Canadian English, like many of its other commonwealth relatives is unique. It has been influenced by its British roots, Canada’s French speaking population, the diverse languages of First Nations peoples, and its American neighbours. As a result of these influences, Canadian English can be more than a little difficult for visitors or newcomers to decipher. Therefore, I’ve put together 10 Canadian words, to help those of you who aren’t familiar with Canadian terminology.
A chinook is a warm, dry wind that is experienced along the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains. It is most common in winter and spring, and can result in a temperature increase of 20 degrees Celsius, within a short period of time. A chinook, is a perfectly natural occurrence, and for most Albertans, a welcome break during a long, harsh winter.
A loonie, is the Canadian $1 coin, named for the loon that is on one side. Additionally the $2 Canadian coin is called a toonie. The toonie is silver coloured, with a copper coloured center.
Eh, is probably the most recognized Canadian word. It’s also probably the one that Canadians get made fun of for the most, particularly by our American neighbours. Eh, can be equated with the American word huh. Eh, therefore is often added to the end of a sentence, turning it into a question. It is also used to ascertain interest, comprehension, agreement, etc.
A nickname for Winnipeg. It is a play on the name Winnipeg, and makes reference to the city’s famously harsh winter weather. It is used by residents and visitors alike.
A toboggan, is similar to a sled in some ways, though it has no runners and no sides. It is often made of wood or metal, and ideally is long enough for three to four people. Tobogganing, is a favourite winter activity of Canadian children. Children will climb onto a toboggan and ride it down a snowy hill, and will do this for hours at a time. If this is your first winter, I highly recommend it.
Pickerel is a Canadian word for Walleye, which is a delicious fish found in various lakes in the US and Canada. In Winnipeg, you can often find Manitoba Pickerel, on the menu of many local restaurants. Believe me, they taste better than they look.
This is a coffee with two sugars, and two creams. You’ll most likely hear this at Tim Horton’s, one of Canada’s most popular coffee chains. Tim Horton’s is also known for its doughnuts. Canadians seem to have a bit of an obsession with doughnuts, myself included, as we have the most doughnut shops per capita. So when you stop by Timmy’s (Tim Hortons), be sure to try a doughnut with your double-double. Or if you’re like me and you hate coffee, have a hot chocolate instead.
When you say thongs, most people will think of skimpy underwear. In this case thongs, is another word for the casual footwear more commonly known as flip flops. So if somebody mentions, they picked up some thongs at Walmart, it could be either one. Hopefully the latter, if they’re talking about it.
A Toque (often called a beanie in other parts of the world) is a knit hat, and usually worn in the winter. Hipsters, however often wear toques year round, even on a hot summer day. Toque can also be spelled, tuque, which is the French variation.
10. Eaves Troughs
This is a fancier Canadian term for what Americans call rain gutters. Eaves troughs are put on the side of buildings to prevent damage and flooding by redirecting the water away from the building and its foundation. Modern eaves troughs are often made of metal, such as in the image above, and apparently make a good napping place for adventurous cats.
Hopefully you’ve found this introduction to Canadian English interesting and useful. If you have any stories about misunderstanding Canadian English, or a word or two you need help with why not comment below?