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10 Canadian Expressions

Bilingual Stop Sign in Ottawa
Bilingual Stop Sign in Ottawa

Welcome to my new series, the “Canadian List of Ten”! Ten weeks, ten posts, ten lists and one hundred new Canadian things for you, from food to language, from city to weather.

Contrary to popular belief, Canadians don’t speak Canadian. Most speak English, or French, or even both.

Overall, Canadian English is quite straightforward. There are local accents (for example in New Brunswick) but overall, the English Canadians speak is very close to American English. In writing, Canadian English does use some UK English spelling (which I can never seem to remember, like “color” vs. “colour”) and you may hear some UK English expressions that are not popular in the USA.

But Canadian English also has words or expressions not found, or not widely used, in other variants of English. Do you know these ten?

  1. Toonie/ loonie: The “toonie” is the Canadian two dollars coin (the one with a polar bear on it). The “loonie” is the gold-colored one dollars coin which bears images of a common loon, a well-known Canadian bird. And like in the USA, the ten cents coin is called “a dime”.
  2. Pop: in Canada, soft drinks are often referred to as “pop”.
  3. Double-double: when having your coffee fix at Tim Hortons, you may hear people asking for a “double-double”. It means they want their coffee served with two cream and two sugars (maybe to make it drinkable… let’s face it, Tim Hortons coffee is only extremely hot brown-colored water after all!).
  4. Dépanneur: this one puzzled me for a long time. A “dépanneur” in France is a repairman or a mecanic. “Dépanner” someone means to “help someone”. So when I heard “we need to go to the dépanneur”, I automatically assume it was some kind of breakdown mechanic. But in Québec, a “dépanneur” is actually a convenience store! Anglophones in Québec and in some parts of Ontario use the word “dépanneur” as well.
  5. Hydro: in Canada, an “hydro bill” doesn’t refer to water but to electricity. This is probably because most of the power is supplied through hydroelectricity.
  6. Newfie jokes: French make fun of Belgians, Canadians make fun of Newfoundlanders. “What do you call a Newfie sitting in a tree wearing a suit? A branch manager“.
  7. The states, down south, our southern neighbors: obviously, the U.S.A. Hate them, love them, we can’t ignore Uncle Sam. The U.S.A are Canada’s largest trading partner and a lot of American culture is exported in Canada. Plus, we like to visit them, especially when the Canadian dollar is high.
  8. Interac: this is usually a synonym to “debit card”. Interac is the network through which are done financial transactions. For example, if you buy something in a store, you may pay with cash, a credit card or “interac” (your debit card, with fund directly withdrawn from your checking account).
  9. Anglophone/ francophone: A person with English as the first language is called an Anglophone. The corresponding term for a French speaker is Francophone. These expressions are mostly used in Québec and some parts of Ontario where people could be either French or English speakers.
  10. Eh: imitating Canadians is easy — just start saying “eh” after each word! In fact, Canadian don’t use it that much. “Eh” shows continued interested: “it’s cold eh, I drove this morning“. It can also be used to turn a sentence into a question: “fucking cold, eh?“. Or even to show agreement: “I know, eh.

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