From ‘Gnarly’ to ‘Schnarb’: Here Are The Best Words Used And Invented In BC

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Merriam-Webster, one of the world’s biggest dictionaries, just added hundreds of new “official” words and terms for 2022. 

Among them was a word familiar to many British Columbians after last year’s extreme fall weather that caused $675 million in insured damage: “atmospheric river,” which refers to concentrated water vapour in the atmosphere.

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B.C. has its own impressive collection of words, some unique to us, used from fishermen and sailors on the saltchuck to workers and adventurers in the forests.

Here are some of the most memorable and widely used words:

Gnarly, possibly from a German word for snarl, describes rough terrain – commonly used in B.C.’s backcountry.

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Pow, or pow pow, is the deep powder snow every B.C. skier or snowboarder craves.

Hella, meaning “very,” is hella common in B.C. slang.

Slash is a common term in B.C. forests, to describe a swath of clearcut land littered with smaller trees and branches. 

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Schnarb is a peculiar word used by B.C. tree planters, referring to land littered with obstacles.

Earlier this year Toronto’s Narcity ran a roundup of Canadian slang. Among B.C. words were:

Cabins, vacation homes they call “cottages” in Central Canada.

Ginch or gonch, a term for usually men’s underwear

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Squatch is, says Narcity, a hairy man, possibly with bad hygiene.

But the word most commonly used in B.C. is most likely skookum, meaning strong or excellent.

Another common term is high muckamuck or Mucketymuck, meaning an important person or bigshot – sometimes used sarcastically. Possibly, suggests one website, it’s from the Chinook phrase, “hyas muckamuck,” meaning “one who sits at the head table”.

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