As part of our most recent update we focused on increasing Macmillan Dictionary’s coverage of Canadian English. Having added around 50 words and phrases that are peculiar to the English spoken north of the 49th parallel, we thought it would be fun to ask some of our blog contributors and readers for their favo(u)rite Canadian terms. This is what they told us. If you’d like to share your favourites, feel free to add a comment to this post.
The loonie and the toonie
These are two informal words for Canadian coins. The loonie is the one dollar coin, which earns its name from the image of the loon on it (a loon is a kind of bird). A toonie is the more recent two dollar coin, named that way because it sounds like loonie. I just love the way these sound – much nicer than the other slang word for a dollar, a buck. And yes, Canada is full of loonies and toonies.
Lindsay Clandfield, ELT author, trainer, speaker
My favourite Canadian English word is keener. It seems to describe an individual in a way that other words cannot; this is not a person who is simply trying to ingratiate themselves to an authority figure. It is someone who is really wanting to question or learn more for the sake of acquiring further knowledge or improving oneself. Sometimes keeners can be annoying to others, but their underlying intentions rarely are.
Eliza Reid, Founding Director of Iceland Writers Retreat
A classic Canadian English word is chesterfield, which is a couch or sofa, but it seems to have fallen out of fashion and is now only used by older generations. Not surprisingly, given our cold climes, a number of Canadian-isms relate to alcohol, like mickey (a 12 oz bottle of liquor) and two-four (a case of 24 bottles of beer). But my favourite word has always been toque (pronounced ‘touk’). This is a French Canadian word for a wooly hat or beanie, typically adorned with a giant pompom. (It is one of the only French words that Anglo-Canadians use, and many probably don’t know it’s actually French!) We all wear toques — men, women, young and old — and they make everyone look a bit goofy. The toque is thus the ultimate symbol of Canada’s democratic and egalitarian principles.
Elizabeth Vlossak, Associate Professor of History, Brock University
My favourite Canadianism is poutine. It’s a combination of chips and lumps of cheese with gravy poured over the top. Unbelievably delicious or unbelievably awful, depending on your point of view, but uniquely Canadian.
Until recently my favourite Canadian term was two-four meaning a case of beer. May two-four is a public holiday actually called Victoria Day, but as it is the start of summer most people use the long weekend to escape up north and consume a huge amount of beer (brews). I have a new favourite though, which is puck buddy, a term used to refer to the WAGs of the hockey world.
The word I’ve chosen is the use of some as an adverb, notably in the phrase some good you, said in an admiring tone and meaning ‘well done’, though it can also be said sarcastically (though not often because Canadians are too nice).
Elizabeth McGuane, content strategy lead at Intercom (@emcguane)
Bunnyhug – referring to a hooded sweatshirt. Today would definitely be bunnyhug weather in London! My other choice would be toque (a warm winter hat – often with a bobble atop) because it perfectly encompasses how diverse Canada can be. The word toque originally has roots in both Arabic and Breton French, but in Canada it was associated with the coureurs de bois (French and Metis fur traders). The only difficulty with this word is that Canadians can’t seem to agree on a universal spelling! Finally, another suggestion would be hooped – meaning ‘broken’ or ‘useless’.
My favourite Canadian expression may not just be Canadian, but Prince Edward Island is the only place I’ve heard it. It’s kitty-corner (some people say catty-corner) and it’s a way of describing a place which is diagonally opposite somewhere else – e.g. You know where the Tim Horton’s is? Well, the Post Office is kitty-corner.
Ken Wilson, ELT author and teacher trainer