Canadian Approved Super Slang!

Watch Your Vowels

Our neighbors just over the border in the Great White North speak English, (along with French in some areas), but their dictionary contains a fair amount of Canadian flair that may be unfamiliar to most American English speakers. Here’s a list of our favorite Canadianisms.

About, Aboot, or Aboat?

In most places around the United States, we pronounce this word uh-bout. There’s been a popular misconception for years that our friends to the north say uh-boot. But, the BBC notes that the emphatic emphasis is merely an American stereotype. The proper Canadian pronunciation is, in fact, uh-boat. That’s all we need to know about that.

“Z” and “Zed”

Poor old Z. We pronounce it zee, of course, and it's stuck at the end of the English alphabet (although, it wasn't always).

In Canada, they say zed. And in fact, much of the world says zed. The word is from the 1400s, derived from several cultures including the Greek zeta. The U.S. pronunciation zee is first noted in 1677, in Thomas Lye’s A New Spelling Book.

Knit Caps And Tuques

In the States, when it gets chilly, we tug on a ski cap, a beanie, or a wool hat - there’s a variety of names for them. In Canada, these warm hats are known as a tuque (pronounced tyook). This is a variant of toque, from 1870s France. Vowels often get creative while traveling around the world.

Bunny Hug

Hoodie is the most commonly used term for a sweatshirt with a hood attached - either a pullover or zippered front, mostly. In Saskatchewan, they curiously refer to hoodies as...bunny hugs. But wait! There’s more. There’s a totally different definition for “bunny hug”—a ballroom dance popular in the US in the early 20th century, characterized by a syncopated rhythm. So in theory, you could do a bunny hug in a bunny hug (no animals required).

Couch Or A Chesterfield?

This one takes a bit of a think. In the USA, we flop down on a couch, right? In Canada, they flop on a Chesterfield. The word was first recorded around 1885-90, named after an Earl of Chesterfield in the 19th century. Evidently, the name stuck and made it’s way to Canada, but not to all parts of the USA. It's too bad there isn't an Earl of Sofa or Loveseat to talk about.

Roger and Larry

Roger and Larry, two fine and acceptable names for males anywhere! But in the Great White North, they stand for something else—traffic directions. Examples: at the corner, hang a Roger means, as you might guess, turn right. Same for Larry, which means turn left. If you were told to “pull a Sam,” would that mean to just go straight ahead?

Two-Four

In most places, the words two and four are ever important numerical values. However, in Canada they have another meaning altogether. If the Leafs are on Hockey Night In Canada and you gotta head over to the corner market for a two-four, that’s a 24-pack of beer. And make it Molson, eh?

Beware the Garburator

You might think it’s some Canadian version of an automotive carburetor, right? Well, not even close. Up north, a garburator is what's below the sink, and it breaks down and tears up food before washing it away. We call it a garbage disposal, which is much less fun to say.

Raising And Shift

Finally, let’s take a look at a Canadian linguistic phenomenon called Canadian Raising and Canadian Shift. Canada’s York University says raising is “a phonological process characteristic of one variety of Canadian English", where the beginning of the diphthongs /ay/ and /aw/ raise to mid vowels when they come before the sounds /p/, /t/, /k/, /s/, and /f/.

And a shift, meanwhile, is “a change or system of parallel changes that affects the soundstructure of a language, as the series of related changes in the English vowel system from Middle English to Modern English.” Or of course, the vowel shifts that bring us the glory of Canadian (and American) accented English. Got that, eh?