Twenty years of labour and love

The Dic­tionary of Cape Breton English is fi­nally ready

Cape Breton Post - - ARTS / ENTERTAINMENT - Dan MacDon­ald Dan MacDon­ald is a former In­ver­ness County na­tive who has been in­volved with the Cape Breton and East Coast mu­sic scene for over 40 years. <creignish_hills@hot­>

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.

Blue Mist

Ev­ery Thurs­day evening Tra­di­tional fid­dle mu­sic ses­sion.

Frolic & Folk Pub, Iona

Satur­day, 5 p.m. - Ceilidh.

Em­bers, Syd­ney

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.

Savoy The­atre

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.

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