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Monday, November 27, 2006

Talking like a Canadian

That’s LIKE a Canadian, not TO a Canadian (this would be a short-lived American TV series, indeed, with an undiscovered comedian traveling Canada to film wacky people who don’t know anything about the United States).

Lesson #1: Never say “aboot”.

Nobody says this, so just stop trying to be funny. You sound like a moron. The only people who say this are Americans who have never met anyone from Canada. And don’t call people “hosers”. I think Bob and Doug Mackenzie made this up and the Americans actually believed them.

Lesson #2: Put a question mark at the end of declarative sentences?

This one takes some work, because if you overdo it, you sound suspiciously like a Valley Girl. The goal is to give the impression that you will back off from what you’re saying if anyone else takes offense:

I went out in my car? And I drove to Tim Horton’s? And I got a double-double?

Lesson #3: Say you’re sorry a lot.

It is true that Canadians will apologize even when they’ve done nothing wrong. For example, if someone steps on my toe, I will apologize. If someone comes running down the hallway without looking and bonks into me, I will apologize. This is true. You are actually expected to apologize when someone does this. It sets off a chain of serial apologies: “I’m sorry!” “No, I’m sorry!” “No, I’m sorry!” Ideally, other people will jump in and start apologizing for not warning you that the person was running down the hallway. Or the building designer will apologize for putting hallways in such an inconvenient location.

Lesson #4: Insist that you don’t have an accent.

Canadians, even those from Newfoundland, think they don’t have accents. We will, however, tell you that YOU have an accent.

In all seriousness, there is no Canadian accent. The accent that most people think of as Canadian is really the Upper Canadian accent. People talk this way in Toronto. And believe me, there is not much that’s worse than sounding like you are from Toronto. The only thing worse would be sounding like you are from Texas. It would be better not to speak at all.

There are a number of regional accents across Canada, most notably the Newfoundland accent. This is probably best considered a dialect instead of an accent, because Newfoundlanders have thousands of words that are spoken nowhere else (they actually have their own dictionary). It is a cross between an Irish accent and a Cape Breton accent.

Lesson #5: Say “Canada”.

That’s “Cah-nah-dah”. Not “Keeya-neh-der.” We will spot you a mile away.

Lesson #6: Say “eh”, but not as often as you think you should.

Yes, we say “eh”. But for heaven’s sake, it is not as funny as some people seem to think. We don’t say it all the time. I probably say it twice a day. Use it in the same places you would say “huh” and that will be plenty, thanks. And never, ever write it down.

Lesson #7: Memorize the important words.

Those would be “washroom”, “toque”, “Timbit”, “poutine”, and “mickey”.