Posted in Canada, English

Canadian language 101


Although it has been said that the Canadian version of English is similar to the American one, even after living 6 months in U.S, it still took me a while to get used to the Canadian accent. Additionally Canadians love to use their linguistic regionalism; words and sayings which are use only in Canada and sometimes only in one of its provinces. Things are even more enriched thanks to French, which next to English is the official language of Canada. Despite political issues, both languages borrow words from each other. I will try to write a little bit more about the Canadian version of French in a future. To this mix of official languages are words added from Native languages. The worldwide known word kayak is from the people living up north in the arctic and who speak the Inuit languages. It might be helpful to learn some of that cultural hodgepodge before your trip to the great, white north.

Timmies is a very common name for Tim Hortons, the most popular coffee shop chain in Canada. Canadians love their double double, a coffee with two milks and two sugars. Rumor has it that the Tim Hortons in Yellowknife is the busiest one in the entire country. One of the employees is extremely fast in preparing beverages and sandwiches. He is one of the less known tourist attractions Yellowknife couchsurfers show to their visitors.

Loonie and Toonie are the words for the Canadian one and two dollars coins. A Loon is a bird that looks a little bit like a duck and makes interesting noises, very common in Canada. A Toonie is a combination of words: two and loonie, even though there are no loons on the coin at all, rather, there is a family of polar bears.

Mickey is a small, 375-milliliter bottle of hard alcohol. Another popular expression with alcohol is two-four, which means a case of 24 beer bottles. May 24th is Victoria Day in Canada, known also as May two four. Victoria Day is a statutory holiday and Canadians have Monday off. A long weekend in May is a good occasion to get out of the city and drink beer, most likely a two-four.

Mountie, or Royal Canadian Mounted Police, known also as the RCMP, is a police officer in a red uniform known from Canadian postcards. Unfortunately today RCMP officers rarely wear the popular red serge and none of the police stations have horses. For day-to-day work, the Mounties use a more practical uniform (like the one on the picture below). Today the red serge and Stetson can be seen during special ceremonies or the Musical Ride, which is a show where Mounties perform their horseback riding skills for the public.

Depanneur or short version Dep is a popular word in Quebec, which is also used by Anglophones from this province and it means a corner store with quick access amenities.

Tabarnac is probably the most common swear word in Quebec’s version of French called Québécois. It means tabernacle, a place to keep the Host in a catholic church. Quebec Francophones have adopted words with religion connotations for swearing. So if you ever drive a car in Montreal and someone yell at you: hostie de calice de tabarnac (the Host from chalice from tabernacle) it doesn’t mean that he is late for the Holy Communion in a church, it means that someone just scolded you pretty badly. Actually, if you are planning to drive in Montreal, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to learn those words, they might be handy.

Hoser is a Canadian version of loser. It comes from a very Canadian tradition where after a hockey game the team which lost, had to hose the skate rink to make it smooth again.

Touque is a warm, winter hat, often with a big pom-pom on top. In Canada, through a big part of a year people are wearing winter hats, so it makes sense that they have their own name for it.

Mahsi Cho you can hear on the streets of Yellowknife and it means thank you in Athapascan languages.




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