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Monday, July 1, 2013


Happy 146th Birthday Canada!!

Today is Canada day and in honour of this fun day I thought I'd share some interesting and amusing words and sayings that are unique to our great Country.

My source is "Only in Canada, You Say.  A Treasury of Canadian Language" by Katherine Barber, available through Amazon

Here are a few phrases we like to use:
done like dinner - utterly defeated
dream in Technicolor - be wildly unrealistic
give someone the gears - pester, hassle
take off the gloves - ready oneself or indicate readiness for a confrontation
no guff - a declaration of truthfulness
hang up one's skates - give up; quit or retire
kick at the can - an opportunity to do something
rhyme off - recite rapidly and spontaneously (a list of times)
go snaky - lose self-control
make strange - (of a baby or child) fuss or be shy in company

We have fun names for clothes too:
Gaunch, gitch and gotch are all names for underwear and of course we call our knitted winter hats toques.  An idiot string is what we call the string that attaches two mittens together that is strung through the sleeves and across the inside back of a child's coat, to prevent the mittens from being lost.

We like to call our Country "the Great White North", even if it isn't white all the time.  The island of Newfoundland (Labrador) is called "The Rock" while "ROC" stands for rest of Canada; the parts of Canada outside the province of Quebec.  "Spud Island" refers to Price Edward Island, because it produces potatoes.  "La-La Land" and "Lotus Land" are nicknames for British Columbia

We call Ottawa, our nation's capital, "Fat City" and Toronto is known as "Hogtown".  Calgary is "Cowtown", and Winnipeg is sometimes called "Winterpeg".

Hockey is our national sport.  We have a lot of different hockey terms and use some of them in everyday living:
dipsy-doodle - evade the defending team by using feints, demes, swerving motions and finesse in stick handling
pond hockey - informal or disorganized hockey played on a frozen pond.
shinny - informal pickup hockey played usually without nets, referees or equipment except skates, sticks and a ball or puck
spinarama - an evasive move consisting of an abrupt 360-degree turn

And here's our favourite, eh: "eh"

This is an excerpt from "Only in Canada, You Say"

"Canadians are inordinately proud of this one-sound particle as a marker of Canadian identity.  This pride is a little mystifying to me, since there is more--much more--to Canadian English than "eh".  When it is used in a phrase like "nice day, eh?", which solicits an affirmative response from the person you're talking to, "eh" is not unique to Canadian English…English speakers throughout the Commonwealth also use "eh" in this way, as what linguists call a "tag ending".

Where "eh" is uniquely Canadian is in the so-called "narrative eh", for instance in "I'm going to Winnipeg for Christmas, eh, so I'm packing  my long johns."  The person saying this is not expecting their interlocutor to say "Yes, indeed, you are going to Winnipeg."  It is just a filler word, almost as if we want to ascertain that the other person is still listening to us.  Other statements, like one I heard my bus driver making, "The bus stalled three times coming down, eh?", are similar.  Another classic Canadian use of "eh" is in a phrase that I use myself a lot.  Say your neighbour exclaims, "Geez, those dogs barking are driving me crazy"; you might respond, "Really, eh."  You are not expecting the neighbour to reply in turn, "Yes, really, you nitwit".  You are just making your agreement more emphatic."

Hope you had fun learning some of our unique words and phrases!  If you want to read more I highly recommend Katherine Barber's book!  Now let's raise a  barley sandwich (beer) and wish this great Country a very 

Happy Birthday
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1 comment:

  1. Awesome facts i didnt know about canada! i like "no guff"