Quintessential Winnipeg Terms, Expressions, and References

October 26th, 2012 by Emma Durand-Wood

The other day, I heard a new-to-me Winnipeg word. At first I thought I was just not following the conversation properly; one minute we were talking about gardening, the next, soup. But it turns out that folks here call our clay-rich soil “Manitoba gumbo”. And voila – even after 4+ years here, there are still local references to be learned. Then yesterday, I saw a tweet from Nadine of Save Money in Winnipeg:

Uh oh, I thought… I didn’t realize we weren’t calling it Autopac anymore! A few Twitter conversations later, it’s revealed that while yes, Autopac is still called Autopac, sometimes younger folks or Winnipeg newbies have no clue what this funny sounding thing is! (Random memory: visiting the city as children, my sister and I are in the back seat as we drive up Pembina, chirping “Autopac” every time we see a sign, which was every block or so!)

Anyway, I’ve been keeping a list of such local terms, expressions, and references since before I even started this blog, and would love some help in identifying more of them for the blog’s glossary. The idea here is to develop a list of things that locals know but outsiders would generally be clueless about. Some of these are things I’ve written about before and others are new, and my list obviously reflects my own experiences – I didn’t grow up here so I don’t know many of the ’80s and ’90s references that my husband is constantly explaining to me (though I finally know the theme song for Menard’s!).

Anyway, I’d love your input – please share your additions, thoughts, etc., in the comments!

Keep ’em coming!

17 Responses to “Quintessential Winnipeg Terms, Expressions, and References”

  1. Sheri says:

    Awesome post! I’ve been trying to conjure up terms and whatnot that I only hear in this province. Trying to make a decent list until I can make a post about it! Dainties, socials and presentation are definitely the ones I hear the most around here.

  2. Confusion Corner/Crazy Corner — Intersection of Pembina, Osborne and Corydon

    PlaP (or the inelegant “Plap”) — Used by current/former Portage la Prairie residents

    Nip — Salisbury House hamburger; sometimes used by the elderly to describe hamburgers in general.

    Belongs in Selkirk — A crazy person who presumably belongs in the Selkirk Mental Health Centre

    In Headingley/Stony — In prison

    T.T. — Abbreviation for “Transit Tom” on transit detour signs

    Rotten Ronnie’s — McDonald’s (possibly now archaic)

    (BTW, did you know that there’s also a “Manitoban accent”? I learned this when I was in Ontario in 1996-98 and a couple of people commented on it, and was reminded of it when a Nova Scotian picked up on it during a visit to Halifax in 2010.)

  3. Emma says:

    That’s awesome! Thanks for the input, lots of those were new to me! Though I did know “Rotten Ronnie’s”; I think folks say that in Alberta too! Had no idea about the Manitoba accent but it doesn’t surprise me. Apparently there is distinct Manitoba Francophone accent, too!

  4. Great list! And thanks for the links to a few of my blog posts! I few words I have noticed in Manitoba that differ from my native Nova Scotia:

    Some Manitobans say “dint” where I say “dent”. Example: I dinted my car up last night and now I have to call autopac. I have heard “dint” from various people in rural Manitoba.

    Bunnyhug = hoodie. I think this is technically a Saskatchewan thing but I’m on the western side of Manitoba and it does pop up from time to time, I’m guessing because I’m actually closer to Saskatchewan than I am to Winnipeg so the provinces sort of blend together.

    Meat Draw. Never heard of this until moving to rural Manitoba. Basically on Saturday late afternoons you go to the local hall and you buy tickets to win meat and the money goes to a charity or fundraising or whatever. Usually you can by a beer or a drink or whatever and sit around and gab with the community until the draw. Like trays of meat – a package of chicken breasts, or a couple steaks. If you ticket is called you are a winner and you go up and pick out a tray of meat to take home.

    There is definitely an accent in Manitoba, but perhaps it is more eastern Canada vs. western Canada. For instance my first name is Angela. In Nova Scotia it is pronounced “Annnngela” where as in Manitoba it is pronounced “Aaaangela”. The “a” sound is more nasally and whiny in the east coast and more proper in Manitoba. Same thing with pants, can, ham, etc. Another word is “tournament”. In Nova Scotia it is “torn-a-ment” and in Manitoba it is “turn-a-ment”. Little differences but a lot of Manitobans notice I am a “come from away” by my subtle differences in key words.

  5. Thanks for the list!! also thank you for the additions from THE VIEW FROM SEVEN

    We’ve lived here since 1978 and there’s still so much to learn!

  6. sam says:


  7. cherenkov says:

    Pickerel. In most other places a pickerel is actually a pickerel! Not here. Here, a pickerel is a walleye. This is a quirk that I found annoying enough to write a post on a while back: http://anybody-want-a-peanut.blogspot.ca/2010/06/this-is-public-service-announcement.html

  8. PrairieJill says:

    I’m loving these posts. I’m a Winnipeg newbie (moved here in May) and am still learning the language! (Oddly enough, I heard “gumbo” for the first time last week, too.)

  9. Emma says:

    @PrairieJill – Welcome! Too funny that you also heard “gumbo” for the first time recently. Hope you enjoy learning all of Winnipeg’s weird and wonderful terms over the coming years 🙂

  10. Emma says:

    @Cherenkov – that’s a great one! “Pickerel” is a total Winnipeg food so I love that there’s a local spin on what we call it!

  11. Danbird says:

    A quirk I noticed while living there, and now find myself guilty of, is the exclusively Manitoban habit of counter servers to ask, “For inside or take out?” (instead of “For here or to go?” which is common parlance outside of Manitoba.) Just the other day here in BC I was asked “For here or to go?”, and I momentarily couldn’t process what I was being asked, and stammered out “Uhh.. for INSIDE!”

  12. Emma says:

    @Danbird – love it! I’d never noticed that before but will pay extra attention both here and in other provinces from now on!

  13. Yer Pal says:

    Bumper-shining anyone?

  14. Andy says:

    A few candidates:
    “Jambuster” obviously.
    “Bay” for a type of street seems to be a Manitoba original.
    “Hallowe’en Apples!” is apparently limited to the Prairies.
    “Soft drink” is used much more in Manitoba than almost anywhere else, although “pop” seems to be more common now.
    “Bumpershining” is definitely an interesting one.
    “Parkade” for a parking garage is a western Canadianism that might have originated in Winnipeg.
    “Suite” for an apartment is still common in Winnipeg; never hear it in Ontario.

  15. Nex says:

    “Beater” or “Winterbeater” – a cheap car you buy (think $100), hoping to get at least a year’s use out of it, or through a tough winter. There’s less of these out now that there’s mandatory safety checks…unless you can get one transferred from a relative.

  16. Syd says:

    We used to say ‘That’s the berries’, for something good or of high quality, and ‘Give ‘er like ten bear.’ Ten Bear was the amount of give ‘er required for an enthusiastic attempt at something, although there was no Five Bear expression.
    Outside of Winnipeg in the smaller communities we would hear ‘Borrow me ten bucks,’ and snowmobiles were called ‘toboggans’, which was short for power toboggan.
    Give ‘er ten bear on your toboggan!

  17. Syd says:

    I almost forgot about Poker Derbies, and the ‘Gaol’ spelling on the signs on the way to Headingley.
    Mickey of rye!

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