Nope, I am not giving a lesson about the parts of speech or other grammar lessons in this post, I will share with you some words, slang and phrases that are commonly used by Canadians. That is true, Canadians have their own take on everyday words. Here in Canada, we drink double-double coffee, eat poutine and drink pop, we wear toque, we write an exam, go to the washroom and we know that the last letter of the alphabet is “zed,” very Canuck, eh?
Though Canadians speak the same language as American, Canadian English has certain quirks or should I say there are some words or expressions that are exclusively used by Canadians, maybe because Canadian English has influence of American English, and has it’s British roots and influence of First Nation’s language.
There was one incident that I will never forget when I was still working for a coffee shop, I was on my third day and was assigned to work at the drive-thru window to get the customer’s order, I did not understand the customer’s order so I had to request her to repeat her order twice, when she came into the window to pick up her order, she looked for the person who took her order (yup that’s me) and told me, “you should have thought of learning your English first before coming here!” I almost cry after hearing that. So, I kept that incident in my memory bucket and from then on, I tried to be very mindful of the words that other people say whenever I speak to them and because “speaking Canadian” is now an everyday thing to me, I now understand the “Canadian vocabulary.”
I pull off some common Canadian words, phrases and expressions that one may encounter when coming to Canada.
“EH” this is the most unique feature of spoken Canadian English, it’s a tag question and is usually used after a statement or question, which is similar to right? okay? don’t you? or how about it? If Americans will normally have “huh” or “yeah” in their sentences, Canadians use, “eh.”
“It is cold outside, eh.” “You got a nice car, eh.” “You were at the party last night, eh?”
CANUCK is a slang term for “Canadian.” It is a very popular word and is even adopted as the name of the hockey league team in Vancouver. By the way, though hockey is played by almost every Canadian, it may interest you to know that lacrosse and not hockey is Canada’s national sport.
ZED NOT ZEE. I grew up and was thought in my country that the last letter of the alphabet is “Z” (zee). But now, my children were thought that “Zed” comes after letter “Y,” yes, Canadians pronounce the last letter in the alphabet “zed.”
TOQUE. Another popular thing for Canadians and no Canadian will not know what a toque is. Toque is a winter hat (often with a pompon on the crown), in the United States they call this beanie. And honestly speaking, the spelling of this word confuses me, whether it is a tuque or toque? For those Canadians who grew up in French immersion, it was always “tuque.”
POUTINE. It’s a fast-food dish found across Canada that originated from Quebec. It is french fries covered with gravy and cheese curds. This calorie-heavy, gooey-but-irresistible stuff is my son’s comfort food and I guess every Canadian’s comfort food. Wendy’s Co. even launched a “poutition” to make poutine Canada’s national dish in 2012.
CANADIAN COINS. Canadian coins are produced by The Royal Canadian Mint in Winnipeg, Manitoba (ehem that’s the city that I am in). These coins are currently issued in denominations of 5¢ or nickel, 10¢ or dime, 25¢ or quarter, $1 or loonie and $2 or toonie. There used to be 1¢ or penny, however, it’s distribution ceased in 2013.
DOUBLE-DOUBLE. Double-double is used across Canada whenever you would like to get a coffee with two creams and two sugars. It is primarily associated with Tim Hortons (a Canadian restaurant known for it’s coffee and doughnuts) but double-double is now used across Canada. You can also order for triple-triple, which means three creams, and three sugars in your coffee or you can go for a regular coffee, which is a coffee that has one cream and one sugar. Ooppps, I stand corrected, we call it whitener not cream.
MORE ABOUT DRINKS. In Canada, we buy our drinks from Liquor Store, government-owned retail liquor outlets. When you go to a liquor store you can buy a mickey (a 13 oz. bottle of liquor that fits in a pocket), twofer, two-four (a case of 24 beer), twenty-sixer or two-six (a 26 oz bottle of alcohol) or a two-eight (a case of 28 beer). And speaking of drinks, Canadians also drink pop, sweet, carbonated beverages, which in my home country is referred as soft drinks.
SPELLING. I admit, there are Canadian spelling that confuse me until now, most specially spelling these words – colour vs color, favourite vs favorite, favour vs favor, flavor vs flavor, and the likes.
- ABM – short for automated bank machine.
- brown bread – whole wheat bread
- elastic – rubber band
- homo milk – short term for homogenized whole milk
- Hydro – Many Canadian provincial electric companies generate power from hydroelectricity, thus hydro is used referring to an electrical service. Electric companies incorporate the term “Hydro” in their names – Manitoba Hydro, Toronto Hydro or Hydro Ottawa.
- pencil crayon – pencil used for colouring, the American alternative is “colored pencil.”
- runners – running shoes or casual shoes, referred to as sneakers in other countries.
- serviette – commonly called a “napkin”
- toboggan – sled, used on snow to carry one or more people (often children) down a hill or other slope.
- washroom – place where one would find the toilet, sink, and bathtub, normally called as toilet or bathroom.
- write (a test) – take a test
I know there are more very Canadian words that I can still add to this list… but this for sure cannot be discussed in just one post, I will try to come up with more words or phrases to add in this list next time.
Cool and interesting, eh?
Do you know any other words, phrase or even idioms that you think is uniquely Canadian?