I find in my writings on Alaska life, that I am constantly clarifying my writing with definitions for ‘Alaska’ terminology. It is a wonderful thing about living here, or anywhere, that a local vocabulary develops. A vernacular, by any account. Its fun, creative, and at least a little bit exclusionary.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I like knowing what Alaskans are talking about when we say ‘outside’, or ‘village’, or ‘breakup’, and that outsiders (there I go again) don’t. And of course I enjoy explaining it to them, as much as they (I think) enjoy hearing about it.

We’ve earned the right to use those words, surviving the Alaskan initiation rituals of isolation, darkness, and cold. We should celebrate them, what makes us different and unique, why we choose to live here over anywhere else.

In keeping with that line of thought, I’ve created this new blog “alaska vernacular” in addition to my regular posts at discontinuous permafrost. I hope that my readers will add definitions as they see fit. I’ll post them and credit them to the source. I’d like to accumulate something of the local lexicon here, that we can link to out of our blogs, instead of adding a definition every time a bit of alaskspeak shows up in our writing. I’ll also add the words and definitions below as they accumulate.

And if anyone has already done this, let me know. I’d be glad to link this right to their work!


discontinuous permafrost

2 Responses to “About”

  1. Deirdre Says:

    I have a few terms for you: breakup, mud season, t-shirt weather, cabin fever, Outside, the Bush, the Lower 48, the Interior. A good starter source might be How to Speak Alaskan, by Mike Doogan, although that book is meant to amuse, and not all these terms reflect particularly amusing things.

    To start:

    Outside: everywhere that is not Alaska. Often used as a synonym for the Lower 48, this is a similar use to “outside”, as in “out of jail,” except that residents of Alaska don’t particularly want to be Outside. In fact, there is general pride among Alaskans that our state and ways are not at all like those Outside.

  2. discontinuouspermafrost Says:


    Thanks for the comment and the definition for Outside. It is now part of the “Alaskan vernacular”. I have the others on my list of adds, and will get them into the blog in the days ahead.

    Feel free to send more definitions, I’ll post them and link back the Ester Republic blog. Great publication, by the way.

    discontinuous permafrost

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