Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Correcting the Canadians

Saw this list at Macleans--terms that Canadians think are confusing to Americans.  As the official American-Canadian translator, I must certify/verify/correct.  Plus I need some blog posts to reverse the slide of late.
1. Two-four (24 beers)
Yes, in the US, we call this a case.  As in a case of swill.  Unless it is microbrew, then it is a case of beer.
2. Loonie (and, of course, toonie)
Of course.  Americans think that the US dollar is or should be the only currency in the world.  Nearly there (if one includes holding US debt)
3. Toque 
Thanks to pop-culture, I think Americans get this one even if they would not know how to spell it.
4. Klick (kilometre)
Given that the US military measures in metric and that Hollywood has plenty of war movies that use klick, this is actually far more familiar to Americans than other metric terms (well, coke users know what a gram is but who else?)
5. Toboggan
Please.  The real difference is not toboggan versus sled, as many Americans in the upper half of the country have used such a device.  No, the real difference is that Canadians go sliding, it seems, while Americans go sledding.
6. Peamealor back bacon
WTF?  Been here ten years, never heard this before.
7. Washroom
Americans use either term washroom or bathroom, thank you very much.  WC is far more foreign.
8. Serviette 
Ok, that is one, but how many Canadians use that word?
9. Chinook (the wind, not the helicopter)
Sure, but do Canadians know what a Santa Ana is?
10. Mickey (e.g. a mickey of vodka)
Hmmm, old school American drunks know this one.
11. Knapsack
Please.  Americans know that one as well.
12. Kerfuffle
Probably class specific, but I heard of kerfuffles long before I moved Beyond the Wall.

Still, the reigning culture shocks for Americans when they visit Canada are: hockey leading the news, bags of milk in the grocery stores, and folks wearing fur (tis not murder up here).  What was most surprising when I moved to Canada was how little difference there is between Canadian and American English.  Sure, heaps of extra u's, dropped "the"s, holidays instead of vacations, but no references to lorries, torches and w.c.'s.  The language up here is far closer to American than the Queen's English.  If I can only keep track of defense vs defence, I will be ok.

1 comment:

Mark Reynolds said...

As a Canadian in Los Angeles I definitely know what a Santa Ana is, and was outed as a frost-nosed foreigner the first time I asked to use the washroom on Hollywood Boulevard. My bewilderment that anyone would wear a toque in this climate is matched by the bewilderment at my word choice.

On the other hand, I still can't fathom why milk isn't in bags here, and how the Los Angeles Times can devote pages to collegiate and high school football before finding space for the (Stanley Cup winning!) Kings.

I agree on the rest though: a lot of those are a stretch, or reflect local uses rather than national ones. Serviette? My great-grandmother might have used one. Claiming that as a distinguishing characteristic reminds me of a guy I knew in high school who wore non-prescription lenses and carried a cane as an affectation: "LOOK AT HOW SPECIAL WE ARE!"