How to Speak "Thunder Bay"

Have a shag at camp, or grab some pickerel from your packsack

According to Statistics Canada, 94.6% of Thunder Bay residents speak English in their homes. StatsCan doesn’t count how many people speak Thunder Bay, but one can safely assume that the number is even closer to 100%.

So while you’re planning your next visit to Thunder Bay, be sure to learn the meaning of these 5 common words and phrases you may hear on your journey.


In Thunder Bay and area, if someone invites you to go to camp with them, note that you will not need a tent. Tents are for camping, not for “camp.” Camp is a permanent structure – usually a cabin of some kind.  If they are referring to a hockey camp or a band camp or any other kind of summer camp program they will specify that.

If you are trying to appear like a local, saying cottage in this context will absolutely blow your cover because in Thunder Bay cottage means cheese and nothing more.


Pickerel is one of the most fished-for species in the region. On any given weekend, you will hear someone say they are going pickerel fishing, or invite you over for a fish fry of fresh caught pickerel. These are nice people and that fish will be delicious; you should accept the invite, but note… those aren’t pickerel; they’re walleye.


So you’re hiking Sleeping Giant with your new Thunder Bay friends and one of them asks you to grab something from their packsack. Before you wander away confused pondering this mystery, know that in Thunder Bay, we have taken portions of the phrases “backpack” and “knapsack” and created our own word: packsack.

Nipigon Nylons

Photo courtesy of

Fashion is important, but on a chilly, fall night in Northwest Ontario your priority will be staying warm. Enter the always fashionable Nipigon Nylons. Named for Nipigon, the beautiful (yet cold in the winter) community on the shores of Lake Superior, you may already know these fantastic items by their mainstream name: wool socks. Note: Despite the name, Nipigon Nylons will keep your feet just as warm in Kenora as they will in Nipigon.


We understand that in other places shag can mean many things but in Thunder Bay, “a shag” is a party/fundraiser held in support of a soon-to-be-married couple.

Honourable mention: Right

Right means correct. Right also means the opposite of left. In Thunder Bay, right also is a versatile adverb that is completely interchangeable with “very.” For example: “It’s right windy out there,” “This Persian is right good,” “that boat ride was right nice”.

Now that you know how to speak "Thunder Bay", grab a Persian and get out and explore.

About Stephanie Reid

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Stephanie is a content creator and media specialist and has a true appreciation for Northern Ontario and all of its many offerings and attractions.

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