Since the beginning of time, men and women have always felt the need to communicate effectively through verbal avenues – some more than others, wink wink. Language evolved through specific environments, common challenges and shared interests which we can now consider "regionalisms" or "nuances". This certainly applies to us up here as well. We developed our unique manner of speaking somewhat different from our American cousins and the British Empire although some elements of these two cultures have made it into our own colloquialisms.
If you want to brush up on your Canadian or plan to blend in should you decide to spend some time up here, make sure to add some of these "beauties" to your lingo:
- Not too bad: Typical answer to someone asking how your day is going. Any other answer is just not Canadian. We know things could be worse and they are not so great because of the taxes we pay versus the Americans.
- Double double: When visiting Tim Horton’s (also referred to as Timmy Ho’s, Timmy’s or Tim’s) or any fine coffee establishment, if you need two milks and two sugars, this is the only way you’ll sound Canadian when you order. You’ll also think you’re cool when you say it.
- Loonie: We have a one-dollar coin with a loon on it. No mystery there. Nobody calls it a dollar, it is just not right. We also have a two-dollar coin with a polar bear on it called a Twoonie. Aren’t we just so neat?
- Brutal: There is only one way to communicate things have not gone well at all for you today. i.e “My meeting today was brutal.”
- Two-Four: This is used to describe a case of 24 beer bottles. This is your most important expense in Canada when visiting the beer store (yes, we can only buy beer at dedicated stores unless living in Quebec… weird eh?).
- Hydro: Most residents in English-speaking countries get an electricity or light bill. We get hydro bills. Our electricity is just the same as yours and it is not made out of water.
- Poutine: This low-fat dish consisting of French fries covered in gravy and cheese curds is guaranteed to fill your heart with joy and lower your cholesterol immediately. The grease is what makes us look so good!
- Beaver Tails: Now, don’t freak out there. We are not senseless carnivores. These are traditional fried pastries in the shape of a beaver’s tail with a light dusting of powdered sugar and cinnamon - although newer toppings include ice cream, maple or chocolate syrup or fruit.
- To table: When we say this in Canada, we mean to bring up a subject we wish to discuss immediately. Americans usually mention this when they want to put an issue aside that could be picked up on another occasion.
- You’re welcome: Many times I have said “thank you” in the US, people tend to respond with an expressive “mm-hmm” or “uh-huh”. We don’t do that here. We prefer words even if we are moody, upset or groggy and tend to respond in a complete sentence or just say nothing at all.
There are many other common expressions in Canadian English from sea to shining sea and it is important to preserve this precious language. We cannot assume that one’s language is better or more appropriate than someone else's as different circumstances occurring over years contributed to shaping entire cultures. Anyway – which can commonly be said “anyways” up here – hope this cheat sheet helps when you come up North for a visit. Give'er!