‘Sobeys bag’ and ‘scribbler’ are uniquely Maritime terms, says new dictionary

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An updated version of a Canadian English dictionary has enshrined some 20th-century Nova Scotia expressions that might be less familiar in other parts of the country.

The  Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles is the culmination of a decade of work by academics. It’s an updated version of a document that was published in 1967, for Canada’s centennial.

Stefan Dollinger is the dictionary’s editor in chief and a professor at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. He told CBC’s Information Morning that preparing the list of terms was painstaking work.

“You can’t [just] say ‘Well that’s a Canadianism,'” he said.

“You really need to do the legwork. So you need to get the data, get quotations, you need to trace them regionally, so where is it being used, you need to compare it … to other varieties of English.”

Maritime terms ranged from “mainland” — which can refer specifically to the mainland of Nova Scotia, although it’s also used in other parts of the country — to “Newfie,” which dictionary authors determined is used three times more often by Nova Scotians than those from Newfoundland and Labrador.

A familiar term to many Maritimers, “Sobeys bag” is defined in the dictionary as a general word for plastic bags, said Dollinger.

The dictionary puts the earliest recorded use of the term at 1998.

Another regional term is “scribbler,” which many people from Atlantic Canada will immediately recognize as meaning a notebook.

Dollinger said the term once had widespread use outside the Maritimes, and they have found quotations going back to 1890. But since then it’s faded from the lexicon everywhere except the Maritimes.

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