Canadianisms 1

55 Canadianisms You May Not Know or Are Using Differently


Jules Sherred is a nerd. He is also the parent of two boys–one teen and one newly adult–a freelance writer, a web designer, the author of Five Little Zombies and Fred, the General Manager and radio personality at The Look 24/7, he owns the largest Star Trek community on Google+, Geeky Pleasures creator, geek support for Parsec Award winning The Minister of Chance, writes for Quirk Books, owner of TransCanuck and more. You can follow Jules on Twitter @GeekyJules and circle him on Google+.

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Canadianisms 1
Image by Jules Sherred.

I surveyed 175 people, quizzing them on their knowledge of 82 “Canadianisms.” The results are in, including 42 words with which you are probably unfamiliar, unless you are Canadian.

All of the words included on this survey were the result of at least one American being baffled over my Canadian English. Many times, I have felt as if we were two people separated by a common language. These words have been used during my many trips to the United States. (I have traveled to Washington, California, Idaho, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, New York, Maryland, DC, and Virginia.) They’ve also been the source of confusion when speaking with my American partner or talking with my American pals, who are spread throughout the country.

Because of how many words and pages it takes for a complete breakdown of the results, I’ve decided to only include words where at least 50 percent of Americans said they were unfamiliar with the word, plus a couple of other bonuses. At the end of the post is a link to all of the results, which include the 42 unfamiliar words, 10 questionable results, and three honourable mentions, plus 16 “familiar but not used,” and 11 “familiar and used” words.

The geographical breakdown includes: 104 Americans, 52 Canadians, and 19 people from the following Commonwealth countries: New Zealand, Australia, Scotland, England, and Wales.

The method of this completely non-scientific, yet still extremely fascinating survey was pretty simply: I presented respondents with a word, a short definition, and four answers from which to choose.

When giving a definition, intentionally, I gave minimal information. My thinking was, either the people responding to the survey knew the words without giving a context and definition, or they didn’t. In retrospect, I should have been more concise with a couple of the words, as many of the American respondents seemed confused by their meaning or my intention. This was even more prevalent when I gave an example of how the word is seldom used in Canada, which caused the respondent to give conflicting responses in the “other” field. These words are included in this post, even if over 50 percent of Americans said they were familiar with the word, but didn’t use it.

After reading the word and the short definition, respondents were presented with the following choices:

  • I am unfamiliar with this term;
  • I am familiar with this term, but I never used it or have I heard it used in my area;
  • I am familiar with this word and I use it regularly, or it is used in my area;
  • Plus, “other” to elaborate and enter the word most commonly used by that person.

I’ve also included three honourable mentions: words that could have very easily fallen within the “unfamiliar” category.

Contained within these results are a number of terms that are sociolects: words we tend to use only when among certain social groups, and our geographic location does not determine the extent to which Canadians have knowledge of the word, or use it. With the exception of a couple of regional words, most Canadians were familiar with all of the words, even if they didn’t use them. Regional dialects are very rare in Canada, but we do have many sociolects. Because of Canada’s emphasis on being multi-cultural, we tend to be very familiar with each other’s word choices, which sometimes can give the appearance that we are a “melting pot,” when we are not.

It is also interesting to note that in cases where the word was not clearly “Canadian,” it was the result of people in and around the greater Toronto area not making use of the word. It almost adds to the joke that there is Canada, and then there is Toronto, Ontario. Canada versus Toronto is the source of many jokes and stereotypes; some of which are not always nice, even if they may have a lot of truth in them. And, in a couple of cases, Albertans were the exception to the rule, which also plays into some Canadian-grown stereotypes.

Without further ado, the results!


1 Tuque
Image by Molly Leonard via Wikimedia Commons.

1.       Tuque: A knitted cap/hat, referred to as a beanie in the United States. A beanie is a completely different type of hat in Canada. 100 percent Canadian.

In the United States, the most common alternatives were: beanie, knitted cap, ski hat, and stocking cap. In the Commonwealth countries, the most common alternative was “beanie.”

It may be interesting to note that very recently, the CBC did an article about the spelling of “tuque,” while calling all of us “hosers.” Tuque is the proper spelling, though many Anglophones spell it either “toque” or “touque.” Growing up in French immersion, it was always “tuque,” with “toque” meaning something else. You can read what the CBC has to say about this very topic, including a reference to their style guide.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 53% 84% 0%
Familiar but not used 35% 0% 0%
Familiar and used 12% 16% 100%
1 Runners
Some rights reserved by Luke,Ma via Flickr.

2.       Runners: Referred to as sneakers or tennis shoes in the United States. 85 percent Canadian.

In the United States, the most common alternatives were: sneakers, tennis shoes, Nikies, running shoes, walking shoes, and walkers. Across the Commonwealth countries, the most common alternative was “trainers.”

One American noted the following, “Runners are a piece of table linen, which runs the length of the table under the centerpiece and dangles over the edge.”

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 60% 37% 4%
Familiar but not used 32% 58% 11%
Familiar and used 7% 5% (1 person) 85%
3 Parkade
Some rights reserved by Jan Tik via Flickr.

3.       Parkade: A multi-level parking structure. 71 percent Canadian.

In the United States, the most common alternatives were: parking garage and parking deck. Across the Commonwealth countries they were: car park and parking garage.

Out of the Americans who knew and used the term “parkade,” one left the following comment: “City-owned parking in Eugene is usually named ‘Location Parkade.'”

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 85% 100% 4%
Familiar but not used 11% 0% 25%
Familiar and used 4% 0% 71%
Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

4.       ABM: Automatic Banking Machine. 38 percent Canadian or maybe it’s becoming a sociolect.

The thing I found most interesting about these responses comes from the Canadians. Despite automatic banking machines being labelled “ABM” and the terms “automatic banking machine” and “ABM” being used in most bank service agreements, Canadians are starting to move towards the American “ATM.” Personally, I still use ABM, or just “bank machine.”

Perhaps the term “ABM” is starting to turn into a sociolect, as the 38 percent of Canadians who still primarily use “ABM” are from across all regions of Canada.

In the Commonwealth countries, the most common alternatives were: hole-in-the-wall, cash machine, cashpoint, and ATM. In the United States, the alternative is “ATM.”

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 95% 100% 8%
Familiar but not used 5% 0% 54%
Familiar and used 0% 0% 38%
5 Eavestroughs
Image via Wikimedia Commons.

5.       Eavestroughs: A trough that runs along the eaves and catches rain/leaves. 90 percent Canadian.

The most common alternative given by both Americans and people living in Commonwealth countries was “gutters.” I found the percentage to which Commonwealth respondents were unfamiliar with the word to be very surprising.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 80% 89% 2% (1 person)
Familiar but not used 7% 0% 8%
Familiar and used 13% 11% 90%
6 Garburator
Image via Wikimedia Commons.

6.       Garburator: A mechanical device that “eats” garbage in your kitchen sink’s drain. 62 percent Canadian.

Disposal is a propriety name for a garbage disposal in the United States. Garburator is the propriety name in Canada. I’m not sure what the difference is, but they must be different enough to have different propriety names. And that is about all the insight I can give you on “Garburator.”

The most common alternative given by everyone, regardless of location, was “garbage disposal.” Many Americans commented that “Disposal” is a brand name.

Most of the Canadians who were unfamiliar with the word, or don’t use it despite being familiar with it, were from Ontario.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 91% 100% 12%
Familiar but not used 7% 0% 30%
Familiar and used 2% 0% 62%
7 Wicket
Pubic domain via Wikimedia Commons.

7.       Wicket: You stand at a wicket when speaking to agents in government offices, bank tellers, etc. Sociolect, with most who don’t use it despite being familiar with it, living in Ontario.

The most common American alternative was “window” or “counter.” There were a couple of people who said they were totally lost. A couple of Americans noted that a “wicket” was for cricket, with most Commonwealth respondents making the same comment.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 91% 84% 15%
Familiar but not used 9% 11% 62%
Familiar and used 0% 5% 23%
8 Homo Milk
Island Farms is one of the leading dairy producers in British Columbia. Some rights reserved by scazon via Flickr.

8.       Homo Milk: Milk with 3.25% milk fat. This is not to be confused with Canadian “whole milk,” which is milk that separates when left sitting. 92 percent Canadian.

A couple of Americans commented that they were offended by this term because in the U.S., it is a derogatory reference to a homosexual person. In Canada, it is difficult for that word to be a slur when it is plastered all over stores and on milk containers in reference to a specific type of milk. Canada has different derogatory terms. Calling someone a “homo” is laughable to most of us because that would be calling someone “milk.”

Swears and derogatory words differ a lot between cultures. It is one reason why I can include words like “bugger,” “bloody,” or “merde” when writing for a U.S.-based website. Most readers wouldn’t know why it would be, at the very least, quite rude and offensive for other readers.

The common American alternative given was “homogenized milk,” which is a little odd, as all of Canada’s milk is homogenized. Other forms of homogenized milk include: skim milk, 1%, 2%, buttermilk, plus various types of cream. One person in N.E. Ohio commented that they have never seen 3.25% milk.

Out of the four Canadians who said that they don’t use the term, I’m very curious to know what they use, instead. They didn’t give an alternative.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 81% 79% 0%
Familiar but not used 16% 16% 8%
Familiar and used 3% 5% 92%
9 Pencil Crayons
Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

9.       Pencil Crayon: Pencils used for colouring. 96 percent Canadian.

I’m really not sure why we call them “pencil crayons.” Maybe it is a result of us mashing the English “coloured pencils” with the French “crayon de couleur,” and the middle of packaging reading “pencil crayon” as a result. Even our school supply lists read “pencil crayons.”

The American alternative is “colored pencil.” The Commonwealth alternative is “colouring pencil.”

The two Canadians who said they were familiar with the term, but don’t use it, were from Nova Scotia. The rest of the respondents from Nova Scotia all use the term.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 85% 47% 0%
Familiar but not used 9% 16% 4%
Familiar and used 6% 37% 96%
10 Bachelor Apartment
Image by AlexiusHoratius. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported via Wikimedia Commons.

10.   Bachelor Apartment: A flat that has no bedroom. 92 percent Canadian.

The most common American equivalents given were “studio apartment” and “efficiency.”

The most common Commonwealth equivalents were: bedsit, studio flat, and bachelor pad.

Until this survey, I had never heard the word “efficiency,” and I was unsure as to the meaning of “studio apartment” whenever I would hear it.

Among the Canadians who do not use the words, three are from Alberta, with one from Saskatchewan.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 71% 63% 0%
Familiar but not used 20% 26% 8%
Familiar and used 9% 11% 92%
11 Gasbar
Image by Trekphiler licenced under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported via Wikimedia Commons.


11.   Gasbar: A filing station. Sociolect with 44 percent of Canadians using it regularly.

The most common American word is “gas station.”

The most common words used in the Commonwealth countries are “petrol station” and “garage.”

The difference between the Canadians who know the word but don’t use it regularly and those who do use it regularly was two people. The alternative word given was “gas station.” Seventy-five percent of the respondents who were not familiar with “gasbar” were from Toronto.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 98% 100% 8%
Familiar but not used 2% 0% 48%
Familiar and used 0% 0% 44%
12 Donair
Some rights reserved by FreeRishad via Flickr.

12.   Donair: A pita containing spiced meat and a sauce made from sugar, vinegar, milk, and garlic. 71 percent Canadian.

Part of me thinks I should correct the above to, “100 percent Canadian,” as a donair is a Canadian-invented food item. It’s also as Canadian as poutine, Nanaimo bars, butter tarts, and split-pea soup. All of the Canadians who said they were unfamiliar with this term were from Ontario, with six out of nine being from Toronto. If you live in Toronto and have no idea what a donair is, I’m not sure there is an excuse, as Toronto is a food haven!

The closest thing America has to a donair is the gyro. In the Commonwealth countries, it is similar to what they call a kebab, but different from what Canadians refer to as a kabob. Unlike a “doner,” it doesn’t contain lamb and the sauce is quite different.

For the four Americans who say they use the word or find it common in their area, especially the one from Seattle, I’d like to know where? I’ve travelled to Seattle many times and have yet to find a donair. Poutine is finally making its way into the U.S. Hopefully, the donair will be soon to follow.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 86% 84% 17%
Familiar but not used 10% 16% 12%
Familiar and used 4% 0% 71%
13 Icing Sugar
Image by Evelyn Clark Weddings.

13.   Icing Sugar: A type of finely granulated sugar used in making icings and glazes. 96 percent Canadian.

The first time I was made aware that Americans do not have “icing sugar” per se, I was very surprised. It was awhile before I would learn the alternative, which is either “powdered sugar” or “confectioner’s sugar.”

There is one Canadian who is unfamiliar with this term. I can only surmise that they don’t do any baking.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 56% 0% 2%
Familiar but not used 32% 0% 2%
Familiar and used 12% 100% 96%
14 Whitener
© BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons.

14.   Whitener: A powder or liquid used to whiten tea or coffee, not made from dairy. 81 percent Canadian.

The most common American alternatives are “creamer” and “non-dairy creamer.” In the Commonwealth countries, the most common alternative is “non-dairy whitener.”

Two Canadians were unfamiliar with the term: one from Nova Scotia and one from Ontario. Out of the eight people who are familiar with the term but don’t use it, 50 percent were from Ontario, while 25 percent were from Alberta, and 25 percent from British Columbia.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 69% 26% 4%
Familiar but not used 23% 16% 15%
Familiar and used 8% 58% 81%
15 Fire Hall
Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

15.   Fire Hall: Where firefighters work. 92 percent Canadian.

“Firehouse” and “fire station” were the alternatives used by Americans, with “fire station” used among those who responded from the Commonwealth countries.

The one Canadian who said they were unfamiliar with the term is from Toronto. Among the three people who responded “familiar but not used,” two were from Toronto, with one from Hamilton, Ontario.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 72% 89% 2%
Familiar but not used 19% 0% 6%
Familiar and used 9% 11% 92%
By Luigi Zanasi licenced under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Canada via Wikimedia Common.

16.   Robertson Screws/Screwdriver: A type of screw with a square hole. 92 percent Canadian.

This is another word that, despite results, is 100 percent Canadian. The Robertson screw/screwdriver is named after its Canadian inventor. The reason why it isn’t popular in the United States is because of a dispute involving Henry Ford.

In the U.S., those who are familiar with this type of screwdriver call it a “square head.”

The following comment was left by one of the Commonwealth respondents, “Note – only familiar through professional use, very uncommon fixing in UK, generally in applications that require tamper-resistant fixing as tools are uncommon.”

Among the Canadians who are unfamiliar or don’t use the word, I can only assume they aren’t familiar with tools, in general.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 86% 79% 2%
Familiar but not used 9% 5% 6%
Familiar and used 5% 16% 92%
17 Keener
Image by Jules Sherred.

17.   Keener: A brown-noser. 77 percent Canadian.

Brown-noser, suck-up, and kiss-ass were the most common alternatives given.

Out of the 11.5 percent of Canadians unfamiliar with the term, 66 percent were from Ontario. Out of the 11.5 percent of Canadians who were familiar but didn’t use the term, 50 percent were from Ontario.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 95% 90% 11.5%
Familiar but not used 5% 5% 11.5%
Familiar and used 0% 5% 77%
18 Jiffy Marker
Image by Jiffco.

18.   Jiffy Marker: A generic term for permanent markers, similar to how people use “Q-tip” for all cotton swabs or “Kleenex” for all paper tissue. Regional with 31 percent of Canadians who regularly use the term.

This was one of the few responses that were answered in the way I had expected. I expected many more words to be regional dialects and not be the result of sociolects, as was demonstrated. A Jiffy marker is a brand name for an amazing type of marker created by a Vancouver-based company. When I was in school, all permanent markers in the classroom were Jiffy markers.

When it comes to breakdown, it worked out as British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan versus Manitoba through the Maritimes.

The most common alternatives in the United States are “Sharpie” and “magic marker.” In the Commonwealth countries, “felt-tip pen.” Among the Canadians who are not familiar with the awesome that is the Jiffy marker, “Sharpie” was the most common alternative.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 96% 89% 50%
Familiar but not used 3% 11% 19%
Familiar and used 1% 0% 31%
19 Hooped
Image by Jules Sherred.

19.   Hooped: Similar to FUBAR, if something is hooped, it is screwed up so badly that it probably can’t be fixed. 54 percent Canadian.

Hooped is one of my favourite words. I’ll also never forget the “what the what?!” face that greeted me the first time I used it when saying something to my partner.

The most common American alternatives given were: hopeless, royally screwed, and FUBAR.

FUBAR was the most common alternative given by those who live in the Commonwealth countries.

Canadians gave “borked” as their favourite alternative.

Among the 36 percent of Canadians who were unfamiliar with this term, 74 percent of them were from Ontario. Among the 10 percent who said they were familiar but didn’t use the word, 80 percent were from Ontario.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 90% 95% 36%
Familiar but not used 10% 5% 10%
Familiar and used 0% 0% 54%
20 Mickey
Product shot via BC Liquor Stores.

20.   Mickey: A measurement of alcohol, usually 13 ounces (375 millilitres). 88 percent Canadian.

After reading some of the American responses, a couple of American movies and television shows finally made sense. I once wondered to myself, “Why is slipping someone a mickey a bad thing? People would slip me mickeys all the time when I was in high school.” Then, I learned that “mickey’ is used how Canadians use “roofie.” Light bulb = DING! And a bunch of conversations with Americans also finally made sense.

While many Americans weren’t sure if there is an alternative, some suggested: jigger, pony, and mouse. Both “pony” and “mouse” have me confused. However, after reading the responses, I’m sure “mickey” confuses some Americans.

Canadians travelling to the United States: Do not ask someone to give you or buy you a mickey, or ask where you can get one.

Commonwealth respondents were stumped to come up with an equivalent.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 69% 89% 2%
Familiar but not used 27% 11% 10%
Familiar and used 4% 0% 88%
21 Two-Four or Flat
Image via BC Liquor Stores.

21.   Two-Four or Flat: A case of 24 cans of beer. 90 percent Canadian.

Some Americans said that the alternative word is “case.” In Canada, a “case” is commonly reserved for 12 beers, while a half-sack is what we call it when you purchase a case of six beers. I nearly included our definition of “case” and “half-sack” in the list, but I already had a lot of alcohol-related terms.

In the UK, beer is purchased in different quantities.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 86% 95% 4%
Familiar but not used 10% 5% 6%
Familiar and used 4% 0% 90%
22 Twenty-Sixer or Twixer
Image via BC Liquor Stores.

22.   Twenty-Sixer or Twixer: A bottle of alcohol containing 750 millilitres (just over 25 ounces). 64 percent Canadian.

The most common American alternatives given were “bottle” and “fifth.” I have two questions. The first question: A fifth of what? The second question: When sending someone to the liquor store, how do they know what size to get if you don’t have different names?

“Bottle” was also the alternative given by the Commonwealth respondents. My second question, I also ask of them.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 98% 100% 17%
Familiar but not used 2% 0% 19%
Familiar and used 0% 0% 64%
23 Forty-Pounder
Image via BC Liquor Stores.

23.   Forty-Pounder: A bottle of alcohol containing 40 ounces (1.14 litres). 60 percent Canadian.

The American alternatives given were “40” and “40-ouncer.” Again, no Commonwealth alternative.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 93% 100% 27%
Familiar but not used 6% 0% 13%
Familiar and used 1% 0% 60%
24 Sixty-Pounder
Image via BC Liquor Stores.

24.   Sixty-Pounder: A bottle of alcohol containing 66 ounces (1.75 litres). Sociolect, with 39 percent of Canadians using this term.

Many Americans commented, “not sure this quantity even exists.” One American said, “You guys are clearly way more serious about your drinking.” To which I have to say, “Yes, we are <insert joke about our first prime minister being an alcoholic here>.”

Once again, no alternative in the Commonwealth countries.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 97% 100% 42%
Familiar but not used 3% 0% 19%
Familiar and used 0% 0% 39%
25 Texas Mickey
Image via Liquor Connect.

25.   Texas Mickey: A bottle of alcohol containing 3 litres (101 ounces). Sociolect, with 46 percent of Canadians using this term.

One American commented, “They make those?! Jesus Christ, Seriously?!” Yes, seriously.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 99% 100% 33%
Familiar but not used 0% 0% 21%
Familiar and used 1% 0% 46%
26 Pablum
Pablum cereal carton (center), circa 1935. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

26.   Pablum: A type of infant food. 71 percent Canadian.

Despite the results, this word is 100 percent Canadian. Invented by a Canadian pediatrician, Pablum was the recommended first food for infants, no sooner than six months of age, followed by the introduction of sweet potatoes and squash. In 2012, the Canadian guidelines changed to meat at six months, in addition to Pablum, followed by root vegetables. Fruit is always the last recommended food to introduce to your baby.

The other less-used word for Pablum is “infant cereal.”

The words really stumped everyone who was not Canadian, with suggestions ranging from “Gerber” (which would cause me to assume you mean jarred meat, vegetables, and fruit) and “baby food” (which would lead me to assume the same about jarred food) from Americans, and “rusk” from those in the Commonwealth countries.

It also made me wonder to what extent we feed our babies differently.

As for the Canadians who are unfamiliar with the term, I can only wonder about their family status.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 62% 100% 10%
Familiar but not used 27% 0% 19%
Familiar and used 11% 0% 71%
27 Chip Truck
Some rights reserved by Geoff Peters 604 via Flickr.

27.   Chip Truck: A type of food truck that typically serves chips (French fries, hot dogs, hamburgers, fish and chips, etc.) Sociolect, with 50 percent of Canadians using this term.

The number one alternative Americans gave was “food truck”, with “burger truck” being the number one alternative among Commonwealth respondents.

One American commented, “Chip truck is a semi hauling wood chips.”

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 83% 79% 29%
Familiar but not used 17% 21% 21%
Familiar and used 0% 0% 50%
28 Give'r
Image by Jules Sherred.

28.   Give’r: To put in an enormous amount of effort. 71 percent Canadian.

In other words, “to give it all you’ve got.” Some Americans added, “the good old college try” or “elbow grease,” though I’m not sure the latter is synonymous. When you tell someone to “give’r,” you’re telling them to give so much effort that they bleed, and perhaps, even die. A few people said, “Give it 110 percent,” while adding, “We’re bad at math.” “Give it 110 percent” would probably be the most accurate equivalent.

Out of the three Canadians who were unfamiliar with this term, 66 percent were from Ontario. Of the 23 percent of Canadians who were familiar but don’t use the term, 58 percent were from Ontario.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 87% 100% 6%
Familiar but not used 10% 0% 23%
Familiar and used 3% 0% 71%
29 All-Dressed
Some rights reserved by Chinkerfly via Flickr.

29.   All-Dressed: A type of potato chip. Or, if you are having an “all-dressed” hot dog or hamburger, you are having it with all the fixins. Also, pizza with pepperoni, green peppers, and mushroom. 94 percent Canadian.

This term I fully expected no one outside of Canada to know. The United States has waffle and chicken chips. Canada has all-dressed and ketchup chips. I suppose you can say all-dressed chips are as Canadian as poutine and maple syrup.

As for the definition in regards to hot dogs and hamburgers, “the works” and “everything” is the U.S. equivalents, while people in the Commonwealth countries noted that they ask for dressing individually.

The two Canadians who were unfamiliar with the term were both from Ontario.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 89% 100% 4%
Familiar but not used 9% 0% 2%
Familiar and used 2% 0% 94%
30 Take off!
Image by Jules Sherred.

30.   “Take off!”: “Are you serious?” “Are you kidding?” No way!” Sociolect, 35 percent of Canadians using this term.

Of the Americans who said they were familiar with this term, even if they don’t use it, they attributed their knowledge to the movie Strange Brew. Some Canadians remarked that, even though they are familiar with the word, they haven’t used it since the days of “hoser,” and said it is outdated. I’m not sure if it is outdated, as the difference between people who know the word but don’t use it, and those who do use it was four people. Maybe those of us who do use it are just getting old.

Out of the 23 percent of Canadians who were unfamiliar with this word, 46 percent were from Ontario, and just over 50 percent of those who know the term but don’t use it were also from Ontario.

The most common alternatives given were: “Get out!” “Seriously?!” For real?” “Shut up!” “You’ve got to be kidding me!”

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 61% 90% 23%
Familiar but not used 32% 5% 42%
Familiar and used 7% 5% 35%
31 BFI Bin
Image copyright BFI Canada.

31.   BFI Bin: A dumpster. This word appears to have gone the way of the dinosaur.

Pronounced “biffy” in the olden times, when I was a wee lad, we would call the bin or dumpster “biffy,” after the company.

Among Americans, the common alternative is “dumpster.” For those who reside within the Commonwealth countries, the alternatives are “bin” and “skip.” Canadians have moved to an equal mix of American and UK English, with an equal number of Canadians saying they usually use “bin” or “dumpster.”

The following comments were left by Americans:

–          I learned it from Canadians.

–          “Biffy.”

–          We just say dumpster, though we have BFI down here, too, in some areas. (From a person living in Arizona.)

–          When we had BFI in our community, I’d hear that term, but I haven’t seen that since I was a kid. (From a person living in Colorado.)

One Canadian from Alberta said, “Yes, BFI is the company, but not heard anyone refer to the bins as BFIs.”

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 95% 100% 78%
Familiar but not used 5% 0% 10%
Familiar and used 0% 0% 12%
32 Kangaroo Jacket
Image by Jules Sherred.

32.   Kangaroo Jacket: This term is now only amongst us “old” people. Among the younger people, they refer to it as a “hoodie.” Regional Western Canadian word.

I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. I should note that “kangaroo jacket” tends to be reserved for the type of hooded sweatshirt that doesn’t have a zipper and has pockets in the front. People in the Prairie Provinces also refer to it as a “bunny hug.”

One American remarked, “Only used jokingly and rarely by the people now 70+.”

One person from the UK remarked, “I see where the older term is going with the pocket on the front), hoodie also used disparagingly to refer to youth hanging about, possibly from dissatisfaction/disenfranchisement, perceived potential for juvenile crimes in commission/conspiracy.”

Out of the 17 percent of Canadians who are familiar with this term but don’t use it, 60 percent are from the western provinces. Among the 31 percent who do use the term, 81 percent are from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 94% 100% 52%
Familiar but not used 6% 0% 17%
Familiar and used 0% 0% 31%
33 Freezies
Image copyright Kisko Freezies.

33.   Freezies: Frozen flavoured sugar water that comes in a tube. 98 percent Canadian.

I had to look up one of the American equivalents: Otter Pops. Yes, that is exactly what these are, but in Canada, they are Mr. Freeze Freezies. The other alternatives given, such as “popsicle” and “frosties,” are not at all the same thing. At least, they would mean something entirely different in Canada.

One American noted that the only reason they were familiar with “freezies” was because of @mrwordsworth.

As for the Commonwealth equivalent of “ice pole,” I’m going to have to guess and say that they are the same thing.

The one Canadian who doesn’t use this word is from Ontario.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 73% 89% 0%
Familiar but not used 15% 11% 2%
Familiar and used 12% 0% 98%
34 Stagette
Some rights reserved by ginsnob via Flickr.

34.   Stagette: A female-only bachelor party. 75 percent Canadian

The most common alternative among American respondents was “bachelorette” and “hen party.” “Among Commonwealth individuals, the equivalent is “hen party.”

I’m not sure how well “hen party” would go over for some people in Canada. Calling a female a “hen” or a “cow” isn’t acceptable to many. For some, it is worse than calling them the b-word.

Out of the 10 percent of Canadians unfamiliar with the term, 80 percent were from Ontario. Is that the result of a micro-sociolect?

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 77% 95% 10%
Familiar but not used 19% 5% 15%
Familiar and used 4% 0% 75%
35 Turfed out
Image by Jules Sherred.

35.   Turfed Out: When someone is evicted from their home, thrown out of a bar, or when you throw something away. Sociolect, with 37 percent of Canadians using this term.

This was one of the closest scoring sociolects, with 17 unfamiliar, 16 familiar but not using it, and 19 familiar and using it.

The most common alternatives among Americans were “thrown out” and “evicted.”

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 87% 5% 32%
Familiar but not used 10% 11% 31%
Familiar and used 3% 84% 37%
36 Gotch
Walmart product image.

36.   Gotch: Men’s underpants, usually of the brief variety. Sociolect, with 27 percent of Canadians using this term, or the equally acceptable “ginch” and “gonch.”

Americans call them “briefs” or “tighty-whities.” In the Commonwealth countries, they are “pants.” Admittedly, for some Canadians (myself included), they are also called “pants.” One Canadian remarked, “Underpants is a much more hilarious word now.” If Canadians are not calling them “pants,” then they are calling them by the more common “underwear.” The one American who said they use this word also remarked that their husband is Canadian.

Out of the 44 percent of Canadians who were unfamiliar with this sociolect, 52 percent of them were from Ontario. The difference between “familiar and not used” and “familiar and used” was one person.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 97% 100% 44%
Familiar but not used 2% 0% 29%
Familiar and used 1% 0% 27%
37 Hydro
BC Hydro’s Ruskin Generating Station in Ruskin, British Columbia. Licenced under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic via Wikimedia Commons.

37.   Hydro: Electrical power and heating. 69 percent Canadian.

In British Columbia and many provinces across Canada, our main source of electricity and heat is from hydro power. In fact, Canada is one of the top producers of hydroelectricity in the world, accounting for 58 percent of all electric generation in 2007. Many of our provincial hydro providers use the word “hydro” in their names: BC Hydro, Manitoba Hydro, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, Hydro One, etc. Prince Edward Island is the only province that does not have a hydroelectric power station.

The one respondent from Scotland noted that they do the same as the result of “Scottish Hydro Electric,” who supplies power to Perth and the surrounding area.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 60% 37% 0%
Familiar but not used 30% 47% 31%
Familiar and used 10% 16% 69%
38 Skookum
Image by Jules Sherred.

38.   Skookum: Mainly heard in British Columbia, it means: strong, awesome, great, good, best, etc. Regional, with all of the 10 percent who use this term living in British Columbia.

For the complete definition of this term, based on Chinook Jargon, head on over to Wikipedia.

I was actually surprised by the number of non-British Columbians who are familiar with this term. Then, I remembered that “Skookum” has been used on SCTV and other Canadian television shows.

Of the three Americans who used this word, two of them live in the Pacific Northwest (Oregon and Washington), with one person from Minnesota.

The one person living in England who is familiar with this term, even though they don’t use it, noted that it was the result of seeing me use it.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 90% 95% 61%
Familiar but not used 7% 5% 29%
Familiar and used 3% 0% 10%
39 Fill Your Boots!
Image by Jules Sherred.

39.   “Fill Your Boots!”: “Whatever floats your boat!” “Whatever creams your coffee!” “Do it if it makes you happy!” Sociolect, with 33 percent of Canadians using this term.

In the United States, “Whatever floats your boat” and “Whatever trips your trigger” were the most common alternatives, with “Whatever floats your boat” being the most common throughout the Commonwealth countries.

Out of the 55 percent of Canadians who said they were unfamiliar with this phrase, 55 percent were from the Toronto area, and 24 percent were from Alberta.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 93% 11% 55%
Familiar but not used 7% 26% 12%
Familiar and used 0% 63% 33%
40 Bugger the dog
Image by Jules Sherred.

40.   “Bugger The Dog”: If someone is “buggering the dog,” they are being lazy or doing a job very slowly, taking their time. Sociolect, with 21 percent of Canadians using this term.

Yes, the regular term is a bit ruder, but it can’t be used on GeekMom, hence the use of the word “bugger.” “Bugger” is equally rude, but would get by U.S. censors because of the lack of profane meaning in the United States. It’s like the time Captain Picard got away with swearing because he said “merde.”

I wonder how much the Canadian results would have changed if I used the slightly less-polite wording?

“Bugger the dog” is not to be confused with “screw the pooch.” They have two completely different meanings.

“Lollygag” is kind of similar, but not really.

One of the Commonwealth respondents said they were familiar with the term thanks to its mention in the September 18, 2013 episode of QI, when a Canadian guest made mention of it.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 89% 100% 61%
Familiar but not used 11% 0% 17%
Familiar and used 0% 0% 21%
41 Pogey
Image by Jules Sherred.

41.   Pogey: Employment Insurance (Unemployment Insurance in the United States). Sociolect, with 44 percent of Canadians using this term.

A couple of Americans noted that they only refer to it as “unemployment.” In Canada, the full term is “Employment Insurance,” but most people simply refer to it as “EI.”

Once upon a time, it was called “Unemployment Insurance” or “UI,” but that changed because the “unemployment” part of it is deceptive. In Canada, not only do you receive EI if you are laid off from your job, but you also receive it for extended medical leaves, the birth or adoption of a child, if your child dies, if you have to take care of a family member with a terminal illness such as cancer, and more. When you are on EI, your employer must hold your job, filling it as a temporary position, while you are on leave.

The most common alternative noted by both Americans and those living in the Commonwealth countries was “dole.” In Canada, “dole” would mean welfare/income assistance.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 95% 95% 21%
Familiar but not used 5% 5% 35%
Familiar and used 0% 0% 44%
42 Serviette
Walmart product shot.

42.   Serviette: Commonly called a “napkin” in the United States. 58 percent Canadian.

Some Canadians commented that they only use “serviette” for the paper type and that “napkin” is reserved for the cloth type. Others said they use “serviette” for both the paper and the cloth types. Others said they use both terms interchangeably with equal frequency.

  United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 50% 0% 0%
Familiar but not used 42% 5% 42%
Familiar and used 8% 95% 58%


Questionable Results

43 Chocolate Bar
Snickers chocolate bar, cut in half. Made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication via Wikimedia Commons.

1.       Chocolate Bar: Commonly called a candy bar in the United States. 100 percent Canadian.

The reason why this word is on the “questionable” results list is because many Americans responded with, “But only if 100 percent chocolate,” or something similar in nature. In Canada, the term “chocolate bar” is used for all bars that contain any amount of chocolate, even if it is a bar of candy covered in chocolate. A Skor is one example. This term isn’t reserved for bars that are solely made of chocolate.

The most common American alternative was “Hershey bar.”

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 2% 0% 0%
Familiar but not used 35.5% 0% 0%
Familiar and used 62.5% 100% 100%
44 Track Pants
Hard Candy Piped Skinny Track Pants. Walmart product shot.

2.       Track Pants: Jogging pants or sweatpants in other places. 81 percent Canadian.

The reason why this word is on the “questionable” list is because a large number of Americans responded with, “I am familiar with this term, but I never used it or have I heard it used in my area” and “I am familiar with this word and I use it regularly, or it is used in my area.” However, then they went on to say, “Not the same as sweatpants” or they added a description for “track pants” as something other than fleece pants, when I mean them to be synonymous with sweatpants.

The most common Commonwealth alternative was “jogging pants.”

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 20% 21% 0%
Familiar but not used 50% 63% 19%
Familiar and used 30% 16% 81%
45 Rubber
Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

3.       Rubber: Found at the end of a pencil or sold individually, to erase pencil marks. Sometimes used as slang for a condom. In Canada, the use of the word “rubber” to mean “eraser” is a sociolect.

The conflicting results for this word could be the result of me adding, “Sometimes used as a slang for a condom.” Most American respondents focused on the “condom” use and not the “eraser” use, as intended. The majority of the 68 percent in the “familiar but not used” category stated, “But only used as slang for condom.”

By comparison, Canadians specifically left comments stating that “rubber” is a very old slang word for condom, noting that “rubber” is most commonly known to be an “eraser,” even if they don’t use the term themselves. The difference between “familiar but not used” and “familiar and used” was six people.

In the Commonwealth, people left notes that “rubber Johnie” is the sometimes used as slang for “condom.”

The takeaway for Canadians: Yes, Americans may know the word “rubber,” but not in terms of “eraser.” If you want to avoid confusion, you may want to remember to not use this word, like I have, quite often, while in the United States. No wonder people were confused and sometimes, shocked.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 21% 0% 8%
Familiar but not used 68% 0% 52%
Familiar and used 12% 100% 40%
46 Thongs
Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

4.       Thongs: A type of shoe. Though sometimes, also used to refer to g-string underpants. 75 percent Canadian.

This is another word that I question for the same reasons as “rubber.” I cannot help but to wonder how different the results would have been if I had taken out the “sometimes” part. Again, for the same reasons as above, with many Americans stating they use it often, but then added, “But only for the g-string” in the “other” box, adding that they no longer hear it in reference to the shoe.

Given how Americans responded, I’m not sure I feel confident re-starting use of the term “thongs” for the shoe when I’m down there.

The most common alternative given was “flip flops.”

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 13% 26.3% 4%
Familiar but not used 25% 47.3% 21%
Familiar and used 62% 26.3% 75%
47 College
Camosun College image by the Province of British Columbia.

5.       College: A post-secondary institution where one goes to learn a trade, get a 1-year certificate, study health care fields (LPN, RCA, medical support staff, dental hygienist, etc.), train office support staff, or get a 2-year diploma, or take university prep courses/upgrading. 92 percent Canadian.

The reason why this word is on the “questionable” list is because most Americans said it can be used interchangeably with “university,” when in Canada they cannot. They are two entirely different types of schools. You cannot get a 4-year (or more) degree at a college. Some Canadian universities have colleges inside of them, but they offer different programmes, with very different “pieces of paper” and qualifications when you are finished. Also, there was one person who called a 2-year diploma a “degree.” Here, a “degree” requires a minimum of four years or equivalent credit hours.

The most common alternative words in the United States are: trade or vocational school, junior college, community college (which again is a whole other kettle of fish in Canada), and technical institute.

One person from New Zealand remarked that “college” means “secondary school” in their location.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 25% 5% 0%
Familiar but not used 21% 5% 8%
Familiar and used 53% 90% 92%
48 Lineup or queue
Customers waiting in line to check out at the Whole Foods on Houston Street in New York City’s East Village. Image by David Shankbone licenced under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported via Wikimedia Commons.

6.       Lineup or Queue: You stand in a lineup or queue when going to see a movie or waiting to pay for your groceries, etc. 98 percent Canadian.

The reason why this word is in the “questionable” category is because even though 58 percent of Americans said they were familiar with this term even if they don’t use it, most of them also commented that they are only familiar with “queue” and not the more common “lineup,” further stating that they use “in line.”

I also question the Commonwealth results, as some people also commented that they are not familiar with “lineup.”

The one Torontonian who responded with “unfamiliar” used the American “in line.”

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 6% 5% 2%
Familiar but not used 58% 16% 0%
Familiar and used 37% 79% 98%
49 Brown bread
Thrifty Foods product shot.

7.       Brown Bread: Bread that is brown in colour, made with various percentages of whole wheat. When ordering toast in a restaurant, they will ask, “Do you want your toast white or brown?” 98 percent Canadian.

This is included in this category because too many Americans responded with “familiar and used,” but then stated that it referred to a specific type of bread.

The American alternatives were “whole wheat” and “wheat bread.”

Some comments of note include:

–          Usually used for a high molasses content bread, possibly not containing any whole wheat.

–          Only Boston Brown Bread, which is baked in a can.

–          What do you guys call pumpernickel or dark rye, then? That’s what I mean when I say brown bread.

To answer the question, we call it by the type of bread: “pumpernickel” or “dark rye” or “sourdough” (though sourdough is a white bread), etc.

The one Canadian who responded with “familiar but not used,” was from Toronto.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 44% 0% 2%
Familiar but not used 40% 0% 0%
Familiar and used 16% 100% 98%
50 Pissed
Licenced under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license via Wikimedia Commons.

8.       Pissed: When used alone, it means “drunk.” Denotes anger when used as “pissed off.” 94 percent Canadian.

The reason why this word is on the “questionable” list is because over half the people who said they used “pissed” also said, “It doesn’t mean drunk.” My intent was specifically to ask about the singular “pissed.” The qualifier was so that people wouldn’t confuse it with “pissed off.” I’m probably at fault here for being vague.

A couple of Canadians mentioned that, in a few instances, “pissed” can be used to denote anger, depending on context. If you were to say to me, “He was so pissed,” I would assume you are talking about his extreme level of intoxication, as that sentence on its own is without context. Though, I only use “pissed off” to denote anger and never the singular “pissed,” within context, yes, I would know you meant a level of anger.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 10% 0% 0%
Familiar but not used 28% 0% 6%
Familiar and used 62% 100% 94%
51 Dish cloth
Excello Windowpane Combo Dish Cloth White and Black.

9.       Dish Cloth: A type of cloth used to wash the dishes. Sometimes, the more general term “washcloth” is used, though rarely. 96 percent Canadian.

For similar reasons stated above, the reason this word is on this list is because of the large number (over 50 percent) of Americans who selected “familiar and used” for this term in the context described above, but then stated in the “other” box, “Used to dry dishes” or comments very similar. Others commented that the alternative is “dish towel,” which, again, is an item used to dry dishes and not wash them.

The other American alternatives were: washcloth, sponge, and dish rag.

The other alternative given by both Canadians and other Commonwealth respondents was “dish rag.”

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 9% 0% 0%
Familiar but not used 11% 11% 4%
Familiar and used 80% 89% 96%
52 Housecoat
Some rights reserved by minor9th via Flickr.

10.   Housecoat: A type of robe generally worn by men. 88 percent Canadian.

Again, for similar reasons. A majority of Americans said they are familiar with the term, but then added, “Only used in reference to women.” A small sampling of these comments include:

–          A housecoat is typically a woman’s garb where I come from.

–          Housecoat would be considered effeminate. A man’s robe would just be a robe or bathrobe.

–          I don’t use it, but my grandmother did. (There were a few of these comments.)

–          Who wears coats in the house?

–          Women can use housecoats just as much as men.

Bathrobe was the number one alternative given by Americans. A bathrobe is a different type of garment. Bathrobes are made of terry cloth. Housecoats are not. Others said “robe.”

“Dressing gown” was the alternative given by those in the Commonwealth countries and by a couple of Canadians.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 33% 21% 0%
Familiar but not used 54% 53% 12%
Familiar and used 13% 26% 88%
Dressing gown
Dressing gown. Walmart product shot.


Honourable Mention

 1.       Two-Way Ticket: Referred to as “round-trip” or “return trip” in other places. Sociolect, with 37 percent of Canadians using this term.

If three people had answered “unfamiliar” instead of “familiar but not used,” this word would have made its way on the list of words for Canadians to avoid whilst in America.

In the United States, the most common alternative was “round-trip.”

In the Commonwealth countries, the most common alternative was “return ticket.”

Among Canadians, the alternatives were “return ticket” and “round-trip.” The difference between “familiar but not used” and “familiar and used” was six people.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 48% 37% 15%
Familiar but not used 37% 42% 48%
Familiar and used 15% 21% 37%


2.       No-See-Ums: A small biting insect. Sociolect, with 50 percent of Canadians using this term.

A no-see-um isn’t the name for an actual insect. It’s just what some call any of those annoying, small, biting insects that bite you, yet are unseen. You hear them. You feel them. But those bloody things… you just no-see-um. I suppose some of these no-see-ums would be gnats or chiggers or midges, if we could actually lay our eyes upon them.

One American added the following to their “familiar and used” response, “Almost exclusively preceded by an expletive.” To which I say, “Yes!”

Out of the 33 percent of Canadians who were unfamiliar with the term, 53 percent were from Ontario. Out of the 17 percent who were familiar with the word but don’t use it, 33.3 percent were from Ontario and 66.6 percent were from Alberta.

Just like with “two-way ticket,” this could have easily gone into the “unfamiliar” category.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 46% 95% 33%
Familiar but not used 17% 5% 17%
Familiar and used 37% 0% 50%


3.       Chesterfield: A couch or a sofa. Sociolect, with 54 percent of Canadians using this term.

Despite the Barenaked Ladies gaining popularity in the United States, there are still nearly 50 percent of Americans who are unfamiliar with this term. As with the other two honourable mentions, this could have easily gone into the “unfamiliar” category, if a couple of people gave different answers.

A couple of respondents from the Commonwealth countries said that “chesterfield” is reserved only for leather couches.

Of the 46 percent of Canadians who are familiar with the term but don’t use it, 58 percent of them were from Ontario.

United States Commonwealth Canada
Unfamiliar 47% 32% 0%
Familiar but not used 50% 36% 46%
Familiar and used 3% 32% 54%


If you want to read the full breakdown of all 82 words, then download this PDF.

Update: A follow-up to this post, including a mention from the Department of English at the University of British Columbia, can be found here.

Published by


Jules Sherred is a nerd. He is also the parent of two boys–one teen and one newly adult–a freelance writer, a web designer, the author of Five Little Zombies and Fred, the General Manager and radio personality at The Look 24/7, he owns the largest Star Trek community on Google+, Geeky Pleasures creator, geek support for Parsec Award winning The Minister of Chance, writes for Quirk Books, owner of TransCanuck and more. You can follow Jules on Twitter @GeekyJules and circle him on Google+.

  • Marcel Beaudoin

    I am really surprised you didn’t throw “eh” in there. I would think that is the quintessential Canadian expression.

    • Jules

      Nope. That one is regional. Because I rarely hear it in B.C., I didn’t think to include it. It’s mostly said in Eastern Canada.

      “Hoser” is in the full report, though.

      • http://Website Brenna

        (I forgot to mention) Have you heard of a book called “How to be a Canadian (even if you already are one)”? It’s by Will and Ian Ferguson and incredibly funny. Some parts (very few) are a little dated as it’s nearly 15 years old but it’s so funny and I bet you would get a kick out of it.

        • Jules

          I have not. I’ll definitely check it out :)

      • Frankie

        I’m from B.C, on Vancouver Island right now. And literally everyone says it out here, and on the mainland, so I don’t know where you get your knowledge on that from.

      • http://Website Tina

        I’m from Vancouver BC and I’ve heard people say “Eh” quite often as well. I don’t say “eh” but I do say it’s variation, “Hey”. I guess I’m a little strange, hey?

        • Jules

          I hear the “hey” much more frequently that I do “eh.” (I’m on Vancouver Island) I also hear “hey” used by Americans.

          Also, just to add, if I were to use “eh,” I don’t think it would be confusing to Americans as it is a widely known stereotype.

      • http://Website Steve Stewart

        You’ve got to be kidding. I grew up in BC and still live here. It is extremely rare for a BCers to get through a full sentences without using “eh” at least once, epsecially those form the Valley and the interior.

      • http://Website Dave

        I’d have to disagree with the comment that saying ‘eh’ is an eastern Canadian use. It may not be commonly used in BC, but it is widely used in the Prairie provinces, especially MB and SK. But then I and friends have been called easterners by folks in rural BC because I was from MB and they were from SK.

      • http://Website David L Rattigan

        “Hey” and “Eh” are common in BC, though more in the interior than the coast, in my experience.

    • Not Jack

      Apparently “eh” is being replaced by “right” anyway.

      What a pity.
      I know, right?

  • http://Website Kim

    I used to use “thongs” when I was a child to refer to the same type of shoe as you, but had to stop when I kept getting funny looks at my (4-year) college in Ohio. Everyone there seemed to only think of the undergarment. I grew up in Michigan, still live in Michigan, and my husband from Michigan also gives me funny looks when I revert back.

    Of course, I also ran into the regional “soda” vs. “pop” debate by going away to college as well. I love language.

    • Jules

      Pop is one of the words in the full report. It didn’t make it here because even though most didn’t use it, most were at least familiar with it.

      University (what you call college) is also on the list. Same with dressing gown, and many other words.

  • http://Website Valerie

    My Dad says “skookum”, and that’s the only place I’ve ever heard it. He grew up in a tiny community in BC, and I grew up in a small town in BC. I’ve been living in the US as an adult, and some Canadian words still get used, and some are there dormant. I’ve morphed into saying “candy bar” and “soda” because it’s just easier than dealing with the harassment I get when I say “chocolate bar” or “pop.” Words like serviette, chesterfield, housecoat, and garborator are still in my head, but only come out of my mouth when I’m in context. (The word “disposAL” seems like a joke, but most people I know say that.) Some words have caused total confusion, like when I wrote “icing sugar” on the list and my husband, who isn’t familiar enough with baked goods to know what I meant, couldn’t find icing sugar on the shelf or anyone who could help him find it. I still say–but can’t spell–“tuque”, and had forgotten that I once said “pencil crayon” and “firehall.” The alternatives are close enough that I didn’t notice the different usage. When I’m spelling a word, I still usually say “zed”, but sometimes I consciously remember to say “zee” because I’m in a context where dealing with the inevitable discussion of “zed” is too cumbersome. I’d forgotten that I used to say “ginch” or “gaunch” all the time. I’d also forgotten “Kangaroo Jacket”. “Take off” was never anything but a joke, and if you said it, it would be followed by a chorus of “Take off… to the great white north! Take off…. it’s a beauty way to go.” Oh, and my kids will always tease me if I say “runners.”

    • Jules

      I feel like I should ship you a package of B.C. soil. You sound a little homesick.

      It really is amazing how different our two languages are.

  • http://Website Sigivald

    On liquor:

    “The first question: A fifth of what?” – Easy. A fifth of a gallon.
    (1 US gallon = 3785ml; 1/5 of that = 757ml. Very close, eh?)

    And due to ridiculous packaging standards, the 375ml/12.75 ounce bottle in the US is called a “pint”.

    Yes, we know it’s much smaller than even a US Pint. It’s still called that.

    • Jules


  • Laura

    Fascinating and brilliantly done. I’m sending this to all my Canadian friends.

    • Jules

      Thanks :) Glad you liked it. Would be useful for your American friends, too, if they ever plan a trip north of the border.

  • http://Website Jeremy

    How we (Americans) know what size of liquor bottle to buy is simple: if you’re supposed to buy a “bottle” of liquor, it’s 750ml. Other sizes are so uncommon that they would always be specified. There are small bottles, usually behind the counter, but you’d have to be specific if you wanted one of those. A few things are sold in 1.75L bottles, but it’s so uncommon that you’d have to be specific there, too.

    • Jules

      Interesting. Thanks for the info!

    • http://Website locallunatic

      Despite what some americans are telling you 1.75L volumes are common for all but cocktail mixings and things like single barrel whiskeys, however in the US it is refered to as a handle.

      • Jules

        Good to know! Thanks :)

    • Patricia Vollmer

      Jules, to answer your question about the “fifth” of alcohol, it’s a throwback to the English measurement system. A “fifth” used to be a fifth of a gallon, which has since been converted to 750 ml, which is slightly more than a true fifth.

      • Jules

        Thanks, Patricia :)

  • http://Website Phebe

    In my family, biffy meant outhouse.

    • Jules

      Fascinating. Where did you grow up?

    • http://Website Beth

      NOW I know where the word “biffy” comes from, thank-you!! I’m from Alberta, and my family always used it as an affectionate name for the toilet – but no one else I’ve ever known has done the same. So somewhere along the line, someone took a term used for “dumpster” and started using it to refer to the crapper. :p We still have those BFI bins too, but no one I know calls them “biffy bins”.

      Some other comments: I usually spelled “tuque” as “toque” – I guess I’m as Anglophone as they come, eh? I also say “sneakers” not “runners”, and “pencil crayon” not “coloured pencil”. I have a housecoat (it’s more of a bathrobe, really, but I don’t call it that) and it’s not a feminine object at all. I used to refer to flip-flops as “thongs” as a kid, but by the time the “Thong Song” by Sisqo came out more than a decade ago, I had switched to the term “flip-flops”. I also use “Jiffy Marker” and “Sharpie”, but they are two different types and brands of marker and are used for different things. And I always see “ABM”. but say “ATM”.

      My Dad likes to tell a story about his teacher (from England) once told the class to “take out their rubbers”, causing the class to erupt in giggles – and that happened about 50 years ago. I certainly have never referred to an “eraser” as a “rubber”, but I never call a “condom” that either. “Fill your boots” is not a terribly common expression (or at least, not to me) – “Whatever floats your boat” is more commonly heard, but only by people at least a decade or two older than me [I’m 29]. I know the word “hydro” mostly through friends and relatives from B.C., Ontario or Quebec [LOL, oh Alberta, so oil-obsessed!] I also had assumed terms like “freezie” and “stagette” were ubiquitous, but I guess not. And until reading this list, I had never read or seen the terms “gotch”, “pogey” or “bugger the dog” before.

      P.S. # 26 is misspelled as “pabum”, btw. Just thought you should know. :)

      • Jules

        Thanks for all of this! Also, it makes me want to add an Alberta vs Canada joke, but I’m not sure how many people outside of Canada would get the joke and know it’s harmless. I do find it extremely interesting that “dumpster” has appeared to turn into crapper in your area. I have never heard it referred to in such a way! I wonder how common this is across Canada? If it weren’t so much work, I’d do another survey, because there are tonnes of words that never made it.

        As for the misspelled word, thanks! No matter how many people proofread and proofread some more, there is only one thing that gets missed in long articles.

        • http://Website Kim

          I am with Beth on ‘biffy’. It was always the toilet in our house and your commonly used definition was new to me. I was raised in southern BC and now live in Northwestern part of BC. It is not a term I use often but my husband who was raised in Vancouver seems familiar with it. My 4 kids would all know what someone meant by the word – a toilet or bathroom, usually in a more rustic sense, as in an outhouse.
          My mom was probably the one to pass it onto us and she moved often throughout BC and Alberta as a kid.

        • http://Website Kristi

          This is all coming from someone who spent her first 20 years in BC and the last 5 in Alberta:

          I also grew up with “biffy” meaning the bathroom. I got this from my mom, who was born and raised in BC, but her parents were (I believe) from Sask, so maybe it really is from the prairies?

          I’ve never heard erasers being referred to as “rubbers”. I’ve heard on TV, etc, “rubber” being a condom, but other than that, to me, rubber is just a type of material. Although, my dad calls bicycle tires rubbers, but English is his second language, so some of his words are a little strange – haha.

          Just to weigh in, I too see the “ABM” signs but call them “ATM”, and have never heard of “wicket”, “gasbar” (everyone I know calls it a gas station), “chip truck” (everyone I know calls them food trucks), “take off”, “gotch” and its equivalents, “fill your boots”, “bugger the dog”, “pogey” (we simply say ‘EI’, for employment insurance), and though I know the word “serviette”, I only use it if I want to sound fancy or professional. My go-to word for both paper and cloth is “napkin”.

          I too used “thongs” for flip-flops ……. until Sisqo’s song came out. It wasn’t necessarily to differentiate between the shoes and the underwear, but to avoid people bursting into song! And I lived in a beach town where people wore them every day.

      • http://Website Sharon

        My mother used say she was going to the biffy. Her mother’s family is from the prairies, Brandon Manitoba area. Oddly enough my husband’s grandfather is from the same area and he used biffy for the toilet. Wondering if this is a prairie term?
        Also in our family we used the term t-towels for all dish towels not just the terry cloth sort for drying dishes.

      • http://Website JaneyB

        Interesting! Fascinating study (and comments too).

        ‘Biffy’ is used where I’m from (Winnipeg) but it’s got to be older than BFI bins. My grandmother used it so it must have gone back to 1910ish.

        In Manitoba, you hear ‘tea towels’, ‘going to the lake’, jambuster, soft drink (also in Montreal), serviette (but increasingly napkins too), eraser, parkade, gitch (or gotch), Stanfields (one-piece long undies preferably red), till (or cashier or just ‘to the cash’) and “s’s-KATCH-w’n”, cal-gurry and muntreal. I’ve heard housecoat (mainly for women) but ‘dressing gown’ seems more common and unisex too. I don’t hear ‘chesterfield’ often enough but even 20yo’s seem to recognize it (except in the GTA where their parents might be immigrants).

        I notice non-immigrant Southern Ontarians (GTA only?) use ‘prolly’ for ‘probably’. Never in Manitoba – more like prob-ly (though usually just ‘probably’).

        Quebec is its own thing. There is the whole world of Quebecisms, especially the use of ‘là’ where English-Canadians use ‘eh’. It is omnipresent. Anglos use a lot of borrowings from the Francos eg: dep (for depanneur / convenience store), subvention (also used in the UK, for subsidy), guichet (for bank machines) and many more.

        • http://Website Gregory Bryce

          JaneyB wrotwe onJanuary 16, 2014
          >>‘Biffy’ is used where I’m from (Winnipeg) but it’s got to be older than BFI bins. My grandmother used it so it must have gone back to 1910ish. <<

          Agreed. Though I'm not certain, I believe I knew "biffy" in the 1950 and 60's in Ontario. My vague memory tells me it referred to an outhouse, not also to indoor plumbing.

          An entry in the U.S. on-line dictionary, based on the Random House Dictionary, labels biffy as "Chiefly Upper Midwest and Canadian Slang" and "origin obscure"and defines it as "a toilet or privy."

          However, the Canadian Oxford Dictionary (first edition, 1998) labels it as "North American (especially West), informal" and defines it as "(1) an outhouse, (2) a toilet." As for its etymology, it says: "[origin unknown: possibly a childish deformation of 'privy']"

          I know I first heard of the American waste disposal company BFI (Browning-Ferris Industries) in the early 1970s, by which time it operated in parts of Canada. According to this Wikipedia article, the company opened its first landfill in 1968, so it's unlikely it existed much earlier:

          I grew up in Toronto totally unaware of large waste disposal bins, as there were no apartment buildings or industries in our neighbourhood. I learned "Dumpster" (a trademarked name, at least in the U.S.) only around the 1980s, in western Canada.

          A entry gives Dumpster's origin as
          "1930s, from Dempster-Dumpster trash-hauling mechanism, patented by Dempster Brothers and probably named from dump (v.) with the surname in mind.
          ~ Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper"

          • Suzanne S. Barnhill

            There were bins at my college (1962-66) that we called “Dempster Dumpsters,” but it was always my understanding that the actual name on them was “Dempster Dumpmaster.” This seems to be confirmed by And see

          • http://Website Gregory Bryce

            Suzanne S. Barnhill. I do not see a way of replying to your post on January 24, 2014 at 4:36 pm

            >>There were bins at my college (1962-66) that we called “Dempster Dumpsters,” but it was always my understanding that the actual name on them was “Dempster Dumpmaster.” This seems to be confirmed by<&lt;

            Wikipedia seems to have an article on absolutely everything!

            I read that article as saying that the *trucks* were called Dempster Dumpmasters, but the actual *bins* were called "Dempster-Dumpsters" or just plain Dumpsters. "It had arms at the front that picked up a dumpster and lifted it over the cab to tip it into the hopper." See also . However, Wikipedia articles are not necessarily 100% accurate.

            Thanks for the additional information; I find it all interesting.

            By the way, do you have large bins* with large (9 or 10-inch) wheels that you have to put household garbage into? You roll the bin out to the street and a truck with side-mounted arms picks it up and dumps it. We just got these about three years ago in my city. A friend in the U.K. who was raised in the U.S. calls them "wheelie bins" and not because they are weally big!

            Do you have a name for such bins?

            *240 litres or about 63 U.S. gallons. Here's a photo, complete with a bear:

          • Suzanne S. Barnhill

            We have rolling garbage cans, supplied by the City (standardized so that they can be picked up by automated garbage trucks), but we don’t have any particular name for them. We just call them “garbage cans.” Garbage cans with smaller wheels (less stable) are also available for purchase, and we have one for our recyclable paper. When the large “wheelie bins” were introduced in Atlanta, they were dubbed “Fat Maynards,” a reference to Maynard Jackson, the then-mayor of Atlanta.

  • http://Website Aimee

    Is eh? really regional? I’m from Alberta, and I use it a fair amount. I’m sure I’ve heard other non Easterners use it as well. It’s used to turn a sentence into a question. I think that sums it up, eh?
    Also, I’ve never heard anyone outside of Saskatchewan call a hoodie a bunny hug. Albertans make fun of Saskatchewan for that, they certainly don’t partake. :)
    A lot of these terms I heard growing up (no see ums, kangaroos, thongs) but no one my age (I’m 28) uses them anymore. I stopped using them a long time ago because I was getting funny looks from my peers. Especially thongs, that’s just underwear now.
    This was a very enjoyable article.

    • Jules

      I had a couple comments similar to yours from Canadians. Kangaroos, as I stated, is definitely something we “old” people say (I’m 37). But as for thongs, only one person stated that it was only used by older people. Nobody made a comment about no-see-ums being outdated. So, either I had a bunch of Gen Xers taking the survey, or some words are only outdated in certain areas, or… well, it could be a number of reasons.

      As, for “eh,” I only ever hear it from people who have moved to B.C. from Ontario through to The Maritimes, and from friends and family who live in Ontario. Maybe it is regional to Alberta, too, like a couple of the other words where both Albertans and Torontonians knew the word, but didn’t use it. Without a bigger sample of Canadians, it really is difficult to determine.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article!

    • http://Website bucky

      “Eh” is most definitely heard from coast to coast to coast in Canada.

      Bunnyhug is a Saskatchewan term, it’s definitely a ‘hoodie’ anywhere else in the Prairies. A Kangaroo was what we called a windbreaker with a pouch in the front that you could stuff the jacket in.

  • Nicki

    1) I’ve never heard ANYone call a knit hat a “beanie.” That must be very regional, or at least not in the Midwest or Northwest, the two places I’ve lived.

    2) I would call a “Freezy” an “Otterpop.” This is a brand and an extremely cheap popsicle packaged just the way you’ve pictured it. My childhood friends from the Chicago area would ALL know what that meant. Also, they have them up here in Seattle too.

    • Jules

      The alternative words for “tuque” where all over the place, with the majority of the Americans who said they were familiar with the word living in Minnesota. Which, makes a lot of sense to me.

      I also find it interesting that you would refer to an Otter Pop/Freezie as a type of popsicle.

    • Drew Makepeace

      A former housemate from Ohio referred to a toque as a “stocking cap”. His friend, from the American deep south, referred to it as a “toboggan”.

  • http://Website Gus Sterneman

    Nice write-up, thanks. A couple of comments. First, I use queue all the time (and HATE it when lazy Americans spell it cue – and as a musician/theatre person, both are used and constantly mistaken for eacy other), but line-up is generally reserved for either a sports team (starting line-up, batting order, etc.), or police line-up (as in The Usual Suspects). Also, Dispos-All is the trademarked name in the US, while disposal is a generic term. Nice work!

    – an American who says “Sorry” with an “o” not an “ah”

    • Jules

      I laughed really hard at the last part regarding your Canadian pronunciation 😉

      As for the rest, thanks! I’m finding all of these feedback quite interesting.

  • http://Website darlene vader

    Thanks for the article. I found it very interesting, especially as we spend a good part of our winters down in Arizona. Another term that we use differently is “the states”, as in, we go to the states. In my experience, they never say the states. They say, America. I sometimes think they are a little insulted for some reason when we say , the states. Just sayin’, I don’t really understand why. Also, what we call iced tea is not what we get down there when we order iced tea. They give you cold brewed tea that you’d have to add about 18 teaspoons of sugar to, to even faintly resemble our iced tea.

    • Jules

      Yes, I’m very much aware about the whole “the States” versus “America” thing. Saying “The United States” though, I haven’t found to be an issue. I’m also aware of the iced tea thing, too. Though, will brew tea from DavidsTea that is specifically sold to be turned into iced tea, and add a bunch of sugar to it, after. As for the “eh” thing, I am finding this piece of information very fascinating. I’ll have to admit, my exposure to Albertans is very limited, compared to my exposure to other Canadians across the country. I’m not sure why that is, but it is. Maybe it has something to do with the B.C./Alberta “rivalry” we have going on 😉

  • http://Website darlene vader

    Also, about the “eh” thing. We are from Alberta, and get razzed all the time about saying “eh” down there. It is pretty common in Alberta to say “eh”.

    • http://Website Dave

      Saying ‘eh’ is very common in SK and MB too, more so SK and rural MB than in Winnipeg. Doesn’t seem to follow age as (I am a university prof) I find most of my students use it and we have students from across AB, SK, and MB, as well as people I meet in stores and socially here in Brandon (MB).

  • Claire

    There’s another size of alcohol here in Alberta – maybe a local term. 200mL of spirits (vodka, rye, rum, etc.) is called a “boot”. Plastic bottle, flat shape, and can fit inside your boot without being seen.

    I lived in the States for 14 years, and took me a while to revert from using “eh?” to “huh?”. Now that I back in Canada, I use “huh” most of the time.

    Another State-side expression I use a lot in my job is “You Bet”, instead of Certainly, Of Course, or I’ll get it right away.

    • Jules

      We have those smaller bottles but I was unaware of any specific term for them, other than “airplane sized.”

      As for the “you bet” comment, had no idea that “certainly,” “Of course,” and “I’ll get that right away” are not common.

      Thanks for sharing another insight!

      • http://Website Mtroyalguy

        I am Albertan. And work in a Liquor Store. 200 ml is a boot or half-mickey. Airplane size is 50 ml, also common in hotel mini bars. TwoSix is another common one for Alberta (I have never heard Twixer).
        Flip flops were thongs when I was young, I don’t know when the switch happened.
        Got to agree, only people from Saskabush 😉 call them bunny hugs. I have only ever heard turfed rather than turfed out, and pissed is contextual.
        Always heard ATM (automatic teller machine) although father called them t*tless tellers (how wonderfully sexist and non-pc of him).
        Haven’t heard pogey in close to 20 years.

        • http://Website Mtroyalguy

          Also I have only ever heard gas bar in relation to the ones (usually branded to the store) in the parking lot of a grocery store or Canadian Tire. The rest of the time it was gas stations. EG Safeway has a gas bar in the parking lot, PetroCan is a gas station.

          • Jules

            Very interesting.

            As for your “pogey” comment, that is a result that surprised me. I still hear it, but I had thought it would be a B.C. and Maritime thing, with all the provinces in between wondering, “What?” Didn’t turn out that way. Far more people were familiar with the word, even if they don’t use it, across the country, than I had expected. A lot of results ended up that way. So, as I said, either in the post or in the comments, some of these words may not be as old-fashioned as we think, with many people using them depending on which social group they are interacting with.

            Personally, I use very different word choices and phrases, depending on which social group I’m interacting with.

        • http://Website Mtroyalguy

          Sorry I can’t edit to merge these to combine them all and things keep occurring to me.
          In Alberta, college is a 2 year+ post secondary that end with diplomas (and in some case certificates) and/or transfer to University. University is 4 yr+ with degrees and post graduate work. Technical schools/institutes are for trades and certifications (although they are attempting to re-brand as Polytechnics which is a Quebec/European thing and I don’t understand why they are trying). There are also schools that are called colleges but are for upgrading and certificates in things like office management or medical receptionist, just to confuse the issue.
          There is a definite hierarchy of post secondary, with universities at the top, then transfer colleges, technical institutes then the upgrading/certificate schools. And for profit schools like Devry being a bit outside the whole thing.

  • http://Website Paula

    as far as i know, the difference between ATM/ABM has to do with what the bank in question calls it… i call them ATMs because i used to work for a bank that called them that, but a credit union i now use calls them ABMs

    and i’ve always heard the term “biffy” in regards to outhouses (portable or otherwise); i learned it from SCA folks 😉

    • Jules

      Perhaps? The reason why I question that is because all stores I’ve seen in BC that have an ABM also have the same generic sign that reads “ABM Inside.” I was hoping to take a picture for this article, but didn’t have the time to run around town to take all the pictures necessary. The wiki article also notes that the Canadian term is automatic banking machine or ABM.

      • http://Website Gregory Bryce

        >>December 14, 2013 12:55 pm
        The wiki article also notes that the Canadian term is automatic banking machine or ABM.<<

        I believe that the Canadian Bankers' Association (CBA) agreed on ABM as a generic term about 20-25 years ago. It's quite possible that Americans (and some Canadians) would have rejected that initialism because it also means Anti-Ballistic Missile.

        The homogenizing force of U.S. English has made ATM very common in Canada; the banks have not surrendered, but it appears to me that they are backing away from ABM. A new "Terms and Conditions" pamphlet for my TD Canada Trust Visa card about a years ago used ATM.

  • http://Website Ellington

    At least in the Southeast US and the mid-Atlantic states, 12 beers are called a 12 pack and 6 beers are a 6 pack. Pablum is recognized as a specific brand by many in the States (also not offended here), and the general reference to powdered baby food to be taken by bottle is formula. Finally, the alternative for freezie is ice pop or freeze pop – I agree that popsicle is something different. Really fun stuff.

    • Jules

      Thanks for the info :)

  • http://Website Laurren

    Hey there! I love your project. Just a heads up tho – ‘Donaır’ is actually a Turkish word reffering to meat that has been cocked on a rotıssarıe and ıs shave off and served ın a sandwich – it is common fast food in Turkey and a version of it was imported to Canada. The word is not Canadian – nor is it English.

    • Jules

      What you just described is a doner, which I mentioned and linked in the article to note the differences :)

      • http://Website gem

        First of all, great project. Although I have to agree with Laurren a little here, I know you’re trying to differentiate donair from doner, but it really isn’t a palpable difference. You can find all sorts of doners in Turkey, it is more like an umbrella term for a specific type of food (nowadays the common western-style wraps are also sold in Turkey as doner). Furthermore, doner/shawarma/gyro is an entirely political concept that goes back to the dissolution of the Ottoman empire and formation of modern day Greece/Turkey/Middle East– origins of food such as doner/baklava/tsatziki/and, hell, even yoghurt are heavily debated. You’ll find these foods presented slightly differently in each country with the said country claiming authenticity. What I’m trying to say is, claiming that there is such thing as “donair” is a little far fetched considering the existing debates/complexities surrounding what actually these foods are/should be.

        ( My claim to fame? I’m a Turkish-Canadian woman with Balkan roots obsessed with Balkan food and its representation across the globe)

        All the best with everything!

        • Jules

          See this comment:

          They did a much better job illustrating the differences.

          • http://Website gem

            Read it, thanks, but I actually do know what a donair is. What I just wanted to say was that “doner” is actually an umbrella term and would include the recipe for donair as well, since nowadays in Turkey even food that is kind of wrapped is accepted as doner. But that aside, foods from other cuisines around the globe always get tweaked in some ways anyways. I just don’t see donair as a Canadian thing especially when so many Canadians don’t actually know the difference in donair/shawarma/doner, as seen by the other comments here. It’s no banh mi, at least not yet.

          • Jules

            Fair enough :) For me, because they taste so different and are prepared so differently, I would never use the terms interchangeably. Just like I would never say that something is “poutine” if it’s made with shredded cheese, instead of cheese curds, or if things are added to it, like bacon, like some do.

        • http://Website Sarah

          I read a couple of your other comments and I’d have to disagree. My husband has a turkish friend, and the thought of a donair just makes him want to puke in his mouth. I’ve heard different stories on how donairs were created, and the most common was a Lebanese man living in Halifax who didn’t have all the ingredients for a doner (no yogurt either), and decided to spice up some ground beef, and make a thick sauce by coagulating evaporated milk with vinegar. Donair is something that is so incredibly Haligonian; there really is no comparison to the original doner. I have lived in Halifax for the last 9 years. I am from Ontario originally, and had never heard of a donair. Yes, the idea of donair come from a doner, but it is really just a whole different food now. It is 100% Canadian; 100% Haligonian.

  • http://Website Anne

    I once saw a container of non-dairy creamer in a Waffle House labeled as “Coffee Whitener” and thought I had lost my mind. Thanks for solving this mystery for me.

    • Jules

      You’re welcome :)

  • http://Website Anne

    I should have said, that Waffle House was in Alabama.

  • http://Website Matt

    Let’s not forget Kraft Dinner. And I think it’s spelled ‘toque’. And apparently I sound very foreign when I say ‘The States’. Nobody takes offense as far as I know, but it does take them by surprise.

    • Jules

      I almost did include KD in addition to Chesterfield, but decided to leave it out (among many, many other words) once I hit 82 words and realised I had quite a few words.

  • http://Website Megs

    What about “nosebleeds” as in the seats so far away from the venue (ice since we’re hockey fans in Canada) that you can barely see and the air is so thin you might actually get a nosebleed. Is that Canadian?

    • Jules

      I’m not sure. That’s a very good question. I would think it used in the United States, but I also thought that about all of these words at one point.

      • bfwebster

        In the US, the expression is usually “[up in the] the nosebleed section”, but if you simply said “nosebleeds” referring to seats, you would be understood.

    • http://Website Cheryl

      I spent the first 23 years of my life in Oregon and the last 17 in Ontario. This article made me realize that I seem to switch between “American” and “Canadian” fairly frequently and without thought.

      I did have to think about “freezies,” as I couldn’t remember the American equivalent, probably because we didn’t get them as children. We only got homemade popsicles. My daughter knows the difference between popsicles and freezies (one has a stick, one comes in plastic).

      I’ve never called a hat a “tuque” because in Oregon we rarely need to wear anything on our heads and in my neck of the Ontarian woods they’re just “hats.”

      I say “eh” more than my husband who was born in Montreal and grew up in Thunder Bay, as in, he never says it, I always do.

      “Nosebleeds” is definitely a word we use in Oregon, especially in my family because those were the only seats we could ever afford.

      And there’s a huge difference between “dish cloth” and “washcloth.” Dish cloths are only used on dishes, washcloths are used on people. Around here I never hear washcloth, but only “facecloth,” which has had me wondering for 17 years what on earth Canadians use to wash the rest of their bodies.

      • Jules

        Face cloth is actually one of the words in the download, and your absolutely right about it :)

  • http://Website Sandy Harris

    “donair” may be used more in Canada, but it does not originate with us. It is from a Turkish expression that can be put into our alphabet several ways. The best known is “doner kebab”

    I thought “donair” was the Greek name. Wikipedia say I’m wrong & Greeks call that dish gyros; I’d say gryros are a different dish, but I could be wrong.

    I call the dish shawarma, the Arabic name, because I’ve lived in Saudi Arabia. I think quite a few Canadians use that because of all the Lebanese immigration.

    • Jules

      I probably should have been more clear than just including the link that describes the difference between the Canadian Donair and the Turkish Doner. I thought that stating the part of it being prepared differently, with a different sauce, would be enough. I guess not :)

      • http://Website Paula

        Well, I’m in Vancouver, BC, and I’ve always seen what you’re describing as “doner” advertised as “donair”. I’ve never seen what you’re describing as “donair”

  • http://Website Lena

    I (from Ontario) agree that the 13oz bottle of alcohol is a mickey, but to my husband (from New Brunswick), a “mickey” is what I can an “airplane bottle” – those single-shot servings they sell on airplanes and at the liquor store cash impulse-buy shelf, or that are sometimes attached to larger bottles as bonus samples.

  • http://Website Lois Brulotte

    I am a BC girl… and we always called flip flops, Thongs , Capris were known as Pedal pushers,. Biffy was an out house or bathroom, toque was a knitted hat, Skookum meant large and awesome.Eh is used to change a sentence into a question.,Pencil crayons were what we coloured with, or Wax crayons,My dad was Chief at the Firehall. I had my first Kangaroo jacket when I was 10 .My brother wore gotchies and I never ever called an eraser a rubber! hehe
    I recognize and still use most of this list of words.

  • http://Website Mommmm

    A friend who is now a preacher in South Carolina mentioned that as a child he had felt “hard done by” which raised several eyebrows in his congregation.

    We used the biffy at camp and got sand in our thongs.

    The University of Saskatchewan sells beautiful bunny hugs with the dictionary definition of the term.

  • http://Website Nicole

    A noseeum is a Ceratopogonidae, not any old too small to see insect! At least, that’s how it’s used in southern Alberta in my experience.

  • http://Website Daisy

    “Eh?” Is definitely used here in Alberta, although I don’t hear it as much now as I did growing up. Those from Saskatchewan and farming communities tend to use it the most. I had all of my school years in Alberta (in Edmonton) and the NWT (in Yellowknife) and it was often used by kids and adults alike. And yes, I still use it! :)

    “Rubber”, otoh, was always understood as a condom and never used as an eraser by me and classmates, although “rubber eraser” was at times used.

  • http://Website Stephanie

    Regarding homo milk, I personally have switched to calling it whole milk as I don’t like the association of homo with slang for gay. I didn’t think whole milk meant milk that would separate, as I assumed all milk was homogenized now. As for Americans calling it homogenized, that is what homo is short for so it’s the same thing really. And yes it doesn’t make sense to call 3.25% milk homogenized when all milk is homogenized regardless of fat percentage. I think the term whole milk makes the most sense because that’s what it is, milk with its natural fat content, none has been removed therefore it is still “whole”.

    • http://Website Stan Rogers

      These days, it’s much more likely to be skim milk that has had the fat content re-added. It’s just a lot simpler to make all of the various varieties (ranging from skim to whipping cream — another (mostly) Canadianism, by the way) by separating everything out a putting things back in as needed.

    • http://Website Fred

      Calling 3.25% milk “homo” serves to dis-empower the offensive use of the term and turn it into an everyday usable word. By avoiding calling 3.25% milk “homo” we would only be strengthening the insult when it is used disparagingly towards a gay or lesbian person. Canadians should not feel that they are offending anyone when they say “homo milk”.

  • http://Website Trell

    Regarding 26ers versus fifth. The U.S. Gallon is composed of 5 quarts. Therefore referring to the quart bottle as a fifth makes perfect sense to an american.

    • http://Website Dave

      Sorry, Trell; a 128 fluid oz. US gallon has four 32oz. quarts, not five… Two cups to a pint, two pints to a quart, &c. Growing up in Michigan (which is arguably Ontario) in the ’60s and ’70s, I’ve heard all of these used on both sides of the Lakes.

  • http://Website Roberto

    Love the list. I’m from BC, and I’ve only ever heard biffy in reference to an outhouse. Also, I’ve always taken “fill your boots” to mean “go for it” or “have at ‘er”, which is perhaps another Canadianism, or “don’t hold back”. I’m not sure of your distinction of donair from doner or shawarma, but they are certainly everywhere here in Vancouver. I haven’t heard kangaroo jacket since I was a kid in the 80s, and the same goes for thongs as flip-flops and rubbers for erasers. A tuque is the only thing to call a knitted wool hat, and the people I know definitely say ‘eh’ at least once in a while. A 12oz mickey fits nicely in a coat pocket and a flat of beer is called that because 24 cans makes up the mostly flat box that holds them.

    • Jules

      Yes, you are correct with your example. However, and this may just be me, the example of “Go for it!” would be with a tone of “if it makes you happy! Whatever floats your boat!”

      I wish I could type with tonal changes. It would be much easier to explain my meaning.

    • Jules

      Once in a while, sure. But not at the end of every sentence or remark. I hear more Americans use “eh” than BCers. And I’m not talking about when they are mocking/teasing me after they learn I live in Canada.

  • http://Website Gene Black

    I was surprised that I use several of those that most Americans don’t know or at least don’t use. I have said “queued” or “queued up” and even used in in writing. I guess I am an odd duck. I live in Alabama.

    • http://Website Gene Black

      and I DID know Pablum. (and honestly didn’t know it was a Canadian word.)

  • http://Website Brenna

    – A “dish cloth” is for dishes and a “wash cloth” is for your face/body, which could also be called a “face cloth” although that one is strictly for your face. A “tea towel” is used for drying dishes and it usually twice the size of a dish cloth.
    – “Gonch” is not strictly men’s underwear where I live.
    – I’ve heard of rubber to mean eraser but I’m younger than 30 so it usually means condom.
    – “Serviette” is the french term and something more common in older generations. My Nana still says it and confused the server at a restaurant, although I know the server was an immigrant from India so I’m not surprised.
    – Queue/In-line usually. I’ve heard Americans say “waiting online” but, to me, that is when you’re on the internet. Interesting note: “queue” means tail in French. It sounds very similar to making a K sound but a little softer. I hear “queue” a lot in British TV and movies.
    – I’ve never heard of ABM, but I could probably deduce the meaning relatively quickly especially in context.

    According to my bf, you can only get good donairs in Ft.Mac and, presumably, Newfoundland. Although, he did find a good one in the Comox Valley (Vancouver Island, BC).
    – Roast Chicken is a flavour of chips up here now (or at least it was for a while). Americans supposedly can’t get Ketchup chips either.

    I’m from BC but have lived in Alberta and Germany. I don’t know if it makes any difference. I’ve heard of and use most of these terms. I’m also bilingual (English/French), but I would say 75% of standard available TV is American, but I do watch a fair bit of British TV as well.

    • http://Website Kristi

      I’ve had amazing donairs in Kelowna, BC, and in Calgary, AB! You just have to find the local favourites :)

  • http://Website quirkygeekgirl

    From an Albertan living in T-dot
    Donair – not just spiced meat but is also ground with the spices and then formed into the ever so familiar “log of meat” cooked on the rotisserie, definitely a “white washed” version of a Doner – which I found a place in TO that had them and was close enough to fill the void of no donair in TO but then they closed :( Toronto has Shwarma (they are everywhere) which are also with a spiced meat but it isn’t ground but stacked in slices onto the rotissery and the sauce is not the same, you can also find gyro in Greek town but is so close to a shwarma the difference is what they put with the meat rather than the meat itself – neither of these compare to the greatness of the donair. The closest place outside of TO to find donair is in the burbs but if you really want donair you have to go to the east (I still have yet to have Halifax donair) or the west (I had one almost everyday that I was in Vancouver) – I miss them so much! But your definition was not quite right and your picture looked like a gyro not a donair – the meat is totally wrong. Sorry but moving to Toronto and finding out donair doesn’t exist here was so shocking, I still haven’t gotten over it.
    Biffy – definitely a western Canadian term for outhouse and/or bathroom have never heard it out here
    Jiffy markers don’t exist in Ontario – same with London Drugs – which makes me sad :(

    • Jules

      Exactly this! Thanks.

      Yes, I know the meat in the image is wrong. But, I couldn’t find an image of a Donair that had a licence for commercial use and fit within our image guideline.

  • http://Website Canadian Craig

    As a 23 year old Canadian who grew up on Vancouver Island, I can attest to many of these words, but also I feel that at least among my generation, many have become outdated. I would NEVER refer to an eraser as a rubber for example, I associate that with British English, and would only think of a condom if someone should say that. I know skookum due to my Mom, who grew up in the Vancouver area, but would never say it myself (definitely outdated). I agree “eh?” is less frequently used in BC, but it is still a part of our speech. I know that thong can mean flip flops, but the latter term is the only one I would ever use. The words gonch and kangaroo jacket were foreign to me as a kid, and neither of my parents ever used them either (Dad grew up in Ontario and lived for almost 10 years in Edmonton, Alberta). Tuque and pencil crayons are super Canadian haha, I am doing a year in Germany and I have already confused American and English friends when I mention wanting a tuque for the winter. 😀

  • http://Website Tom V

    Glad you mentioned the Robertson screwdriver. I actually need one of those for some of the things in our house and had no idea what to call it.

  • http://Website David

    In Saskatchewan, what you call a Kangaroo Jacket is referred to as a bunnyhug. Ask anyone from there – they won’t ever call it a Kangaroo. Great list!

    • Douglas Hicton

      No, David, as I mention below, I was born in and spent the first 33 years of my life in Regina, and I never once heard the term “bunny-hug” except as the name of a dance (see the song “All That Jazz” from the musical Chicago). I moved to Toronto in 1992 and never heard of “bunny-hug” being used in place of kangaroo jacket/sweater where I came from until fairly recently, and by that I mean in the last couple of years, so I think this is fairly new.

      I had lots of kangaroos when I was a kid, but as a male, I would never have been caught dead wearing something called a bunny-hug.

  • http://Website Shary

    == Down here, “Chip Truck” is commonly called: “Roach Coach”
    == A Dumpster is a trash bin sitting on the ground or hauled on a lowboy for emptying. Your truck is referred to as simply a “Garbage Truck” — company using it is irrelevant
    == A 2 year diploma is usually referred to as an Associate Degree
    == A lineup is a constabulary forensic tool for identifying suspects
    == My recollection of “Chesterfield” was a brown suit cut used by women (not a couch)

  • http://Website Antikythera

    I’m surprised about pablum, because while I knew it was a Canadian brand name, I was sure I’d heard non-commonwealth people use the word slangily to describe bland inoffensive things (e.g. bowdlerized adaptations of literature, wholesome children’s TV that doesn’t make the watcher think, etc.).

    For what it’s worth, rusks are to me synonymous with Melba toast. It’s bread that’s been toasted until it’s all crispy and there’s nothing soft left in it. I have heard of it being fed to babies like a breadstick or teething cracker.

    • Jules

      Probably because I was only wanting to know their knowledge of the word as it relates to the definition. Interesting to note, I was unaware that “pablum” had turned into a slang in the U.S. and the UK until this survey when people would follow-up with me on Twitter.

      • bfwebster

        Yep, “pablum” is long-established in the US (I’m in my early 60s and have heard it my whole life) as (a) referring to any sort of bland (and probably grain-based) baby food, and (b) as a slang term as Antikyhera describes above — something rendered so inoffensive as to lack any taste or substance.

  • http://Website Brian

    I would think that a break down of age groups would also show a better correlation between those who are familiar and unfamiliar with various words. As a lot of these words fall out of use, only the older generations would remember them.

    Also, I work at a Beer Store here in Ontario. A ‘two-four’ is usually used for 24 bottles. The rest, ’12 pack’, ‘6 pack’ ’15 pack’ etc are usually followed by their container ‘bottle’s or ‘cans’ to differentiate them.

    I always assumed the word queue came from England. Here in Ontario, it’s just a ‘line’. Not a ‘line up’ as Gus mentioned above. You would get in line for movie tickets or waiting to get in to a crowded bar. “Oh look. There’s a line already at the club.” And so forth.

    • Jules

      So, you never say something like, “I waited in the lineup for 30 minutes thanks to the person in front of me (insert shopping complaint here)”?

      “Lineup” is the physical line, not an act, like “queue.”

    • Jules

      A breakdown of age was something I thought about after the fact. But, in retrospect, it would have taken me much longer to sort all the data. As it was, I had over 14k data points that I had to sort and turn into something meaningful.

      For anyone who may be interested in how I “found” the respondents, I tweeted a link to the survey, and posted a link on Google Plus. Then, people answered anonymously, if they wanted to participate.

      There was also an optional box for people to enter their location.

      When I first started to sort the data, I was looking for regional patterns in the United States, but it was taking a long time. It took close to two months for me to prepare this post because there was just so much data I had to sort.

  • http://Website Rocky

    Never heard of gotch but when I joined a men’s residence at U of T (Devonshire House, closed down 1996) I heard the word “gitch” used.

    • Jules

      “Gitch” also acceptable. I think this word varies by area, but it all means the same thing.

  • http://Website shan

    Also from Alberta and agree with the others, never heard of a twixer it’s a two-six here, and we also used biffy to refer to an outhouse (when I was a kid, haven’t heard the term in years).

    Of entertaining mention: when I was trying to explain to my aunt (whose from New Zealand) a few months ago what a garburator is, she says Oh you mean a grauncher? Love the NZ term for it and trying to bring that to Canada :)

  • http://Website Meaghan

    This is great! I’m a linguist and a Canadian living in the States, and I didn’t know about half of these!

    Does anyone else also have “pablum” as a metaphor? Like, “that movie was so bland, and sappy. Who makes that kind of pablum?”

    A couple more notes (for reference, I’m from Alberta but I’ve lived all over):

    I agree that “gas bar” is only for the gas station subpart of something larger like a Superstore.

    I never ever use ABM, but I do use “bank machine”.

    Westerners tend to say “hey” more than “eh”, but it’s so similar that it hardly matters. But my Grandpa, who’s from the prairies, used “eh” a lot, and even used it for “pardon?” as in “eh? what was that?”

    gotch/gonch/gitch/gonchies/etc is I believe from Ukrainian, and is therefore very regional: mostly Alberta I think, maybe even just Edmonton.

    Does anyone else just say “permanent marker”?

    “Pissed” is definitely contextual, but I think the “mad” reading is a very recent derivation from “pissed off”. I remember when only “pissed off” existed (for that meaning), and watching it develop its alternative. It seems like that’s happening a lot lately: space out > space; wig out > wig; peace out > peace… (there must be some with other particles too)

    Dad’s from Saskatchewan, and he just says “uh…. a sweatshirt with a hood on it?” I grew up saying “kangaroo jacket/sweater”. Hey, did anyone else say “K-Way”? Those were windbreakers in the kangaroo jacket style. The name came from the brand name. (I only ever had non-name windbreakers myself!)

    I noticed as a kid that just “milk” in Canada meant 2% but in the States meant homo milk. Ew!

    Garburator’s a great word. I live with an American, and she and all other Americans I know with Canadian roommates also say it now!

  • http://Website Christa

    What about how we Canadians say “bag” as in the plastic bags you get at the store and the Americans ask if you want a “sack”. Happens all over from Washington to Arizona, “would you like a sack?” I am from the older generation (58) and pretty much all of these words on your list made total sense to me. But I have run into “hydro” when we travel in the States in our motorhome and I ask for a site with hydro, they look at me like I have lost my mind. I have been trying to train myself to say “power”. Also we have a little dog and his name is Toque, a Canadian gal living in the States wanted to name him something totally Canadian. We ended up adopting him and when we are in Arizona for the winter, it is so difficult to get the vets, the dog groomers etc, to understand and say his name properly. He has been called everything from Torque to Toquay. I now tell them it is like Duke with a T. And yet all the Canadians in Arizona in the winter time understand Toque with no problems. I grew up in Vancouver but now live in Alberta, haven’t noticed that too many Albertans can’t understand my BC dialect!

    • philippos

      Here in the central U.S., I think “bag” is more common than “sack” for both the paper and plastic ones, but we would understand both.

      • bfwebster

        I agree with philippos — it’s been a long time since I’ve heard the bags you get at a grocery story referred to as a ‘sack’. On the other hand, growing up (I’m 61), the term ‘sack’ was more common, but not exclusive — the terms “lunch sack” and “brown bag” both referred to the small brown sacks used to carry home-made lunches, etc.

  • http://Website Zoe

    “Biffy” was used in our (BC/Ontario) house to mean outhouse or a sketchy toilet. “Skookum” is a word in Chinook Jargon meaning “can” or “strong”, and has been adopted up and down the West Coast as a word connoting strongly positive things.

  • http://Website Niki

    I’m from Saskatchewan, and YES, we do call them “Bunny Hugs”. (WHY? Because they’re warm and soft like bunnies on the inside and it hugs your body).
    A few more things to add to the “Saskabush” list:
    –> Chocolate Milk was called “Vi-Co” here until the late 90’s. Us 70’s children will always call it Vi-Co.
    –> Turfed is used here a lot – To be turfed from your apartment
    –> We call Thongs (on your feet) Flip-Flops. We call the g-string (underwear) Butt-floss.
    –> It’s “Gotchies” not “gotch” around the area where I live. (Why? Because the underwear “gotchu dangly bits” and keeps them warm)
    –> An offshoot from the gotchies is the “Long Johns” and “undershirts” (Which could also be ‘waffle shirts’) Which are long underwear you wear under your clothing when it hits the colder part of winter)
    –> Biffy was always a toilet here. They are also called “The John” & “crapper”.
    –> Snomobiles are “Ski-doos”.. don’t know if that’s Canada wide or not. But we have so many of them around. (You know its winter when you see the first ski-doo tracks)
    –> “Parka” is a winter jacket
    –> Touque is a hat (BUT only if it’s got a pom-pom on the top. Otherwise, it’s a hat)
    –> Hand coverings are known as “gloves” if they have individual fingers or “Mitts” if its a thumb and a rounded part to keep your fingers together.

    I know there’s so many more, but I’d have to think more about it :) That’s just the stuff off the top of my head. Great article!

  • http://Website Kendra

    A lot of these words I have never heard of, or use the “American” version (sneakers, ATM, gas station, gutters, leads for pencil canyons). I have lived most of my life in Newfoundland, but also significant time in BC (8 years), Alberta (1 year), UK (1.5 years), and Australia (2 years).

    I’ve never heard thongs used outside of Australia, this is a shock to me that some Canadians use it. I’ve only heard flip flops.

    Did you use any Newfies in this survey? If so, Newfoundland is not part of the Maritimes.

    • Jules

      Yes, but only two Newfies filled out the survey. I didn’t approach specific people. I simply tweeted the link to the survey and posted it on Google Plus, and people participated if they wanted. No-one was approached directly.

  • http://Website Christa

    And the other big one is when you ask “where is the washroom’? The Americans don’t get that, they call it the restroom. Or sometimes I say “bathroom” but being down south for so many winters now, I have gotten used to asking “where is the restroom”?

    • Jules

      “Washroom” is in the full download because most said they know the word even though most don’t use it. So, while they may look at you funny (I’ve received that same funny look, on many occasions), they do actually know to what you are referring.

      • http://Website Dave

        As an immigrant from Australia, ‘washroom’ or ‘bathroom’ or ‘restroom’ were the hardest adjusts to both Canadian and US English (I have lived in both countries). I never know which to use. When I forget and use the ‘Commonwealth’ word ‘toilet’ or more commonly ‘loo’, I am either met with a puzzled look then comprehension (Canadians cope fine), or sometimes (usually in the States) advised to ‘not use that word’.

        • http://Website Sarah

          I live in Canada, and I never did understand why it was such a dirty word to say “Where are the toilets?” when referring to public washrooms. I grew up with learning to say “washroom” when referring to the public ones, and “bathroom” when referring to the one at home. I once in a while heard the term “restroom”, referring to public washrooms, but never thought anything of it. Sometimes I even used the term myself.

  • http://Website Elise

    Like the commenter above, we also use the term “bank machine” in my part of Ontario. This was completely mystifying for my Kansas/Missouri friends and relations for a long time. Despite using the longer term, the abbreviation “ABM” just sounds weird, almost American! When an abbreviation is used, it’s always “ATM”. In a similar vein, we typically pay for purchases with “debit” (a debit card issued by your bank with allows you to access cash in your account). Debit is both the process and the word for the card itself – despite the fact that technically it’s “Interac” and Interac spent a lot of money on an ad campaign trying to get people to use that brand name. Canadians (or at least Ontarioans) had this form of payment LONG before Americans and even today in a most places in the US that I’m aware of it’s a “check card” and has to be tied to a credit account (like Visa).

    An addendum to the “touque” discussion is that in Indiana (and apparently only Indiana and immediately adjoining parts of neighboring states) that kind of hat is called a “toboggan” which was infinitely confusing for me because here a “toboggan” is a sled – specifically a long wooden or aluminum sled with a curled front and flat bottom (no runners) that will seat several kids at once. You might wear a touque while you ride a toboggan, but you would never wear a toboggan on your head!

    • Jules

      Really fascinating about the use of “toboggan” in Indiana!

    • http://Website John Thacker

      The “toboggan” usage for a tuque is not just Indiana. It’s actually fairly common in a lot of Southern US states (and Indiana, despite being in the Midwest, is culturally quite Southern in a lot of ways and in its ideolect.)

  • Beverly

    Totally loved this! I am an American from the South who moved to the Toronto area a few years ago (Canadian husband), and by now I’ve learned most of these, at least from context when they’re used. A few I’d never heard of. Oh man, the first time someone asked me for a serviette at dinner…. hah 😛

    Anyway, thanks so much for this. I had a couple of other thoughts thinking about work just now:

    “Mat leave” is never called that in the U.S. It’s always called full-word “maternity leave” when I have heard it used. Now, that may be regional and I could be totally off base.

    Same with “Stat holiday”. We just call then “holidays” where I am from. It’s understood they are statutory.

    I have noticed an overall tendency for Canadians (broad generalization time… this may also be regional to southern ON,) to want to make up shorter/different names for things in general, but with cities it can be especially fun. “The Hammer” for Hamilton, “The Peg” for Winnipeg, and so on.

  • http://Website Linda Trenholm

    You stated that universities in Canada only grant 4+ year degrees but that is not completely true. Although the trend in Ontario has been to move towards only granting degrees after completing a four year program since grade 13 was abolished (2002?), the option to graduate with your degree was, at least until fairly recently, available to those completing a three year program as well. I completed a three year BSc from the University of Toronto in 1996 and my daughter completed a three year BA degree from York University in 2009. I’m not sure what universities may still offer this option but I suspect some still do and that if they don’t, it has only been completely phased out quite recently.

    • Jules

      That is why I said “or equivalent credit hours” as there a handful (small number) that can be done in 3. But most require 4 or more.

      • http://Website Linda Trenholm

        Actually it is not a matter of equivalent hours. When I was in university you (normally) did 5 full credits per year. A three year degree required completion of 15 credits and a four year degree required completion of 20 credits. For comparison, I believe that is 90 credit hours for a three year degree and 120 credit hours for a four year degree – assuming that a full credit = 6 credit hours (I could be off on this since U of T didn’t use the credit hour system). In any case, almost all programs were offered as a three year degree (completion of one major program with 15 credits) or as a four year degree (completion of a specialist program OR two major programs, with 20 credits). I concede that this is no longer the case for most university programs offered in Ontario but as recently as 2009 my daughter completed a three year (15 credit) program to earn her BA at York University in Toronto. I just wanted to be clear that I was not talking about completing a full 20 credit program in just three years by, for instance, going all year round. Since many of the terms that have been discussed here are better known to the “older generation”, I wanted to point out that to my age group (at least in Ontario) a university is/was simply any higher educational institution that was authorized to grant degrees, be they three year or more years in program length. Of course that definition probably wouldn’t hold up any longer as more and more colleges are being permitted to grant “associate degrees”. Even back in the day, exceptions like Ryerson Polytechnical Institute existed (now Ryerson University), granting “applied BA” degrees. It is all somewhat confusing when trying to explain to my American cousins the differences between universities and colleges here. They definitely don’t get it since the distinction is not the same down there.

        • http://Website Linda Trenholm

          All this discussion about three vs. four year degrees got me wondering so…. I looked up the offerings at Trent University where my youngest daughter graduated last year. I was able to quickly find (on their website) the choice of three year general degree programs (15 credits) or four year honour degree programs (20 credits) for Physics, Women’s Studies and Sociology. So I guess the three year degree lives on :-)

      • http://Website jcfishr

        I believe you still may be mistaken about “college’s” not being able to offer/do 4 year “degree’s”…

      • http://Website Dave

        Linda is right; a 3 year degree is not a 4 year degree squeezed into 3 years. Its a different program with 2 terms less credit hours than a 4 year degree, now increasingly being phased out across Canada. All 3 Manitoba universities offer both 3 and 4 year BA and BSc degrees, and the 3 year can be upgraded to a 4 year by taking additional course equivalent to 2 terms of full time study.

        The increasing Canadian adoption of the US use of ‘college’ to mean university (I’ve heard it used on the CBC, more commonly on CTV) in part relates to the prevalence of undergraduate only ‘universities’ in the US (i.e. 4-year colleges) who actively maket their programs in Canada now, and also of course the influence of US popular media and TV shows. In BC these were called ‘University colleges’ and included the former Cariboo University College (now TRU) in Kamloops BC and UC Fraser Valley in Abbottsford BC. In the Prairie provinces they were either called colleges (Mount Royal in Calgary, Brandon College in MB until 1967) or Institutes (e.g. SAIT in SK, NAIT in Alberta), where the institutes typically onbly offered 1-2 years of a degree as a transfer to a local university. These BC+AB+SK+MB and equivalent institutions in Ontario are now re-naming themselves as ‘universities’ by either dropping the word college or a complete name change (e.g., Cariboo now TRU, Brandon College to Brandon University 1967, Mount Royal College to Mout Royal University 2009) as they now offer limited graduate programs.

  • http://Website Dimitrios

    The biggest source of confusion I ever caused when living in the US was asking for an ‘elastic’. In the US, it’s definitely a rubber band! I grew up in Ottawa, by the way.

    • http://Website Nancy

      I, too, have always referred to rubber bands as “elastics” — short for, I guess, elastic bands. (I’m a 60-year-old from Toronto.)

  • http://Website Eleanor

    Some contributions from an Aussie:

    6) We call them “insinkerators” (after a brand of the device) or waste disposal. That said, they’re not terribly common here.

    8) What you call “homo milk”, we’d call “full cream milk”. We also have the typical range of reduced-fat milks, from skim (0.1%) at the low end up to 2% and similar.

    18) Australians will usually call permanent markers Sharpies or Textas (the latter after a popular brand here). Textas can also refer to non-permanent smaller felt-tipped coloured pens typically used by schoolkids.

    21) 24 beers is usually a “carton” if they’re in a cardboard box in two layers of 12; otherwise, it’s a “slab” if it’s a single layer of 375mL bottles (which are called stubbies; 750ml bottles are called longnecks).

    22-25) Man, you guys have a lot of bottle sizes! 750mLs are our standard, and you’d call it a “bottle”; we reserve our dizzying array of drinks sizes for beer glasses (pots, schooners, middies, sevens, fifteens, pints… and they all mean something slightly different depending on where you are in the country!)

    2) Track pants: definitely used in Australia; the standard term here. Colloquialised as “tracky dacks”.

    4) Thongs: clearly we are your sister people in this regard; thongs are most definitely the footwear you’ve shown here, and the underwear pieces are g-strings. Australians also generally differentiate between thongs and flip-flips – thongs have a vertical bar between the first and second toe, while flip-flops generally just have a piece across the instep without the vertical bit.

    Many nations divided by a single language! 😉

  • http://Website Lee

    Grew up in the Detroit area, then lived for a long time in Nashville, now in Houston.

    – Tuque : I see someone else has already mentioned the “toboggan” thing, which let me tell you is confusing as hell the first time you encounter it! I don’t recall hearing them called anything but “knit caps”, though.

    – The difference between an efficiency and a studio apartment (having lived in both) is that the latter has a larger and more complete kitchen area. Efficiencies are very short on both counter and cupboard space, and some of them only have a dorm-size refrigerator.

    – Have just seen a discussion of “icing sugar” elseNet, in which it was mentioned that the difference between icing sugar and confectioners’ sugar was that one of them (I forget which) also contains a small percentage of cornstarch.

    – In America, “roofies” are specifically date-rape drugs, GHB and its counterparts or sometimes Ambien. The term “mickey” long predates them (it dates back to at least the 1930s) and I believe the original knockout drops referred to are chloral hydrate. Trivia: the original term was “Mickey Finn,” which has since been shortened. BTW, I had not encountered the Canadian usage before and am glad to have learned it.

    – Skookum: I have just finished reading “Red Planet Blues” by Canadian author Robert J. Sawyer, which mentions a spaceship called the Skookum Jim. This has given me a context for the name, thank you!

    – Thongs: This was always the shoes when I was growing up; now it’s always the underwear and the shoes are “flip-flops”. I make a further distinction of “surfer flops” for the kind that have leather or cloth uppers instead of rubber ones, but that’s my personal idiolect.

    – There is a formal distinction between “college” and “university” in America, but it’s lost in casual use. As I understand it, a university has an officially accredited graduate-degree program, whereas a college does not. During my time in Nashville, I saw two local colleges undergo the accreditation process and change their names from “X College” to “X University”. Do Canadians share (what I think of as) the British usage of “going to university” for what we call “going to college”?

    – There are SO MANY synonyms for “drunk”! “Pissed” is something I would also think of as a Britishism; among my social circle, it’s a shortened form of “pissed off” and we’d be more likely to say “wasted” or “hammered” for intoxication. I recommend to you the song “Drinking on the Job” by the Rainmakers, which is basically a compilation of different slang terms for being drunk, matched cleverly to occupations.

    – My definition of “housecoat” is more like the picture you use to illustrate “dressing gown”. The open-and-belted version is just a robe.

    • Jules

      A lot of great info there. Thanks! As for your question about university, the answer is yes. It’s actually one of the words in the download.

  • http://www.mindfulness-yoga.blogspot/com Frank Jude Boccio

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post (so detailed!) especially as I travel frequently to Canada.

    I’ve not read through all the comments, but in case no one’s mentioned it already: a bottle of liquor that we yanks call a fifth is a fifth of a gallon!

  • http://Website Owen

    The use of the term “Biffy” was widespread in western Canada in the fifty’s and sixties as a colloquial term referring to any outhouse, bathroom or washroom. My Grandfather came from England in 1907, and used the term interchangeably with “Lou”.
    The BFI Waste disposal company never expanded into Western Canada until the early 1990’s when they bought out some local waste disposal companies. Having traveled extensively around “The Sates” I have enjoyed your observations, You know you are talking Canadian when the person you are addressing looks puzzled!

    • http://Website Elise

      I think the use of “biffy” for a trash dumpster or bin must be a western Canada thing. I have never heard them called “biffy” here in Ontario. We do use the word “biffy” but means specifically the kind of lidded, but otherwise unenclosed latrines you find along maintained hiking trails, like in Algonquin Park. By extension it can mean outhouse, or any other kind of outdoors, no plumbing facility, but while I have heard it used for porta-a-johns, that’s vanishingly rare. Decades ago when I was in Guides, at camp for the first time, I was informed by other girls that it stood for “Bathroom in Forest for You”, but I’m not convinced that it not a child-produced folk-etymology. I don’t know where “biffy” for “outdoor lou” really comes from. I have seen BFI trucks around here, but WM is far, far, far more common.

  • http://Website Ashley

    Never ever walk into a liquor store in Ireland – and ask for a mickey. The whole place went silent. Mickey means – small penis.

    after everyone stopped laughing… and they figured out what i was ACTUALLY looking for… i learned they call it a Nagan.

  • Dingbat

    Wow, interesting stuff!
    The regional names for sofa/couch/Chesterfield vary widely: In parts of the US midwest, it’s called a “Davenport.”

    • http://Website Cheryl

      Midwest = Davenport? Well, that explains that, then! Growing up my immediate family called it a sofa or couch. My grandma who grew up in Oregon called it a chesterfield and my grandma who grew up in South Dakota called it a davenport. I never understood how one family could have four names for one piece of furniture.

  • http://Website djr

    A “bottle” of spirits in the UK is 700 ml if you don’t specify a different size. Other sizes typically available in shops are the half bottle, quarter bottle, miniature and litre. You only regularly see bigger bottles than that in pubs / bars, so they might have special names but I guess not many people would use them.

    (A bottle of wine is 750 ml, and beer comes in pints…)

  • Brigid Keely

    I’m a little surprised people couldn’t give you alternate words for pablum other than “baby food.” In the USA you can get infant cereal or baby cereal, and it can be made of wheat, rice, or barley. Possibly corn, also? Sometimes it’s got a yoghurt blend. It’s powdered and can be mixed with water, milk, formula, pureed fruit or veggies, etc.

  • http://Website David Warren

    “Chesterfield” is British; “donair” is a Nova Scotian variant of a middle eastern dish.

  • Brian Grover

    Mickey = hip flask
    Pablum = we used it in Main and Oregon where I grew up. Maybe it’s old fashioned now.

  • http://Website jacki

    Restroom is another – when I ask for the restroom in the U.S. they usually say what? And I quickly say bathroom – we don’t rest or have a bath so biffy maybe?

    I use ‘eh’ quite a bit and I’m from B.C.

    There is also serviette – U.S. napkin

    And soother for the baby – U.S. pascifier

  • Katherine Barber

    I recommend you consult the Canadian Oxford Dictionary and a handy little book called Only in Canada, You Say, which covers a lot of this territory.

  • http://Website Shannon

    On a similar note: the saying that I have always used & loved is, “…and Bob’s your uncle”. My friends to the south are dumbfounded by this and need an explanation.

    I also use the term “gobsmacked” that was unheard of by my U.S. friends and have called a dumpster a “tip”.

  • http://Website Molly

    In my understanding, a housecoat differentiates from a robe in that robes tie in the front, whereas housecoats have buttons or zippers. I don’t know anyone who actually wears housecoats other than my grandmother, who is the only reason I know the term. Maybe it’s a generational thing? We live in Indiana.

  • http://Website Lindsey

    To me, a Chesterfield is a fancy couch. The one that’s in the living room that you were never allowed to go in unless it was Christmas. Everything else is a couch.

    Also, I went to Australia a few years back and asked to go to the washroom. They looked at me funny until they figured out what I meant. They call it the toilet there. It was almost awkward to call it the toilet because I’m so used to washroom or bathroom.

  • http://Website Bill Lavery

    I’m a dual living in Canada just that last three years after growing up and living in the States for 50+ years. The biggest blank look I’ve received here is when I use the word “niche” rhyming with witch instead of quiche.

    • http://Website Stan Rogers

      We use the “nitch” version here too (although it seems to have mostly fallen out of use in my lifetime), but it’s almost always used to refer to the physical thing — a nook or a pidgeon-hole — rather than the metaphorical sense. There seems to be a trend to take words that were fully anglicized for centuries but “look foreign” on paper and exotify them. “Homage” pronounced to rhyme with the French word for cheese is a particular pet peeve of mine; it should be “ommidge” or “hommidge”, depending on dialect.

  • http://Website Janet

    I grew up in small-town Ontario, rarely even visiting any city unlil about 12 years ago, so some of the terms confused me, as they referred to food or objects that I never saw growing up.

    I worked in a call center for several years, doing tech support for Americans. It always surprised me when I used a word they didn’t know. I wish I’d written them down now, as I forget most of them.

    Also about the rubber. I called erasers rubbers for years, until I learned that was the slang for condoms. I still think of erasers as rubbers though. I have to censor my speech.

  • http://Website Joy

    Hi- this list was really fun. It’s made me homesick fer shur! I’m a Canadian that has been an expat in Australia for the past 10 years and then 5 years in North Carolina before that!

    Agree with the ‘toilet’ thing here in Oz- if you ask for the bathroom or washroom, they think you’re nuts. And it just sounds so uncouth to me to call it a toilet! A chesterfield or sofa is called a lounge here. And thongs are thongs- not a g string!

    Also- ‘nosebleed section’ is not strictly Canadian as there is an Aussie hip hop band here called the Hilltop Hoods that has a song called ‘The Nosebleed Section’. If you like hip hop-give it a listen- it’s great!

    I’m moving back to Canada in April 2014 so I suspect I will get some strange looks when I start the mixing of 3 different vernaculars (American, Canadian and Australia). Looking forward to the adventure!

  • http://Website Glenda

    Our iced tea is what’s known as sweet tea in at least some parts of the states. (Georgia at least). if you order iced tea down there you’ll get exactly what you asked for … tea with ice – and nothing else! LOL

  • http://Website Kyle

    For those who suggest that the age-old pop versus soda should be included in this list of Canadianisms, I recommend that they google “map of pop versus soda” because they will see that about half of the US (area-wise, not population-wise) also uses the term pop and prefers it over the term soda. So this is not so much a Canadianism as something that simply shows that Canadians behave like northern Americans in this respect.

    • http://Website Elise

      Re: “Canadians behave like North Americans in this respect”
      Take a look at this series of maps (there are 22) which show regional word variations within the United States (my favourite is the one entitled “Tiny Lobsters are tearing this country apart”). Most of them deal with pronunciation, but a bunch of them deal with vocabulary.

      As a child, we moved first from Kansas to Michigan, and then from Michigan to Ontario. To this day, I sometimes have trouble identifying which are Canadian vs. American differences, and which are north-central vs. midwest differences.

  • http://Website Curtis

    I often had to were my “rubbers” as a child. They were the rubber boots that you wore over your normal shoes if it was raining. They were also called “gators”.

  • http://Website Doug N6TQS

    A fifth is a fifth of a gallon. The same size, allowing for metrification.

  • http://Website Wendy Loewen

    Great article…thank-you!

    I am a Canadian living in Manitoba just 20 minutes North of the Canada/US border. I am dating an American who lives 20 – 25 minutes South of the border. With only 65 kilometers (or 40 miles depending on which one of us you’re talking to) between us, we are constantly surprised at the words we come across that are either different or unknown to the other. My very first experience with this was when we stopped at a restaurant to pick up some coffee and muffins to go. While my boyfriend (now fiancee!) was using the restroom (or I mighty say washroom), I accepted the muffins and coffee and politely asked for some serviettes. The woman looked at me like I was from Mars! But a fellow employee of hers helped her out by leaning over and telling her…”That’s Canadian for napkins”. I still laugh about that one :) But not only words are different, but frequently the same word is used, but pronounced differently in each country…I say we’ll porTAGE the canoe, while he wants to PORtage it; I comment about a decal (with emphasis on first syllable but always a soft e sound) on a vehicle, while he will say DEcal (with emphasis again on the first syllable, but definitely a long e sound…as in DEcaffeinated. And he teases me all the time because when I buy a fish burger at McDonald’s it’s a fil-A (fillet), but when I clean a fish I FILL-it (fillet) it. Even a 4 year old grandchild of his once asked me, perfectly innocently, why I said “Mum”…she, of course, says “Mom” (pronounced Mawm). My fiancee and I are are both very interested in language and find this all very fun indeed!

    Thanks for the article…I’ll be sure to share it with both our Canadian and American friends.

  • http://Website Cathenna Michaud

    Did you question anyone in Quebec?? I’m uber confused over here when they talk about college, because it is high school here. Here college is cegep as we still have universities.
    Did you include the most delicious of poutine in your list?
    Would love to get a copy of that questionnaire, sounds like it would be a hoot for any party discussion. ;p
    Great fun reading… I must really be Canadian, as I know and use most of the words eh,

  • http://Website Kirsten

    In Saskatchewan here and I did want to note that the College thing does vary here. At University of Regina, there are 2 federated colleges (Luther and Campion). Their courses count the same as any other course at the university but if you register through one of them, there are reserved spots for their students in their classes, they have their own scholarships, their own convocation, and you register through them regardless of whether your course is through them or the main university. I have two paper copies of my single degree. They are not like medical colleges, etc, and have professors covering the same areas at the main colleges although not all areas. They are not separate from University of Regina entirely as you earn a U of R degree and are also considered a U of R student if you attend one of the colleges (and only the U of R grants transcripts). So somewhere between the two options here in Regina!

    Love that you included bunny hug!

    My grandma called a bathroom a biffy, but mostly meaning the outhouse or a portable-style toilet (but not a port-a-potty). We have dumpsters here though, or did, before we got individual garbage cans.

    Very cool comparison and study!

    • Jules

      Yup. We have something similar in B.C.; colleges within unis as you described. I thought I mentioned that in the post. If it’s not there, then it’s in the download.

      Also, something else we have in B.C. (though, they are slowly phasing out) are University-Colleges: Mainly a college but they offer a limited amount undergrad degrees and nothing above that.

  • http://Website Bjørn

    This was fun, thank you.

    A “biffy” is a toilet in Southern Manitoba. Am not sure how that usage derived from the BFI bin, if at all. By the way, you could add the family of terms — washroom, restroom, toilet to your list. I live in Europe now, often speaking with Brits. They’ve no clue where I want to go when I ask for the washroom.

    • Jules

      You’re welcome :) Glad you enjoyed it.

      Washroom is one of the words in the download :)

  • Steve Portigal

    Wow, 20 years in the US (from Ontario) and I saw many surprises there that I recognized as true.

    Wonder about “tea towel” and “J-cloth” since you mentioned dish towel.

    • Jules

      Tea towel is in the download, because even though most Americans didn’t use it, they at least were familiar with the term.

  • http://Website JillSki

    I’ve lived in BC 50+ years and it’s always been GONCH, not Gotch, as far as I’m concerned. And ‘eh’ is still very much in use in regional/interior areas of BC. And I agree with Lindsey above about the chesterfield/couch

  • http://Website Sam

    Split pea soup is not a “Canadian thing”. There are variations of it around the world. A REALLY popular place in So Cal is outside of Solvang (a “Danish” town) is Andersons they’ve been know for their split pea soup since the beginning. In Scandinavia the eating of split pea soup on Thursdays dates back to the Vikings. I forget why but the pea was associated with Thor and on Thor’s Day (Torsdag is swedish) they ate pea soup, still a common practice today in many restaurants to serve pea soup. I grew up eating home made split pea soup as a kid and used to love it and my mom who made it grew up in the LA area.

    • Jules

      There is a bit of a difference between what is “Canadian” pea soup and American. Though, I’m not sure how accurate the Wiki article is regarding United States’ pea soup I haven’t eaten in while in the United States because of how different it looks.

      And, yes, there are many different types of pea soups around the world, but there is a style that is recognized by Canadians as being “ours.” Searching “French-Canadian Pea Soup” will bring up some great recipes.

  • http://Website Ivan Avery Frey

    You mentioned Hydro One under the term “hydro”. Hydro One doesn’t actually generate any electricity. They transmit it.

    Ontario Hydro was split into two parts: Ontario Power responsible for generating electricity and Hydro One for delivering it.

    • Jules

      Thanks for the clarification!

  • http://Website Elaine

    Where is “washroom”? (Sorry I didn’t read all the comments, maybe someone else also mentioned it!

    • Jules

      It’s in the download because even though most Americans said they didn’t use it, over 50% said they were still familiar with it.

  • http://Website Cam

    I found a funny one 20 years ago, shortly after I moved to the US from Canada. I was doing some home renovations and went to a hardware store and asked where I could find “pot lights”. The kid looked me for a second then directed me to the “grow lights” in the garden center! Called “recessed lights” in the US.

    • Beverly

      Cam, so funny about pot lights! I’ve lived here in Ontario four years and still thought it was about marijuana. Thanks. 😀

  • http://Website Jim B

    I have always lived in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes. Cousins Manitoba westwards to BC always used ‘biffy’ to refer to an outhouse, at a cottage. Sometimes, you would hear stuff like ‘indoor biffys’ (with running water) when there was also the choice of an ‘outdoor biffy’ as in a large but rudimentary campground which had indoor toilets only at the ‘tuck shop’ . I don’t doubt that its is derived from BFI. Also, in my life I have rarely heard ‘chip TRUCK’, it has always been ‘chip wagon’. I believe it had something to do with the fact that very few were actually mobile under their own power anymore, and even if they were a former milk, bread, delivery truck, they were towed in and out of place, so essentially a ‘wagon’ not a ‘truck’. (or never mobile at all, like a ‘mobile home’)

  • http://Website Julie

    I just wanted to add that in my area (Thunder Bay, ON), “biffie” is a not uncommon term for outhouse. I never knew why…maybe because of BFI.

    Very interesting read!

  • http://Website Matt

    I didn’t see it in the comments but for me growing up getting “turfed out” was called 86’d read as getting eighty sixed. Most of the time those of us in the states are not offered by the term “The States” more that it is odd. It would be like someone saying we are just up here in the provinces. Just not something we say to ourselves. Just takes us a minute same with something like washroom.

    Also I didn’t know what Pablum is so I had to do research, which is here we have Gerber infant cereal. Also in regards to the use of it as a slang word Pablum as a word was around before the cereal. Which it does mean bland and uniteresting. So a quite apt name for an infant food.

    The list is great I always like a list of different words from the same language from different parts of the world.

    Oh and yes the tea thing in the states we refer to Iced tea as being no sugar cold tea, and sweet tea as having sugar in it every where.

    • http://Website Elise

      Actually the word “Pablum” was NOT around before the cereal. The name was trademarked to the Mead Johnson company and is now owned by Heinz. Pablum was developed in Toronto and until 2005 the Hospital for Sick Children there received a royalty on every package sold. That you think that word pablum meaning “uninteresting” or “bland” came first is really interesting. It shows that the slang caught on better in the US than the marketing of the cereal itself! And yes, pablum was originally bland on purpose. The doctors who developed it left it unflavoured: there were no additives that could potentially cause diarrhea, or allergic reactions, or might predispose an infant to crave sweet or salt. While well-intentioned (and probably very correct), the flavourless Pablum did not last. Infants might not have cared, but their mothers thought it tasted like boiled Kleenex and demanded flavour.

      • Matt

        Sorry I made a slight error Pablum is the now current spelling of the Latin word Pabulum.

        Here is a link to where the information.

        • Jules

          Not sure what happened to your link, but if you scroll up to where I talk about Pablum, you can see I linked to the Wiki article about the origins of this infant cereal, which includes an explanation about the Latin origins and why they named it Pablum. Would that happen to be the link you were trying to share?

      • http://Website Matt

        No I was trying to link to the Oxford Dictionary website. That hastthe origin.

  • http://Website Caitlin

    very interesting but I’d surmise from your results that either you had 0 Quebecers in this survey, or if there was they were all over 35 (or perhaps not female?)- I’m a 26 y.o. and I’ve never heard of a few of these words, and have a different definition for several. The only people I’ve ever heard use “thongs” to mean flip flops were from other Commonwealth countries. Also, have never seen Homo milk on a carton EVER. In QC it’s 3.25% and you call it 3.25 or fat milk, 2% is 2 and 1% is either skim or skinny. I never saw that written in Ottawa or Eastern Ontario grocery stores either. Never heard anyone say “Whitener”, “Skookum”, “bugger the dog”, “Gotch” (“tighty-whities” or underwear), or “Hooped”. Sorry but those must be western Canada expressions – it’s not just Ontario that doesn’t know them, my generation in Quebec doesn’t either. Hope you had “dep” short for “depanneur” (Corner store, 7/11) in your long list, that is absolutely Canadian, although perhaps it is a sociolect for Quebec and french Canada only.

    • Jules

      Many Nova Scotians and the couple Newfies who chose to participate in the survey knew those words.

      As I said in a comment a few up fro here, I didn’t approach anyone directly to do this survey. A tweet and a Google Plus update. Aside from location, it was all anonymous. Also, as I said above, had more people from Quebec opted in, the results would have been different. Quebec is an entirely distinct place. I’m really not sure what your sex has to do with it though. Also, keep in mind this survey was entirely for fun to get an idea about words I have used when travelling south that have caused confusion.

  • http://Website Kati

    I loved this article! Here in the states we don’t usually need to differentiate between homogenized and non-homogenized milk because it’s pretty much all homogenized. “Whole Milk” means homogenized milk with 3.25% fat. If we want milk that will separate, “cream-top” in marketing-speak, we usually have to go to a natural foods store (and pay half again as much) for it or milk our own cows. We had a cow when I was a kid, and it took me years to stop automatically shaking the milk before I poured it.

  • http://Website Merle Edgar

    I loved this article. I find it fascinating how differently we use the English language. I was familiar with pablum as it was the first cereal food I fed my kids. It was a brand. There were some words I have never ever heard. I have lived on both coasts in the States and have enjoyed figuring out how different words are used.

  • http://Website Shaunna

    Where I’m from (Manitoba) a 26 oz bottle of booze is a two-six. So we’ll go to the store, and pick up two-sexes, two-fours, and wish we had money for a texas mickey. We leave the mickeys alone, because we’re getting the two-sixes.

    Also, biffies are outhouses (or sometimes indoor bathrooms), and pablum is formula. And before a wedding there may be stags and stagettes, and often times there will also be a social.

    And my husband is the only person I have ever heard say fill your boots. I guess he is not crazy :)

  • http://Website Rita

    Loved your article and also loved all the discussion following. I knew all the Canadian words which surprised me. I remember my trips to the States and confusion over: back alley and lane, sofa and couch, bags, chips and fries, home milk, serviettes, handkerchiefs and napkins, gutters, rec room, hall and hallways, mother-in-law suite, bachelor apartment, wind row, etc.

  • http://Website Robin

    I am a Saskatchewanian living in Manitoba by way of New Brunswick. Regional word usage can vary between provinces. I was proud to introduce bunnyhug to my NB friends. They were also very confused by “gitch”. A biffy has always been the toilet for me. I’ve only heard the term “fill your boots” out East. They also use “supply teachers” to mean substitute teachers and “transport trucks” to mean semis. I don’t think I saw Homo milk out east either, but for sure have out west. My mom refers to flip flops as thongs and I did too for a long time until it became a hassle. Great article!

  • http://Website Shauna

    At college in the States, I was frequently asked to say ‘brutal’ by a friend. I didn’t realize that was a Canadianism and also quickly learned about pissed (CA) vs pissed (US). Have to say in those days I was more often the Canadian form of pissed than the US.

    • http://Website lily

      i’m curious! what does brutal mean in canada? i hear it all the time in the US, it usually means very difficult (“that exam was brutal!”, “i’m so sore because my morning workout was brutal today!”) but can also mean a loud, fast-paced, distortion-heavy lick in a metal/hardcore song, used positively (“that breakdown in the song is amazing, it’s so brutal”) – i think the latter meaning is more music-genre specific than regionally specific though, haha.

      • Jules

        The meaning is the same.

  • http://Website AG

    Great list! Even from a Torontonian perspective! :-) I’ve got another one for the list — I once went on a trip with a bunch of Americans. They announced that every day, for doing something specific, there would be Smartie awards. Imagine my surprise, after winning the very first day, to be handed a package of Rockets? Apparently, they call them Smartees, and they don’t have Smarties at all. I still have no idea if they have something different called “Rockets”….

    • http://Website Lily

      I think your smarties, we call M&Ms (small chocolate rounds with a candy coating?) – our smarties (spelled the same) are little tart rounds of sugar, is that a rocket? rockets here only mean things you launch into space, there’s no candy-related meaning.
      (i’m american)

      • http://Website Glenda

        “think your smarties, we call M&Ms (small chocolate rounds with a candy coating?) – our smarties (spelled the same) are little tart rounds of sugar, is that a rocket? rockets here only mean things you launch into space, there’s no candy-related meaning.
        (i’m american)”

        no, we have our own M&M’s and they’re not the same as smarties. :) Smarties are way better IMO!!!

  • http://Website Tim Holland

    In response to your question in #22 (“a fifth of what?”), 26oz is a fifth of a gallon.

  • http://Website Merge

    Keener – it’s actually not a brown-noser or somebody who sucks up; it’s a combination of “keen” and “eager”. Keener is actually used positively in all the situations that I have observed to describe someone who is very enthusiastic or excited about an activity or a subject. And it is definitely a Canadian word. I’ve used it often in the United States only to get VERY puzzled looks.

  • http://Website Wendy

    A Kangaroo Jacket in the 80’s/90’s was not a hooded sweatshirt (now a hoodie) but a hooded windbreaker that had a pouch in the front that zipped at the top. You could turn the pocket inside out and stuff the jacket into the pouch. The pouch had an elastic belt on it that you could strap to your waist, like a fanny pack.

  • Teresa

    Gotta’ love language! Pablum I know as an oldish (New England?) word for baby porridge but in any recent time used to mean watered down or bland in a negative way. Queue – use it often here in Mass., but maybe for me b/c of things like “printer queue” or “processing queue” as in where your file waits for its turn and then it is an easy migration to waiting in a seemingly endless queue for movie tickets. Davenport – another old New England term from the furniture manufacturers whose homestead is now a retirement home in Malden! (

  • http://Website Tony G

    Weird, I’m Canadian and the only words/expressions from this list that I use are “freezie” and “all dressed”, the others were new to me or I thought they were British or something.

  • http://Website Ell Tee

    I’ve lived on both coasts of Canada for a long time and I’ve never heard of half of these. What I can confirm is that a fifth refers to a 1/5 of a US gallon, 128 ounces.

  • http://Website JoJo

    I grew up in Michigan as a child of Canadian parents…never heard the 26th letter of the alphabet referred to as Zee…at my house it was always Zed! Also, we had porridge for breakfast…what I now know as oatmeal! I say eh all the time and even skim milk here in the states is now called non-fat milk! I live in Florida, home to many Canadian snowbirds, so I hear those familiar terms a lot…in the south if you want ice tea with no sugar, it is a special request…they call tea with sugar sweet tea! We had a davenport to sit on as I recall and fish and chips are always served with malt vinegar! Love my Canadian roots!

    • Jules

      Love the story. In my house, porridge and oatmeal were (and still are) two different things. Hot cereals not made out of oats (Red River cereal as an example) is porridge. If it mostly rolled oats, then, oatmeal.

  • http://Website alberta202

    I would wonder if “pylon” is another one. I pointed out a pylon, the orange pyramidal street marker, at a market in Europe to an American friend, and she didn’t know what I was speaking of. She said it was a “traffic cone.”

  • http://Website Sherry Giles

    I’d be interested to know where the people from Ontario who often didn’t know items were from. I’m from Northern Ontario originally, but live in Toronto, and find Northern and Southern Ontario to be incredibly different in vernacular.

    Some of the words (like gotch, or gotchies as we used to say) I used when I was younger, but no longer. Some terms were close but not quite the same (Chip Wagon instead of Chip Truck).

    If you could tell me where to find a donair in Toronto, I would love you forever. No, they are not the same as doners. It’s all in the sauce!

    This was really interesting. I lived in England for a year, followed by five years in California, so I found myself nodding a lot.

    • Jules

      As I said during the introduction, most were from Toronto, or immediate area. A couple people didn’t specify where in Ontario; they only said, “Ontario.”

      • http://Website Anna

        Not a Canadianism, but I’ve noticed in a couple OF your comments you’ve dropped the OF. Drives me crazy. Kids nowadays!
        Just shows how language changes.

  • http://Website PeterRDean

    Growing up in the 50s in New Zealand, we called ‘thongs’ ‘jandals’.
    The outdoor toilet was called a ‘dunny’.
    The letter z was ‘zed’, and the number 0 was called ‘oh’.

    As a New Zealander who has spent most of my life in the UK, I would recognize and use about 60% of your list

  • http://Website Chris Collin

    I know them all, but “biffy.” A biffy is used in the West for a bathroom – usually an outhouse, but, a regular bathroom as well.

  • Ash Nallawalla

    In Australia, almost 100% of native-born people will use these words in the same context: “runners”, “turfed out”, “fill your boots”, “serviette”, “track pants”, “rubber”, “thongs”, “brown bread”, “pissed”, “dish cloth”

  • http://Website Lily

    as an american who does business with mostly canada this both cracked me up and taught me a few things that will come in handy! (i spent the first year of my job trying to figure out what the hell a hoser was!) we do often make fun of each other’s language barriers….”lineup” to me means who is playing a music festival, not the bathroom/bar line at the festival (this is a commonly used misunderstanding in my world) and when i write an email asking someone to “check for the checks”, i get a confused response. also, conference call small talk about the weather gets way more involved when we don’t understand each other’s measurement systems!

    i’ve never heard it before – i mostly deal with toronto and i get the sense they speak american more than the rest of canada, reinforced by this list – but i would be in *total* horror of the term “homo milk” hahahaha!! i had no idea until now that homo wasn’t a derogatory term up there.

    #37 – i would like to add that in the US, “hydro” means hydroponically grown marijuana, almost always used positively.

    a bit meta in context with this article, but i’ve never heard the UK called “the commonwealth”!

    i should note i live in california and one could probably make a similar list of things californians say that the rest of the US doesn’t understand…

    • Jules

      It’s isn’t just the UK that is “the Commonwealth,” it’s a group of countries, that include New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and more.

      The easiest way to explain is to just paste the dictionary definition: an association of nations consisting of the United Kingdom and several former British colonies that are now sovereign states but still pay allegiance to the British Crown.

      We even have our own version of the Olympic games, so to speak.

  • http://Website b.berry

    One term I have heard used rarely, other than by my father, is “jam buster” for a jam filled doughnut. ‘Sinker’ was another term for said pastry. Seems it is a term used by those in or from Winnipeg. Much older is a word for a 25 cent piece called a ‘shin plaster’,also used by my father…’six of one half a dozen of the other’ meaning not much difference. add ‘goldbricker’ for lazy person

  • http://Website Matt

    Oh and I just remembered growing up my Mom always referred to 3.25% milk as Vitamin D milk. This was because unlike all other milk containers it said in large bold letters Vitamin D 3.25%. The rest just said whatever it was like 2% or whole milk.

  • http://Website Anthony

    A lot of things I never realised were Canadian, until I moved to Scotland and confused the heck out of my American friends. ( crisp bars, Caesars being a cocktail, not just a salad). I grew up in Vancouver, and we called dumpsters ‘Smithrites’ because that was the word painted o the side.

    • Douglas Hicton

      And in Regina, the back lane disposal bins were Loraas bins. I imagine this would vary from place to place in Canada depending on what company had the contract. They’re pretty well unheard of in downtown Toronto, though, as we put our garbage containers out front to be collected.

  • http://Website wendyb

    I worked in the States quite a bit and was called on a few of the things I referred to.
    I order a Rye and Coke (Huh.. what’s Rye? Whiskey of course)
    I use a bag not a sack, but I think that might be regional.
    They laughed when I said I was going to the washroom (You going to do your washing there.. Hahahah.. Yeah are you going to have a Bath?)
    and a bum is a bum, not a hobo.

    Other than that they always said I said eh, and oot and aboot (never did, LOL) and did I know Sally from Saskatchewan who works on the 5th floor?

  • http://Website Michael

    The vast majority of your “commonwealth” responses are particularly British and not indicative of usage in other commonwealth countries. In particular, a number of the words you list as having little or no use in commonweath countries are the most common term used in Australia.

    The categorization is also rather strange since last I checked Canada is a commonwealth country.

  • http://Website Jennifer

    Thanks so much for this report, however “unscientific” you consider it to be. I am a Canadian who has lived in California since 1986 and I’ve often marveled at the number of terms and expressions that we Canadians use differently. My American husband quizzed me last night and I’m happy to say, I still remembered most of them. He got quite a chuckle out of it and it made me a little homesick. One that we didn’t see was “Physio therapy” (in place of the American version-“Physical therapy). Thanks again!

  • http://Website Sam

    A flat or 2-4 bring the term for 24 beers is a western regional thing. Growing up in BC, those are the terms I am used to. But in Ontario, a case is 24. If you want a BC case, you need to ask for a case of 12

  • http://Website Ted K

    Fascinating stuff! As an Ontarian now living in Utah it brought a smile to my face remembering some of those words and expressions.
    “fill yer boots” meant only one thing to me…”He was so scared that he filled his boots”. I’m sure you can guess with what.
    Click is the number of indents in a single turn on a rifle scope as in one click will adjust the aiming point up or down, left or right, (elevation and windage).
    Klick is the spelling and term used in reference to distance, as in kilometers. “Its 5 Klicks into Timmies. get me a large double double.” I am surprised that Timmie’s (Tim Hortons ) didn’t even get an honorable mention though. When I asked for a large double double unleaded at a Dunkin’ Donuts one time I was faced with the inevitable blank stare. I finally realized and explained I wanted a large decaf light and sweet.
    Pylons? those black and orange barrel things used in construction zones lovingly referred to as Schneider Eggs by truck drivers.
    I am still trying to explain the difference between a paddle and an oar to my desert dwelling wife.

  • Pingback: OTR Links 12/23/2013 | doug --- off the record()

  • http://Website amanda g

    I am from “the states” (new York state, but not to be confused with new York city which is a completely different thing most people do not realize) and here is my clarification on the college/university thing. In the US the differentiation comes from the size, not the degrees/certifications offered. A large school is a university and a small school is a college, but Americans always say “I am in college,” or” I go to college” never that they are going to “university” unless they are saying the name of the school such as “I go to New York University” though most often colleges and universities go by nicknames such as NYU for new york universityor the name without the “university” such as Harvard but not Harvard university.

    The differences in degrees and certifications is another thing. A four year degree is always a bachelor’s degree, but everything else is somewhat finicky. Most 2 year colleges offer most commonly an associate’s degree which is intended (usually) as a stepping stone to a 4 year degree. In the US 4 year colleges and universities are very expensive so many people attend a 2 year college and then transfer to a 4 year school so that they can save money, though there are some jobs where an associates degree is all you need mostly health care assistant or other type of assistant jobs. We also have trade schools but those are different and usually you get a certification of some kind at the end, not an associates degree. After the bachelors (4 year) degree their are masters degrees and doctorates which the length of schooling differs for. Hope that helps. :)

  • http://Website Richard Groen

    What about double double?…I caught my self using it in the States and almost all would respond by saying “do you mean 2 milk and 2 sugar?”

    • Jules

      Don’t kick me out of Canada, but I’m not a consumer of Tim Horton’s coffee or doughnuts, so it isn’t a term I’d use while south of the border. Thus, it didn’t make the list as I’ve never confused someone by saying it.

  • http://Website Andrew

    “Tuque” is not the correct spelling; it is a variant. The correct English spelling is “toque,” in line with the prevalent spelling used in English Canada.

    I refer you to the Oxford Canadian Dictionary, the standard dictionary of Canadian English.

    • Jules

      From said dictionary:

      Pronunciation: /tuːk/
      a close-fitting knitted stocking cap.

      Pronunciation: /təʊk/
      a woman’s small hat, typically having a narrow, closely turned-up brim.
      historical a small cap or bonnet resembling a toque worn by a man or woman.
      a tall white hat with a full pouched crown, worn by chefs.

  • http://Website Andrew

    That’s kind of funny, because my Oxford Canadian gives

    Pronunciation tu:k
    1. (also tuque) Cdn a. a close-fitting knitted hat, often with a tassel or pom-pom on the crown b. a long-knitted stocking cap (followed by the definitions you provide above, with differing pronunciation)

    Pronunciation tu:k
    var. of Toque 1.

    So, assuming, you are working from a later edition of that dictionary, all this really means is that some prescriptivist has come along and declared that the prevalent spelling is suddenly incorrect, on the dubious basis that the word (like countless other English words) was adopted from French. I’d suggest that a native speaker is never wrong, and the correct spelling of an English Canadian word in English Canada is established by prevalent English Canadian usage, not by prescriptivists at the CBC or your French immersion teacher.

    The spelling is toque. And yes, I’d get in a bar fight over this. :)

    • Jules

      HA! Like the great “which hockey team is the best” debate, I think the spelling of this word is always going to be the subject of many bar fights and city riots among us normally easy going and polite Canadians. :)

  • http://Website kirk

    As far as why the Americans would call a 750 ml bottle a fifth you need to understand the American gallon is only 3.78 litres not 4.54 like the British standard.
    Your kangaroo jacket is called a bunny hug in Saskatchewan and that is a uniquely Canadian word as well

  • http://Website Cristofer

    This is so odd. I come from Alberta, Canada, born and raised, and I am completely, *completely* unaware of several of these terms. Don’t get me wrong, I did know several of them, but not others.

    For example, Two-way ticket, no-see-ums, thongs, rubber, pogey, etc. I hear “eh” more than any of those, which I have never ever heard of.

    I don’t say “eh” myself. Interesting though. Good work!

  • http://Website Marythecanuck

    Love this article!! I’m going to read The Full Report for sure
    I was surprised you didn’t include washroom as opposed to the American “restroom”.

  • http://Website Lauren

    Rumpus Room?

  • http://Website Randy

    BFI? Never.They were always a SmithRite !

  • Matthew Hughes

    I would add “chuck,” a west coast word meaning, “water” that sometimes is divided into “salt chuck” for seawater and “skookum chuck” for river rapids. I first heard it when I relocated from Ontario to BC in the early sixties. It’s said to be from the Chinook trading language dating to before the European settlers came.

  • http://Website LivesinVan

    Great list! I was hoping to see “gong show” and “a whack of…” which are both confusion-inducing south of the border.

  • http://Website Erin

    I’m from the maritimes and about half of these terms I’ve never heard anyone say in real life…

  • http://Website Chad

    Referring to 2-4 for 24 beer is mainly an Ontario term. Most of my BC friends have never heard of it. This includes the May long weekend, known in Ontario as “May 2-4” even if it doesn’t fall on May 24th.

    I read in a previous comment that “pop” vs “soda” is in the full report, but it should have been included in this. It is a very obvious one I notice when travelling in the US.

  • http://Website Randy

    And thanks for clearing it all up, I always spelled it Touque.

  • http://Website Ashley

    With a sister in the states and moving from the east to the west coast of Canada I have had some experience with a few of these terms.
    I have to agree with Elise on hearing a toque being called a toboggan. Happened in North Carolina. I overheard a mother telling a little girl to put on her toboggan, being very confused I looked over and saw it was a toque. When I corrected them I got a blank stare back.
    I have also noticed differences from the east (actually Ontario) but the west coasters call that east to words used in the west. Also stag and doe’s (a wedding fund raiser not to be confused with bachelor party) and euchre(card game) are used in Ontario and not in BC.

  • http://Website Doug

    Growing up in Manitoba, the thing to do is “throw a social” before you get married. It’s basically a dance, foodfest, gift giving, Chinese auction of donated items, & of course drinking binge/party that’s put together to bring the couple’s family & friends & even strangers together, usually in a rented community centre. Profits from organizing the event go to the happy couple to help them start their marriage. It’s a staple of the wedding process, especially in rural areas, that seems to me to be virtually unique to this end of the Prairies.

  • http://Website Amanda

    Interesting! I am American and grew up with Canadian grandparents and knew most of these terms. About 5-6 of these I use often and had no idea they were unfamiliar in the US. You learn something new every day.

  • http://Website Dani

    Forgot “shit disturber”!

  • http://Website Stef

    In Atlantic Canada, we refer to alcohol bottles differently. I learned this when I was the only Maritimer at a university in Ontario.

    – A mickey is used to describe the sample sized bottles.
    – A pint is what everyone else calls a mickey.
    – A quart is a twenty-sixer, but most of my Ontarian friends referred to it as a two-six
    – A forty is a forty-pounder.
    – A sixty or a sixty-six’er is a sixty-pounder.

  • http://Website Cryssy

    About # 12.. if you’ve been to Seattle so many times… why have you never heard of “The Bite Of Seattle” or perhaps visited the international district food market? Seattle is quite a food haven itself ;p Donair’s have likely been served there, so I do not find it hard to believe there could be folks from there who have enjoyed this Canadian delight. Should check it out if you’re ever planning to be in Seattle during July. It’s Annual… admission is free… Just saying ;p

  • http://Website Dianne

    Born in Saskatchewan, living in Alberta for over 30 years…. we use “eh” all of time! Biffy is an outhouse! We also say “vehicle” instead of car, truck SUV etc….

  • http://Website Greg

    Have never used the term “Kangaroo Jacket”. I grew up in Saskatchewan and we called it a “bunny hug”. Don’t ask me why, that’s just what they were called back then.

  • http://Website Tim

    I’m pretty sure you can get a 3 year university degree in Canada. Used to be able to, anyway.

  • http://Website Sheena

    As a proud maritimer I feel like our vocabulary varies quite a bit from some of the other provinces in this beautiful country. In fact, I feel the further East you get, the wilder the vocabulary and sayings are! I have lived in Ontario, Alberta and Yellowknife and you best believe when you tell someone you got “right” drunk the night before, ask someone to hand you your book bag or refer to your couch as your chesterfield, you get some pretty odd looks. Warms my heart it does!

  • http://Website Jaime

    I went out to BC for awhile. (I’m from Ontario). Two differences come to mind:

    They referred to Ontario as the East Coast. We don’t a have coast. And they seemed to lump Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada all together.

    2nd, in Ontario, we played “Monkey in the Middle.” They’d never heard of this. To them, it was “Piggy in the Middle.”

  • http://Website John Gnann

    Great article ! One other term I’ve only run into in Canada is Variety Store (Depanneur in Quebec). In the U.S. it is called a convenience store, 7-11, or sometines a deli

  • http://Website Gary

    Bit late to the party, but I always wondered about “snuck” as the past tense of “to sneak”. I heard Michael J. Fox use it on Late Nite once, and Letterman literally did a double take. I just can’t bring myself to say “sneaked”. (I’m from BC). Also, the prime meaning of “take off” in my cirles has always been in the lines of “go away, leave me alone, get lost, get out of here! Thanks for all the work, really enjoyed it.

  • http://Website Laura

    I think you got it wrong for “lineup”. In the U.S., the noun “lineup”, as in “There’s a lineup” refers ONLY to a police lineup. The noun for a string of people waiting to get in somewhere is a “line”. However, the verb “to line up” is used just as much in the U.S. as in Canada.

    As an American who moved to Canada 13 years ago and something of a linguist, I pay attention to these things. I think you’ve got a great list here, and the research is cool. Of course, it would be more accurate if it were divided by region, in the U.S., the Commonwealth, and the Canada, but that would require a bigger study.

    BTW, where I come from in the U.S., nobody says “beanie” – it’s just a hat.

  • Ieneke Van Houten

    Fun to hear you on CBC just now. I had read the blog earlier. I had never encountered the word “hooped”, but that afternoon I heard it in conversation. My husband always asks for serviettes where I would use napkin.

  • http://Website Paul

    Go to the States and ask for a Caesar and you’ll get a salad. The closest thing they have to a Bloody Caesar is the Bloody Mary, which contains tomato juice and (usually) horseradish. Indeed, you can’t find Clamato juice there really at all. The good news??? Bloody Marys are usually served at breakfast.

    While it’s mostly an anglicism, you will also find most Canadians understand chips to mean french fries, while most Americans won’t. The same is true of pop versus soda.

    And we don’t use chesterfield here in BC much anymore, but we do still sit on the couch. Or, if we need to use the bathroom, we might be sitting on the biff or biffy.

    Don’t know what it’s like across the US, but here on the west coast, we take out the garbage, while our neighbours to the south take out the trash. They put their groceries in a sac(k) while we use a bag.

    Only in NA will you find acetaminophen. In Europe it’s paracetomol.

    Finally, you’re right about “eh.” When I here it used in BC, I usually suspect the person originally came from Ontario. If I here “youse” or “youse guys,” I’m guessing I have a Saskatchewanian in my midst.

    Great list!

  • http://Website Steve L.

    I always used dumpster for garbage and dumper for the can, head or potty, whichever comes to mind. We used pooched for failed hardware. And it was f–g the dog, but that was a more explicit term. Coming from Montreal (home of patates frites trucks) then Toronto, Baffin Island, Manitoba, Alberta & now Saskatchewan I forget where I heard what first where.

    I drive my relates in Virginia bonkers

    Then there is fringlish a, whole separate language.

  • http://Website Holly Guinan

    I just heard the spot on BC Almanac about this post. As a new immigrant to BC (from the US east coast), I’ve been stymied by a number of things encountered for the first time in Canada, both lexical and cultural. Here are a few:
    “The Island” – I just assumed this was a West coast “travel-to-Hawaii-is-so- cheap-from-the-Pacific-coast” thang – that Canadians dropped the word “Big” or “Main” from their talk about their frequent vacations to Hawaii. Salaries are so high in Canada that everyone can afford to do to Hawaii!
    “The lower mainland” – now there is no logical reason why the term can’t refer to the entire border with the US, is there? When I eventually asked where the “lower mainland” ended, I was stunned to learn it went no further than the Fraser Valley.
    “Canuck” – as a Vermonter, I’d never heard this term without the f word in front of it. It specifically referred to French speakers down from Quebec. It was definitely said with a snarl, and was no compliment. I would no more have considered calling a Canadian a canuck as I would call a black person the n word. Imagine my surprise that they’d named their hockey team this ethnic slur!
    The “N” signs on the backs of so many cars was also a source of confusion – I hypothesized that they were parking permits from a neighborhood yet undiscovered that began with the letter N.
    Flashing green lights – I asked a 100 Vancouverites what they meant, and none could tell me. Finally my son suggested they may have something to do with the cross street having a stop sign. It’s a great idea, but someone should put a sign up at the airport about them.
    Enjoyed the post, and the radio segment! (Disappointed to learn tukes are not spelled like I thought!)

    • http://Website Gregory Bryce

      >>The “N” signs on the backs of so many cars was also a source of confusion – I hypothesized that they were parking permits from a neighborhood yet undiscovered that began with the letter N.<<

      So what DO these signs mean? I have never seen one.

  • http://Website James

    Is “salt-chuck” for ‘ocean’ common or just in BC? When lost driving in Boston we referred to the “round-about” (traffic circle) we had just come through and got a belly laugh. Is ‘caster sugar’ (berry sugar) a term only in England? After growing up in Alberta with it’s sizable slavic population, I always thought “gonch” derived from the Ukrainian term “got-kies” (if I remember the pronunciation) for underwear. Any insight?

    • Jules

      I’m pretty sure that is just a B.C. thing, from the Chinook “skookumchuck.”

      As for the Slavic origins of “gotch/gonch/ginch,” etc., yes. On my mum’s side of the family, we are second generation Canadian, originating from the UK. On my dad’s side, second generation, originating from Poland and Ukraine. I’d hear “pants” or “underpants” from the UK family, and “gotch” from the Slavic half, and my Slavic peers. My word choices have always changed based upon with whom I was speaking.

  • http://Website josh

    Given sample size, the survey results lack statistical significance. At best it represents american familiarity with idioms the surveyor considers canadian, with a massive margin of error.

  • http://Website Kate

    I’m from Nova Scotia, and I’m feeling pretty American. Lol. I say sofa or couch, never chesterfield, Nikies, coloured pencils, gutter, ATM, gas station, napkins and we call hoodies – hoodies, not bunny hugs or kangaroo jackets. Lol. Good read for sure though!

  • http://Website Danielle

    You forgot Soother (Canada), pacifier (US), binkie or dumbie (UK)

  • http://Website Ben Graham

    I tried to go through all your donair-related comments, but there are a lot, so I apologize if I am repeating someone else’s comments.

    First, the photo you have included is not a true Halifax Donair. The product you show has pickles, turnip, and feta. I’m guessing it’s a gyro or some other donair cousin.

    Second, you rightly point out that a donair is related to, but different from, a doner kebab, a gyro, or any other thing that may exist in Greece, Turkey, or anywhere that doesn’t trace its routes to Halifax. Just like chicken balls / sweet & sour chicken is not real Chinese food a donair is not real Syrian / Turkish / Lebanse food.

    For those that have never experienced a real donair it is a street food in the truest form. It is typically bought from a place that is too crowded or gross to stay in, so you eat it outside, hunched over so the sweet, garlicky sauce doesn’t permanently stain your clothing.

    It is made by taking ground beef (not sliced) and heavily spicing it (lots of black pepper, other secret spices) then formed onto a vertical rotating spit. It cooks continuously on the spit as it waits to get sliced off. It’s sliced off and then thrown onto a flat grill to crisp up. Meanwhile, a pita is thrown onto the grill for a moment to soften it up, then the meat is thrown into the folded pita like a taco shell.

    The only acceptable toppings are diced tomatoes, diced white onions, and donair sauce. The sauce is sweetened condensed milk mixed with garlic and a little vinegar (some make it with evaporated milk and add sugar).

    Those visiting Halifax should try their donairs from: King of Donair, Tony’s by the Halifax Commons, or Robert’s Donair in Dartmouth, where the largest donair in the world can be found. You can also try donair pizza, which is a pizza cooked with donair sauce instead of pizza sauce, donair meat, tomato, onion, and served with donair sauce for dipping. Sublime.

    Fantastic post! Thanks for all the great data.

    • Jules

      Yes, there were a lot of Donair comments, and it’s difficult to go through them all. So, I don’t mind repeating the following regarding the image: I do realise it’s not a proper donair. Trying to find an image of a proper Donair that has a licence that allows use on a commercial website was nigh impossible.

  • http://Website Leosrme

    Sweetie, if you think that being Canadian and speaking to Americans gets them confused – you should try being English and talking to Canadians. Despite the fact that I have a neutral UK accent so no accent that might be difficult to understand i.e. I don’ have a broad Irish, Scots or a regional accent from the UK like Newcastle or Cornish, even after 7 years in Canada (BC) I STILL have problems getting Canadians to understand me. It drives me insane. I cannot for the life of me get why they can’t understand me when I am speaking “their” language. I have learned over the years to use Canadian terms for things in order to be better understood but even when I do, people still are asking me to repeat myself. I want to hit them upside the head sometimes. It is mostly the younger generation who have a problem. A lot of the older generation tend to have English/Scots/Irish parents or grandparents and other English relatives. The younger generation, well their diction is appalling mostly, and they speak very fast and run all their words together. As for “Parkade”; in the UK, it is “multi-storey car park” or just “multi-storey”. We also say “flip-flops”, “doner kebab” , “garage or Petrol Station” (with the emphasis on the first syllables of the word “garage” and not on the end and “cash machine”. I find that Canadians tend to emphasise the ends of words while the British emphasise the beginning. There seems also to be this thing about pronouncing things in the French way. Therefore “herb” is “erb” which is clearly ridiculous. (I know the Americans omit the “h” as well). And what’s all this about calling Basil “Bay-sil” If it was meant to be pronounced Bay-sil it would be spelled that way. it should be pronounced with a short “a” as in apple. No wonder people don’t understand me.

  • http://Website Stuart

    I found in many years in an industry full of “Keeners” that they weren’t Brown Nosers or Boot Lickers etc. as such.

    Usually they were newbies … in a hurry to learn about their new job, sometimes to make a good impression, but more general weren’t familiar with the normal workplace specific culture of lethargy.

    For example a keener will not realize that getting the job done sooner will just result in more work, so the established workers will pace their work out so as not to have to work too hard.

  • CricketsAunty


    I’m an Aussie who recently moved to Canada and boy is it difficult to get my point across sometimes!

    Here are my two cents:

    6. I may not always look down there but I’ve never seen anything that closely resembles a Garburator
    8. Homo milk wouldn’t go down too well down under either so I’m surprised that you got some positive responses – perhaps the poms?
    9. So is it a pencil or a crayon? They’re two different tools in my world!
    12. Asking for a donar kebab is asking for a lamb kebab – the filling/ sauce etc is irrelevant
    19. Fubar as in F***ed? Or the entire sentence, because I’ve never heard of that acronym
    20. Technically 375mls would be a can but if you’re after a bottle of say vodka in that measurement then ‘flask’ is probably what you would ask for
    21. Case of beer (24) and 6pack (6)
    22. When someone asks for a bottle of something they refer to the standard size of 700mls. It is highly unlikely for someone to ask for anything more unless they were ordering for a bar. I don’t think I had ever even seen a litre bottle of wine until I got here. I think that ‘big’ bottle and ‘small’ bottle would be the alternatives rather than specific sizes
    36. Pants are outerwear, briefs are underwear. Aussies call them briefs.
    Q5. My high school (years 7-12) was called Rose Bay Secondary College. I never thought much about the College bit and wouldn’t say that I studied at a ‘college’ as such. At university we had colleges on campus which were essentially dormitories. An alternative to university and a technical institute is a private college where someone can pay big bucks for a 1 year full time study course and come out with a diploma in say public relations or event management

    Things that we call differently: cantaloupe/ rockmelon, beets/ beetroot, ketchup/ tomato sauce, sweater/ jumper (to me a sweater is something that has a cashmere feel to it), tank top/ singlet, washroom/ bathroom and plenty more.

    My funniest moment was however finding out that my staff accommodation was actually a trailer! You see, when I first walked into the place I thought that it was an amazing house until someone called it a trailer which was weird to me for two reasons:
    A) I didn’t realise you could uproot this building
    B) To me a trailer is something that either someone poor in America lives in or an attachable ‘house’ on wheels that you live in whilst travelling. Sort of like an RV I guess.

    Thanks for the article – I might now know what people are talking about!

    • http://Website Stuart

      Hooped ? Never heard of it anywhere. Either the Maritimes or Ontario.

      Just adds to the evidence that a lot of these “canadianisms” are simply regionalisms.

      Garburator? Sure, I’ve heard of them … but on the other hand, they are disappearing from Canadian kitchens with every remodel and plumbing upgrade because a lot of municipalities are now banning them … they don’t want that kind of waste down the sewage system. And now they’d prefer it in the Green Box compost bin.

      Pencil Crayon … is interesting … and comes in part from the bilingual packaging. Pencil in French is Crayon. Then add the fact that crayons are colourful … so combine the two words and you have the colour and the bilingualism.

      When I was young, in the days before everything was bilingual, they were coloured pencils.

      Pants are anything you put over the legs.

      Trousers are outerwear

      Underpants, undies, briefs, boxers, slips, thongs and a whole host of pet names. And again, tend to be what the marketing companies get away with at any one time.

      College is confusing because the education establishment has been dumbing up terms.

      College may be a part of a university whether in Canada, the US, or UK (can’t speak for elsewhere)

      College may be a post secondary establishment giving non-degreed, higher level education (in some areas known as polytechnics or polytechnic institutes.

      Colleges (as in Technical Colleges) may be a secondary school for more technical education.

      Colleges (education colleges) may be post secondary places of study for wannabe teachers

      Colleges are also secondary schools in the UK (originally grammar or secondary modern schools) or may be secondary schools focused on the last two years of school before post secondary. In parts of Canada (secondary school – High Schools) they are called Collegiate Institutes.

      Clear isn’t it … clear as mud! And very regional.

      As for that pink thing on your pencil, certainly in Ontario if you ask for a rubber from the secretary who handles your office supplies, you’ll probably get dragged in for a lecture on acceptable language in the workplace. In England, that is a rubber, because it’s made of rubber, and you rub out what you wrote. Makes perfect sense.

      There are millions of other words that are similar but different. Range in the UK is a solid fuel stove. Stove is much more prevalent in Canada whatever its fuel, range is more prevalent in the US. The thing you cook on is a cooker. Don’t ask for an electric kettle in the US .. Wuzzat?

      Bottom line is we are all separated by a common language.

    • http://Website Ted K

      re.19. FUBAR: the acronym for F*%#@d Up Beyond All Recognition. Not to be confused with SNAFU: Situation Normal, All F*%#@d Up. In general usage when there is a SNAFU, something is totally FUBAR’ed, in which case one must FIDO. ( F*%# It, Drive On). Don’t ya just love acronyms!

  • http://Website John Steveson

    What do you refer to as ‘Commonwealth’? No see-ums is VERY familiar in the Commonwealth, which extends throughout the world, in particular (and where this term is used a LOT), the Caribbean. We also use it a lot in Florida. I know, as I’m a Canadian who, as an adult, spent 7 years living in Grand Cayman, the Bahamas, and Barbados, and now reside in Florida. BTW, down here I get laughed at for asking for ‘cutlery’ in a restaurant, locals say ‘gimme a fork ‘n knife (doesn’t sound too pleasant, does it?).

  • http://Website Byron

    In Saskatchewan Canada, you might hear the expression “doing the dog” or “making puppies” in place of “F^$#&^# the Dog.”

  • http://Website Bob Vanderheiden

    Regarding booze, or hooch, or distilled spirits’ bottle size: A “fifth” is one-fifth of a gallon, there being five of those “4/5 quart” bottles in a U.S. gallon. An Imperial gallon, I understand, is five quarts, so those quarts must not be quarter-gallon quarts, but fifths. Uh-oh, it’s getting confusing. I can’t believe I’m starting to like metric! My Dad managed liquor stores most of my childhood, and I remember stocking shelves and dusting bottles of whiskey, whisky, gin, etc. The fifths of a given brand almost always had quarts adjacent. Wines were ALWAYS fifths, unless they were magnums, jeroboams, nebuchadnezzars, etc. — multiples of a fifth. But that’s a whole ‘nuther matter.

  • http://Website Rick

    Kangaroo Jacket was definitely something I used as a kid in Saskatchewan. Bunny Hug now.
    Thongs became flip-flops.
    Gotch (spelling?) became underwear.
    Jiffy marker seems to be over taken by sharpie, but I still use the word if it is a jiffy marker.
    Chesterfield became couch.
    I have never heard anyone call an ATM an ABM.
    Touque was always the spelling I used.
    I have never heard of a Gasbar.
    Still call them runners.
    Milk is just milk, unless you want something other than 2% Milk.
    I have heard of “Biffy” when referring to a toilet, never as a dumpster.
    First heard “Fill your boots a few years ago in Alberta”, never heard it before that.
    Don’t know what Skookum is.
    Hydro is power in Saskatchewan.
    and Eh! is ubiquitous.

  • http://Website Neal Wood

    Try Kerfuffle next time you survey. None of the Americans I know understand what this means when I use it.


  • http://Website Sheldon

    Growing up in English Montreal in the last century, I never used “serviette” except in French class. I left Montreal for England and heard it there, and when I returned to Canada I first went to Toronto and definitely heard it there.

  • http://Website Naomi

    Uh… I never heard of a donair and I am from Manitoba. So I have to ruin your ‘only in Toronto’ theory. What this really means is you need to do more research 😛 – it would be fun to be asked these things. I live in the States now and often get confused looks when I use certain words and phrases. ‘Cough candy’ is one that boggled some people – like a Halls.

  • http://Website Naomi

    Oh, and in Manitoba, ‘eh’ is used like crazy. I love hearing it when I go home and it comes back into my speech pattern after only a day….

  • http://Website Cee

    Wondering about humidex, cheque, Cheezies, galoshes, toonie, loonie, bivy, NIM bin (dumpster), jumper (sleeveless dress worn with a shirt underneath) and iced tea (sweet tea in the USA)?

  • http://Website Alison

    I’ve spent most of my life on the Island, with a good chunk on the lower mainland, and here’s what I’ve come across:

    toque/touque is the hat. That whole toboggan thing is just weird.
    skookum, as has been mentioned.
    biffy is an outhouse. I think those bins were just called dumpsters.
    the bathroom, whether it has a bath or not.
    K-ways for those pullover windbreakers. Hoodies were just hooded sweatshirts.
    Fill your boots wasn’t used much. When I was growing up we heard “whatever floats your boat” from the older crowd, we used “whatever turns your crank”.
    Another term used in my family was “…could talk the hind leg off a donkey” for someone who talks a lot, but that gets confused looks from most people. So does “out in the sticks” for the middle of nowhere. We also used “in the boonies”.
    Broken or worn out things have “had the biscuit”, or were “toast”.
    Serviettes/napkins were interchangeable.
    Have heard of donairs and gyros but not doners. Always thought they weren’t Canadian food, lol!
    Chips instead of fries, of course, and the other kind of chips, but the context usually cleared up whether you wanted chips or chips. Americans don’t have all-dressed? I knew they didn’t have ketchup and dill pickle, but not that they were lacking all-dressed as well.
    Anything east of Alberta is “back East”. The Maritimes are anything east of Quebec.
    The USA is “the states”. I’ve never thought of them as being a country called America, because we’re all here together on the North American continent. Calling them America is just confusing.
    Runners. Sneakers were people who snuck across the room. Thongs were on my feet until g-strings became popular. Then eventually g-strings were what strippers wore and nice girls wore thongs?
    Milk was milk unless it was skim, which is nasty. Coffee whitener is anything that isn’t milk unless it’s Creamo.
    My mum came over from Britain as a child, so we always had dressing gowns and chesterfields.
    No gotch (seriously have never heard that term), but occasionally ginch. When I was little they were panties.
    Appropriate words were spelled with a “u”, and “z” was, and always will be, zed.
    Pencil crayons. Felt pens were called markers.
    I’ve only ever seen bank machines called ATMs, even in signs, unless they specifically refer to Interac.
    Beer: 12 are a case, 6 are a six-pack, and 24 are a flat or a 2-4.
    Pissed is now interchangeable for drunk or angry, but meant only drunk when I was growing up. You can generally tell by the tone of voice of the person speaking. Wasting time was pissing around.

    This is fun, I’m sure there are loads of regional idioms that get spread back and forth as people migrate across the province. When I was growing up it seemed to be lots of people from Ontario coming here, now it’s Albertans, so I’m sure there’s a lot of intermingling!

  • http://Website Amy

    The photo of the donair is not a DONAIR at all! That photo is a shawarma, and they are not the same thing. A true Halifax donair has 1. the wrap 2. donair meat (not sure anyone really knows what it’s made of… but it’s brown) 3. donair sauce (white and sweet) 4. tomatoes and/or onions (if there is any other vegetable, it is not a donair).

    Being from Halifax, and moving to Calgary, I have had to find out the hard way that people think they know what a donair is, but they all get it wrong out here.

    Another food that I can only really get in Halifax is Garlic Fingers (which come with donair sauce for dipping).

  • http://Website Katherine

    Spent my first twelve years of life in Alberta, then the next ten in Toronto, but now live in the UK. As a child in Alberta when someone came to stay if you had a couch that converted to a bed (what they call a Sofabed here in the UK) it was called a Toronto couch. We then discovered in Toronto they had a similar thing but it was called a Winnipeg couch!

  • http://Website Lisa Pedersen

    Smarties! They are gross candy coated “chocolate” candies here in Canada….in the US they are hard sugar candies in plastic wrappers (Canadians see them mostly at Halloween called Rockets)…
    How many Americans ask you to send them Smarties??? (For us, its a lot!)

  • http://Website Steve L.

    The N sticker in BC is for Novice driver, Local to BC as far as I know. wouldn’t want it on my car is some places in the States.

  • http://Website Monica

    As a Canadian, the one that’s gotten me more than a few blank stares when I travel in the US is ordering my coffee “double double.” Here, it’s a commonly used term meaning two creams and two sugars, but it doesn’t seem to have crossed the border.

  • Pingback: Funny language that is unique to Canada | ellen's esl teaching blog()

  • http://Website Keaveney

    We use pint and quart in New Brunswick instead of mickey and 26er. We also use flat instead of 24 (although we know what a 24 is). 40 and 60 ouncer is the preferred term here as well. In Newfoundland, where I live now, flask is used instead of mickey. In both provinces a mickey is the little bonus bottle attached to quarts, 40 or 60 ouncers. For those who care to know a fair number of these “Canadianisms” don’t apply to the provinces east of Ontario … which means half the country doesn’t use them. Newfoundland alone is home to dozens of local dialects which can baffle mainlanders; even a Maritimer like myself. Cheers b’ye!

  • http://Website Doug

    One of my faves is “twig,” meaning “understand. E.g., “I didn’t twig to it until I saw…”
    It’s used all over Canada although most common in the Maritimes. It’s part of the Scottish heritage of the region — “tuig” is the Gaelic word for understand.

  • http://Website Sylvia

    I’m from Victoria. I have always used the word Biffy as the bathroom. “I have to go to the biffy” I always thought it was a Commonwealth term and that everyone used biffy as bathroom. I have always used the BFI as garbage truck and never used the terms you have reported. You should put that in your word survey ‘toilet versus bathroom’. I travel a lot and always see toilet but not bathroom (which to me means the same thing). Thanks!

  • http://Website Eugene Perry

    I am an 91 year old Ontarionian and grew up calling a tuque a “toboggan” cap.

  • marymforbes

    I found you forgot two things I noticed the most – travelling by truck throughout the USA. One is our saying ‘bathroom’ and them saying ‘washroom’ and not understanding why we would call it a ‘bathroom’ when there is no bath tub. The other – try and get a Caesar using Clamato Juice. It’s funny and fun. But eventually they will give you a drink/vodka and tomato juice. Those are two very differences I noticed – other things no so much eh? (I lived in BC for about 10 years and loads of BCer’s say eh too I found.

  • http://Website Frank Luke

    A little clarification on the entry for “college” – specifically “degree”. Some universities in Canada grant 3 year degrees.

  • Anne @ Unique Gifter

    Going through the full list with my spouse, I was very surprised at how many my spouse didn’t know or didn’t use, versus me. I grew up in BC and my spouse grew up in Toronto.
    Duotang is another Canadian one that threw people for a loop when I used it on twitter.

  • http://Website DownHillJill

    I was raised in eastern BC but have lived most of my adult life on The Coast (Vancouver). All my Canadian friends here use ‘eh?’ Even my British father has adopted it, although he sometimes pronounces it to rhyme with ‘meh’.
    I’d never heard the term ‘Take Off’ until I watched Doug and Bob McKenzie skits on SCTV, and thought then it was just a polite version of the more common “F*ck off”, a term many people manage to use quite fluently without making it sound like an expletive! “Take Off with Geddy Lee” or
    Somebody made reference a few weeks ago to the term “rink rat”, which I think should also be added to your list, along with a “whack of” and “Joe job”.

  • Marian L Shatto

    I’ve lived all my life in Pennsylvania but travel to Canada several times a year. I found this article quite fascinating. Some of the terms I have heard, some were quite new to me. Regarding some of them: When I was a child (late ’40s to early ’50s), we called colored pencils “pencil crayons,” and that was the term that came first to my mind when I saw the photo. I think that has fallen out of favor now, with the usual being “colored pencils.” In the same way, when those rubbery beach sandals first came out, they were “flip-flops.” Now I am more likely to hear “thongs.” “Biffy” is not in common use, but any time I have heard it, it referred to an outhouse rather than to indoor plumbing.

    “Pablum” was a specific kind of baby cereal. Not having shopped in the baby food aisle for a number of decades, I can’t say whether or not it is still available in our area.

    The photo for “dish cloth” is somewhat deceiving. It’s difficult to determine the size, and that pattern of terry cloth is quite common for dish towels, i.e., for drying, not washing. A dish cloth or dish rag is much more likely to be of a huck weave or knit weave, and somewhat less absorbent than terry. I can understand why a lot of folks thought from looking at the photo that they were towels.

    I volunteer regularly at our town’s Welcome Center. The most frequent first question from visitors is, “Do you have public restrooms?” My response is to smile, nod Yes, and point toward the appropriate door. On occasion, someone will come in and ask, “Do you have public washrooms?” My initial response is the same. Then when they come out, I’ll inquire, “And what part of Canada are you traveling from?” It has led to some delightful conversations.

    Thanks for a very entertaining post.

  • http://Website Amanda

    Interesting. I’m American and everyone I know has always called those freezies. I do live in western NY though, within 30 miles of the Canadian border.

  • http://Website Emac

    Hi, thanks for this. As an Australian with a Canadian mother, now living in the UK but having spent a significant amount of time on the coast/island and with close family living in BC/Alberta, this was very interesting.

    My mother always claims that ‘kitty corner’ is a Canadian phrase, but I have heard no-one else say it. Any thoughts?

    When I first moved to BC, people particularly noted my use of queue and saying ‘I reckon’ as unusual. I also feel quite Australian using reckon living in London.

    Chips in Australia could be ‘hot’ or the All Dressed variety (although we don’t have that flavour). If it isn’t clear from the context a clarifier of hot (or in my family, crisps) might be used.

    I try to switch vocab depending on who I am talking to but sometimes I’m not sure which is the right word as I can’t remember what is from where.

    • Jules

      I do believe that “kitty corner” is Canadian. If I recall correctly, I think in the U.S., they say “catty corner.” The only reason I’m somewhat aware of “kitty corner” being Canadian, and “catty corner” being American is because of something I read in the last couple of days. I wish I could remember where or what it was that I read.

      • http://Website sylvia

        I’m from Vancouver Island. I have always said kitty corner.

  • http://Website Ron Neville

    Hi, re firehall….I usually think of the fire station as the place where firefighters work, and the firehall as the facility some fire departments have for holding events (such as dances) and meetings.

    Ron Neville
    Glace Bay, Nova Scotia

  • http://Website Tracey

    OMG I say EH!!! All the time, I would say at least everyday and I am from Vancouver Island. My kids don’t so wonder if it’s an age thing…..

    • Jules

      There was a recent study (by recent, I mean released within the last 10 days) from a Linguistics professor from University of Toronto that said the use of “eh” is definitely on the decline. If you search “Eh on the decline in Canada,” you’ll find lots of news about it, including a segment on CBC’s Q.

  • http://Website roarshock

    Rubber – the material made from the latex of rubber trees – got its name because at first the only use anyone could find for it was to rub out pencil marks. So rubbers (erasers) didn’t get their name from rubber (the material), but instead were what named the material in the first place.

    Knowing this historical context of rubbing, rubbers (prophylactics) seem to acquire a much deeper meaing.

  • http://Website Gina

    A common term for 1.75 liters of alcohol here (upstate New York) is “mag,” as in, “I need a mag of whiskey.” And a “40” refers to a 40-ounce can of vile, cheap beer.

    I call coffee creamer “whitener” because that’s exactly what it does: it whitens my coffee! I didn’t know it was a Canadian term.

    My family uses a dishcloth to wash dishes .. then again, my grandmother was from Nova Scotia so maybe we’ve inherited the term from her.

  • http://Website June Dykes

    The Great Canadian give away to me will always be “eh”. I find myself saying it quite a lot, my husband not as much. I’m a Saskatoon transplant now living in BC, and he was born in Vancouver. When we are in Mexico it is like a beacon to other Cheese heads, (I think Wisconsin residents share the term as well) Not fond of the Canuck label….we are Boston Bruins Fans.

  • http://Website Sarah

    Having grown up in BC, spending four years in Nova Scotia, and then moving abroad to have my idioms be questioned constantly, I found this study fascinating and helpful. I do have to say though, I’ve never once heard of a Robertson Screw or Pablum, however that might be because I’m not particularly handy and don’t have a baby. I did love seeing runners on here as I once got into the longest debate with an American and Australian over which made the most sense (I’m not usually playing tennis or sneaking off anywhere! I’m running!). I was pretty surprised by the alcohol terms as I didn’t hear two four until I moved to Nova Scotia (we just called it a flat or 24 pack in BC) however mickey is strictly a BC term for me, as everyone in Nova Scotia calls them pints, and the twenty-sixer quarts. As for eh (and also aboot and oot) I adamantly protested that I never used the word until I moved abroad, at which point grinning people would point out my saying it all the time. I hear it now myself, and I have to say, it comes up a lot.

    • http://Website Sarah

      I also now notice both my BC and Nova Scotia friends saying it, so I really don’t think it’s regional!

  • http://Website Martha

    It is spelled “Toque” NOT ” “Tuque”.

  • http://Hooped concerned ginger

    Hooped is used similarly to FUBAR, but what it actually refers to is being shoved up ones own or someone elses ass.

    Its a jail slang, referring to smuggling drugs or contraband into prison through the use of your anal satchel

    So, yes, you can say ‘Hooped’ all you like, but realize what you are saying…

    that being said, what does ‘F*cked Up’ refer to anyways… is that an action term? what is being ‘f*cked’ up what, and how can you tell if you can’t recognize the thing anymore?

    • http://Website Gregory Bryce

      Somehow, keys I am hitting keep taking me away from this comment box and I lose everything I’ve written, so I’ll compose my comment elsewhere and copy it to here.
      By the way, though each reader comment has a “Reply” link beside the date, I can’t seem to post a reply to an individual comment.
      Regarding FUBAR, that acronym may well be used to refer to smuggling drugs into prison that are concealed in one’s rectum. I have not encountered that usage, but can’t dispute it.
      The research I did for my monthly newspaper column in December indicates that fubar, along with its relatives snafu and tarfu, started as U.S. military slang in 1942. In each of those acronyms, the U means “up,” but I don’t believe they ever meant literally up anything, just as “up” does not have that meaning in phrases such as dressed up, messed up or tarted up.
      Here is the relevant portion of that column.
      >>[In November, a Globe and Mail columnist] had written, in reference to the disastrous launch of the website for so-called Obamacare, “That’s what you call FUBAR in polite society.”
      >>Fubar, like snafu and tarfu, is U.S. military slang from the Second World War.
      >>Snafu is defined in the 1964 Concise Oxford Dictionary as utter confusion. The letters are claimed to stand for “situation normal, all fouled up,” conveying, according to another reference, “the common soldier’s laconic acceptance of the disorder of war and the ineptitude of his superiors.”
      >>A current dictionary defines it as “a problem that makes a situation difficult or confusing.”
      >>Tarfu meant “things are really fouled up” and fubar “fouled up beyond all repair” or recognition.
      >>Recent dictionaries acknowledge that fouled is a euphemism for that other f-word, still considered very vulgar by much of our society.
      >>Have the words of the original acronyms been largely forgotten? It appears so.
      >>Snafu, for example, is labelled by only as “chiefly U.S., somewhat informal.” Informal, not vulgar.
      >>And remember the [local]controversy in 2010 about whether one of those words could be used on a license plate? Apparently various motor vehicle departments share a list of letter combinations they will not allow.
      >>The Yukon government eventually relented, recognizing that Snafu and Tarfu are names of popular lakes and government campgrounds on the Atlin Road – names which raise few, if any, eyebrows. <<

  • Kathryn

    Yup…a biffy is an outhouse, a thong is a shoe and a robertson is a square headed screwdriver…just like a lift is an elevator and a flannel is a wash cloth…eh!? :)

  • http://Website kevin

    Very interesting article. Though having lived most of my life in Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary – I did live in Philadelphia for five months and had a job that I conversed constantly with Americans. By far, the biggest giveaway to an American is if you throw in an eh at the end of your sentence. First response will be a pause followed by “You’re not from around here are you?” which is a polite way of waiting for you to indicate that you’re Canadian. The biggest differences I remember in Philly was the term rye. They know what scotch is but rye draws a blank stare. They simply call rye by the terms whisky (most common) or rye whiskey. Whiskey would never be confused with scotch down there – two different terms. Pop in Philly is unheard of – they’ll usually respond with “You want me to what?” Soda rules. Washroom is also a blank stare – bathroom gets immediate reply.

  • http://Website chuck

    So, I have to disagree with one of your examples.

    I think that if you tell someone to “fill your boots”, you are not telling them to do something the way they want to. It is actually telling them to “get at it” or, more recently, “git’er done”.

    Also, I have never heard of an eraser referred to as a rubber, although, when I was a kid, We had to put on our rubbers (gum boots) in the rain.

    • Douglas Hicton

      Yeah, our family in Regina called galoshes “rubbers” as well when I was a kid, and the rubber pumps that we slipped onto our dress shoes were “toe rubbers”.

  • http://Website kevin

    Just some additional comments on the terms used.
    ABM. I rarely heard this term ever – bank machine was the most common – I am hearing ATM being used much more these days.
    Homo milk – Used to be common but not seeing homo milk in the grocery stores of Alberta anymore. They’re just calling it 3.25%.
    Pencil crayon – I can’t remember ever hearing this term. Coloured Pencils was most common. Crayons were also known as crayolas and were wax.
    Gasbar. It’s used but usually you just refer to the brand of the gasbar or it’s called gas station more often.
    Whitener – Referred to as Coffeemate more often than not. Whether it’s the Coffemate brand or not.
    Firehall – Yeah, I hear this but Fire Station much more common.
    Jiffymarker – Heard marker used most frequently but Sharpie has been somewhat used since the mid 80’s or so.
    60 Pounder – hear it but very often. Maybe because most people probably pick up a mickey, 26er, or a fourty pounder.
    Chip Truck – Never heard this term. Used to be called a canteen when I was growing up or a food truck.
    BFI Bin – WHAT???? Never heard it called that. Most common – dumpster, bin, garbage bin or Smithrite.
    Kangaroo jacket – WHAAAAAAAAATTTTT? Never heard this term. Hoodie is all I’ve ever heard.
    Turfed Out – I hear the term once in a blue moon. Thrown out or kicked out – most common.
    Gotch – I’ve heard the term but Gonch is far more the ruler of this phrase.
    Skookum – What? When did this word come into play? I left B.C. in ’99. Never heard this word – only Skookumchuk which was a place.
    Whatever fills your boots – What?????????????Never heard this!
    Bugger the dog – WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT? Never heard this. Now, f**king the dog is very commonly used.
    Pogey – Pogey would probably not even be used by youth today. Most of them do not remember the terms UI, UIC and some of them don’t recognize the term EI – unemployment office is probably most used term.
    Track pants – Most commonly referred to as sweats or sweat pants. Don’t know if I’ve ever heard them called track pants.
    Rubbers – I only remember old grandparents of British ancestry ever calling these rubbers – they were erasers.
    Queue – Never heard this word until the last ten years or so used. Line-ups was most common.
    Lived in Montreal, Vancouver and now Calgary – for five months also in Philadelphia.

  • http://Website Jeremy

    I’ve never heard of a “60 pounder”. I’m from SK, and if it’s not just “a 66”, it was always “a handle”.

  • http://Website Wanda

    I use ‘eh’ all the time, so does my husband. Our teenage kids may not use it so much. We were all born & raised in BC, me in the Kootenays, then the island where my husband and kids have lived their entire lives.
    My first donair was at Expo ’86 and it was delicious.
    Biffy was any bathroom, but quite slang.
    Bank machine is what I call your ATM or ABM.
    Thongs now just get you funny looks. It seems to only mean small gonch!! haha

  • http://Website Nick

    Girls and women wear panties. Boys and men wear gonch, or long-gonch in the winter. If you were joking, maybe ginch. No plural, just like underwear. You have two pair of underwear, you have two pair of gonch. No ‘t’ sound in the word. A ‘wedgie’ was a gonch-pull. ‘ABM’ has NEVER been used conversationally in Alberta. When the banks launched their ATM networks they all had proprietary names. CIBC had Instant Tellers, BMO had Instabank, TD had Green Machines. All these units were similar–they did the job of a bank teller: receiving deposits and dispensing cash. After the proprietary names faded, they’ve always been referred to as ATM’s. They don’t dispense loans, and you can’t set up an account at them, so why would you refer to them as automated ‘bank’ machines? Although, ‘bank machine’ is a fairly common construction, too. Nobody refers to them as ABM’s any more than they refer to Cats as bulldozers. Ski-doo was pretty much universal in meaning a snowmobile, but as Bombardier gained as following of life-long haters (who would NEVER own one of their products again) the generic term has become ‘sled.’ A snowmobile enthusiast is known as a sledneck as on redneck and roughneck.

    Any term that picks up impolite connotations eventually falls out use. Thongs used to refer to flip-flops — but as bum-floss underwear started to become associated with thong, the shoe connotation fell by the wayside. As gay prejudice has become more and more unacceptable, verbalizing ‘homo’ has dropped off. There’d be either complete silence or bursts of giggles if you now said “I sent my husband out to pick up some homo for supper.” I’m smirking about even thinking about saying that out loud.

    ‘Fill yer boots’ comes from Nova Scotia. My wife and her acquaintances were the first folks I ever heard use it. Very much used in the sense of ‘Go ahead, see if I care.’ and ‘go ahead, be my guest’ Generally used when the speaker feels that the course of action the listener is about to embark upon is unwise or poorly thought out. Puddle-wading or hip-wading in water of uncertain depth leads to the unpleasantness of boots-full of cold, muddy water. It can occasionally mean go first in acquiescence to a question: “Can I go off the diving board first?” ” Fill yer boots, my son.”

    Speaking of boots, gumboots or wellies or wellingtons are NOT Canadian terms. Rubbers or rubber boots were what they were. Insulated rubber boots are good until you hit about -25º C. Then you need moonboots or winter boots or insulated workboots. Now, ‘rubbers’ used to refer to boots and to erasers depending upon context, but another silence/giggler is “I sent my husband to Staples for a package of rubbers, but he came back with a pair from Wal-Mart, the dummy.” You can’t leave the ‘boots’ part of anymore, and erasers are erasers.

    Language drifts. In the 70’s, gal, doll, chick and broad were all pretty much interchangeable and bitch was never spoken in polite company. Try calling a woman a ‘broad’ now! Some ladies will admit that they are bitches. Some may even boast about it, or consider it a compliment. ‘Guys’ used to be exclusively male. It is a pretty much unisex now. In my youth, you never used your classmates first names, only nicknames and last names. Now, referring to someone by their last name only is somewhat hostile. Rob Ford or Mr. Ford or Mayor Ford — Ford implies dislike. Stephen Harper, Mr. Harper or Prime Minister Harper — Harper implies dislike.

    Funny how that goes!

  • http://Website TiminBC

    -Growing up in the 70s, I would put on my ‘pullover’ to go to high school, or as it was known by the elementary school kiddies, the ‘kangaroo jacket’.. I would think ‘Hoodies’ came in to use as some sort of (successful) rebranding in the 90s..
    -Far as I can tell, the more Canadian ‘eh?’ (used as ‘do you agree ?’) is being replaced by ‘right?’ (meaning ‘even though its phrased as a question, if you don’t agree you prove yourself to be uninformed or ignorant..’). You hear it used quite a bit by politicians and PR hacks now.. Being a BC’er, of course I blame the damn Easterners for it..
    – someone mentioned ‘brutal’.. not sure if its a Canadian thing but I also use it for people’s ignorant or flawed behaviour (other people of course :-).. that guy was a bruuuutal driver etc.

    This blog is more fun than a kick in the arse with a frozen mukluk !!

  • http://donexist Hank

    Some great words, seems a lot do not realise how American they are, Apparently if you want to hear Canadian speak you have to go to Saskatchewan, hoodies with pocket are “bunnyhugs” It is pretty well established we have lost our Canadian words and now our accents are going fast, people are ashamed to say eh! because Americans make fun of it HUH! ! People in Northern Michigan speak better Canadian English than they do in Tronna.

  • Tamera

    “Disposal” isn’t actually a brand name in the U.S., but Dispose-All is. Lots of Americans will say Dispose-All when referring to the garbage disposal, much like saying Kleenex instead of tissue.

    Also, for “turfed out”, I think the most common Americanism would be “eighty-sixed” (as in, “He got eighty-sixed from the bar for being too drunk.”) Not sure of the origin of that, but it’s a pretty universal term down here.

    Cheers! Tamera

  • http://Website Les

    To me, the “Gas Station” was the type with the convenience store and even a service garage. The “Gas Bar” was the pumps with the little one person kiosk/shelter in the middle.

  • http://Website Cherry

    We still mourn the demise of the “stubbie” beer bottle, going to the long-necks was a sell-out. When I was a kid, a five dollar bill was a “fin” a ten was a “ten spot” and a hundred was a “c-note.” In Ontario, we have stag and doe or buck and doe, where in Winnipeg we had socials. Hoodies were kangaroo jackets in Winnipeg in the 70’s. Newfies ask, “Where’s your Mom to?” instead of “Where is your Mom? or Where is your Mom at?” When something was “decent” in Ontario as a teenager, it was cool. I’ve noticed it’s making a comeback with the 20 somethings.

  • http://Website Julie

    Give’r…in Ontario we use it as a way to say it’s okay to go. You may use it if you are in the passenger seat of a vehicle and have a better vantage point to see the oncoming traffic. When there is a safe break in traffic, you say give’r. Maybe the break is a small one so give’r would mean pull out fast, don’t dawdle, it’s all in the way you say it.

  • http://Website Becca

    A funny note about the ABM or ATM machines. Growing up in Wisconsin, we called it a Tyme machine – like Time machine. I remember hearing of an unfortunate traveler who recieved dumbfounded looks when asking where the nearest tyme machine was.

  • http://Website Marianne

    I’m from the US side of the Northwest originally, but have lived in Vancouver (the one in BC) for the last 11 years. I have to say I rarely hear anyone here saying “eh,” but I think it also has a lot to do with the fact that most of the people I encounter here are either first-generation Canadian or immigrants. The people I know who do have more of a Canadian accent and use “eh” tend to have moved here from the Prairies.

    I would like to say that I believe “parkade” is a Northwest term, not a Canadian term, I think. I’ve never seen a parkade in Toronto (I’m there about once a month for work; maybe I’ve missed it), but I grew up parking in the parkade in Spokane.

    The one thing that was most confusing to me when I moved here? “University College.” What the hell is a university college? But they’re gone now, anyway — all of what I, as an American, would have considered community colleges are now called “universities” here in BC, which is also pretty confusing, because as far as I can tell they continue to be feeders to 4-year programs at universities, not universities themselves. (But I think the province finally figured out that no one had any idea what a “university college” was outside BC, and they desperately need international students.) In the States, 2-year institutions do give degrees, by the way — “Associate’s Degrees.” And traditionally in the US a “college” granted bachelor’s degrees, but did not have a graduate school. That meaning is no longer hard and fast, though.

    Definitely “decal” threw me for a loop when I moved up here. Why would I get a “deckle” to be able to park? (I lived in Germany for a while, too, and so to me a deckel goes under a beer.) A “DE-cal” to be able to park made more sense — a parking sticker.

    Following up on another comment that mentioned Kraft Dinner: Kraft Dinner has been used in the States, but among much older generations. My Midwestern grandfather, in particular, had a strong aversion to “Kraft Dinner” because he had to live with his sister-in-law growing up and it was the only thing she could cook. She’d make a huge pot and they’d have to scrape it out for days if they wanted to eat.

    Same for thong. Growing up in the 70s / 80s, “thong” referred to a flip-flop in the States (they were interchangeable). It wasn’t until thong underwear became a thing in the 90s that “thong” as a shoe fell out of use in the States. I think “thong” as underwear is more a Gen Y / Millennial thing, while Gen Xers and older will recognize the term as both underwear and flip-flops.

  • http://Website Roger

    In regards to #36, here in Australia “gotches” are generally referred to as “undies”, or occasionally as “Reg Grundies” (ryhming slang which is dying out – Reg Grundy was a TV producer responsible for many game shows in the 70’s & 80’s). This enables us to satisfy our deep-seated need to both abbreviate & add “ies” “ie” or “o” as endings to as many words as possible.

  • http://facebook Mark George

    No one has mentioned HP sauce. I believe the American equivalent is Steak Sauce. But it is not the same. I also grew up calling flip flops , thongs and hoodies bunny hugs, I’ve never heard of some of the things such as a BFI Bugger the dog is more like F*ck the dog or making puppies.

  • Suzanne S. Barnhill

    If milk separates when left standing, it is not homogenized (the whole purpose of homogenization is to break the fat up in to such small parts that they will remain distributed in the milk and not separate). I think you meant that all the milk is pasteurized.

    • Jules

      Exactly. All of our milk, regardless of milk fat content, doesn’t separate, except for whole milk. Whole milk separates. 3.25% doesn’t.

  • Suzanne S. Barnhill

    “Disposal” is not a brand name. “Disposall” is a GE trademark for a “garbage food waste disposer,” and it is that pronunciation that we in the U.S. usually use in referring to the device (even if we think we’re saying “disposal”).

  • Suzanne S. Barnhill

    In the U.S., there are specific requirements for a university: it must have at least one graduate or professional school (medical college, law school, dentistry, engineering, architecture, etc.) and offer advanced degrees (above the baccalaureate level). A college is a four-year institution of higher learning that grants a bachelor’s degree. Some universities designate their undergraduate programs as colleges: Harvard College at Harvard University, for example. A few four-year colleges (such as Denison University) were “grandfathered in” with the name “university” because they had had it before the distinction was set in stone. Two-year academic institutions are also colleges but are always designated as “junior college” or “community college.” They confer “associate” degrees.

  • David Wasserman

    One difference in usage I’ve noticed but never seen remarked upon, is the expression “Grade One”, “Grade Two”, “Grade Three”, etc. for what in the USA would be called “first grade”, “second grade”, “third grade”, etc. This difference seems fairly consistent, although “first grade” etc. are also heard in Canada. As for other terms for levels of education between kindergarten and Grade 12/Twelfth grade, such as primary school, elementary school, Division 1, Division 2, junior high school, high school, senior high school, junior secondary school, senior secondary school, middle school, secondary 1/2/3/4/5, these terms are used regionally in various ways too inconsistently to describe.

  • http://Website Loretta

    another interesting one to do (again it might be regional), in Alberta what we call the LRT is what Americans call the subway and what Britians call the tube.

    very interesting read thank you.

  • http://Website Gregory Bryce

    What a great survey! I’ve only read a third of it so far, but look forward to the rest. I am familiar with most of these Canadian usages, and would like to make comments on a number, but am too tired right now.

    Is it possible to email you? I have not spotted an email address.

    Has anyone posted an answer to your question, “The first question: A fifth of what?”

    I assume that a fifth is 1/5 of a U.S. gallon. A U.S. gallon is four U.S. quarts, which are 32 U.S. fluid ounces each. (A U.S. fluid ounce is about 4% larger than the Imperial fluid ounce we used to use in Canada.)

    So a U.S. gallon is 128 fl. oz., and a fifth of that is 25.6 fl. oz.

    This is a fascinating subject.

    • Jules

      Yes, you may email me here. (linked)

      Also, the fifth question has indeed been answered. Thanks for wondering :)

  • Douglas Hicton

    In your item on brown bread, you categorized sourdough as a white bread. In fact, almost all, and certainly the best, rye bread is made with a sourdough starter. Rye bread, being denser than white, needs sourdough for some extra oomph or else it won’t rise properly. As well, sourdough’s sourness reinforces the tart rye flavour.

    Did you notice that I began that last sentence with “As well”? Apparently that’s also uniquely Canadian. I’ve used it as a sentence starter throughout my writing life and never thought anything of it until people from the States and Britain pointed out that they never do so in their countries.

    I can honestly say that I’ve always referred to a hooded sweatshirt with a pocket in the front as a kangaroo jacket or sweater, and I lived the first 33 years of my life in Saskatchewan before moving to Toronto in 1992. In all that time, I never once heard it referred to as a “bunny-hug”. Now I’m reading all over the place that it’s a common term in my home province. This must have happened after I left. A “bunny-hug” does sound to me as if it would be worn pretty much exclusively by women and girls, often come in pink, maybe with some “Hello Kitty”s embroidered on it, and be worn with turquoise track pants at the Superstore. But apparently, bunny-hugs are also worn by guys.

    Another term they don’t use outside Canada is “shit-DISTURBER” to describe a troublemaker, preferring “–STIRRER” instead. Why we use “disturber” when they don’t, or more to the point, why they don’t use it when we do, is beyond me.

    Thank you, by the way, for using the Oxford comma.

  • http://Website Marc

    I believe the word “fifth” for a “fifth of whiskey” refers to the fact that it is ~ one-fifth of a gallon. 1 US Gallon = 3.785 litres. 750ml x 5 (or 5 fifths if you will) = 3.750 litres. And 3.750 litres is pretty close to 3.785 litres…
    I grew up in Maine (which uses many of the same terms used in Canada thanks to many of us being French-Canadian transplants via our grandparents…and I lived 12 years in Alberta and Nova Scotia. My vernacular is totally FUBAR now as a result…or is it “c’est tout frigger up” as we Acadians might say 😉

  • http://Website TedC

    I once read up on “gotch” for men’s underpants after encountering the term for the first time when I was in Manitoba.

    Apparently it’s “ginch” or “gonch” in BC & Alberta. It’s “gitch” or “gotch” in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Other provinces don’t use the term.

    The original term is “gotch”, from Ukranian. At some point it gained an N in the Westernmost provinces to become “gonch”.

    For some people, the variants with “i” (ginch, gitch) are for girl’s panties, while for others they also refer to men’s underwear. Seems to vary by speaker.

    Variants include “gotchies”, “ginchies”, “ginch gonch”, or “gitch gotch”.

  • Jules

    Some of you may be interesting in this follow-up to this post. It includes some podcasts of radio interviews I did about Canadianisms, and what the Department of English at the University of British Columbia had to say about this post

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  • http://Website Ooby

    What about “busker” a person who plays music on the street for money? My American friend didn’t know what I was talking about.
    Or we say car accident and Americans say “there’s a wreck on the highway”.
    What about “paniers”? The things you attach to the back of your bike to carry stuff. Like Gary I can’t bring myself to say “sneaked” although it is proper apparently. I say snuck too. Is that Canadian?
    I call a BFI a “smithrite”,
    underwear is ginch or ginchies (maybe that’s from the region of New Westminster)
    I’ve never, ever called an “eraser” a rubber in all my 54 years.
    I’ve never heard of a “chip truck”, do you mean a “gag wagon”?
    In ‘greasy spoons’ they used to ask if you wanted “white or brown?” because that was the only choice you had for bread.
    My American friend laughs at me when I say “In grade one I …”
    I suspect that the reason a lot of people haven’t seen these words before is because they weren’t born yet. Most of them are very familiar to a 70’s kid from BC, for instance. Lots of fun, thanks Jules.

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  • http://Website Brian

    I’ve been living in the states now for two years and I didn’t realize how many terms I have been using the people around me may have no idea what I am talking about. I quizzed my roommate on pencil crayons and he guessed they might be a stick with yarn coming out the end, too funny.
    One more you could add to this list is “till.” Used in context: I was waiting in line at the till to buy things at the Great Canadian dollar store. People look really confused when I use that word. Americans say cash registrar or cashier.
    A good honorable mention would be bunny hug instead of kangaroo jacket for those of us from Saskatchewan. My roommates has adapted that word thanks to me.
    Washroom is my last suggestion. I once ask someone where the washroom was in their store and instead of answering the question they asked if I was from Canada. They prefer to use bathroom, which I reply to with, “well I”m not going to take a bath in there!”
    Great article, gave me and my roommates some great fun.

    • Suzanne S. Barnhill

      Bathrooms are in private homes. The lavatory (or washroom) in a store or other public building is a “restroom.”

      • http://Website Gregory Bryce

        «Bathrooms are in private homes.»

        «The lavatory (or washroom) in a store or other public building is a “restroom.”»

        In my experience – Ontario, Alberta, B.C. and Yukon – “bathroom” is indeed the usual term in private homes. However, I’d say the usual term used in public places is “washroom,” with “restroom” a distant second. I never hear lavatory, loo, or WC.

        • http://Website Suzanne S. Barnhill

          I was replying from a U.S. perspective, addressing the U.S. usage Brian referred to.

          • Douglas Hicton

            I think everyone on both sides of the border probably understands it when you say, “Where’s the can?” though.

          • http://Website Gregory Bryce

            I see. I had been notified of your post in an email, but did not think to see where it fit into the whole thread of comments. I’m new here and am still figuring out the reply system.

            It appears we agree on the common U.S. usage!

  • http://Website Red

    I was born and raised in the States, but Farley Mowat and Mordecai Richler have done a lot to corrupt my language and my worldview in general.

    You forgot about “get it in the neck” for “get in trouble.” I once told somebody they were going to get it in the neck after having read the expression in one of the aforementioned authors’ works…and they took it as a physical threat. 😛

    • http://Website Red

      Ouch. That face did not come out the way I wanted it to–it was supposed to look bemused. Just saying this so you don’t think I’m a sadist…

  • http://Website Kyle

    Something i didn’t realize as we made our way to Montreal(from Saskatchewan via the states) a few years ago is that a Caesar is a Canadian drink. I asked for one at a restaurant at Mall of America in Minneapolis and was greeted with a blank stare. After describing it, she informed me that she had no idea what Clamato Juice was and proceeded to bring be a Bloody Mary instead. Won’t make that mistake again, yuck!

  • Douglas Hicton

    Speaking of Saskatchewan, we can always tell if people are from the province by the way they pronounce it: “s’s-KATCH-w’n”. It’s our little shibboleth. But although we kind of smirk when outsiders say “sass-KATCH-oo-WAHN”, it freaks us out a little when we hear them pronounce it our way.

  • http://Website Red

    Oh yes, one other thing I forgot: Almost everyone I’ve ever met pronounces “against” as “aggenst,” with the middle syllable rhyming with “Ben,” but I’ve heard Ontarians–and *only* Ontarians–pronounce it as “aGAINst,” with the middle syllable sounding just like “gain.” They are also probably the only people in North America who say “I’ve ‘bean’ there” instead of “I’ve ‘ben’ there.”

    • http://Website Gregory Bryce

      Red, I grew up in Toronto, but have lived in the Yukon now since the 1970s. To me, both “aggenst” and “aGAINst” sound normal, and I probably use both without thinking. “I’ve BEAN there” or “I’ve BIN there” also both sound unremarkable to me, but not “I’ve BEN” there.” I probably use “bin” most of the time.

      There is a coffee roasting company here called Bean North. Aside from conveying coffee beans roasted in the North, I understand it’s also a play on, “I’ve BEAN [to the] North” but the joke was lost on me. Perhaps the founders are from Ontario.

      • http://Website Red

        Actually, no, upon further reflection, it might *not* be an Ontario-only thing: Fast-forward to 1:17-1:22. Worth noting that Rick Ducommun was born in Saskatchewan. In any case, it’s *not* a pronunciation you hear in the U.S.

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  • http://Website Red

    Oh, and I almost forgot about “a dog’s breakfast.” Never heard in the U.S. For some reason I never found it particularly savory (savoury?), maybe because the stuff that dogs eat for breakfast is so gross.

    • Suzanne S. Barnhill

      I’ve always understood “a dog’s breakfast” as an anglicism meaning a complete mess, a cock-up. See's%20breakfast.

      • http://Website Red

        I knew it meant “an utter mess,” but didn’t know it was an Anglicism…I don’t think I’ve ever heard the Brits use it. Still don’t care for it!

  • http://Website Sherry

    Growing up in a small town in Southeastern BC, we always went to “the biffy” or ” the can”. It was never a bathroom. I don’t recall any actual BFI dupsters around town. When i moved to Saskatchewan in the early 80’s no one knew what i was talking about when i said “Kangaroo jacket”. To them it was a bunny hug (which sounded kinda weird to me!)

  • http://Website Red

    I just thought of another one–“bookmatch” (in the States we say “matchbook”). Is this a Canadianism or a Britishism?

    • http://Website Gregory Bryce

      I have never heard “bookmatch” in Canada to refer to a cardboard folder containing 20 paper matches, but only “matchbook.”

      There is a verb “bookmatch” used in woodworking. Is it possible you heard that? It refers to cutting a slab of wood into two halves, as one would slice a bagel, and then “opening” the two sliced surfaces, as one would open a book, so that the grain of one piece of wood mirrors the grain of the other. The vertical panel of my piano (in front of my knees) is made that way.


      • http://Website Red

        No, this was in “Joshua Then and Now” and it was definitely referring to a book of matches (“I found a bookmatch from [some restaurant] in Jane’s purse”). Richler lived in London for a long time, so maybe it’s really a British expression.

  • http://Website FredS

    As a Ukrainian/American who speaks fluent Pittsburghese (yes there are websites for this) I note that sw Pennsylvania also has gotchies and eavestroughs.

  • http://Website H Toliver

    How about jack shirts

  • http://Website Dee Evans

    Jules – this was a fascinating read! I LOVE that you included ‘Pissed’ as I have a story about just that very word.

    When my husband and I were dating (we met on eHarmony) I was living in Victoria, BC and he in Seattle, WA, therefore we’re a Canadian and an American having a long distance relationship – perfect for your survey!
    On one of my visits over to see him in Washington State, I took the Black Ball ferry over to Port Angeles, WA for a visit. As I was a walk on passenger, he picked me up on the other side. He showed me around the little town, we went out for dinner and as we were walking back to the truck I see this fellow who had just come out of a bar and is weaving his way down the steep incline of the sidewalk. -Since it was so steep, he kept banging into the wall as he walked. I turned to my partner and I said “That fellow is so pissed!’ He looks at me blankly, observed the fellow for a minute and said “No he’s not, he’s just drunk” With some confusion, thinking he hadn’t heard me correctly, I tried again – I said “that’s what I said – he’s pissed!” He looked at me and said, “He’s drunk, not angry!” and I said “What are you talking about? I never said he was angry, I said he was piss ass drunk – ie pissed” He looked at me for a minute and said – “Oh, that must be a Canadianism because in America we just call that drunk”.
    I think that may have been our first fight – but it was so funny then, and still makes us smile to think of it – 6 years later!
    Dee & Tad Evans

    • http://Website Gregory Bryce

      Wonderful story, Dee. Do you use “pissed off” to mean angry or annoyed?

  • http://Website Paul McE

    I was struck by the number of Ontarians showing up as aberrations from Canadian speach patterns. I am a late 50’s aged Ontario resident from East end Toronto, an area known as The Beach. I regularly use most of the words and phrases in this list. The ethnic diversity of Ontario and Toronto in partricular are probably at root. (almost half of all immigrants to Canada settle in Toronto)

  • http://Website Paul McE

    I live and work in Whitehorse Yukon for a large part of the year so I am very familiar with the meaning of Skookum. Skookum Jim is a legend there and I walk past the Skookum Jim Community Centre pretty much every day. I cannot say however that I use that word much.

  • Laura

    I think that despite 3.25% milk legit being called homo milk, the word homo is still used very derogatorily, so to say that we don’t use it just because it’s plastered all over the dairy section at the grocery store.

    Also — thongs are also quite commonly referred to as underwear. haha I won’t call my flip flops thongs for that reason.

    I hadn’t heard all of these, for sure! Most of them I was at LEAST familiar with though, if not using them regularly.

    Region: South-Western Ontario.

    Great post! Loved it!

  • Laura

    Also — this came up one day when I was hanging out with a friend from Oklahoma City. I wanted to put my hair up and told him I needed to look for an elastic, and he was so confused… because apparently in Oklahoma at least, it’s only used as an adjective. So my hair band could be elastic, but the hair band wouldn’t be referred to as an elastic. I call them elastics all. the. time.

    I find dialect fascinating! This was really neat :)

  • http://Website Joan

    Biffy – enckised area containing a toilet. Out house – outside small building also known as the Biffy. Cherry Picker – machine with a reticulating arm with a basket for holding one or two people, enabling them to work safely at heights.

  • Mason Byrne

    Thanks so much for this entry – as an Canadian immigrant from the US, so many of my American friends are shocked that there really are many, many differences between Canada and the US (besides eh?, oot and aboot and hoser. LOL) One of my proudest moments was in the middle of a meeting (about two years after I moved here,) some of my colleagues stopped the meeting to say “wait a minute…you’ve lost your American accent!” I guess all my efforts to embrace and use the ‘lingo’ and pronunciations was paying off. One of the many reasons I make sure to use “washroom,” “hydro,” and “two-four” and pronounce the words process, Mazda and pasta as: “PRO-cess,” “MAz-duh” and “PA-stuh” instead of “prah-cess, mauhz-duh and paw-stuh. Cheers to my chosen home Canada! :-)

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  • http://Website Claire

    I’ve grown up in Canada, lived here for 26 years. I’m a university graduate, traveled to many countries and 3 continents, I’ve lived in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto and I can honestly say that I have NEVER heard of at least half of those terms. Just because one region of the country says things one way, doesn’t mean the rest of the country does as well. Some of them might be more province specific.

  • http://Website robbie

    Hi! This was a fascinating read for me, interested in linguistics as I am.

    I noticed that a lot of Canadianisms that lost percentage points seemed to be less used in Ontario. I wonder if that is due to the higher immigrant population who may be more familiar with the culturally dominant American terms.

    One thing I have noticed at home in Toronto and elsewhere in Canada, but not when visiting the States, is the growing use of the British ‘cheers’ and to a slightly lesser degree, ‘mate.’

    For cheers, where in Britain it is a direct substitute for thanks almost exclusively, I notice it seems to be used here when thanks is being used at the end of a statement – ie “Power will be restored soon, cheers.” Or particularly at the end of email,

    I seem to notice this trend has quite caught on, surprisingly even amongst a younger demographic moreso than older people; quite unusual with British terms!

    As for mate, it seems to be less popular but growing in place of friend. As in “just chilling with my mates”

    Last thing, while I’m thinking about this topic; as a university student, I’ve noticed the British ‘uni’ has become very widely used in conversation. “I’m in uni right now.” It is very common in Britain and obviously, due to the use of college, not popular in the US (or Ireland).

    Thanks again for a fascinating piece. It was eyeopening to see how many words are only Canadian that I thought were generally used.

    Cheers 😉

  • http://Website karen

    i realize this is an older post, but it popped up on my fb feed related to some canada day stuff. it made me laugh and also schooled me a bit. i live in ontario just outside toronto (also lived 5 years outside pittsburgh as a kid). some of these expressions i’ve never heard or are so stereotypical now that it seems like ONLY americans poking fun at us use them (like “take off, eh”. i have NEVER heard that in ‘real life’.) others are outdated, i guess. my parents, who are from manitoba, say dressing gown, runners, and thongs, but i haven’t since i was a very small child. some others, i had no idea were things only ‘we’ say. pencil crayons was one. i actually had to ask my American friends, “you guys don’t say that?” very surprising. also, brown bread. what do they call it if it’s brown but not whole wheat!? hahaha

    it would be very interesting to see if there are more to add to the list from my area. a lot of these, my family say, but i don’t. my husband, who is from edmonton, also uses a few of these i’d never heard before i met him, like donair. he also said gonch, whereas as a kid, i said gitch. now we both just say undies (referring to little boys underwear, not his!) i’m sure there are some things i say regularly that are more colloquial and would have them scratching their heads too.

    the only one i can think of it the difference between “buck n’ doe” and “social”. a buck & doe being a party an ontario-dwelling engaged couple throws and sells tickets to, to raise money for the up-coming nuptials. a wedding social is pretty much the same thing in manitoba. but socials, in general, are parties you pay to go to (with other ways to part with cash once you get there, of course)thrown for various money-raising reasons.

    i read someone else’s comment about ontario possibly absorbing more american terms due to the increased immigration, but maybe it’s more geographical location. we do dip down in there. haha. also, i think social media has a lot to do with losing some of these terms. not just myself, but for youth culture.

    i chat online (twitter, facebook, other apps) daily with a group of american ladies. they are constantly harassing me for my spelling but it wasn’t until a recent trip to visit them that certain phrases really stood out. we were having a late night run to denny’s and i told the waitress we were missing our cutlery on the table. she and the entire table had NO CLUE i was referring to the fact that we were missing our silverware. and i was also rolling my eyes at them as they gave me blank stares when i asked for the washroom. like they couldn’t figure out what i mean through context! i think they just like to tease me as the only canadian in our group. but i have ketchup chips and free healthcare. so there. 😀

    p.s. no one i know has ever said “eh” seriously. only as a joke. that goes for hubby’s family in alberta, my manitoba family, and family and friends in ontario.

    oh, also, track pants and different than sweat pants. sweat pants are made of fleece and to keep warm. track pants are usually a thinner material and used to warm up before a work out (or just look super cool. hahaha). like addidas or kappas. although girls wear them too, we now just mostly refer to any non-jean or dress pant as yoga pants or leggings.

    just an interesting note, when i was 4 and my sister came along, i guess i didn’t eat enough and my mom used to supplement my diet with pablum. she’d put reese’s pieces in it so it wouldn’t be too bland to eat.

    another aside (sorry, i keep coming back to it. it fascinates me!), maybe the reason we don’t refer to dumpsters in the toronto area by a brand name is because it’s “waste management corporation” here. lol. not quite the same ring to it as other companies mentioned.

  • Drew Makepeace

    I agree with a couple commenters above who note that the definition of ‘keener’ in this article is off the mark. It means someone (usually a student) who is especially eager, zealous and tries really hard.

  • http://Website SteveP

    Great idea! I’m a Canadian who lived in the US for years and now the UK for 15 years. I must say some terms are regional in Canada (like “dooryard” – not on your list). I’ve been wearing a touque in cold weather all my life, but I probably never uttered the word queue until I moved to the UK (surely the most overspelled word in English – quit after the first letter).

    I lived on the US border (as do most Canadians) and one CDN holiday I popped “across the line” to the US to buy some eavestrough. “Eavestrough? Eavestrough?” The guy at the building supply store said “What’s that?”

    I explained.

    “OH! You mean guttahs!” (gutters)

    Funny thing is, the Brits use the same word. I try to explain that a gutter is down there (on a road or the bowling alley) and an eave up there, so eavestrough is much more elegant and appropriate.

    Out east we know the donair, say sneakers and not runners and never knew what a garburator was as none of us could afford one.

    Americans have two year “degrees” that aren’t. Canada did offer many “real” three-year degrees, though. ON had Grade 13 up to 2003 (?) and then had three-year degrees. QC OTOH, finishes at Grade 11 and has CEGEP. So the college term (which can be a high school in the UK) is very flexible.

    When Canadian friends come to visit I ask them to bring a selection of Roberston screws :-)

  • http://Website John M

    I am a British Columbian, married to a Manitoban, living in the USA for 13 years. We have lived through many of these linguistic encounters, leaving builders and salespeople scratching their heads when we asked for “eavestroughs” or a “garburator.” But “bugger the dog”? The definition you gave of it is precisely what I grew up understanding “screw the pooch” to mean.

  • http://Website D.C.

    “Skookum” — I grew up in Juneau, Alaska, and know this word but never associated it as being Canadian. If you asked me (before I read this) if it was Chinook Jargon, I would have recognized it as such. The strange thing is that my mother uses it and she grew up in Colorado; her parents grew up in the southwestern U.S. Perhaps she picked it up in her early twenties after she moved here.

    • http://Website Gregory Bryce

      I wrote this about “Skookum” in a Whitehorse Star newspaper column two years ago. The word is well known in the Yukon. Skookum Jim is co-credited with the discovery of large amounts of gold on Rabbit Creek (later named Bonanza Creek) in the Klondike River valley on August 16, 1896, and thereby started the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897-98.

      «How about an adjective as a quintessential Yukonism?

      «Recently, when a co-worker was still at her computer hours later than normal, another colleague explained that she had the first woman chained to her desk. “Yep, with a real skookum chain.”

      «I understood but asked her to define skookum without prompting. To illustrate the idea, she raised her shoulders, thrust her clenched fists forward, and grunted, as though she were jerking 200 pounds over her head.

      «Skookum, which now means large, powerful, impressive or first-rate, originally referred to a spirit or monster, thus signifying fearsome, in the language of the Chinook people who lived on the Columbia River in Washington and on the Pacific coast.

      «By 1825, it had come to mean powerful in the pidgin, or simplified combined language, used by the Chinook, French and English traders in the area who could not otherwise under-stand one another.

      «It travelled up the Pacific coast and into the Yukon with the Tlingit packers who controlled trade through the mountain passes and the white miners they assisted.

      «By the 1880s, the word had stuck to one exceptionally robust packer, Keish, a member of the Tagish First Nation from Carcross, also known as James Mason – and from then onward as Skookum Jim. »

  • http://Website Dylboz

    In America, we call a 1.75 liter bottle of booze a “handle,” because they typically have an actual handle or at least depressions in the bottle for easier “handling.” We do not have 3 liters. a 1.75 is typically the largest size available outside of wine bottles, which can still be had in Jerobeams, Methuselahs and whatnot. In answer to your question “a fifth of what?” it’s a gallon. We still use the Queen’s Imperial units done here.

  • http://Website Derek

    As a Canadian, I don’t mind at all that Americans tease me about how Canadians are known for adding “eh?” at the end of every sentence. In fact, I enjoy it, and I believe that it’s good to laugh about these things. However, I also do find the stereotype a bit puzzling, as my experience growing up and living in “Southern Ontario” (roughly between Windsor and Toronto) has been that very very few people use “eh?” at all. Overall, I have found that only certain segments of the Canadian population use the term habitually, and I have met just as many Americans who are guilty of the same!

    I wonder if, in part, the perceptions Americans have of Canadians are rather influenced by some of the self-effacing humour that has come from Canadian comedians, comedy shows, and entertainers. From there, the stereotype spread very quickly, as all stereotypes tend to do.

    I also wonder if where Americans tend to vacation has anything to do with it. There is no doubt in my mind that “eh?” is much more commonly heard among rural Canadians than those living in urban environments, and it is used more in the Maritime Provinces, and among working-class people in most provinces, so – unless someone from the USA travels to Canada regularly for business meetings, it may be that for many Americans, most of their contact with Canadians may have been during vacations in rural areas? It’s just a educated guess on my part.

    Finally, my years of teaching high school have also allowed me to note a trend, which is that the use of “eh?” is much less common among Canadians younger than (roughly) 40 years old, which make sense, as they have been raised in a much more culturally diverse environment. If this is truly the case, then perhaps the stereotype will soon fade away & Canadians will have to find some other humorous or endearing habit to be part of our identity? :-)

    • http://Website SteveP

      @Derek – I agree that “eh?” seems more prevalent in rural usage. I’m a city-boy from NB but use it infrequently (and usually “on purpose”) – a friend from AB (also city) uses it much more often- we have similar (degree+) education and ages (well over 40 :-)

      I think the “eh?” thing is overplayed by Canadians trying to differentiate themselves (and Canadians in general) from Americans. There is no doubt we are very different as a society, but as individuals, less so. The defining nature of the Canadian identity is “We are NOT Americans!” :-)

  • http://Website J

    Sorry to say but any homosexual will be offended if you call them a homo. They will not laugh and ask why you’re calling them milk. That is just ridiculous. Where did you even come up with that? I’m gay and if someone called me a homo I would assume they’re a bigot. It most definitely is used as a derogatory term no matter where you live. I wish you thought that one through. Not very smart.

  • http://Website Lissa

    I must correct my American Brethren; a “Sixty-Pounder: A bottle of alcohol containing 66 ounces (1.75 litres)” is called a handle, because most of the bottles that size are too big to grasp and have a convenient handle for all of your toting and carrying needs. (Ex: I bought a handle of gin for the party.” or, “we killed a handle.”)

  • http://Website Emily

    Interesting…this is making me rather homesick!

    I think the closest British equivalent to a freezie would be a Calippo (brand-name.) They’re basically the same, only Calippos are in a tapered, rounded tube of what seems to be waxed cardboard or paper, rather than plastic. I’ve only seen them in orange flavours, too, but apparently they are made in others–but I’ve seen nothing like the varieties offered by a box of multicoloured freezies!

    Another note: I remember a line of dialogue in the TV series Dead Like Me had the character Rube remarking “…you really —-ed the dog on this one, Peanut,” to a character who had deliberately shirked an important task. From the context his disdain is obvious, but I hadn’t considered the origin of the phrase. What really seems odd is that Rube seems to be originally from the east coast of the United States, in my estimation, (the show being set in Seattle, however, and filmed in Vancouver, and Rube having been undead for many years, he might’ve picked it up from some time spent in Canada or around Canadians, indeed.)

  • http://Website Des

    I know I’m late to this party, and I don’t know if anyone else mentioned this, but A Mickey is roughly equivalent to what we would call a “pint” in the US.

    • http://Website Des

      Oh, and a fifth is 1/5 of a gallon; though I doubt anyone is really cognizant of the actual amount when they ask for it. The bottle shape and size is pretty ubiquitous here. Though we don’t have 1.75L, we do have 1.5 and 3L bottles. They are known as Magnums and Double Magnums, but that term usually applies to wine bottles.

  • http://Website Derek

    The other Derek is right! “Eh” is used a fair amount in BC as well as across the country, but primarily in rural areas (and by people who grew up in rural areas). Grammatically, it serves the same function in Canadian English as tag questions do in other English speaking nations. In America or Britain the question would be- Going to the store, are you? In Canada- Going to the store, eh?
    Also, it is not surprising that teenagers do not use “eh”. Tag questions are the most grammatically complex constructions and in other English speaking countries they do not appear in people’s speech until the late teens (about the same time as our teens start flirting with “eh”).

  • http://Website Gordon Clason

    You asked the question: “Fifth of what?” You defined a “twenty-sixer” as “just over 25 ounces”. That’s what we measure as a fifth of a gallon. That would be a fifth of a (Queen Anne) wine gallon of 231 cubic inches. This measures out to 757 mL and 25 and three fifths fluid ounces. Since Canadians don’t use the Queen Anne wine gallon (which is about 3 and three quarters liters), but Imperial Gallons (which are about 4 and a half liters) this measure wouldn’t be a fifth of anything special in Canada. The Queen Anne gallon became the statute gallon of English speaking people in 1707, thus was in regular use in 1776 when Americans quit caring what the English monarch did with his/her liquid measures. That’s about all I know about it… There are also specific words for multiple or partial fifths. Half of a fifth is a demi, a quarter of a fifth is a split, about 187.5 mL. Two fifths is a magnum, four is a jeroboam and so on.

  • http://Website Ira

    Donair or doner is a middle eastern dish, the word originates from the Arabic word ‘turning’.

  • http://Website Gary

    When I first came into Canada, I went to a restaurant and ordered my meal. Hostess asked me if I wanted “regular” fries or “frozen” fries! I had a strange look on my face and said: Please could I have mine cooked?!
    Guess “frozen” fries are McCain fries.

  • Karina

    I’m canadian(from montreal) and I barely use any of these words. Us easterners of the country rarely use these words because we’re very americanized. For example, what in the world is a chesterfield??!! It’s A COUCH! other examples: gutter, atm, in-line, flip flops(seriously what the hell are thongs?!), robe, fire station, etc. I’m just getting a little annoyed and probably a lot of Ontarians are as well lool. I guess we’re just less Canadian then the rest of Canada.

    • Stephanie

      I didn’t know these words too! Ontario ftw!

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  • Stephanie

    Besides freezies, pencil crayons, and all dressed chips I have NEVER heard of these
    I feel so un-Canadian
    wtf is a tooque

    • Gregory Bryce

      Stephanie, is it that you don’t know the word “toque” or recognize the spelling, or that you don’t know what the item is?

      What do you wear to keep your head warm on a cold winter’s day? I grew up in Toronto many decades ago, and that’s always what we called a knitted winter hat that you pulled down over your ears. Usually it had a pom-pom on top.

      Here’s something I wrote about the word in a newspaper column last spring.

      “[Toque, which rhymes with kook, is] virtually unknown to Americans, who may refer to a toque as a beanie, or, in the South, as a toboggan hat or just a toboggan. Really.

      “Toque, less commonly spelled tuque in Canadian English, is the 19th-century Canadian French word tuque that meant a knitted, stocking-shaped hat that hung down the back. French-speaking colonists appear to have added that meaning to a dialect word for a type of peak or hill. One early writer, though, figured it was the other way around, contending the Quebec town of La Tuque, which sits at the base of such a hill, was named for the hat!

      “So where did we English-speakers get the O-spelling? In fact, English adopted toque more than 500 years ago from French spoken in France. It referred then to a small, round, brimless hat, often velvet. Some dictionaries list a third meaning for toque, a tall white hat worn by chefs. In these last two senses, which I suspect very few of us know, it’s pronounced toke in English and tock in French.

      “Toque, the knitted hat with a pom-pom, is one of almost 2,000 Canadianisms in the [bolded]Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Those are words or phrases used exclusively or primarily by speakers of Canadian English.”

  • Will S

    With you on most of that except a case of beer being 12 beer. I’m in Thunder Bay (Northwestern Ontario) and a case is 24, 12 beer is a twelve pack, 6 beer is a 6 pack or a ‘poverty pack’. When I was briefly in Calgary a case was 12 there.

    Think ‘stagette’ would be a familiar but not used term for this area. Likely because it is a less common occurrence ( suspect ‘bachelorette’ may be slightly more common than ‘stagette’ as a term). Much more common occurrence is the ‘shag’ or as I believe it is called in other areas ‘stag and doe’. Shag is likely a regionalism – basically a fundraiser for the marrying couple – they sell tickets for a booze up, usually at a legion/hall, most often with a d.j. with items usually donated by those with connections to businesses, some items may be bought, but in any case tickets are sold and the items raffled off. Often food is provided later in the night – often pizza or sometimes beef on a bun.

    Only other regionalisms I can think of relates to food – with the Persian:

    and camp – not to be confused with camping (usually tents). Other regions I believe refer to camp as either a cottage or a cabin.

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  • Sabrina

    Donair: People from Toronto don’t know it because it does not actually originate from Canada. I lived in Germany 2 years and this is a Turkish German food and word.

    • Bex vanKoot

      It didn’t originate in Canada, but it’s huge on the east coast.

      • Lafeth

        The sauce and cheese additions apparently did (I think the story is the sweet sauce is from Nova Scotia). They’re HUGE in Edmonton, and really hard to find in Calgary.

        • Tarnia Sand

          Donairs are definitely popular in Alberta. Donairs originated in middle east countries and Calgary has many Donairs shops especially in the northeast.
          The cheese/sweet sauce is completely Canadian.
          I prefer the original myself. You can also buy donair meat sliced in Safeway Sobeys Superstore deli depts.

        • Mel B

          I have no idea where Donairs originated, but I don’t think they originated in Canada. I’m from Ontario, but lived in Alberta for 6 years. 2 of those 6 years were spent in Calgary, which is the first place that I ever saw or heard of a Donair, and I found they were very easy to find in Calgary. The closest thing we have in Ontario would be a Gyro. I found that Donairs were more of a Western thing in my experience, but I haven’t spent a lot of time out East, and it sounds like it they’re big out there, too. Someone from Ontario who’s never been out West or out East would likely not have heard of a Donair.

    • Tarnia Sand

      Donair or Doner originated in middle eastern countries.

    • Mel B

      I’m from Ontario, but lived in Alberta for 6 years. 2 of those 6 years were spent in Calgary, which is the first place that I ever saw or heard of a Donair, and they are very easy to find in Calgary. The closest thing we have in Ontario would be a Gyro. I found that Donairs were more of a Western thing in my experience, but I haven’t spent a lot of time out East, and it sounds like it they’re big out there, too. Someone from Ontario who’s never been out West or out East would likely not have heard of a Donair.

  • Bex vanKoot

    I’ve always called 3.25% milk “whole milk” because it doesn’t have any of the fat removed. I thought that was very common.

    • Bex vanKoot

      And a “fifth” is so-called because 26 ounces is a fifth of a gallon.

    • kleesrosegarden

      That’s how we say it in the UK. 3.25% fat is whole milk, 2% is semi-skimmed (the most commonly bought) and 1% is skimmed milk.

      • Dr. Mike White

        What a difference! In Montreal (Quebec, Canada), 2% milk is called “2%”, and 0% is called “skim”. 3.25% is (was?) called “Homogenized”, not “Homo”. Cool.

        • Jill Warland

          I’m from BC (always lived here) and I’d agree with Dr Mike above regarding milk terms. Quite often I hear whole cream milk (3.25%) referred to as ‘whole milk’, but never ‘homo’.

        • Tarnia Sand

          I have lived in 5 provinces and never heard of ‘Homo’ milk. Is that from 1970’s perhaps?

          • Dr. Mike White

            Nope. It was always “homogenized” in the Montreal area and therefore most probably in all of the anglophone Quebec households. This goes back to the days when we actually had milkmen (i.e., home delivery). So we’re talking 50s, 60s, and early 70s.

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  • kleesrosegarden

    Lineup in the UK means the line suspects go in on the other side of one way glass to be identified (as the perpetrator) by the victim of a crime. Hence lineup isn’t used as a synonym for queue in the UK. And we don’t wait ‘on line’ as they do in the States, either.

    • Patricia Vollmer

      I think “on line” is regional in the U.S.

      My husband is from NY and heard it a lot when in NY, but I had never heard the term until I met him.

      • kleesrosegarden

        Ah, that makes sense. I’ve never heard it in the West but have heard it frequently in New England and the South.

  • kleesrosegarden

    And #9 is a tea towel :)

    • Dr. Mike White

      Right! That’s what we call them in our home (i.e., Montreal).

  • Sally Wright

    You obviously didn’t talk to people in the American south about the word “no see ums”. It’s a very common word there.

  • Leka

    Skookum “big, great” is Chinuk Wawa, aka Chinook Jargon, originally a trade language formed at the mouth of the Columbia River and Fort Vancouver area in Washington/Oregon through a long process of interaction with many languages over a wide geographical area; it spread to Canada when the Brits were kicked out of the Oregon Country. There are many Chinuk Wawa words common to place names in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and northern Idaho. Chinuk Wawa is still spoken at the Grande Ronde Reservation in Oregon.

  • Leka

    I was hoping you would discuss “washroom,” a word that makes me laugh whenever I see it in Canada because my farmer grandparents in Washington always used it, many years ago. It seems very old=fashioned and it is funny to see it on a sign. I mean, it’s so quaint, it’s almost like a hobbit word, eh?

  • Matthieu

    “Freezie(s)” more common than “otter pop” in Minnesota.

  • Dr. Mike White

    It doesn’t sound as though any of the research was done in my home province of Quebec. Anyway, the only difference I noted was that in the Montreal area (where I’m from), is that “Fill your boots” means take as much as you want. And “Whatever turns your crank” is more common than “Whatever floats your boat”.

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  • Tarnia Sand

    Many of these ‘Canadian terms” are not used anymore. The word ‘bunnyhug’ for a hoodie is mainly used in Saskatchewan.
    I think I’ve heard the word gonch for underwear once. Very 1970’s. The words for the liquor are rarely used now as well. Ppl simply say 26 or 40 oz.

  • disqus_j63ALPmMF9

    I know this is old, but in the interest of international education, I’ll add that the drunker Americans know a 1.75 liter bottle of booze (your 60-pounder) as a “handle,” since bottles that big often include a little handle (though the name applies regardless), and a “Mickey” is just called a “pint.” 3 liter bottles are rare birds down here, and 1.14 liter bottles just don’t exist–if there’s anything between a fifth and a handle, it’s more often just a 1-liter bottle (and I don’t think there’s any special name–you just say “hey, I got a little extra!”).

    • disqus_j63ALPmMF9

      Oh, barring beer–you can get a 40 of that, just not liquor. Also, on the topic, the tiny little 3 ounce bottles are called “nips.”