Canadian versus American
Due to our connected histories on a shared continent and a border that stretches endlessly for miles and miles, Canadians and Americans do have an awful lot in common.
To the untrained ear the accents may be extremely difficult to differentiate and Americans could easily pretend to be Canadians (as they sometimes do depending on the political climate) and Canadians are often mistaken for Americans.
In this blog, we’ll look at a few things that are distinctly Canadian and ways for you to spot a Canadian by the things they say and the manner in which they say them.
Although ‘eh?’ is becoming less and less commonly used by urbanites – most Canadians will at least use and welcome the greeting “How’s it going, eh?” People in more provincial areas and older generations of Canadians still use ‘eh’ a lot more often as an omnipresent kind of tag question at the end of many clauses in a dialogue. It even reaches the point of being quite amusing to the uninitiated; “You heard what he’s trying to do, eh? Apparently he wants to run for mayor, eh? And then impose a bunch of new taxes, eh?”
Probably no common word so obviously differentiates Canadian and American English than the word ‘sorry’. Americans pronounce it in a very similar way to one might enunciate the name of the Indian garment ‘sari’. Think about Justin Bieber (a Canadian singing in an American accent) singing, ‘is it too late now to say sari?’ Canadians say it more like so–ree similar to how it sounds in the phrase ‘so rea-lly’ Can you hear the difference?
Now add to that the fact that Canadians say ‘sorry’ all the time – even just bumping into someone or touching somebody’s foot with your foot while standing on the bus warrants a ‘SO-ree’. ‘SO-ree’ is a good indicator that you have a Canadian in your presence.
- Oat and a boat
The ‘ou’ sound (a diphthong for all you linguistically savvy people) is a sound that Canadians pronounce in a slightly more restricted/stifled manner causing the words ‘about’ and ‘out’ to sound like ‘a boat’ and ‘oat’. So, an American saying ‘Check it OWt’ would become ‘Check it oat’ in Canada. But contrary to popular belief as propagated by South Park nobody actually says ‘aboot’ or ‘oot’!
- It’s not a winter hat. It’s a toque, eh?
I remember sitting around a table with a group of mixed-nationality English teachers and nobody could agree on the correct term for the item of clothing pictured above. In Canada it is affectionately known as a ‘toque’ pronounced with a very long ‘oo’ sound to rhyme with Luke. Americans call it a beanie. But I say ‘Hey, when it comes to cold climate apparel, Canadians have an expertise and can therefore lay claim to this and what it should be called.’
- Hey buddy, hey friend, hey guy, hey dude, hey bro
Canadians are notoriously friendly and as such they very often use names for people that they know casually and in an informal context to draw them into a closer inner circle. It is not uncommon for people who are on the same hierarchical level at work to refer to each other using the names above. Surprisingly to some, this is not exclusively a young person phenomenon. People of all ages do this so get used to it, buddy!
Top five tips but there is even more to Canadian
Well that is a healthy start but that is really just scratching the surface. There is also the strange slang for Canadian money (loonies and twoonies) as well as the official language for ordering coffee in Canada’s favourite coffee shop chain (Tim Horton’s) “I’ll get a double-double and some Timbits please.” But now you should be well on your way to spotting a Canadian amongst a group of Americans, is that right, eh?