Writing Dialect: Newfoundlander

Using dialect can be a very effective device in establishing a character’s voice, although the tendency toward caricature is a real danger. In other words, the character needs to be more than the funny things he says.

Fitz and Eileen are from Twillingate, Newfoundland and are the parental figures for Dee Sinclair in Anori.

“Lord, that Tommy loves the digging.” Fitz drove the pickup truck down the steep road, wheeling wildly back and forth between the puddles and rock. “Looks just like a wee one mucking about in his Smallwoods, that skully of his pulled over his ears.”

“That ain’t no skully.” Eileen had her cigarette perfectly rolled, the loose tobacco strands tucked evenly, in spite of the torturous ride. She looked over at Dee. “Skully is a lady’s bonnet. Fitz is just teasing about our boy doing so well.”

Newfoundlander is such a lyrical language, similar to Irish, so full of witty phrasings and thousands of their own words, that is hard to hold back.

Story, Kirwin and Widdowson’s Newfoundlander Dictionary offers 770 pages of translations

This voice is most effective when delving into the essence of something, developing a theme by mixing profound thought with straightforward language.

“You can’t trust any of these…fellas there, Deirdre.”  He crumpled Dee’s hand in his. “You know that better than the rest. We’re amoral by nature, despicable. That’s how we are. Libertines, consuming the flesh. All of us bleeding ownshooks. I don’t like thinking of you being used like that. You’re such a beautiful girl. You radiate the sex. Men are drawn like babies to that.”

As wonderful as jink (praise), dwall (to become unconscious) and skully to use, economy is required, lest the writer appear an ownshook (ignoramus) themselves.

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