Friday, May 19, 2006

Canadian English

Lots of people ask me about the differences I've seen between American and Canadian English. There's a better description on wikipedia but I'll write here the differences I've noticed. Note that my experience is limited primarily to southern Ontario, and my comparisons are to Standard American English, like that heard on the news.

Canadians often ask because they don't seem to really hear it. Most say this is because they watch so much American TV and movies. They're used to hearing it that way. But when a Canadian says a word or phrase with a Canadian accent, I notice immediately.

They flatten lots of their "a"s .
I've heard "pasta" where the first "a" sounds like the "a" in "pat."
"Java" where the first "a" sounds like the "a" in "jack."
"Drama" where the first "a" sounds like the "a" in "Dramamine." This allows for terms like "dram club," which would sound too weird with the American pronounciation.
One friend of mine (I won't mention names to protect Daniel) says "taco" where the first "a" sounds like the "a" in "tack."
Perhaps the weirdest is "Dana" where the first "a" sounds like the "a" in "Daniel."
"Tonya" is pronounced differently from "Tanya" where the first "a" sounds like the "a" in "tan." In American English these names sound the same.

They put "eh?" at the end of sentences where Americans often put "huh?" As in, "That's pretty big, huh?" Canadians would say "That's pretty good, eh?" I hear the lower class people do this more often (mostly in this hockey card shop where I but cheap CDs and VHS). They also use "hey?" the same way. I hear this more at Queen's. One of my ex-girlfriends didn't like it, and asked me to pinch her when she said it.

They pronounce "about," "house," "out," etc. differently. Some Americans think they pronounce "about" as "aboot," but I've never heard this. I cannot describe how it's actually pronounced with text because there are no American English words I can think of that have the same sounds. For my Canadian readers, Americans pronounce it ah-bow-t where the "bow" rhymes with "cow."

They say "grade 8" instead of "eighth grade."

They use the word "random" a lot. My friend Kris said I was the most "random" friend she had, meaning I had stuff in my apartment that didn't go together. Sometimes people will start emails with "Random." to indicate that what they are saying is out of the blue. People will describe movies that have no rhyme or reason as "random." Someone's liking of a CD might be called "random" if it's unlike the other CDs they like.

Few Americans know the slang meaning of "cougar." It means an older woman who endeavours to pick up younger men. I read about it once, but never heard it used in conversation until I moved to Canada, where I hear it constantly. Right now it's one of those words that seems to evoke a laugh just by using it. I've heard Canadians use it to refer to older women at a bar, even if they have made no effort to pick up younger guys.

Around here anyway Canadians say "pop" for carbonated soft drinks, as opposed to the American "soda." If you order "soda" in a Canadian bar, they think you mean soda water.

They pronounce "fragile" with the last syllable sounding like "isle."

They say "project" and "progress" with the "pro" sounding like the "pro" in "golf pro."

On a test, if a question is worth three points, they say it's worth three "marks." I hear this is British.

The first syllable in "sorry" sounds like "sore."

A winter hat is a "toque" or a "touque" and is pronounced "tuke." Jamal said it was lame that Americans called it a "winter hat," until I pointed out that she called winter jackets "winter jackets."

Sometimes the call napkins "serviettes."

They apperar to be brand loyal in some weird ways. Any kind of macaroni and cheese tends to be called "Kraft Dinner," because the Kraft brand of mac and cheese is called that. I told Jamal we called it "macaroni and cheese" and she said "weird."

The only instant messenger Canadians use is MSN messenger. My American friends are split between AOL and Yahoo! instant messengers. They don't even refer to the practice as "instant messenging," it's "MSNing" as in "I MSNed her." Microsoft must love the Canadians.

No comments: