laws. Stuart, you will be greatly missed and fondly remembered.
Coming up: Old Triangle, Sydney
Live music from Wednesday to Saturday.
Every Thursday evening Traditional fiddle music session.
Frolic & Folk Pub, Iona
Saturday, 5 p.m. - Ceilidh.
Sunday, 7 p.m - Keith Mullins.
Celtic Music Interpretive Centre, Judique
Tonight at 7:30 p.m. - Scotland’s Paul McKenna in Concert.
Celtic Room, Cambridge Suites, Sydney
Friday and Saturday, 6 p.m & 8 p.m - The Cambridge Cabaret Series: Love Changes Everything - The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Breton Brewing Company, 364 Keltic Drive, Coxheath
Saturday, 8 p.m. - Buddy MacDonald, Cyril MacPhee.
March 3, 9-12, 18, 7 p.m. - Are You Being Served CB? (Dinner Theatre).
Saturday, March 4, 7 p.m Salem 1692.
Tuesday, March 14, 7 p.m. Celtic Serenade (The Concert): Donnie Campbell and Friends.
Highland Arts Theatre, Sydney
March 10, 7:30 p.m. - Harold Mabern, Kirk MacDonald.
March 22-30, 8 p.m. - The Return of the Cape Breton Liberation Army.
60 Kristin Court, Mira Road
Saturday, March 11, 7:30 p.m. - Ceilidh on The Court: Leanne Aucoin, Kolton MacDonell, Jessie Lewis, Danielle MacDonald, Elizabeth Dieltgens.
Boisdale Community Fire Hall
Saturday, March 11, 8 p.m. - St. Patrick’s Day Warm-up Bash: Island Folk (Darrell Keigan, Stuart MacDonald, Fitzgerald Irish Dancers).
Membertou Trade & Convention Centre
Wednesdays, 6 p.m. - Kiju’s Restaurant: Celtic Serenade Jam Sessions.
Thursdays, 6 p.m. - Kiju’s Restaurant: Live & Local.
Sunday, March 19, 7:30 PM Hank Williams Live: 1952.
Centre 200, Sydney
Thursday, April 13, 7 p.m. Cape Breton Guitar Night (Supporting Loaves and Fishes): JP Cormier, Dave Gunning, Pretty Archie, Jordan Musycsyn, Keith Mullins, Decota McNamara.
Stuart McLean is shown in an undated handout image. McLean, a bestselling author, journalist and humorist, passed away recently at age 68. He had a strong connection to Cape Breton.