Updated: Aug 13, 2021
A redeemed term that most likely started off as a bit of insult is now a famous nickname by those proud to hail from the beautiful province of Nova Scotia. So famous, in fact, that in March of 2013, the term bluenose was officially added to the Oxford dictionary. In the twelfth edition of the renowned book of words, bluenose is defined as "a person from Nova Scotia".
The origin of the nickname is unclear. It seems to be agreed upon that the term originated in the late 18th century. According to Bill Davey in an interview he did for CBC news in March 2013, the term was first coined in 1760. He notes that at that time, the land that is New Brunswick and Nova Scotia today was referred to as Nova Scotia. He says this of the term bluenoser:
"One referred to the early Nova Scotian sailors who would be out in the cold weather and supposedly their nose would get cold and turn blue and the other one refers to the early settlers who would eat a lot of blue potatoes and herring." (1)
According to the information found on the Nova Scotia archives, the first recorded use of the word was in 1785 by Jacob Bailey, a reverend and Loyalist clergyman. Living in the Annapolis Royal after the Amercan Revolution, Bailey used the term blue noses in a derogatory fashion to describe the old inhabitants of Nova Scotia while writing letters to a friend.
The Oxford Dictionary credits the first use of the word in 1838 to Thomas Chandler Haliburton through his fictional character Sam Slick who, referring to his Nova Scotia customers said, "When bluenose hears that, he thinks he's got a bargain." (2)
The Birthplace of Hockey website notes that Haliburton actually coined the term in 1836, "Haliburton named Nova Scotians 'Bluenoses'." (3)
READERS NOTE: Don't forget the name Thomas Chandler Haliburton and Sam Slick. They are behind Windsor, Nova Scotia's claim as the birthplace of hockey and will be discussed again in reference to this.
1. Bluenoser makes it into the Oxford dictionary - CBC news
2. Bluenose: A Canadian Icon - How the Bluenose Got Its Name - Nova Scotia Archives
3. Thomas Chandler Haliburton - Birthplace of Hockey