Here’s Your Chance to be a Citizen Scientist With Project Feederwatch

Northern Cardinal Photo:  Maryann Goldman
Northern Cardinal Male. Photo: Maryann Goldman

The tulip poplar leaves in my yard in central North Carolina are starting to yellow and glide to the ground. The nighttime temperatures are dropping enough to open the windows and let in some cool, fresh air. Local fields are filled with big, orange pumpkins and workers loading them up for the local produce stands. The signs of fall are all around us, and I am reminded that the Project Feederwatch program of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada is about to kick-off a new season.

Some of you may be familiar with the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) that occurs each February (the next one will be February 13-16, 2015). Citizen scientists like those in our family make bird observations over a four day period and then report their results to the GBBC database to create a yearly picture of how the bird population in the US and Canada is doing. Many families as well as clubs, classrooms, and organizations get together to document their bird sightings and share their enthusiasm for bird watching.

Pine Warbler Photo: Maryann Goldman
Pine Warbler. Photo: Maryann Goldman

If you enjoy participating in the GBBC, there’s also a weekly program called Project Feederwatch that you might enjoy. Project Feederwatch runs each year from the second Saturday in November for 21 weeks ending on a Friday in April. This year the first Saturday in November is the 8th. Essentially, it’s a winter bird watching program when birds tend to be very active at feeders.  You commit to count birds for a minimum of one hour each week over a consecutive two day period. You specify a dedicated count site which usually consists of the feeders outside a window in your own yard but could also be a feeder at your place of work. Think of a cozy spot, like the window at your kitchen table, where you can sit and enjoy a warm cup of tea as you watch the birds frolic in the snow at your feeder and write down your observations. I like to count on Sunday and Monday so that I have one weekend day and one weekday in my count period each week. Hopefully, I have time each week during that window of time to spend on my count. My kids help on Sunday, and on Monday I can spend some time by myself.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a bird expert to participate. When you set up your count site, one of the questions asks you your level of expertise. There’s nothing wrong with saying that you are a beginner if that’s the case. After 15 years of participation in Project Feederwatch, I feel pretty expert about identifying the birds that visit my feeders, but I still have to look up some of the birds. Project Feederwatch provides several resources for identifying birds including the All About Birds Website and the Merlin Bird ID App for your phone (iOS or Android).

You don’t need expensive feeders or bird seed to attract birds. I use blocks of C&S Hot Pepper Delight No-Melt Suet Dough as the main bird food at my feeder. Most birds seem to like it, and squirrels avoid it. For less than $2 a block, and each block lasts at least a week, I feel like I get a lot of birds for my buck. I also use Cole’s Hot Meats Seed which is much more expensive, but I only use about a 1/2 cup a day. Cardinals are attracted to it, and there is little waste or mess.

This is an activity with which you can include your entire family. My boys love looking out the window and hollering for me to come see the latest cool bird at the feeder. I’m proud to say that they can correctly ID the majority of North Carolina song birds and woodpeckers, and I owe that to their Project Feederwatch participation. They’ve also developed an appreciation for bird watching and our local environment while also learning about collecting and analyzing data for science.

Downy Woodpecter Male Photo: Maryann Goldman
Downy Woodpecker Male. Photo: Maryann Goldman

Project Feederwatch provides a tally sheet that you can use to write down your observations, or if you like, you can create your own. I like to use a spreadsheet approach that includes the names of the birds I might see at my feeder.

Sample Project Feederwatch Spreadsheet Photo: Maryann Goldman

It doesn’t cost much to participate in Project Feederwatch.  The program is non-profit, and they ask for a yearly $15 fee to help cover items such as printed materials, staff, data analysis, and the website.

If you enjoy photography, Project Feederwatch will inspire you to grab your camera and capture some fantastic bird shots!

Pine Warbler Photo: Maryann Goldman
Carolina Wren. Photo: Maryann Goldman

Project Feederwatch also provides graphs and spreadsheets for your data.  You can monitor your month-to-month and year-to-year totals, review birds species sighted, and show-off your results to your bird enthusiast friends.

ProjectFeederwatchSpreadsheetImage
Maryann’s 2013-2014 Project Feederwatch Data Spreadsheet

If you’re interested in participating in Project Feederwatch, it’s time to register for the 2014-2015 season.  Once you receive your materials, either online or in the mail, log in and set up your count site.  Review and learn the rules for counting birds and decide when you’re going to count as well as how you’ll record your observations.  I usually wait until the last week of the yearly count to submit all my weekly data, and each year I regret not doing it more often, so I recommend doing it weekly or at least monthly.  Most of all, enjoy the birds!

55 Canadianisms: The Fallout and the Aftermath

Canadianisms 1
Image by Jules Sherred.

National news headlines. Multiple radio interviews. A very honourable mention from the English department at the University of British Columbia.

This was just some of the “fallout” of the Canadianisms survey.

On October 1, 2013, when I decided to satisfy my curiosity regarding my use of Canadian English, I never imagined or anticipated the crazy bananas (in the best way possible) reception that would follow. My “55 Canadianisms” post was shared and discussed in various forums across the internet.

I’ve decided to share some of these experiences with you, plus address some of the most frequently asked questions and comments, because I simply am unable to address the thousands of comments left around the internet. Doing so as a new post seems to make the most sense.

For me, the most bizarre things started to occur once Tristin Hopper from the National Post interviewed me and wrote a very fab article about me and the Canadianisms post. If you are outside of Canada, the National Post newspaper is a pretty big deal. This article was syndicated in a number of newspapers in British Columbia and Alberta. Next, came an article by the CBC (the CBC is to Canada what the BBC is to the UK). Then came many radio interviews, which I was very happy to do. Sadly, I had to turn down a national TV news interview because, while all of this is happening, I’m also down with influenza, which resulted in laryngitis.

The radio interviews included:

–          CBC Radio One in B.C. for the B.C. Almanac radio show. That interview is available as a podcast.

–          CJAD Radio in Montreal, Quebec, where I was interviewed by Dan Laxer during a drive time show.

–          The Bill Good Show on CKNW based out of Vancouver, British Columbia. That interview is available as a podcast. My segment begins at about 19:58.

–          CBC Radio One in Saskatchewan for the Blue Sky radio show.

–          The Todd Veinotte Show in News 88.9, heard in Atlantic Canada.

–          The Kingkade & Kelly show in Calgary, Alberta, on News Talk 770.

Never in my wildest imagination did I think a post about Canadian English would skyrocket the way it did. I did the survey to satisfy my own curiosity and shared the results to satisfy the curiosity of those who were wonderful enough to participate. When I was on the Kingkade & Kelly show in Calgary, on News Talk 770, we decided to speculate about why people, Canadians in particular, were so thirsty for this type of information; information deemed worthy enough to make national headline news.

In the end, we decided that it is the result of Canadians, as a general rule, who like it when the things that make us “goofy” and unique are reinforced. While there are some things that we do share with not only our neighbours to the south, but also our Commonwealth brothers and sisters, Canada is also a unique country, with a unique culture, and unique language that is an interesting mix of “proper Queen’s English” and American English. Sometimes this is overlooked, not only by the world at large, but also by Canadians.

There were a number of questions and comments that I wish I had the time to address, never mind being healthy enough to do so. I also found it very interesting to see the amount of bickering over “toque” versus “tuque,” as well as “gotch” versus “gitch” versus “gonch.” My previous comment may sound negative, but I sincerely mean it to be a positive statement. I find it absolutely fascinating the things we, as Canadians, decide to fight over. Overall, most of the comments I read were quite positive. Considering the nature of the internet, I found this to be pretty amazing.

I saw a number of comments from people wishing they had more information on my methods and some who thought I approached people directly for this survey. I think this comment is important to address here, even though I was asked the same question, and answered it, in all of the interviews.

I didn’t approach a single person for this survey, because, unintentionally, I would have most likely approached people who speak in a similar fashion to me. I created it in Google Docs. Then, I tweeted a link to the survey, which didn’t include images, and posted it on Google+, asking non-Canadians if they wouldn’t mind taking a few minutes to complete the survey, testing them on their knowledge of “Canadianisms.” No one was able to see the results after they filled out the survey, leaving them completely in the dark as to how others were responding.

Once I had just over 100 responses from non-Canadians, I shared it again, this time asking Canadians if they wouldn’t mind helping. Because this was purely a vanity project, once I reached the 17, 000 data points threshold, I stopped sharing the link and began sorting the data. Eight of the 10 provinces were represented in the survey: B.C. (eight people), Alberta (13 people), Saskatchewan (three people), Manitoba (one person), Ontario (19 people), Quebec (one person), Newfoundland and Labrador (two people), and Nova Scotia (five people). No one from the three Canadian territories decided to participate.

Another frequent comment was that I forgot words. I didn’t forget them. I simply haven’t used words like “Duo-Tang” or “double double” when speaking with Americans, because it simply hasn’t come up. Other words mentioned are included in the downloadable full report which includes all 82 words on the original survey. I will say that immediately after sharing the link to the survey, I facepalmed because I did forget “First Nations.” But, when I was creating the survey, I was quickly thinking of words. Once I realised I was at 82 words, I stopped.

People have said I should do another one. I really wish I had the time and resources to do so. However, the first survey took just over two months to sort and write. I simply do not have the time, as much I would love doing another.

Finally, I want to address a number of people who decided the survey was worthless because it wasn’t rigorously scientific, or because it didn’t match their own personal experiences, or who made comments similar to:

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.

One of the first things I addressed in my Canadianisms article was that it was far from scientific. The article was based on my personal experience. It was simply for fun and done on a lark. It is one of the reasons I’m finding the large reception to be so bizarre, as I did it to satisfy my own curiosity and that of others who took the time to participate. Also, I find the subject matter to be rather fascinating and thought other language nerds would also find it fascinating.

That said, even though I knew the resulting snapshot wouldn’t be rigorously scientific, thanks to lack of resources and sample size, the way in which I approached it (I was blind to who was participating, the participants were blind as to how others were responding), it was enough for me to think, “Okay. So these words may actually be quite common and they’re not just ‘Jules-isms,’ as some of my non-Canadian friends would say.”

But, the best “fallout” came when the Department of English at University of British Columbia posted the following on their English Language Studies blog:

This blogger (Jules Sherred), not a professional linguist, has done quite a good job identifying a number of new Canadianisms (by using a survey questionnaire).

Most all of these will appear in the forthcoming Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles, 2nd edition, forthcoming from the University of British Columbia Canadian English Lab:
http://faculty.arts.ubc.ca/sdollinger/dchp2.htm

Personally, I cannot wait for this volume to be published. I’m quite curious as to what “most all of these” words will be making an appearance. I suppose I was much more accurate with my findings than I gave myself credit for, and they’re not “idioms.” As a language nerd, having the English Department at one of the best universities in Canada say, “quite a good job,” caused me to squee, just a wee bit.

All said and done, it was a very interesting way to end 2013. I want to thank everyone who got excited by this story, who shared it, and who discussed it with much passion. I really wish I could address even more than what I’ve addressed above and respond to everyone individually, but there really are not enough hours in the day. I also want to thank everyone, once again, who participated in the survey.

The response has been very overwhelming, especially while being on holiday, and juggling family and influenza.

Thanks for geeking out with me over a little piece of Canadian culture.

55 Canadianisms You May Not Know or Are Using Differently

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!

Unfamiliar

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%
4 ABM
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%
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
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.

Canadians: Say Hello to Fortress Geek

Fortress Geek
If you are like me and live in Canada, you may be frustrated when it comes to buying geeky toys and accessories for you and your family. Why? Because most of our favorite online geeky retailers are based in the United States, which means being hit with high shipping costs, plus customs and brokerage fees on most orders exceeding $50.00 USD.

Canadians, you can now say “goodbye” to those fees and say “hello” to Fortress Geek.

Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Fortress Geek launched in May 2013.

As Fortress Geek is a new company, they are still building their inventory. Currently, they have just under 400 items from which to choose. These items include toys, clothing, and accessories from our favorite fandoms, including Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, The Big Bang Theory, and Game of Thrones. Fortress Geek is constantly adding to their inventory, nearly doubling their stock since launching in May. If there is something you’d like them to add to their stock, let them know and they’ll see if they can make it so.

Aside from saying goodbye to all those extra costs, Fortress Geek has some other benefits that may excite my fellow Canadians:

  1. Free shipping on all orders over $100.00 CAD.
  2. You can pay with BitCoins, cheque or money order, PayPal, Visa or MasterCard, and American Express or Discover Card via PayPal.
  3. If you live in the Vancouver area, you can wave shipping and arrange to pick up your order at their West 7th Ave location. This option also allows you to pay with cash. If you attempt to drop by the Fortress Geek warehouse without first placing an order online, there is a $2.50 CAD service fee.
  4. For a $5.00 CAD fee, you can have your entire order gift wrapped, with a custom gift message.
  5. Fortress Geek has electronic gift certificates.
  6. Fortress Geek will hold your order, for up to one month, if you want to arrange for your shipment to coincide with some special date. Full payment of the order will be charged when the hold is lifted.
  7. Fortress Geek has weekly sales.
  8. Yes, Fortress Geek will ship internationally, if you want to send gifts to friends who reside outside of Canada.

If you are wondering about savings, I’ll be comparing prices in another post.

I, for one, am excited to welcome Fortress Geek; our new Canadian geek overloards!

Kickstarter is Coming to Canada – The Good and the Bad

Image: Kickstarter

Break out the poutine and maple syrup! Later this summer, Kickstarter is coming to Canada. Hailing from Canada, I have many thoughts about this. Some good. Some bad.

The good news is, now Canadians have more options when it comes to funding their projects. Having options is always a good thing.

But, sometimes, these options are not always in the best interest of person. Or, in this situation, the project.

Kickstarter has two things going for it that are missing from Indiegogo.

The first is the ability to create stretch goals. I believe having this ability results in a bigger incentive for people sharing the campaign. It’s gamification of crowdfunding. The more people share, greater is the potential for receiving funds. The more funds over the initial goal, the more perks people will receive, without having to give any extra money. Sure, people can create some sort of extra-reward system on Indiegogo, but that requires a great deal of added effort, as it isn’t something built into the system.

The second thing Kickstarter has is a larger community. Indiegogo is a great platform. For reasons beyond my comprehension, it doesn’t have the same brand power as Kickstarter, which makes it less likely that people will just stumble upon the campaign and fund it.

But, in my opinion, I think that is where the positives of Kickstarter end.

Indiegogo has many things going for it that are missing from Kickstarter.

The first is that with Indiegogo, you can have either flexible funding, or fixed funding. If you are willing to pay any extra costs out of pocket, then you can choose flexible funding, and you’ll receive all funds, minus a larger service fee. The larger service fee is waived if you reach your goal. Plus, for payments made via PayPal, you’ll receive those funds immediately. Or, if you must raise a specific amount of money to create your project, then you go with the fixed funding model, and will only receive the funds if you reach your goal.

The second advantage of Indiegogo is that they offer multiple payment methods. Backers can pay via credit card or PayPal. With United States Kickstarter projects, if your potential backers don’t have a credit card and an Amazon account, then they can’t fund your project. For UK projects, the Amazon requirement is removed, but your backers still need to have a credit card. Sure, you could always create a web site with a PayPal link, but those funds won’t count towards your total. Also, that requires more work in an already labor-intensive undertaking. They have yet to announce how payments will work for Canadian projects, but I assume it will require, at the minimum, a credit card. However, now that Canada finally has Visa debit cards, this barrier may slowly disappear. Visa debit cards in Canada are different than the ones in the United States, so they have their own set of issues that may prevent Canadians from switching to them until those issues are resolved.

The third advantage is that with Indiegogo there is no approval process. While some will argue that this can lead to sub-par projects, I’d argue that no one is under any obligation to fund or share a sub-par project. I use the same argument for celebrities who are criticised for using Kickstarter. No one is ever under any obligation to fund a project.

The fourth advantage is there are less restrictions regarding types of projects and types of perks you are allowed to offer. Here is the list of restricted perks for Indiegogo versus the restricted perks for Kickstarter. With Indiegogo, projects do not need to fall into specific categories. With Kickstarter, projects must fit into one of the following categories: art, comics, dance, design, fashion, film, food, games, music, photography, publishing, technology, and theater.

The fifth advantage is that Indiegogo doesn’t have regional restrictions. You don’t have to live in the United States, the UK, and soon-to-be Canada, to create a project. Indiegogo’s current community may be smaller than Kickstarter’s, but, because of the lack of regional restrictions, this may soon change.

I used Indiegogo to create Five Little Zombies and Fred. Even though I didn’t reach my full goal, I still consider it successful because I raised more the bare minimum I needed to get the book into the market.

Would I have gone with Kickstarter if I had the opportunity? I don’t know. If I went with Kickstarter, I would have started with a $1,000.00 goal—the bare minimum I needed—with stretched goals onwards to $10,000.00+, and it would have appeared to be more successful. But, without the ability for backers to easily use PayPal, for me that is a huge negative.

I have an idea for a second book. With the news that Kickstarter is coming to Canada, I have a lot of thinking to do about the funding platform I will use. Does a larger community and the ability to gamify my campaign outweigh the benefits of flexible funding, multiple payment options, and no approval process? That is a difficult decision.

Difficult decision or not, positives and negatives aside, I am happy that I, and other Canadians, will soon have a choice. In the end, it will come down to what I think is the smartest choice for my project. Without knowing if an Amazon account will be needed for both backers and Canadian creators, pondering this choice will be put on hold. If Amazon is required, then I will not use Kickstarter, because it is just one barrier too many for me. If Amazon is not required, well, it could be a fun experiment.

And, if the experiement doesn’t work out, there is always Indiegogo.