Travel with Awe and Wonder: Honorary Newfoundlanders' “And Long May Yer Big Jib Draw”

by Christy Anselmi /
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Nov 18, 2022 / 0 comments

This summer, my husband and I undertook a move. A relocation from Massachusetts to Arizona has been undertaken by others, no doubt. We decided to make things a little more interesting than a direct route. We headed north. Our circuitous route is winding us through Newfoundland, Portugal, and North Carolina. When one would think to take the southerly route from the Carolina’s to Arizona in the winter months, we will make Bugs Bunny’s famous right turn at Albuquerque to get to Bozeman, Montana. Then, we’ll drive to Arizona. Our 100 pound Golden Doodle, Kipper, was not consulted in the making of these plans, but we plied him with treats for the first three years of his life to the point he considers us his pack and blindly follows our direction. Our two sons weren’t consulted either. But, given that they abandoned us in their selfish quest to get a college education, we felt at liberty to leave a note on the front door explaining why other people now live in their house.

Travel with Awe and Wonder: Honorary Newfoundlanders' “And Long May Yer Big Jib Draw”

My ex-neighbor (not due to irreconcilable differences or conscious uncoupling) became a U.S. citizen recently! On average, the process takes 18-24 months with a lengthy application, processing time, an interview, an involved test, and finally an oath. The tri-colored gift bag they give you after the oath with a $5 gift card to Cracker Barrel, a small bottle of Frank's Red Hot, a Daniel Boone hat, and an 8.5×11 picture of Don Rickles made her burst into tears (of delight or regret, we're not sure). When she texted to share the news, I couldn't bring myself to tell her that all John and I had to do was kiss a cod.

John and I are (honorary) Newfoundlanders! When you are an honorary member of anything, it implies that you don't have to do as much to get in the "club" as the real members. I’m scared to ask what real Newfoundlanders have to do to the cod.

Sign for Christian's Screech-In ceremonies. From Travel with Awe and Wonder: Honorary Newfoundlanders' “And Long May Yer Big Jib Draw”
Sign for Christian's Screech-In ceremonies

We were Screeched-In on August 11, 2022; a day we will never forget. Our ceremony took place at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 65. They don't let just anybody get Screeched-In. We are finding that figuring out how to sign up or buy tickets for anything in small-town Newfoundland requires intuition. There are no logical steps to figure it out. For those of you who don’t know me, my dearest friends would never accuse me of being tech-savvy. So, for all you tech-savvy types out there that are smugly thinking, “Why doesn’t she just buy tickets online?,” try your finger tapping tricks in Newfoundland sometime and you will be rid of your hubris. 

Newfoundlanders just KNOW how and where to get tickets to things. After weeks of consistent searching for admissions entry procedures to various things, we throw up our hands and just show up. More than once we have been met with admissions rejection. And each time, the entry guard responds, "If you don't already know how to get the tickets, I can't possibly tell you." This entry-gaining intuition is bestowed at birth, apparently. Or, you can acquire it if you can sweet-talk your way into getting your name on the list for a Screech-In ceremony. I have some impressive sweet-talking capabilities.

The coveted ticket. From Travel with Awe and Wonder: Honorary Newfoundlanders' “And Long May Yer Big Jib Draw”
The coveted ticket

Once inside the Royal Canadian Legion, and not knowing what to expect from a Screech-In ceremony, John and I instantly took the posture of a kindergartener on his/her first day of school. Quiet, subdued, and glancing around to see what all the other children were doing so as not to stand out, we slinked to our seats. It is a lonely feeling in kindergarten sitting with your glass of wine or beer, noticing groups of friends already formed who seem to be whispering all the ways they might get to laugh at you for doing embarrassing things. When they pulled out a boat on rollers, a tray of dark pink meat, red liquor in shot glasses, and a frozen cod, we started to sweat.

Skipper Dan started off the ceremony in fast-talking Newfoundlandese. At various inflections in his voice, the "knowers" would laugh, cheer, raise a glass, or sing. Terrified and unfocused, John and I heard every fourth word Skipper Dan said. But just like kindergarten on the first day, a few things the teacher said started to make sense and following the lead of the "knowers," we started to blend right in. Luckily, we were not the first kids called to the front of the class, so we got to watch other newbies row into the unknown in that boat on rollers. Finally, "John Anselmi" was called (which sounded to my ears like "Jun Unsmidley").

Rowing merrily down the aisle. From Travel with Awe and Wonder: Honorary Newfoundlanders' “And Long May Yer Big Jib Draw”
Rowing merrily down the aisle

All twelve wannabees stood at the front of the room, smiling through our embarrassment. There was one thing we had to suck on...a peppermint hard candy made only in Newfoundland. One thing we had to eat...a piece of Newfoundland bologna. One thing we had to drink...a shot of Newfoundland rum. And one thing we had to kiss...a Newfoundland cod.

In my order of best to worst it went: peppermint, rum, kiss the cod, bologna.

Kissing the cod. From Travel with Awe and Wonder: Honorary Newfoundlanders' “And Long May Yer Big Jib Draw”
Kissing the cod

I had my fair share of bologna growing up...warmed in a metal lunchbox for hours and tucked safely between two slices of whole wheat bread (did you really try to make a bologna sandwich healthy, Mom??), with amply applied mayonnaise also warmed through the morning, and a slice of bright orange, perfectly square "cheese" to harmonize the medley of flavors. But this bologna was even more special. This bologna was cut thick and put out at just the right time to become room temperature. I think the color could be called "Pig-Rump Pink." John, who grew up eating some interesting meats from some off-the-beaten-path sections of animals, cringed when the bologna bowl was passed to him. Skipper Dan assured us there has never been meat in bologna, so any vegetarian wanting to get Screeched-In is good to go.

https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/52506720444_2516018eaf.jpg Picking the bologna. From Travel with Awe and Wonder: Honorary Newfoundlanders' “And Long May Yer Big Jib Draw”
Picking the bologna

In our final act as "outsiders," we had to recite a phrase of Newfoundlanese. Just like you might buy a Spanish-English dictionary if you are going to tour Spain, as of 1982 you could pick up The Dictionary of Newfoundland English before coming to the island. If you don't know what "buy a Spanish-English dictionary" means, Google "Duolingo app" and you will still have very little idea what "buy a Spanish-English dictionary" means. I did buy The Dictionary of Newfoundland English (not available as a Duolingo course...yet) before we arrived, and it has not helped me in the least. When Newfoundlanders say long phrases, they talk really fast and they throw in words like "curwibble" (a staggering walk), "anigh" (next), and "twooden" (it wasn't). As Skipper Lukey at Christian's Bar in St. John's told us during our sons’ Screeched-In ceremony, Newfoundlanders often keep conversation short and sweet. 

Here is an entire conversation between two Newfoundland fishermen:
"Soom da, wah."
"Eh, b'y."

Unlearned types might not realize how much nuance, innuendo, and implied meaning are ascribed in that five word exchange. I’ll help you out with a translation:

"The weather today is really (good or bad). What are your thoughts on the matter?"
"It sure is and looks like it is going to (stay this way all day or get worse), but luckily I've done all the fishing I'm going to do today so the weather can do whatever it wants, hope it's the same for you."

At all Screech-In ceremonies, you are required to say the following sentence before you can receive your certificate as an honorary Newfoundlander: "Yes, me is, ye old cock, and long may yer big jib draw!" (Translation: Yes, I am a Newfoundlander, you nice person, and may you always have good luck!") Full of dread that our dreams of honorary membership would be dashed by a missed word or pronunciation misstep, I muttered the phrase over and over. When the time came, I was flawless! My husband mistook the word “draw” for “dawn” which has his paperwork tied up in legal red-tape that will take years to sort out. 

Proof! From Travel with Awe and Wonder: Honorary Newfoundlanders' “And Long May Yer Big Jib Draw”
Proof! 

Even though there was a great deal of laughing at us on our first day as honorary Newfoundlanders, the cheers and back slapping, the "CONGRATULATIONS!" voiced by our new brothers and sisters after we passed the tests made it completely worth it. Now we just have to figure out how to file our taxes.

Travel with Awe and Wonder: Honorary Newfoundlanders' “And Long May Yer Big Jib Draw”

 

More in this series: 
Travel with Awe and Wonder: A Change of Life Predeparture Checklist

Travel with Awe and Wonder: Getting to Newfoundland, Part I

Travel with Awe and Wonder: Getting to Newfoundland Part Two: Muddling Through

Travel with Awe and Wonder: Getting to Newfoundland Part Three: On Command

Travel with Awe and Wonder: Stumble-Upons: First Observations in Newfoundland

Travel with Awe and Wonder: Newfoundland Weather

Christy Anselmi, the Travel with Awe and Wonder Editor for Wandering Educators, taught kindergarten and first grade for 13 years in public schools in Atlanta and Massachusetts. She took a two year diversion to teach and learn in a Montessori school in Bozeman, Montana and a 10 year sabbatical to raise her own children. Christy has an abiding interest in early childhood education and how to provide developmentally appropriate experiences to engage young people in connection and communication. Raised by parents who got Christy involved in travel at a young age, she developed a curiosity about what is around each corner. Married to a Wyoming man who developed his own wanderlust after years in the Army, the two (along with two sons) have lived in five states (Georgia, Montana, Utah, Kansas, Massachusetts, and soon to be Arizona) and one country (Germany). Christy is a life-long noticer of intriguing scenarios, phrases, and ironies in everyday life. Finally putting pen to paper, she has a growing passion for insightful travel-experience writing.