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INSULAR ENGLISH LEXICOGRAPHY Holm, John A., with Alison Watt Shilling. The Dictionary of Bahamian English. Cold Spring, New York: Lexik House, 1982. Pp. xxxix + 228. $42.00 Story, G. M., W. J. Kirwin, and J. D. A. Widdowson. Dictionary of Newfoundland English. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982. Pp. lxxvii + 625. $45.00 (Canadian). Islands provide shelter and isolation, and the English language has been nurtured in them. With the publication of these works, the Englishes of Newfoundland and the Bahamas take their rightful place alongside the other varieties of English that have their histories recorded in dictionaries on historical principles. Those of us from away welcome their publication. A proposal that began work toward the DNE was formulated more than twenty years ago, and observers of its progress have seen hopeful estimates of the completion date regularly extended . Like Samuel Johnson or Hartley Coleridge, Story and his associates lamented the delays. Writing retrospectively of his opinion in 1973, Story echoed the views of many in the past (and some in the present): "We thought then that the work might possibly be completed within two or three years . . . but, like many dictionary-makers before us, we found the work growing under our hands" (Story 1978, p. 28). In 1982, with much celebration in Newfoundland, the Dictionary finally appeared. Dictionary reviewers sometimes like to string together the arcana in the works they are describing, and the following specimen from the St. John's Evening Telegram is representative of the genre. (The reporter's name is Ed Kirby.) "A kirby, according to the Dictionary of Newfoundland English, is a sealer's quilt. But if some young bay noddy with the beginnings of maldow on his chin or a ragged arsed corner boy ever calls me a wet blanket, I'll raise a browal on his head with the butt end of a birch billet" (Kirby 1982, p. 4). The context provides the meaning for both CFAs and Newfs, fortunately, since not all of the usages Kirby employs enjoy contemporary currency. But Newfoundlanders rountinely divide the population of the Province as he does between corner boys or townies 'residents of St. John's' and baymen 263 264Reviews or noddies 'persons living elsewhere in the Province, especially in the outports.' Some of the vocabulary recorded is of local origin: komatik 'dog sled' from an Eastern Eskimo borrowing; baccalao 'cod fish' from Portuguese through the Atlantic creóle of the early Grand Banks fishery; ouananiche 'landlocked Atlantic salmon' may be local or may have spread eastward from the Canadian mainland in English from an Algonkian source if the written record as extracted by the Dictionary of Canadianisms can be considered reliable (kokanee 'landlocked Pacific salmon' is a parallel native borrowing from Interior Salish at the extreme westward end of Canada). Despite such entries, the impression one gains from the DNE is of a variety of English words in specialized senses: fish 'cod' (if a CFA is offered a meal of the fish, a Newfoundlander will be perplexed to be asked "What kind of fish?"); concern 'scrotum of an animal, inflated for use as a football'; granny 'midwife'; lake 'a stretch of salt water in a field of ice' (with the exception of Quidi Vidi Lake in St. John's, freshwater "lakes" of whatever size are called ponds); stage 'an elevated platform on the shore . . . where fish [i.e., cod] are landed and processed.' Some of these uses are survivals from earlier English; others from dialect sources in Britain, especially from the West Country of England whence fishermen have come since the end of the fifteenth century to the waters adjacent to the Province; still others, extensions or specializations of meaning that have arisen in the region. Newfoundland 's distinctive breakfast — fish, brewis, and scrunchions (cod, sea biscuit, and diced salt pork) — is described in words formerly or presently used elsewhere in English with slightly different application; its national drink, screech 'dark Demerarara rum' is so called from screich (glossed by the Scottish National Dictionary as 'a slang or cant name for whisky'). The DNE is a remarkably detailed and useful scholarly achievement . The editors have been generous in their selection of material; the publisher indulgent...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 263-269
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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