Canadian English

Canadian English

Canadian English (CanE, en-CA) [en-CA is the language code for "Canadian English" , as defined by ISO standards (see ISO 639-1 and ISO 3166-1 alpha-2) and Internet standards (see IETF language tag).] is the variety of English used in Canada. More than 26 million Canadians (85% of the population) have some knowledge of English (2006 census). [ [ Population by knowledge of official language, by province and territory (2006 Census)] ] Approximately 17 million speak English as their native language. Outside of Quebec, 76% of Canadians speak English natively. The phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, and lexicon for most of Canada are very similar to that of the Western and Midland regions of the United States.Labov, p. 222.] Given the similarities shared between Canadian English and American English, both are often grouped together as North American English. Canadian English also contains elements of British English in its vocabulary, as well as several distinctive Canadianisms. Canadian English spelling follows both American and British English spelling. In many areas, speech is influenced by French, and there are notable local variations. However, Canada has very little dialect diversity compared to the United States. The phonological system of western Canadian English is identical to that of the Pacific Northwest of the United States, and the phonetics are very similar. [Boberg, C: "Geolinguistic Diffusion and the U.S.-Canada Border", "Language Variation and Change", 12(1):15]


The term "Canadian English" is first attested in a speech by the Reverend A. Constable Geikie in an address to the Canadian Institute in 1857. Geikie, a Scottish-born Canadian, reflected the Anglocentric attitude prevalent in Canada for the next hundred years when he referred to the language as "a corrupt dialect," in comparison to what he considered the proper English spoken by immigrants from Britain.Chambers, p. xi.]

Canadian English is the product of four waves of immigration and settlement over a period of almost two centuries. The first large wave of permanent English-speaking settlement in Canada, and linguistically the most important, was the influx of British Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution, chiefly from the Mid-Atlantic States – as such, Canadian English is believed by some scholars to have derived from northern American English, [" [,M1 Canadian English] ." Brinton, Laurel J., and Fee, Marjery, ed. (2005). Ch. 12. in "The Cambridge history of the English language. Volume VI: English in North America.", Algeo, John, ed., pp. 422-440. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1992.ISBN 0521264790, 9780521264792. On p. 422: "It is now generally agreed that Canadian English originated as a variant of northern American English (the speech of New England, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania)."] and is nothing more than a variety of it. ["Canadian English." McArthur, T., ed. (2005). "Concise Oxford companion to the English language", pp. 96-102. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-280637-8. On p. 97: "Because CanE and AmE are so alike, some scholars have argued that in linguistic terms Canadian English is no more or less than a variety of ("Northern") "American English"."] The second wave from Britain and Ireland was encouraged to settle in Canada after the War of 1812 by the governors of Canada, who were worried about anti-English sentiment among its citizens. Waves of immigration from around the globe peaking in 1910 and 1960 had a lesser influence, but they did make Canada a multicultural country, ready to accept linguistic change from around the world during the current period of globalization. [Chambers, p. xi–xii.]

The languages of Aboriginal peoples in Canada started to influence European languages used in Canada even before widespread settlement took place, [ [ which shaped the varieties of English] ] and the French of Lower Canada provided vocabulary to the English of Upper Canada.

Spelling and dictionaries

Canadian spelling of the English language combines British and American rules. Most notably, French-derived words that in American English end with "-or" and "-er", such as "color" or "center", usually retain British spellings ("colour", "honour" and "centre"), although American spellings are not uncommon. Also, while the United States uses the Anglo-French spelling "defense" (noun), Canada uses the British spelling "defence". (Note that "defensive" is universal.) In other cases, Canadians and Americans differ from British spelling, such as in the case of nouns like "tire" and "curb", which in British English are spelled "tyre" and "kerb". Words such as "realize" and "recognize" are usually spelled with "-ize" rather than "-ise". (The etymological convention that verbs derived from Greek roots are spelled with -ize and those from Latin with -ise is preserved in that practice. [Sir Ernest Gowers, ed., "Fowler's Modern English Usage", 2nd ed. (Oxford: OUP, 1965), 314.] )

Canadian spelling rules can be partly explained by Canada's trade history. For instance, the British spelling of the word "cheque" probably relates to Canada's once-important ties to British financial institutions. Canada's automobile industry, on the other hand, has been dominated by American firms from its inception, explaining why Canadians use the American spelling of "tire" and American terminology for the parts of automobiles (e.g., "truck" instead of "lorry", "gasoline" instead of "petrol").Fact|date=October 2007

A contemporary reference for formal Canadian spelling is the spelling used for Hansard transcripts of the Parliament of Canada. Many Canadian editors, though, use the "Canadian Oxford Dictionary", 2nd ed. (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2004), often along with the chapter on spelling in "Editing Canadian English", and, where necessary (depending on context) one or more other references. (See Further reading below.)

The first Canadian dictionaries of Canadian English were edited by Walter Spencer Avis and published by Gage Ltd. Toronto. The "Beginner's Dictionary" (1962), the "Intermediate Dictionary" (1964) and, finally, the "Senior Dictionary" (1967) were milestones in CanE lexicography. Many secondary schools in Canada use these dictionaries. The dictionaries have regularly been updated since: the "Senior Dictionary" was renamed "Gage Canadian Dictionary" and exists in what may be called its 5th edition from 1997. Gage was acquired by Thomson Nelson around 2003. Concise versions and paperback version are available.

In 1997, the "ITP Nelson Dictionary of the Canadian English Language" was another product, but has not been updated since.

In 1998, Oxford University Press produced a Canadian English dictionary, after five years of lexicographical research, entitled "The Oxford Canadian Dictionary". A second edition, retitled "The Canadian Oxford Dictionary", was published in 2004. Just as the older dictionaries it includes uniquely Canadian words and words borrowed from other languages, and surveyed spellings, such as whether "colour" or "color" was the most popular choice in common use. Paperback and concise versions (2005, 2006), with minor updates, are available.

The scholarly "Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles" ("DCHP") was first published in 1967 by Gage Ltd. It was a partner project of the "Senior Dictionary" (and appeared only a few weeks apart from each other). The "DCHP" can be considered the "Canadian OED", as it documents the historical development of CanE words that can be classified as "Canadianisms". It therefore includes words such as "mukluk, Canuck, bluff" and "grow op", but does not list common core words such as "desk, table" or "car". It is a specialist, scholarly dictionary, but is not without interest to the general public. After more than 40 years, a second edition has been commenced at UBC in Vancouver in 2006.

Throughout most of the 20th century, Canadian newspapers generally adopted American spellings e.g. "color" as opposed to the British-based "colour". The use of such spellings was the long-standing practice of the The Canadian Press perhaps since that news agency's inception, but visibly the norm prior to World War II.cite news | title=Practical concerns spelled the end for -our | publisher="Ottawa Citizen" | date=31 March 1990 | page=B3 | first=William | last=MacPherson ] The practice of dropping the letter "u" in such words was also considered a labour-saving technique during the early days of printing in which movable type was set manually. Canadian newspapers also received much of their international content from American press agencies, therefore it was much easier for editorial staff to leave the spellings from the wire services as provided.cite news | title=Let's hear what the readers say | first=Don | last=Sellar | publisher="Toronto Star" | date=8 March 1997 | page=C2 ] But reader complaints regarding the American spellings continued, given the widespread usage of the British variants in Canada which were particularly taught in the school systems. Eventually, Canadian newspapers adopted the British spelling variants such as "-our" endings, notably with the "The Globe and Mail" changing its spelling policy in October 1990. [cite news | title=Contemplating a U-turn | first=John | last=Allemang | date=1 September 1990 | publisher="The Globe and Mail" | page=D6 ] Other Canadian newspapers adopted similar changes later that decade, such as the Southam newspaper chain's conversion on 2 September 1998. [cite news | title=Herald's move to Canadian spellings a labour of love | date=2 September 1998 | publisher="Calgary Herald" | page=A2] The "Toronto Star" adopted this new spelling policy on 15 September 1997 after that publication's ombudsman discounted the issue earlier in 1997.cite news | title=How your Star is changing | first=John | last=Honderich | date=13 September 1997 | page=A2 | publisher="Toronto Star"]

Phonemic incidence

The pronunciation of certain words has both American and British influence.

* The name of the letter Z is normally the Anglo-European (and French) "zed"; the American "zee" is not unknown in Canada, but it is often stigmatized. [J.K. Chambers, Sociolinguistic Theory: Linguistic Variation and Its Social Significance, 2nd Edition. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2002. [] ]
* In the word "adult", the emphasis is usually on the first syllable, as in Britain.
* Canadians side with the British on the pronunciation of "lieutenant" IPA|/lɛfˈtɛnənt/, "shone" IPA|/ʃɒn/, "lever" IPA|/ˈlivər/, and several other words; "been" is pronounced by many speakers as IPA|/bin/ rather than IPA|/bɪn/; as in Southern England, "either" and "neither" are more commonly IPA|/ˈaɪðər/ and IPA|/ˈnaɪðər/, respectively.
* "Schedule" can sometimes be IPA|/ˈʃɛdʒul/; "process" and "progress" are sometimes pronounced IPA|/ˈproʊsɛs/ and IPA|/ˈproʊɡrɛs/; "leisure" is often IPA|/ˈlɛʒər/, "harassment" is often IPA|/ˈhɛrəsmənt/.
* "Again" and "against" are often pronounced IPA|/əˈgeɪn(st)/ rather than IPA|/əˈgɛn(st)/.
* The stressed vowel of words such as "borrow", "sorry" or "tomorrow" is IPA|/ɔr/ rather than IPA|/ɑr/.
* Words such as "fragile", "fertile", and "mobile" are pronounced as IPA|/frædʒaɪl/, IPA|/fɜrtaɪl/, and IPA|/moʊbaɪl/. The pronunciation of "fertile" as IPA|/fɜrtl̩/ is also becoming somewhat commonFact|date=February 2007 in Canada, even though IPA|/fɜrtaɪl/ remains dominant.
* Words like "semi", "anti", and "multi" tend to be pronounced as IPA|/sɛmi/, IPA|/ænti/, and IPA|/mʌlti/ rather than IPA|/sɛmaɪ/, IPA|/æntaɪ/, and IPA|/mʌltaɪ/.
* Loanwords that have a low central vowel in their language of origin, such as "drama", "llama", "pasta", and "pyjamas", tend to have IPA|/æ/ rather than IPA|/ɑ/ (which is the same as IPA|/ɒ/ due to the father-bother merger, see below); "khaki" is sometimes pronounced IPA|/kɑrki/, the preferred pronunciation of the Canadian Army during the Second World War. [The pronunciation IPA|/kɑrki/ was the one used by author and veteran Farley Mowat.]
* The word "premier" "leader of a provincial or territorial government" is commonly pronounced IPA|/ˈprimjir/, with IPA|/ˈprɛmjɛr/ and IPA|/ˈprimjɛr/ being rare variants.
* The herb and given masculine name "basil" is usually pronounced IPA|/ˈbæzəl/ rather than IPA|/ˈbeɪzəl/.
* Many Canadians pronounce "asphalt" as "ash-falt" IPA|/ˈæʃfɒlt/. [Barber, p. 77.] This pronunciation is also common in Australian English, but not in General American English or British English.
* "Milk" may be pronounced IPA|/mɛlk/ by some speakers. Some Americans pronounce it that way as well.

Regional variation

Canada has very little dialect diversity compared to the United States. The provinces east of Ontario show the largest dialect diversity. Northern Canada is, according to Labov, a dialect region in formation, and a homogenous dialect has not yet formed. [Labov, p. 214] A very homogeneous dialect exists in Western and Central Canada, a situation that is similar to that of the Western United States. William Labov identifies an inland region that concentrates all of the defining features of the dialect centred on the Prairies, with periphery areas with more variable patterns including the metropolitan areas of Vancouver and Toronto. This dialect forms a dialect continuum with the far Western United States, however it is sharply differentiated from the Inland Northern United States. This is a result of the relatively recent phenomenon known as the Northern cities vowel shift; see below.

Western and Central Dialect

As a variety of North American English, this variety is similar to most other forms of North American speech in being a rhotic accent, which is historically a significant marker indifferentiating different English varieties.

Like General American, this variety possesses the merry-Mary-marry merger (except in Montreal, which tends towards a distinction between marry and merryLabov p. 218] ), as well as the father-bother merger.

Canadian raising

Perhaps the most recognizable feature of CanE is Canadian raising. The diphthongs IPA|/aɪ/ and IPA|/aʊ/ are "raised" before voiceless consonants, namely /p/, /t/, /k/, /s/, and /f/. In these environments, IPA|/aɪ/ becomes IPA| [ʌɪ] , while the raised allophone of IPA|/aʊ/ varies regionally: it is more fronted in Ontario (closer to IPA| [ɛʊ] ) but more retracted in the West and the Maritimes (closer to IPA| [ʌʊ] ).Boberg] Canadian raising is found throughout Canada, including much of the Atlantic Provinces. It is the strongest in the Inland region, and is receding in younger speakers in Lower Mainland British Columbia, as well as certain parts of Ontario.

Because the nucleus of the diphthong is raised to a mid position, speakers of dialects that do not possess Canadian raising will hear that the diphthong sounds different, and will approximate it with the closest sound in their dialect, which is usually IPA|/o/. As a result, the Canadian pronunciation of "about" to American ears, may sound like "a boat", or sometimes even exaggerated to "a boot". This is more noticeable in Eastern Canada (with the exception of Newfoundland) and least so in Vancouver. However there is no region in Canada that pronounces it like IPA| [əbut] "a boot", although in parts of the Prairies and Nova Scotia it may be so retracted as to be very similar to "a boat".

Many Canadians, especially in parts of the Atlantic provinces, do not possess Canadian raising. In the U.S., this feature can be found in areas near the border such as the Upper Midwest, although it is much less common than in Canada; raising of IPA|/aɪ/ alone, however, is increasing in the U.S., and unlike raising of IPA|/aʊ/, is generally not noticed by people who do not have the raising.

Because of Canadian raising, many speakers are able to distinguish between words such as "writer" and "rider"--a feat otherwise impossible, because North American dialects turn intervocalic /t/ into an alveolar flap. Thus "writer" and "rider" are distinguished solely by their vowels, even though the distinction between their consonants has since been lost. Speakers who do not have raising cannot distinguish between these two words.

The low-back merger and the Canadian Shift

Almost all Canadians have the cot-caught merger, which also occurs in the Western U.S. Speakers do not distinguish IPA|/ɔ/ (as in "caught") and IPA|/ɑ/ (as in "cot"), which are merged in low back position. The merger causes speakers not only to produce these vowels identically, but also fail to hear the difference when speakers who preserve the distinction (e.g. speakers of Conservative General American and Inland Northern American English) pronounce these vowels. This merger has existed in Canada for several generations.Labov p. 218.]

This merger creates a hole in the short vowel sub-system [Martinet, Andre 1955. Economie des changements phonetiques. Berne: Francke.] and triggers a sound change known as the Canadian Shift, which involves the front lax vowels IPA|/æ, ɛ, ɪ/. The IPA|/æ/ of "bat" is lowered and retracted in the direction of IPA| [a] (except in some environments, see below). Indeed, IPA|/æ/ is backer in this variety than almost all other North American dialects; [Labov p. 219.] the retraction of IPA|/æ/ was independently observed in Vancouver [Esling, John H. and Henry J. Warkentyne (1993). "Retracting of IPA|/æ/ in Vancouver English."] and is more advanced for Ontarians and women than for people from the Prairies or Atlantic Canada and men. [Charles Boberg, "Sounding Canadian from Coast to Coast: Regional accents in Canadian English."] Then, IPA|/ɛ/ and IPA|/ɪ/ may be lowered (in the direction of IPA| [æ] and IPA| [ɛ] ) and/or retracted; studies actually disagree on the trajectory of the shift. [Labov et al. 2006; Charles Boberg, "The Canadian Shift in Montreal"; Robert Hagiwara. "Vowel production in Winnipeg"; Rebecca V. Roeder and Lidia Jarmasz. "The Canadian Shift in Toronto."] For example, Labov et al. (2006) noted a backward and downward movement of IPA|/ɛ/ in apparent time in all of Canada except the Atlantic Provinces, but no movement of IPA|/ɪ/ was detected.

Therefore, in Canadian English, the short-"a" and the short-"o" are shifted in opposite directions to that of the Northern Cities shift, found across the border in the Inland Northern U.S., which is causing these two dialects to diverge: the Canadian short-"a" is very similar in quality to the Inland Northern short-"o"; for example, the production IPA| [maːp] would be recognized as "map" in Canada, but "mop" in the Inland North.

Other features

Traditionally diphthongal vowels such as IPA|/oʊ/ (as in "boat") and IPA|/eɪ/ (as in "bait") have qualities much closer to monophthongs in some speakers especially in the Inland region. Like the Northern U.S., IPA|/oʊ/ and IPA|/aʊ/ are conservative--they are pronounced back and rounded. However, /u/ is fronted after coronals. IPA|/u/ is becoming more fronted in recent generations.Clarifyme|date=March 2008 This fronting is led by women, and is strongest in Ontario and British Columbia.

Unlike most varieties of North American English, in this dialect IPA|/æ/ is raised more before velar stops rather than before IPA|/d/. [Labov p. 221] For example, "bag" has a vowel that is similar to the vowel in "beg". Before nasals, IPA|/æ/ is usually raised, but to a lesser degree than in most of the U.S. [Labov, p. 221.]

Some older speakers still maintain a distinction between "whale" and "wail", and "do" and "dew".Labov p.218.]

The first element of IPA|/ɑr/ (as in "car") tends to be raised to at least lower-mid position. [Labov, p. 219.]

British Columbia

British Columbia English has several words still in current use borrowed from the Chinook Jargon. Most famous and widely used of these terms are "skookum" and "saltchuck". In the Yukon, "cheechako" is used for newcomers or greenhorns. A study shows that people from Vancouver exhibit more vowel retraction of /æ/ before nasals than people from Toronto, and this retraction may become a regional marker of West Coast English [Erin Hall "Regional variation in Canadian English vowel backing"] .

Prairies (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta)

A strong Canadian raising exists in the prairie regions together with certain older usages such as chesterfield and front room also associated with the Maritimes. Aboriginal Canadians are a larger and more conspicuous population in prairie cities than elsewhere in the country and certain elements of aboriginal speech in English are sometimes to be heard. Similarly, the linguistic legacy, mostly intonation but also speech patterns and syntax, of the Scandinavian, Slavic and German settlersndash who are far more numerous and historically important in the Prairies than in Ontario or the Maritimesndash can be heard in the general milieu. Again, the large Métis population in Saskatchewan and Manitoba also carries with it certain linguistic traits inherited from French, Aboriginal and Celtic forebears.Some terms are derived from immigrant groups or are just local inventions:
* shinny - elsewhere ball hockey or street hockey
* slough - pond
* pot hole - usually a deeper slough; also used to refer to slough in plural, sloughs is never used, while pot holes is. Pot hole also refers to a hole in a paved road caused by the freezing and thawing cycle.
* ginch/gonch/gitch/gotch - underpants, usually male
* bluff (small group of trees isolated by prairie)
* bunny hug - elsewhere hoodie or hooded sweat shirt.

In farming communities with substantial Ukrainian, German, or Mennonite populations, accents and sentence structure influenced by these languages is common.


Ottawa Valley

The area to the north and west of Ottawa is heavily influenced by original Scottish, Irish, and German settlers, with many French loanwords. This is frequently referred to as the "Valley Accent". This dialect is heavy with slang phrases and terminology.


Although only 1.5% of Torontonians speak French, about 56.2% are native speakers of English, according the the 2006 Census [] . As a result Toronto shows a more variable speech pattern. [Labov p. 214-215.] Although slang terms used in Toronto are synonymous with those used in other major North American cities, there is also a heavy influx of slang terminology originating from Toronto's many immigrant communities. These terms originate mainly from various European, Asian, and African words. Among youths in ethnically diverse areas, a large number of words borrowed from Jamaican Patois can be heard, owing to the large number of Jamaican immigrants in Toronto.


* Many people in Montreal distinguish between the words marry and merry.
* A person with English mother tongue and still speaking English as the first language is called an "Anglophone". The corresponding term for a French speaker is "Francophone" and the corresponding term for a person who is neither Anglophone nor Francophone is "Allophone". "Anglophone" and "Francophone" are used in New Brunswick, an officially bilingual province.
* Quebec Anglophones generally pronounce French street names in Montreal as French words. "Pie IX" Boulevard is pronounced as in French («pi-neuf»), not as "pie nine." On the other hand, most Anglophones do pronounce final "D"s, as in "Bernard" and "Bouchard".
* In the city of Montreal, especially in some of the western suburbs like Cote-St-Luc, Hampstead or Westmount, there is a strong Jewish influence in the English spoken in these areas. A large wave of Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union before and after World War II is also evident today. Their English has a strong Yiddish influence; there are some similarities to English spoken in New York. Italians and Greeks living in Montreal have also adopted English and therefore have their own dialect.
* Words used mainly in Quebec and especially in Montreal are: [Boberg, p. 36.] "stage" for "apprenticeship or internship", "copybook" for a notebook, "dépanneur" or "dep" for a convenience store, and "guichet" for an ABM/ATM.
* It is also common for Anglophones to use translated French words instead of common English equivalents, such as "Open" and "Close" for "On" and "Off", e.g. "Open the lights, please" for "Turn on the lights, please"


Many in the Maritime provinces – Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island – have an accent that sounds more like Scottish English and, in some places, Irish English than General American. The phonology of Maritimer English has some unique features:

* Pre-consonantal IPA|/r/ is sometimes deleted.
* The flapping of intervocalic /t/ and /d/ to alveolar tap IPA| [ɾ] between vowels, as well as pronouncing it as a glottal stop IPA| [ʔ] , is less common in the Maritimes. Therefore, "battery" is pronounced as IPA| [ˈbætɹi] instead of IPA| [ˈbæɾ(ə)ɹi] .
* Especially among the older generation, /w/ and /ʍ/ are not merged; that is, the beginning sound of why, white, and which is different from that of witch, with, wear.
* Like most varieties of CanE, Maritimer English contains Canadian raising.


The dialect spoken in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, an autonomous dominion until March 31, 1949, is often considered the most distinctive Canadian dialect. Some Newfoundland English differs in vowel pronunciation, morphology, syntax, and preservation of archaic adverbal-intensifiers. The dialect can vary markedly from community to community, as well as from region to region, reflecting ethnic origin as well as a past in which there were few roads and many communities, and fishing villages in particular remained very isolated. A few speakers have a transitional pin-pen merger.


* When writing, Canadians will start a sentence with "As well," in the sense of "in addition"; this construction is a Canadianism. [Trudgill and Hannah, "International English" (4th edition), p. 76.]
* Canadian and British English share idioms like "in hospital" and "to university", [] [ [] ] while in American English the definite article is mandatory; "to/in the hospital" is also common in Canadian speech.Fact|date=February 2007


Where CanE shares vocabulary with other English dialects, it tends to share most with American English; many terms in standard CanE are, however, shared with Britain, but not with the majority of American speakers. In some cases the British and the American term coexist, to various extents; a classic example is "holiday", often used interchangeably with "vacation". In addition, the vocabulary of CanE also features words that are seldom (if ever) found elsewhere.

As a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, Canada shares many items of institutional terminology with the countries of the former British Empire – e.g., "constable", for a police officer of the lowest rank, and "chartered accountant".


The term "college", which refers to post-secondary education in general in the U.S., refers in Canada to either a post-secondary technical or vocational institution, or to one of the colleges that exist as federated schools within some Canadian universities. Most often, a "college" is a community college, not a university. It may also refer to a CEGEP in Quebec. In Canada, "college student" might denote someone obtaining a diploma in business management while "university student" is the term for someone earning a bachelor's degree. For that reason, "going to college" does not have the same meaning as "going to university", unless the speaker or context clarifies the specific level of post-secondary education that is meant.

Canadian universities publish "calendars" or "schedules", not "catalogs" as in the U.S.. Students "write" or sometimes "take" exams, they rarely "sit" themFact|date=February 2007. Those who supervise students during an exam are generally called "invigilators" as in Britain, or sometimes "proctors" as in the U.S.; usage may depend on the region or even the individual institutionFact|date=February 2007.

Successive years of school are often, if not usually, referred to as "grade one", "grade two", and so on. In Quebec English, however, the speaker will often say "primary one", "primary two", (a direct translation from the French), and so on. (Compare American "first grade, second grade", sporadically found in Canada, and British "Year 1, Year 2".)"American Speech" 80.1 (2005), p. 47.] In the U.S., the four years of high school are termed the freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior years (terms also used for college years); in Canada, these are simply grades 9 through 12."American Speech" 80.1 (2005), p. 48.] As for higher education, only the term "freshman" (usually reduced to "frosh") has some currency in Canada. The American usages "sophomore", "junior" and "senior" are not used in Canadian university terminology, or in speech. The specific high-school grades and university years are therefore stated and individualized; for example, "the grade 12s failed to graduate"; "John is in his second year at McMaster". The "first year", "third year" designation also applies to Canadian law school students, as opposed to the common American usage of "1L", "2L" and "3L."

Canadian students use the term "marks" (more common in England) or "grades" to refer to their results; usage is very mixed.

Units of measurement

Use of metric units is more widespread in Canada than in the U.S. as a result of the national adoption of the Metric System during the late 1970s by the government of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Official measurements are given in metric, including highway speeds and distances, fuel volume and consumption, and weather measurements (with temperatures in degrees Celsius). However, it is not uncommon for Canadians to use British imperial units such as pounds, feet, and inches to measure their bodies. Older generations are more likely to use miles for distances. The term "klicks" is sometimes used interchangeably with kilometres because both the demotic and metric (with the first syllable stressed) pronunciations are widespread. Both metric and Imperial measures for cups, teaspoons, and tablespoons are used in cooking, as well as degrees Fahrenheit in baking.


* Although Canadian lexicon features both "railway" and "railroad", "railway" is the usual term, at least in naming (witness Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway); most rail terminology in Canada, however, follows American usage (e.g., "ties" and "cars" rather than "sleepers" and "wagons").
* A two-way ticket can be either a "round-trip" (American term) or a "return" (British term).
* The terms "highway" (e.g. Trans-Canada Highway), "expressway" (Central Canada, as in the Gardiner Expressway) and "freeway" (Sherwood Park Freeway, Edmonton) are often used to describe various high speed roads with varying levels of access control. Generally, but not exclusively, "highway" refers to a provincially funded road. Often such roads will be numbered. Similar to the US, the terms "expressway" and "freeway" are often used interchangeably to refer to divided highways with access only at grade-separated interchanges (e.g. a 400-Series Highway in Ontario). However, "expressway" may also refer to a road that has control of access but has at-grade junctions, railway crossings (e.g. the Harbour Expressway in Thunder Bay.) Sometimes the term "Parkway" is also used (e.g. the Hanlon Parkway in Guelph, Ontario.) Quebec speakers may call freeways and expressways "autoroutes". In Alberta, the generic "Trail" is often used to describe a freeway, expressway or major urban street (e.g. Deerfoot Trail, Macleod Trail or Crowchild Trail in Calgary, Yellowhead Trail in Edmonton). The British term "motorway" is not used. The American terms "turnpike" and "tollway" for a toll road are not common. The term "throughway" or "thruway" was used for first tolled limited-access highways (e.g. the Deas Island "Throughway", now Highway 99, from Vancouver, BC, to Blaine, Washington, USA or the Saint John "Throughway" (Highway 1) in Saint John, NB), but this term is not common anymore.
* A railway at-grade junction is a "level crossing"; the U.S. term "grade crossing" is rarely, if ever, used.fact|date=April 2008
* A railway or highway crossing overhead is an "overpass" or "underpass", depending on which part of the crossing is referred to (the two are used more or less interchangably); the British term "flyover" is sometimes used in Ontario.fact|date=April 2008


* To "table" a document in Canada is to present it (as in Britain), whereas in the U.S. it means to withdraw it from consideration.
* Several political terms are more in use in Canada than elsewhere, including "riding" (as a general term for a parliamentary constituency or electoral district). The term "reeve" was at one time common for the equivalent of a mayor in a district municipality but is now in disuse.
* The term "Tory," used in Britain with a similar meaning, denotes a supporter of the federal Conservative Party of Canada, the historic federal or provincial Progressive Conservative party. The term Red Tory is also occasionally used. The U.S. use of "Tory" to mean the Loyalists in the time of the American Revolution is unknown in Canada,Fact|date=March 2008 where they are called United Empire Loyalists, or simply Loyalists.
* Members of the Liberal Party of Canada or a provincial Liberal party are sometimes referred to as "Grits."
* Members of the New Democratic Party are sometimes referred to as "(Knee) Dippers" (from the party's initials NDP).fact|date=April 2008
* Members of the Bloc Québécois are sometimes referred to as "Bloquistes". At the purely provincial level, members of Quebec's Parti Québécois are often referred to as "Péquistes", and members of the Quebec provincial Action démocratique du Québec as "Adéquistes".
* The term "Socred" is no longer common due to its namesake party's decline, but referred to members of the Social Credit Party, and was particularly common in British Columbia. . It was not used for Social Credit members from Quebec, nor generally used for the federal caucus of that party; in both cases "Creditiste", the French term, was used in English.


Lawyers in all parts of Canada, except Quebec, which has its own civil law system, are called "barristers and solicitors" because any lawyer licensed in any of the common law provinces and territories is permitted to engage in both types of legal practice in contrast to other common-law jurisdictions such as England, Wales, and Ireland where the two are traditionally separated (i.e., Canada has a fused legal profession). The words "lawyer" and "counsel" (not "counsellor") predominate in everyday contexts; the word "attorney" refers to any personal representative; a Canadian lawyer representing a client is an "attorney-at-law".

The equivalent of an American "district attorney", meaning the barrister representing the state in criminal proceedings, is called a "crown attorney" (in Ontario), "crown counsel" (in British Columbia), "crown prosecutor" or "the crown", on account of Canada's status as a constitutional monarchy in which the Crown is the locus of state power.

The words "advocate" and "notary" – two distinct professions in Quebec civil law – are used to refer to that province's equivalent of barrister and solicitor, respectively. In Canada's common law provinces and territories, the word "notary" means strictly a notary public.

Within the Canadian legal community itself, the word "solicitor" is often used to refer to any Canadian lawyer in general (much like the way the word "attorney" is used in the United States to refer to any American lawyer in general). Despite the conceptual distinction between "barrister" and "solicitor", Canadian court documents would contain a phrase such as "John Smith, "solicitor" for the Plaintiff" even though "John Smith" may well himself be the barrister who argues the case in court. In a letter introducing him/herself to an opposing lawyer, a Canadian lawyer normally writes something like "I am the "solicitor" for Mr. Tom Jones."

The word "litigator" is also used by lawyers to refer to a fellow lawyer who specializes in lawsuits even though the more traditional word "barrister" is still employed to denote the same specialization.

Judges of Canada's superior courts (which exist at the provincial and territorial levels) are traditionally addressed as "My Lord" or "My Lady", like much of the Commonwealth, however there are some variances across certain jurisdictions, with some superior court judges preferring the titles "Mister Justice" or "Madam Justice" to "Lordship".

Judges of provincial or inferior courts are traditionally referred to in person as "Your Honour". Judges of the Supreme Court of Canada and of the federal-level courts prefer the use of "Mister/Madam (Chief) Justice". Justices of The Peace (equivalent to Supreme Court Justices in the United States) are addressed as "Your Worship". "Your Honour" is also the correct form of address for a Lieutenant Governor.

As in England, a serious crime is called an indictable offence, while a less-serious crime is called a summary offence. The older words felony and misdemeanour, which are still used in the United States, are not used in Canada's current "Criminal Code" (R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46) or by today's Canadian legal system. As noted throughout the "Criminal Code", a person accused of a crime is called "the accused" and not "the defendant", a term used instead in civil lawsuits.

A county in British Columbia means only a regional jursidiction of the courts and justice system and is not otherwise connected to governance as with counties in other provinces and in the United States. The rough equivalent to "county" as used elsewhere is a "Regional District".


Distinctive Canadianisms are:

* "bachelor": bachelor apartment, an apartment all in a single room, with a small bathroom attached ("They have a bachelor for rent"). ["Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary", "bachelor".] The usual American term is "studio". In Montreal, this is known as a "two-" or "one-and-a-half" apartment, depending on whether it has a separate kitchen; some Canadians, especially in Prince Edward Island, call it a "loft".Boberg 2005.]
* "beer parlour": used as a synonym for pub; being replaced by "bar."
* "camp": in Northern Ontario, it refers to what is called a "cottage" in the rest of Ontario and a "cabin" in the West. [Boberg 2005, p. 38.] It is also used, to a lesser extent, in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, as well as in parts of New England.
* "fire hall": fire station, firehouse. [ [ fire hall - Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary ] ]
* "height of land": a drainage divide. Originally American. [Webster's New World College Dictionary, Wiley, 2004.]
* "parkade": a parking garage, especially in the West.
* "washroom": [] the general term for what is normally named "public toilet" or lavatory in Britain. In the U.S. (where it originated) mostly replaced by "restroom" in the 20th century. Generally used only as a technical or commercial term outside of Canada. The word "bathroom" is also used.
* "rancherie": the residential area of an Indian Reserve, used in BC only.
* Indian reserve. These are not "reservations" as they are in the U.S.A..
*"quiggly hole" and/or "quiggly": the depression in the ground left by a "kekuli" or pithouse. Groups of them are called "quiggly hole towns". Used in the BC Interior "only".
*"gasbar": a filling station (gas station) with a central island, having pumps under a fixed concrete awning.

Daily life

Terms common in Canada, Britain, and Ireland but less frequent or nonexistent in the U.S. are:

* "Tin" (as in "tin of tuna"), for "can", especially among older speakers. Among younger speakers, "can" is more common, with "tin"Fact|date=February 2007 referring to a can which is wider than it is tall.
* "Cutlery", for "silverware" or "flatware".
* "Serviette", especially in Newfoundland and Labrador, for a table "napkin", though this is quickly being changed to the latter.Fact|date=February 2007

* "Tap", conspicuously more common than "faucet" in everyday usage.
* "Elastic" for "rubber band".

The following are more or less distinctively Canadian:

* "ABM", "bank machine": synonymous with ATM (which is also used). [Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, "ABM"; Boberg 2005.]
* "debit card": used in favor of "Interac card" or "bank card".
* "chesterfield": originally British and internationally used (as in classic furnishing terminology) to refer to a sofa whose arms are the same height as the back, it is a term for "any" couch or sofa in Canada (and, to some extent, Northern California). [ [] ] [ [ chesterfield. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000 ] ] Once a hallmark of CanE, "chesterfield" is now largely in decline among younger generations in the western and central regions. [ [] J.K. Chambers, "The Canada-U.S. border as a vanishing isogloss: the evidence of chesterfield." Journal of English Linguistics 23 (1995): 156-66.] "Couch" is now the most common term; "sofa" is also used.
* "eavestroughs": rain gutters. Also used, especially in the past, in the Northern and Western U.S.; the first recorded usage is in Herman Melville's "Moby-Dick": "The tails tapering down that way, serve to carry off the water, d'ye see. Same with cocked hats; the cocks form gable-end eave-troughs ["sic"] , Flask." [Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, "eavestrough"; Oxford English Dictionary; American Heritage Dictionary.]
* "garburator": (rhymes with "carburetor") a garbage disposal. [According to the "Canadian Oxford Dictionary" (second edition), "garburator" is "Canadian" and "garbage disposal" is "North American."]
* "hydro": a common synonym for electrical service (used primarily in Eastern Canada, Manitoba, and British Columbia). Many Canadian provincial electric companies generate power from hydroelectricity, and incorporate the term "Hydro" in their names. Usage: "I didn't pay my hydro bill so they shut off my lights." Hence "hydrofield", a line of electricity transmission towers, usually in groups cutting across a city, and "hydro lines/poles", electrical transmission lines/poles. [Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, "hydro".] These usages of "hydro" are also standard in the Australian state of Tasmania.
* "brown": used as a noun to refer to visible minorities, especially of South Asian origin. Often used by South Asians to refer to themselves. Usage: "Harmeet invited a lot of brown people" This is not considered particularly offensive, much like the usage of "black" in the United States.
* "loonie": the Canadian one-dollar coin; derived from the use of the common loon on the reverse. The "toonie" (less commonly spelled "tooney", "twooney", "twoonie") is the two-dollar coin. "Loonie" is also used to refer to the Canadian currency, particularly when discussing the exchange rate with the U.S. dollar; neither "loonie" nor "toonie" can describe amounts of money (e.g. "thirty dollars").

* "packsack": a backpack; more commonly heard in Northern Ontario.
* "pencil crayon": [cite book |editor=Barber, Katherine |title=The Canadian Oxford Dictionary |edition= 1st Edition |year=1998 |publisher=Oxford University Press |location=Toronto |isbn=0-19-541120-X |pages=p .1075 ] coloured pencil.
* "pogie" or "pogey": term referring to unemployment insurance, which is now officially called "Employment" Insurance in Canada. Derived from the use of pogey as a term for a poorhouse. [ [ Pogey: What Does it Mean? Bonny, 2006] ] Not used for welfare, in which case the term is "the dole", as in "he's on the dole".


The following are common in Canada, but not in the U.S. or the UK.

* "runners": [Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, "runner".] running shoes, especially in Western Canada. [American Speech 80.1 (2005).] Also used in Australian English [Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary.] and Irish English.Fact|date=July 2007 Atlantic Canada prefers "sneakers". [American Speech 80.1 (2005), p. 36.]
* "tuque": a knitted winter hat, often with a pompom on the crown. Sometimes spelled "toque". (The same hat would be called a "beanie" in the western U.S. and a "watch cap" in the eastern U.S.)
* "bunny hug": a hooded sweater (hoodie). This term is uncommon outside of Saskatchewan.

Food and beverage

* Most Canadians as well as Americans in the Northwest, North Central, Prairie and Inland North prefer "pop" over "soda" to refer to a carbonated beverage (but neither term is dominant in British English; see further at Soft drink naming conventions).
* What Americans call "Canadian bacon" is named "back bacon" or, if it is coated in cornmeal or ground peas, peameal bacon in Canada.
* What most Americans call a "candy bar" is usually known as a "chocolate bar" (as in the UK, however, some in the US, especially older Americans in northern states, occasionally call it a "chocolate bar").
* What Americans call a "corn dog" is sometimes known as a "pogo" or "pogo stick" in Canada, in reference to the main brand of corn dogs.
* Even though the word "French fries" is used by Canadians, some older speakers use the word "chips"Fact|date=November 2007 (which is always used in "fish and chips", as elsewhere).

The following are Canadianisms:

* "double-double": a cup of coffee with two creams and two sugars, most commonly associated with the Tim Hortons chain of coffee shops. By the same token, triple-triple. [ [ Arts - 'Double-double'? Now you can look it up ] ]
* "mickey": a 375 mL (13 fl oz) bottle of hard liquor (called a pint in the Maritimes).
* "two-six", "twenty-sixer", "twixer": a 750 mL (26 fl oz) bottle of hard liquor (called a quart in the Maritimes).
* "Texas mickey": a 3 L (101 fl oz) bottle of hard liquor. (Despite the name, Texas mickeys are generally unavailable outside of Canada.)
* "two-four": a case of 24 beer (it is common in Canada for "beer" to represent both individual and multiple servings).
* "poutine": a snack of french fries topped with cheese curds and hot gravy.
* "Breakwich": A breakfast sandwich.

Informal speech

A "rubber" in the U.S. and Canada is slang for a condom. However, in Canada it is sometimes another term for "eraser" fact|date=August 2008 (as it is in the United Kingdom and Australia) and, in the plural, for overshoes or galoshes (as it is in the U.S.). It is also used to refer to the tie-breaking match in a card game, especially in the Maritimes. The terms "booter" and "soaker" refer to getting water in one's shoe. The former is generally more common in the Prairies, the latter in the rest of Canada.Fact|date=February 2007

The word "bum" can refer either to the buttocks (as in Britain), or, derogatorily, to a homeless person (as in the U.S.). However, the "buttocks" sense does not have the indecent character it retains in BritishFact|date=August 2007 and Australian use, as it is commonly used as a polite or childish euphemism for ruder words such as "arse" (commonly used in Atlantic Canada and among older people in Ontario and to the west) or "ass", or "mitiss" (used in the Prairie Provinces, especially in northern and central Saskatchewan; probably originally a Cree loanword).

Similarly the word "pissed" can refer either to being drunk (as in Britain), or being mad or angry (as in the U.S.), though anger is often said as "pissed off", while "piss drunk" or "pissed up" is said to describe inebriation (though "piss drunk" is sometimes also used in the US, especially in the northern states).

Canadian colloquialisms

One of the most distinctive Canadian phrases is the spoken interjection "eh", which is stereotyped as being said by all Canadians in modern culture. The only usage of "eh" exclusive to Canada, according to the "Canadian Oxford Dictionary", is for "ascertaining the comprehension, continued interest, agreement, etc., of the person or persons addressed" as in, "It's four kilometres away, eh, so I have to go by bike." In that case, "eh?" is used to confirm the attention of the listener and to invite a supportive noise such as "mm" or "oh" or "okay". Other uses of "eh"—for instance, in place of "huh?" or "what?" meaning "please repeat or say again"—are also found in parts of the British Isles and Australia. It is used across Canada, but less likely in southern British Columbiafact|date=August 2008. This term in particular is also common in some border areas around the Great Lakes, in Maine, and in the Detroit metropolitan regionFact|date=December 2007.

The word "hoser", used extensively in Bob and Doug McKenzie skits, refers to an uncouth, beer drinking man. ["Oxford English Dictionary", third edition (in progress), "hoser".] A "keener" is someone who is keen or enthusiastic to do a task; in some contexts derogatory.

A "Canuck" is a Canadian and used by Canadians with pride; it is not a derogatory term. In the 19th and early 20th Centuries it tended to refer to French-Canadians only until it became adopted widely in English as a result of the "Johnny Canuck" comic book character. It is also the name for Vancouver's NHL team.

A "Newf" or "Newfie" is someone from Newfoundland and Labrador; sometimes considered derogatory.

In the Maritimes, a "Caper" is someone from Cape Breton, a "Bluenoser" is someone with a thick, usually southern Nova Scotia accent, while an "Islander" is someone from Prince Edward Island (the same term is used in BC for people from Vancouver Island).

Miscellaneous Canadianisms

* The code appended to mail addresses (the equivalent of the British postcode and the American ZIP code) is called a "postal code".
* The term "First Nations" is often used in Canada to refer to what are called American Indians or Native Americans in the United States. This term does "not" include the Métis and Inuit in all regions, however; the term aboriginal peoples is preferred when all three groups are included.
* While the act of "going camping" still refers to tenting at a designated outdoor campground or wilderness park, the term "going out to camp" may refer to the habitation of a summer cottage or building more-or-less built according to government code. In British Columbia, "camp" was used as a reference for certain company towns (e.g. Bridge River). Is is used in western Canada to refer to logging and mining camps such as Juskatla Camp. It is also is a synonym for a mining district; the latter occurs in names such as Camp McKinney and usages such as "Cariboo gold camp" and "Slocan mining camp" for the Cariboo goldfields and Slocan silver-galena mining district, respectively. A "cottage" in British Columbia is generally a small, even petite house, perhaps with an English design or flavour. The Ontarian usage of a sometimes-palatial "place on the lake" is unknown in BC, and rare in other parts of western Canada, other than when used by transplants from Eastern Canada. Similarly, "chalet" - originally a term for a small warming hut - can mean a veritable mansion, but refers to one located in a ski resort.
* A "stagette" is a female bachelorette party (US) or hen party (UK); a "stag and doe" (or "buck and doe") is a joint male and female party prior to their wedding.
* A "wedding social" is a pre-wedding fund-raiser for the bride and groom hosted by family and friends. Money is collected through admission, the sale of alcoholic beverages, and raffles or draws for various items. Originating in Manitoba, this term has become common throughout Northwestern Ontario (except in Thunder Bay, where it is known as a "shag") as well as parts of Saskatchewan (though it is less common in that province and may mean either "shag carpet" or to have sex with [profane] ).
* The "humidex" is a measurement used by meteorologists to reflect the combined effect of heat and humidity.
* An "expiry date" is the term used for the date when a perishable product will go bad (similar to the UK "Use by" date). The term "expiration date" is more common in the United States (where "expiry date" is rarely if ever used).


See also

* American and British English spelling differences
* Bungee language
* Canadian French
* Canadian Gaelic
* I Am Canadian
* North American Regional Phonology
* North American English
* Pacific Northwest English
* Quebec French
* Regional accents of English speakers
* Vowel shift

Further reading

* Barber, Katherine, editor (2004). "Canadian Oxford Dictionary", second edition. Toronto: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-541816-6.
* Barber, Katherine. " [ 11 Favourite Regionalisms Within Canada] ", in David Vallechinsky and Amy Wallace (2005). "The Book of Lists", Canadian Edition. Knopf. ISBN 978-0-676-97720-2.
* Boberg, Charles (2005). "The North American Regional Vocabulary Survey: Renewing the study of lexical variation in North American English." "American Speech" 80/1. []
* Boberg, Charles, "Sounding Canadian from Coast to Coast: Regional accents in Canadian English", McGill University.
* Courtney, Rosemary, et al., senior editors (1998). "The Gage Canadian Dictionary", second edition. Toronto: Gage Learning Corp. ISBN 0-7715-7399-5.
* Chambers, J.K. (1998). "Canadian English: 250 Years in the Making," in "The Canadian Oxford Dictionary", 2nd ed., p. xi.
* Clark, Joe (2008). " [ Organizing Our Marvellous Neighbours: How to Feel Good About Canadian English] " (e-book). ISBN 978-0-9809525-0-6.
* Peters, Pam (2004). "The Cambridge Guide to English Usage". Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-62181-X.
* Canadian Raising: O'Grady and Dobrovolsky, "Contemporary Linguistic Analysis: An Introduction", 3rd ed., pp. 67-68.
* Canadian English: Editors' Association of Canada, [ "Editing Canadian English: The Essential Canadian Guide"] , 2nd ed. (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2000).
* Canadian federal government style guide: Public Works and Government Services Canada, "The Canadian Style: A Guide to Writing and Editing" (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998).
* Canadian newspaper and magazine style guides:
** J.A. McFarlane and Warren Clements, "The Globe and Mail Style Book: A Guide to Language and Usage", 9th ed. (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1998).
** The Canadian Press, [ "The Canadian Press Stylebook", 13th ed.] and its quick-reference companion [ "CP Caps and Spelling", 16th ed.] (both Toronto: Canadian Press, 2004).
* Canadian usage: Margery Fee and Janice McAlpine, "Guide to Canadian English Usage" (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2001).

External links

* [ Canadian Oxford Dictionaries] (Oxford University Press)
* [ Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Words: Woe & Wonder]
* [ Dave VE7CNV's Truly Canadian Dictionary of Canadian Spelling] - comparisons of Canadian English, American English, British English, French, and Spanish
* [ Cornerstone's Canadian English Page]
* [ Canadian Glossary, eh! (A list of Canadian words and pronunciations)]
* [ Lexical, grammatical, orthographic and phonetic Canadianisms]
* [ Varieties of English: Canadian English] from the University of Arizona
* [ Dictionary of Newfoundland English]

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