Apparently I don’t. This morning I was reading Uncle John’s Supremely Satisfying Bathroom Reader (though not where you’d expect) and I came across an entry about Canadian English. The reader is asked to translate a paragraph of supposedly Canadian gobbledygook and then we are presented with a series of definitions, as follows:
- Beer-slinger: bartender
- Hoser: a lout
- Rubby: “a derelict alcoholic known to mix rubbing alcohol with what he is imbibing”
- Molson muscles: beer belly
- Booze can: an illegal bar
- Sh*t-disturber: one who likes to create trouble
- Gravol: “the Canadian proprietary name of an anti-nausea medication”
- “All-dressed: Food served with all the optional garnishes
- Cuffy: Cigarette butt
- Browned off: Fed up or disheartened
- Two-four: A case of beer
- First Peoples: The politically correct term for Canadian Indians
- Bazoo: Old rusted car
- Fuddle duddle: A euphemism for “go to hell”
- Keener: Eager beaver
- Steamie: A steamed hot dog
- Gitch: Underwear
- The Can: Canada
- Schmuck: Verb meaning “to flatten”, as in, “He got schmucked on the road”
- Bite moose: Go away
- Garburator: A garbage disposal unit
- …Wobbly pop: Alcohol
- Keep yer stick on the ice: Pay attention
- Skookum: Big and powerful (a west coast term derived from Chinook jargon)” (p. 97-98, numbering mine)
Bob & Doug have done more harm than good. Apparently Canadians spend most of their time speaking about alcohol-related subjects. I quite enjoy uniquely Canadian terminology, but I don’t care for stereotypes and, worse, inaccuracies.
Part of the problem is that most of the words in their list (words 3, 5, 9, 10, 13, 14, 16, 18, 20 and 24) are local terms —that is, they may be used in parts of Canada but they are not Canadian as such; I have never heard any of them in normal conversation (just like someone from Eastern Canada probably wouldn’t know what a “bunnyhug” is). Many of the other words are pop-cultural phrases: hoser and keep your stick on the ice are used by Bob & Dough MacKenzie and Red Green, respectively, but not often used in regular conversation. All-dressed, Gravol and Garburator are not, I am sure, uniquely Canadian words at all.
In fact, the only words on this list that I hear in at least semi-regular conversation are two-four, keener, gitch and schmuck (the definition of which, by the way, I take issue with).
That the list includes such ridiculous phrases as bite moose and The Can suggests to me that the writers of the article took a trip to Toronto, asked a bunch of jokers for some Canadian terminology, who then made a bunch of stuff up. Bazoo? Browned off? Maybe in rural parts of the Maritimes.
The truth is, I think there are relatively few Canadianisms in the sense of words and phrases used across the country. Off the top of my head (other than the ones I recognized in the above list): toque, double-double, tobaggan, loonie, twoonie, and eh? And people from other parts of the country may not recognize or use toque.
The sad fact is that Uncle John’s writers are perpetuating a stereotype of Canada, a myth. There are relatively few truly pan-Canadian words and phrases, I think. Or I just don’t know very many and am not as Canadian as I’d like to think I am.
If you can think of any other pan-Canadian words or phrases, add them in the comments. People posting local and phrases words will be belittled. (Just kidding.)