Kendall is a born and raised Canadian who loves to travel, eat her way through new cultures, and write about her experiences. Her most recent adventures include Germany, Banff, and Malta. When she’s not dreaming of faraway places, you can find her hanging at the dog park or taking on new challenges on, like training for mud-soaked obstacle courses. She currently lives in Calgary, Alberta.
Latest posts by Kendall O’Geil (see all)
- A Quick Guide to the Canadian Words and Phrases - October 13, 2017
- 5 Unique Festivals That You Can Only Find in Calgary - September 19, 2017
What’s the Deal with Canada, Eh?
The Canadian language is an odd mix of things – the roots are British, throw in some American spellings, then mix it up with Francophone, and finally the Native American influences.
To this day, many are still confused by the manoeuvres, such as “install” and “instalment” and whether two l’s or one should be used; if an s or z should be utilized in a word, or even remembering the u (or the lack of thereof) in words like colour, valour, and squalor. Is it any wonder that many Canadians get confused on how to spell words in our own language? Well, you can never trust spell-checker apps as a Canadian!
If you plan on visiting Canada, be sure to check out these words and phrases for a quick study session on Canadian English.
From A to Zed
One of the more noticeable and commonly known differences is the fact that Canadians use “zed” instead of “zee” to end the alphabet, unlike our American neighbours. Maybe it’s just because I’ve grown up here, but “zed” is way superior.
If you’re traveling to Canada, it’s worth it to note that although there are a few noteworthy dialect variations in Quebec and Newfoundland, Canadian English as a whole is an amalgamation of influences from other cultures and regions. Big cities like Calgary, Toronto, and Vancouver can sound positively American, but on the oil rigs of Northern Alberta the dialect is a more defined “Canadian” where one might hear about pronounced as a-boot.
Your classic Canadian hoser, popularized by Bob and Doug, is often seen on television as a stereotypical, beer-drinking, hockey-loving, laidback slang talker, and is only heard from when we Canadians consciously choose it for a laugh.
Honestly Canadian Words
So let’s brush up on your Canadian English with these fun words!
“We’re not sure how to beat this team, so we’re gonna go out on the ice and just give’r!”
An expression that means “go all out”. Commonly used in sports like hockey and in small-town talk. Never feel the need to explain your plans in detail again – just give’r!
“Yeah, can I get a double-double and a dozen Timbits?”
A coffee from Tim Horton’s, our nation’s unabashedly favourite coffee shop. It’s prepared with two creams and two sugars. If you know a Canadian, then you know Timmy’s.
“Did you hear about the snowstorm on the East Coast? Those poor Haligonians!”
Anyone from the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
“I stopped by the dep today for some Montreal bagels.”
Short for the French word dépanneur—a convenience store in Montreal, and other parts of the province of Quebec.
Gong show or gonger
“That hockey brawl was a total gong show, what happened?”
A situation that gets way out of control, often in a funny way. Sometimes used to refer to a party that gets out of hand. Bonus Canadian party-related vocabulary: two-six, two-four, mickey, and stag party.
“Don’t forget to wear your toque to school today, it’s cold out there!”
No, not like Peregrin Took from Lord of the Rings (for the love of Gretzky, please don’t spell it like that) – this is a hat worn in winter time, like a beanie or cap. The word is used widely across Canada.
“My bunnyhug has the logo of my favourite CFL team on it – the Saskatchewan Roughriders!”
Used to describe a hooded sweatshirt, but only in the province of Saskatchewan. Use it more for a laugh than everyday conversation, as it’s losing meaning and is not used very often.
Canadian dialect is unique, just like this beautiful country. When you are ready to travel to Canada, always remember to pronounce Toronto like ch-raw-nah, say sorry when it’s not your fault, eat way too many Lay’s Ketchup chips on ski trips, tip generously, and bring layers even if you’re just making a trip to the grocery store – and you’ll fit right in!