Saskatchewan’s Distinct Dialect: 10 Phrases Unique To This Province

I’ve spent the last 10 months as the official travel blogger for the province of Saskatchewan here in Canada. Needless to say, I’ve become quite familiar with every corner of this geographically extensive province. Saskatchewan also happens to be where I was born and raised. Sometimes I forget how distinct Saskatchewan (and Western Canadian) dialects and mannerisms are from our neighboring provinces or countries.

Recently, I met Andrew who moved from Eastern Canada to a small town within the province. We spent the day together while I was touring the town of Indian Head. We had hilarious conversations about some of the awkward situations he’s found himself in while trying to understand what everyone else was talking about.

According to Andrew’s experiences, here are 10 things (of many) that are different from Eastern Canada.

1. Taking the Grids
We’ve a lot of land, and not too many people to fill it. That’s why you’ll find roads of varying construction around Saskatchewan. With 26,000 kilometres of paved road, but 134,000 kilometres of grid roads you often need to ‘take the grids’ to get to your destination. What we simply mean is that you need to drive on graveled, unpaved or unsealed roads designed in grids to get to where you’re going.

2. Bleeding Green
This isn’t so much a term as a way of life. In Saskatchewan we both wear and bleed green in the form of the Saskatchewan Roughriders gear and pride. If, for some odd reason you aren’t familiar, the Riders are our local CFL football team that we’re pretty passionate about. So passionate in fact, we like to carve out watermelons and wear them on our heads at games in support of the team.

Photo credit thesnap.ca

Photo credit: CFL Media The Snap

3. Sloughs
Spelling slough is almost as tricky as figuring out what one is. In Saskatchewan, they’re the equivalent of a small wetland, swamp or pond. Considering the province has over 100,000 lakes and rivers, you’ll find quite a few sloughs, especially on farmland.

4. The R.M.
Saskatchewan is known for some strange town names: Moose Jaw, Elbow and Eyebrow to list a few. That’s why it wasn’t surprising when Andrew was uncertain where “the arm” was located in Saskatchewan. What he was really hearing were people talking about the RM – or rural municipality – our version of counties or townships.

5. Heading to the Cabin
Many families in Saskatchewan own a cabin on one of the thousands of lakes I mentioned earlier. In our short summer season, you’ll often hear people comment they’re heading to the cabin for the weekend. Out east, people refer to cabins as cottages. To them cabins are a basic shed, often without indoor plumbing. If you’ve seen the cabins-that-are-essentially-homes on our lake shores, you’ll understand why Andrew was a bit confused by this terminology.

6. Bush League
A bush league call by a ref in a hockey or football game will leave fans upset and fired-up. Since we’re pretty passionate about sports, it’s no surprise we have a variety of terms dedicated to voicing our opinions when we disagree with what’s happening on the field or on the ice.

Saskatchewan Junior Hockey

7. “In the rhubarb”
Most people are familiar with rhubarb in the form of a plant used in crumbles, crisps, and pies. But in Saskatchewan, it also means hitting the ditch. Keeping it out of the rhubarb isn’t always easy in our icy winter driving conditions.

8. Gotch
I couldn’t help but grin when he told me, but Andrew wasn’t quite sure what people meant when they were talking about gotch. Out east, men’s underwear are simply referred to as boxers or briefs and not ‘gotch’ or ‘gitch’.

9. Ordering a Pil
No, it’s not a shady drug deal going down in your local bar, it’s actually someone ordering one of Saskatchewan’s favourite beers: a pilsner. Molson is one of the most popular and also happens to be the beer brand of choice that sponsors the Saskatchewan Roughriders. We also love the Great Western Brewing Company pilsners brewed right here in Saskatoon and popular across western Canada.

10. Politeness of the Prairies: The Small Town Wave
Once you leave the city behind, you enter a different world of friendly people and country charm. When you pass another vehicle on the grids, you automatically give them a hand wave or a nod as you go by. We’re also guilty of smiling and saying ‘hi’ to strangers, something that might be deemed as peculiar in a big city.

These are just a few examples of the many things that make this province so unique. Know any other terms that are distinctly Saskatchewan? Share ’em below in the comments!

192 thoughts on “Saskatchewan’s Distinct Dialect: 10 Phrases Unique To This Province

  1. There’s “PA speak”, seemingly only spoken around Prince Albert, where people will use double-negative words as praise. Example- if you have a nice car, “Poor deadly car you don’t have!”

  2. Saskabush, gaunch not gotch, bush leagues meaning any not professional or mainstream enterprise, Norwegian uncle (any unsophisticated unsocial awkward bachelor uncle).

  3. I know smoking is taboo nowdays, even I have quit, but does anyone remember stopping the tractor to twirl yourself a rollie.

  4. Rider fans are the best. I used to work at the Edmonton International Airport and one time I saw these guys in full Rider gears (with watermelon helmets) and there wasn’t even a football game on. And when we were kids my brother would play a car game when we got to any small town in Saskatchewan, basically wave at other cars/people and see how many people wave back at you.

  5. When I was a young girl in the 1950s, I wore ‘pedal pushers’ which later came to be known as capris.
    How many of you remember learning about the ‘schwa’ sound in elementary school? For those of you who do not recall that word, think of a word that does not use either the long sound or the short sound of a vowel. An example is the word ‘call’; another one is ‘been’, which is enunciated as ‘bin’.
    As for the folks who say “I seen” in place of “I saw” or “I have seen”, proper usage of the correct verb tense should have been learned in the early years of schooling. So, it is perhaps a lazy way of expressing yourself.
    I was born and raised in the Swift Current area. On election night, April 4th, a woman was asked why she voted for a particular party and her reply was, “They done good.” Yes, that statement made her sound like a hillbilly from the back country. I would like to see folks take more pride in speaking and writing correctly.

  6. How about when someone is leaving a group of people and you hear them say ” see yous all later” . I’m a 4th generation flatlander and have lived here most of my life… also we used the term ” hit the dingweeds ” for going in the ditch… also giving directions by reference points instead of address… ” head down the Atwater grid until you get just past the Cutarm creek, then hang a ralph and go for about 3 or 4 miles, then hang a louie and head down this winding trail for a ways until you see 3 tall spruce trees on a hill… that’s where the bush party is tonight.

  7. A couple more i don’t think were mentioned: “vi-co” which is a chocolate milk, “beep” which was an orange drink. Back in the days when milk delivery was happening.

    I noticed bunny-hug and kangaroo were already mentioned.

    A “dart” is a cigarette, a Regina thing.

    We used to always try to find someone to “pull” for us at the “LB”? I see someone mentioned “pull”, and “LB” being the Liquor Board.

    Last point.. People from the Lumsden area have an accent.. no lie!

    ahhhh Saskatchewan… where time stands still… meaning we don’t take part in daylight savings! 😉

  8. I’m a born-and-raised Sasky so I take a lot of these Saskatchewan-isms for granted. But a friend of mine, from the East coast, was confused with the term kitty-corner. He thought it was a pet store!

  9. I’m surprised no one mentioned ‘Stubble Jumpers!!’ !! Yes .. We prairie folk are called that when we leave our wonderful province!! Most of us return!!! HAPPILY!!

  10. I enjoyed reading your article Ashlyn and the subsequent comments from your readers – brought back a lot of memories from my youth. Here’s something I’ve noticed. Growing up in Saskatchewan, we called ‘roads’ that really weren’t officially roads (not part of the grid and certainly not maintained) a prairie trail, but I’ve learned that here in Alberta they are called goat trails.

  11. “Frajolaki” or “Frazolaki” is an item difficult to find on a Greek menu outside of Saskatchewan! Although even here these days, it’s harder and harder to find.

  12. Heard people refer to the garlic curtain. (heading east on the Yellowhead towards Yorkton from Saskatoon). Get past Quill Lake and you’re passing through the “Garlic Curtain” because its where many Ukrainian immigrants settled.

  13. My mom was from Crystal Springs by Wakaw, and the people around there used to use the word “prit’near” which was short for “pretty near” and meant “almost”. For example, “I prit’near fell off the back of the truck today when I was unloading.” Don’t know if people still say that.

  14. I’m from Weyburn…why is it that the only place you could get chips and gravy after school, was at a Chinese restaraunt.

  15. Definitely bismark. I had a terrible time explaining it to a bakery one time….Not sure if it was a Swift Current area thing or not. I have seen them called bismarks in a few places “across the line” . And telling people who think we are all flatlanders, that the highest point between Labrador and the Rockies is in Sas catch u won.

  16. A few linguistic ticks:
    It seems the majority of Saskatchewanians tend to pronounce the province name as Saskatchew”en” rather than Saskatchew”an”, not always true but seems to be fairly common.
    Also my significant other is from Ontario and puts the emphasis in “Saskatoon” on the first syllable rather than the last, I hear it every time she says it but she has no idea what I’m talking about.

  17. I was born on the farm in 1919 near a one horse town called Meacham. My birth certificate states: Section 34, township 35, range 27, West of the second meridian.

    What was not talked about Saskatchewan, was the wheat fields. I grew up in Saskatoon but as a teenager I went threshing. I started by looking after the binder. Then I went stooking and after that threshing.

    My father was an immigrant. This is how he explained threshing to my mother:
    “A rich farmer buys a machine which is run by a steam engine and also buys a separator. You throw whole sheaves into the separator. The machine throws out chopped up stalks and wheat separately. I got two and a half dollars a day and board. ( In the 30s I got one dollar a day ). The meals are excellent. In New York they would cost 75 cents.

    The workers are separated into three groups : One third of the workers remain in the field and pitch the sheaves onto a large wagon. One third stay on the wagon and arrange the sheaves that are pitched on. The last is the teamsters who drive the horses. The teamsters drive the hay rack to the separator where a man throws the sheaves into the separator.
    The wheat is caught into a wagon which is then taken to the elevator and stored.”

    When I went threshing, I would stop at the railroad station of a small town. Other men came off the trains and gathered there to see if a farmer needed help. The farmer would chose the men he wanted and drove them to his place. We slept together in a bunk house. That I did not like.

  18. I’m surprised no one mentioned thongs! C’mon! Guys and girls both wear them in SK. I remember commenting on a girl’s thongs while in Toronto and almost got slapped! I quickly corrected myself. And Saskatoon was often pronounced S’toon, just like the abbreviation.

    1. Haha here in Sask. you might get the same reaction as in Toronto! My parents used to call flip flops thongs but don’t anymore because of the word’s use as women’s underwear! Too funny though 🙂

  19. If you had cattle you know how a cowlick tastes. You’ve tasted your share of chokecherry wine and played in the hayloft. You drank water from a dipper and knew if the cistern was full.

    1. I have done all those things. Often playing in the hayloft while carrying a chunk of cowlick salt, and then quenching my thirst from the dipper attached to the well pump. Good times!

  20. Great article! Only thing I would challenge is the statement that “most families in Saskatchewan own a cabin.” Lots of folks do, but I would say the vast majority don’t. Despite our quaintness in many ways, our province has the same issues as other provinces, including homelessness and high rates of poverty (not to be a downer, but true), which means problems acquiring any home, let alone a residential property.

    1. Yes I was thinking the same thing about all these people owning a cabin I sure didn’t know to many of them unless you called the house they lived in all the time a cabin I knew a few of them

    2. Thanks Lesley! And yes, I agree not everyone owns a cabin and cannot afford one. I didn’t grow up spending time at one myself. I think my main point is that people in Saskatchewan refer to them as cabins and not cottages. 😉

      1. My aunt owned a cottage at Kenosee Lake and got very angry if you called it a cabin. I don’t know why but suspect it was a status thing

  21. I grew up in Dysart, Saskatchewan and we raised our family in Milden, Saskatchewan. Although we now live in Alberta we still say bunny hug and we know what Vico is! We also referred to hooded sweatshirts as kangaroos. I still bleed green, I miss taking the grid, and going to the Board Store. I am proud to be from Saskatchewan.

      1. Men referred to their loved ladies as their little Bunny’s, and if at a bush party or fire pit and they were cold they’d wrap their arms around u for a bunny hug from behind. Sliding both sets of hands in the pocket together. Hence bunny hugs!

          1. Bunny hugs started in the late 70’s, I think- I’m from Vermilion, AB & we wore them then.
            Loved the article- we were a stone’s throw away from Saskatchewan and things were all the same where I grew up. I’ve been in Toronto for over 30 years and STILL regard myself a westerner/Albertan…

    1. You can also add Siwash(sp?) to these which was a heavily knitted sweater usually with a fish or animal knit in them….called a Cowichan in B.C.

    2. I grew up in Melville and didn’t know until I joined the RCAF and left home that that Vico was only the brand name for chocolate milk, and NOT the name of the chocolate favored drink!! Who would have thunk it.

  22. Not only do we have sloughs; we have “ponds” specifically dug to ensure water for the cattle in winter. We have to go “down” to the pond to chop the “water hole” for the cattle. Often geographically, people lived on the “heavy clay” land, on the “alkaline” land, or, the “scrub brush” where nothing will grow! In the area I grew up in “nuisance grounds” were on someone’s “back forty” and was not a legal dumping ground. Each RM had a garbage dump, but based on distance “nuisance grounds” emerged on the corner of someone’s land in by a slough. There are also “borrow pits” where soil was taken to build highways. “Nough said”. Good Day and great to see you, how;ve you bin keepin?” Another favourite topic next to the Riders if the “Weather”. Please and thank you still remain as part of our day and most still remove their hats at church or during a meal.

  23. I’ve traveled back and forth to the east several times, taking my SK slang with me and confounded Easterner’s several times. Not only with some of the former terms mentioned, but a few of these as well. I once commented on a ‘nice dugout’ in a person’s ‘back forty’. On another occasion, I suggested they should, ‘blade the road’, while the vehicle twisted and turned sideways on washboard. Near Niagara, I walked with the owner of a vineyard after a hailstorm and commented, ‘The Great White Combine had done a good job.’ While testing dogs, I asked for a ‘gunny sack’ and pointed out a ‘gibbled’ dog. At a store in Toronto, I asked if they had more ‘pantses’ in than what they had on display.

    In every instance, there is always a look of confusion on the person’s face, a hesitation and they will finally ask what I’m talking about. So, you know you’re from Saskatchewan when…

  24. I have fond memories of attending Notre Dame in Wilcox, working at times in Saskatchewan and the wonderful people I have met. My favorite saying when it is +30C and the wind and dust is blowing is “Today reminds me of the month I spent one day in Split Lip Saskatchewan”

  25. My favourite Saskatchewanism that I’ve encountered just in the last few years with people moving here is that they have no idea what sun dogs are! Some say they never seen them and others just said they either never noticed or never knew there was a name for them.

  26. I grew up in Regina; my husband in the south-east (near Kenosee). I’m a linguist. Though we live in BC now, Saskatchewan, oh how I love her. 🙂 Things I have noticed:
    1) Davidson has a distinct dialect of its own.
    2) The storytelling tense. Older men especially do this. When telling a story, a lot of rural Saskatchewan people have a really weird tense for verbs. “So I’m walkin’ to the co-op, and I sees Jim, he’s eatin’ dinner with his old man.” And “I’m” can even be “I’s”. I’s walkin…
    3) Old man/Old lady. Does this still mean Dad and Mom in Saskatchewan? Or has it become husband/wife? I remember being very startled the first time someone referred to my husband as my old man.
    4) Everything everyone above said. I’m pretty sure the “gotch” thing is false though. I’ll look into it. It would be seriously cool if it were true.

      1. Gotch is men’s underwear and gitch is women’s underwear, they are not interchangeable. Panties are also women’s underwear.

      1. Prairie oysters.That’s also a very Alberta thing. We just moved here 2 years ago. And have been showing the locals how to cook them and eat them. And even the whole process of getting them.

    1. We used to just call it The Board Store. Years ago, I stopped in a small town in Alberta and asked directions to the Board Store. Yup. You guessed it. They sent me to the lumber yard.

    2. I’m dating myself, but in the 60’s or 70’s, the “Liquor Board” store required you to fill out a form to get your booze which was kept on shelves behind the counter!

  27. I’m not sure if this is a Saskatchewan term or just an old term, but my dad always called the glove box in your vehicle a “cubby hole”.

    1. My dad always called it a cubby hole too! But I never really carried it on because no one else seamed to know what a cubby hole was. He grew up in Albert as did I.

  28. “Once” as a verb or adverb at the end of a sentence; especially among the much older central European generation. Those that were settlers or their first children. “I have to get home and throw a bale of hay for the cows once”. Probably a more direct translation from a Germanic or European dialect.

  29. In Sask we say we are heading to “The Lake” for the weekend. No name, just The Lake. Funny, especially given there are thousands of them! I never thought of it as odd till I lived in Toronto briefly and people would always say What Lake!

    I have spent most of my life in Sask but now live in BC and still find the beauty of Saskatchewan unparalleled. There is nothing like a Sask sunset or a prairie sky dotted with a million stars. And I get really tired of the ” you can see your dog run away for days” line. But mostly I miss the people, down to earth, hardworking, unpretentious, open, and willing to extend a hand to anyone who needs it. Home.

  30. Many years ago we were in Eastend at Jack’s Cafe. One of the patrons, an older cowboy came around and refilled our coffees. My son (who was 5 at the time) was absolutely agog. When the locals food arrived, every single man removed his hat (cowboy or baseball cap). My son still to this day, removes his hat when he enters a culinary establishment. Even at the pub, when the food arrives, the hat comes off. I wish more folks did that.

    1. Jack’s Cafe in Eastend. What a trip down memory lane you evinced with that comment. I was last there in 1971. Used to roll the dice to see who would buy coffee with the old guy that ran the body shop.

    2. The coffee etiquette still.happens today in.many many of.our small towns. I was.just in Fox Valley and patrons there do this too. You can go to many places in Maple Creek as well and a.patron will refill your cup. Hats still come off my 12yr old son thinks nothing. Of this.it just the way of respect & good manners. His friends are no different.

      1. Never heard it used to refer to Saskatoon before. Frequently hear it used for Saskatchewan though – and that’s here in Edmonton.

        1. That’s weird. I lived in Rosetown and Saskatoon for most of my life. Saskabush and Toonerville have always been slang for Saskatoon to us. Never heard the province referred to as Saskabush before. We just simply call it Sask or Saskatchewan (pronounced the RIGHT way, not the mangled way other people pronounce it).

  31. How about kangaroo sweatshirts or bunny hugs? I think that’s uniquely Saskatchewan. Very nice job capturing some unique aspects of our province, and great job all summer! I have enjoyed following your wanderings!

      1. Growing everyone called them bunny hugs and am from Northern BC. When I left I never really heard the term again till moved to Saskatchewan.

    1. Still trying to keep the terms “bunny hug and Vico” alive. With so much American influence, the younger folks don’t use the terms anymore…what a shame. Our children live in London, UK and Calgary and they still use bunnyhug. You can imagine the look of uncertainty on the faces of the Brits when they heard if for the first time! Doesn’t bunnyhug sounds so much cuddly hoody? Let’s keep the term “bunnyhug” alive and in common use…long line the BUNNYHUG…and VICO, too!

      1. Vico! I remember stopping at a café in rural Manitoba one time years ago and my son ordering a Vico. The waitress looked at him like he was from another planet and I had to explain it was chocolate milk. Until then I hadn’t even realized that it was a Saskatchewanism. Glad someone else remembers too.

  32. You all need to buy a book called, “Colder Than A Bay Streets Banker’s Heart.” Full of the three prairie provinces expressions. GAH

  33. I was born in Saskatchewan. Lived there for 15 years and have been back a few times. Love it there. I do also notice that the folks in the RM on the prairies have a dialect or phrasing that is distinct. I have lived in every province in Canada except PEI and NF-L. Different dialects are common in all areas of this country. Coulee usually still puzzles folks not from the prairies as does slough. Choke cherries and cactus apples are not common. The word coyote is mostly pronounced coyot-ee in the east (which came about I believe from American cartoons) I still say hello or Hi to people when I am out for a walk and I still miss the song of the meadowlark in the spring, the enormous skies with the millions of stars, and the sunshine winter and summer.

  34. It might just be a regional thing but here gotch is male underwear and gitch is female lol. And we call the bush the toolies.

  35. Bunnyhug definitely should have made the list as well as the “Snowbirds” which proudly call Moose Jaw their home. However, most people use snowbird to mean heading South for the winter. We almost have weird names for things like “Old Wives Lake” which has a whole history to itself and then there’s Moose Jaw which most non Saskatchewan people would try their best to put into one word. There’s also a hill near Old Wives lake that is very steep that the locals call Powwow Hill. There’s so much here, I’m sure a blogger could write a whole book about us!

  36. And,…I’m told by my mom…’gotch’ comes from the shortened version of gotcha(spelled phonetically) which is the Polish word for underwear!!!

      1. Gotchies! Yes! Great article; we also referred to the grader as the patrol. My Edmontonian husband thought that was the most strange.

  37. When I was much younger I was interviewed by a university student studying the variety of words peculiar to each region of Canada. I remember being asked to describe a bluff of trees. “Bush”, a large expanse of trees, “bush”, and that is what my friends say when they are off to the cabin, we are going to the Bush this weekend.

  38. as a proud prairie girl living in the “centre of the universe” ie: toronto, i love seeing people’s faces as they try and navigate our expressions. perhaps nonSK people need to know that “a guy Could…” as in: a guy could run Christmas lights from the house to the shed for good outside lighting.
    yep. a guy Could.

    ontarians always ask Which guy and what’s his name. 🙂

    great article, BTW.

  39. I’m not new to the prairies but am relatively new to Saskatchewan, and so have recently had to learn some of these terms. Another one that I have learned through having a high schooler in my house is “wheel’n”. A boy and girl that like each other but not officially dating? Is that correct? Would like clarification if you have any

  40. For those reading point #3 and needing a bit more guidance, it’s pronounced “Sloo,” not “Sluff.” 🙂 If you’re stuck in a slough, that’s tough. Do it enough and you’re through.

      1. It’s actually “speed curve” and it refers to a 90 degree bend in the road that is a arc rather than a sharp right angle corner.

        1. You usually get two of these together (one left, one right) when you’re headed down the grid and you get to a correction line

          1. Dwaine I think it maybe that long since they quit using them I know places where they use to be on Grid roads they were taken out. The only place I can think of one is coming out of Maple Creek to go east on Hyw 1 they have one

        2. Often found on the “correction lines, ” where the grids don’t match up. Perfect mile by mile squares mapped out on a big ball ( earth) get wonky, and the correction line gets it all back on track for awhile.

    1. I remember years ago, I discovered that other Canadians did not know how to do the butterfly. ..I was shocked! Haha. It’s still one of my favorite dances.

  41. Not having to adjust our clocks for daylight savings surprises many non-Saskies. We always seem to find a way to do things our own way!

    1. The time thing always got me when I moved to Saskstchewan, growing up on the Alaska highway in BC we had never and dont to this day change time and that’s going back 80 years. Saskatchewan didn’t get on that ship till mid 60’s.

  42. I love how people from Saskatchewan call a ‘hoodie’ – a hooded sweatshirt – a “bunnyhug”!! Love it!! Especially when you see some guy rummaging in the back of his jeep and when asked what he is looking for he replies with “I can’t find my bunnyhug” ! I am a prairie girl myslef – MB – and I love people from Saskatchewan!! 🙂

      1. Growing up in Regina, we always referred to a hooded sweatshirt with a pouch – zippered or not – as a kangaroo. It wasn’t until my mom moved to a smaller northern town that I heard her call it a bunnyhug.

  43. My younger brother from Saskatoon came to visit me in Vancouver and lived in Gastown and I was at work when he arrived so he experienced the “edge” of East Van before I was able to educate him. He headed out looking for Milk and when I got home in the morning he was in a bit of shell-shock. The one thing he said that got me was when he told me ” back home, if you don’t say hi to people you meet on the street you are look at as an odd-ball here when I said hi to strangers on the street they looked like they wanted to run.”.

    1. I don’t think people talk to other people in a lot of places but I talk to people all the time and usually they will talk to me and I can be some what I don’t know how to put it 6′ 4” 300lbs biker type and people usually will talk it is just that a lot of times you just have to start the conversation in fact one time and I can’t remember where I was the guy said right away you must be from Saskatchewan

  44. That last #10 is one of the greatest praises when I travel. Lol once the strangers get use to it. It’s a great thing that we both being raised here should be proud of.

        1. How about “K Ways” those cheap plastic spring jackets that came in neon like red, orange and yellow. Much like bunny hugs because you pulled them over your head, they had a hood, front pocket separated by a partial zipper and those dreaded elasticized cuffs. Also, those long stemmed orange flags used on Banana Seat Bikes so cars could see you on the road.

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