Category Archives: Colloquialisms

Prit’ near

prit’near: Something that is very like something else; something that is close in time or space to something else. Likely derived from “pretty near.”

exempli gratia: It was prit’near eleven o’clock by the time we got out of there. That John can sure talk a blue streak.

Grub Line Runners

Fellas who would spend the winter moving from one farm or ranch to the next, doing an odd job here and there, just enough for a meal and a place to sleep until it was time to move on to the next. One could keep body and soul together all winter running the grub line ’til spring came and it was time to get a job.

exempli gratia: ‘Ol Frank there, he was a grub line runner all right. Never knew him to have a proper job between round-up and calving time.


zombie: A term used for men who joined the Army as the war was approaching its end. It was assumed these men were joining only to claim the income and benefits of being in the military without the danger of abeing involved in active combat.

exempli gratia: “When Frank enlisted in the fall of ’44, everyone called him a zombie.”


rubber: To eavesdrop on conversations on the rural “party line” telephone system. Prior to the early 1990s, rural telephone lines were connected via party lines. Each telephone had its own particular ring, however there was nothing stopping an interested neighbour from picking up the phone to listen in on someone else’s conversation. The practice was so common that I recally hearing my mom talk about how, after a phone conversation ended, you would hear “a bunch of clicks as everyone else hung up.” To “rubber” was the act of listening in on someone else’s conversation.

exempli gratia: “I used to rubber all the time. That’s how you’d find out all the news.”


swish: The liquor leached from oak barrels procured from distilleries (usually whiskey). The barrels were purchased ostensibly for making flower pots, but first, the custom was to fill ’em up with distilled water and let the alcohol leach out. The resulting spirit was referred to as “swish.” Sometimes it would burn with a blue flame, as long as no one else had been to the barrel first.

exempli gratia: “We’d put the swish in glass jugs and when company came over, plunk it down in the middle of the table. It was strong stuff.”

N.B. This has been done by people I know within recent memory.

Proving Up

Prove up: Homesteaders were required to break ten acres of land for three years, build a house and live on their homestead quarter six months of the year to “prove up” their claim.

exempli gratia: Tom proved up his homestead in 1909 after which time his wife and children arrived with a carload of settler’s effects from Ontario. 


Bundling: Couples cuddling under a robe or blanket while returning home in the cutter on a cold winter’s eve.*

exempli gratia: “The fellow would pick up his gal and go for a spin or to a dance if the distance was not too far. The gal would have to hang on to the fellow to stay on the stone boat, if the horse would run or trot, to make the ride a little rough and wonderful. “Bundling” was very common on one of these vehicles.”**


*Happy Valley Happenings. 1983. Big Beaver, SK: Big Beaver Historical Society, 142.

** Ibid., 140.