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Do You Speak Canadian…Eh?

Maple Leaves Paint On The Pavement, Byward Market (Ottawa)
Maple Leaves Paint On The Pavement, Byward Market (Ottawa)
Do you speak Canadian?

Just like everything in Canada, it started with a long harsh winter. I was watching T.V when I suddenly realized that my weather vocabulary had expanded quite a lot.

I once heard that Inuits had a least 20 synonyms for the word “snow“. Well, let me tell you, Canadians winter vocabulary is quite rich too.

I used to know hot and cold, rain or shine, but here I was bombarded with so many ways of saying “winter sucks”. I was now familiar with freezing rain, one of the most hazardous traveling condition. I was wary of the windchill, the actual temperature felt on the skin due to the wind. I knew the different between drifting snow and vertical wet snow (and which one of the two would be harder to shovel). I cursed the slush, the slurry mixture of snow and water, which was dirtying the bottom of my pants on my way to work. I never forgot my tuque, the knitted winter hat. I plugged the block heater every morning to be able to start the car. I envied the snowbirds, these retired Canadians rich enough to spend the winter in some warmer place, often Southern US.

I was speaking Canadian.

I started paying attention to other canadianisms, and realized I was also speaking the local lingo at lunch. Yep.

Unless you guys religiously line-up at Timmies (the ubiquitous Tim Hortons coffee store) for some Timbits (left-over dough from a donut) and a double-double (which always means double cream double sugar in Canada). I assume you don’t enjoy beaver tails, butter tarts or sugar pie, but all of these are really nice patries. Your idea of dinner may not be Kraft Dinner (or Crap Dinner, as we also say), or a nice poutine that clogs your arteries. And when you need some booze, you don’t head to the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario), the SAQ (Société des Alcools du Québec) or the Beer Store. Oh, and you may laugh if I tell you I have some homo milk in the fridge.

English Canadians are not shy about borrowing from the French either. You’d think my French helps… it doesn’t. A dépanneur is a convenience store here, but in France, it’s a mechanic. I knew francophone (french-speaking) and anglophone (english-speaking), but allophone is a Canadian invention describing someone whose mother tongue is neither French nor English. A guichet is an ATM machine, not just any counter or ticket office like in France.

A different kind of French, I’m telling you.

You’d better speak Canadian as well if you want to understand politics and most of what happens on the Hill (Parliament Hill in Ottawa). Who would you vote for otherwise? The Tories (Conservative party)? The Grits (Liberal party)? The Péquistes (Parti Québécois)? The Bloquistes (Bloc Québécois)? Well, if you don’t understand politics, you can still take pictures of the mounties. Everybody love them.

Living in the national capital also teaches you the proper use of — bilingual — acronyms. CIC, CBSA/ ASFC, CRA/ ARC, CSPS/ EFPC, FAC/ AEC, HC/ SC, HRSDC… we can even locate all these ministries on the map. But hey, this is Ottawa, we are a bit weird.

Even when shopping, you must know what a toonie (a two dollars coin) and a loonie (a one dollar coin) are and how to calculate the GST and the PST.

And don’t let me forget about our favorite interjection…eh. 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.

But remember that any American mocking us say “eh” more often than we do.

And that, for the record, the last letter of the alphabet is “zed”, not “zee”.

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