canadian English

Sleeping with an elephant

Canadian English month brings you a guest post by Shauna Rae, a radio and television personality, freelance writer and social media blogger, based in Ontario, Canada.


In a rare rant for a Canadian, in this commercial, a favourite here, our hero dispels many of the stereotypes we sometimes get from those abroad. Mostly, I think these sorts of parodies (oddly many of them ARE contained in beer ads!) are aimed at our neighbours to the south that we try so desperately to separate ourselves from.

It was indeed Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau who uttered his now famous quote in reference to our relationship with the United States:

“Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”

One monumental difference between us in Canada and our American counterparts is that we actually have two official languages: French and English. All English-speaking students at school are required to take French, and most of us know the French equivalents of free, prize, and no sugar added, thanks to our extensive education in bilingual cereal boxes. Packaging here is written in both official languages. A wide variety of items produced or manufactured in Canada are now collector’s items, sold regularly on eBay, because of the dual language descriptors.

A plethora of “Canadianisms” relate to food. We eat donuts and Timbits (donut holes, small donut balls) with our double doubles (coffee with double cream and double sugar). We like poutine (a mix of French fries, chunks of white cheese and gravy) even though we can almost hear our arteries hardening with every bite. We like McIntosh toffee, KD or Kraft Dinner (a post-secondary staple), and pure Canadian maple syrup kicks Mrs. Butterworth’s ass over pancakes!

If you are Canadian, you are likely to know someone who has collected pogey (employment insurance), you have skated on an outdoor rink, and you have Canadian Tire money stuffed in your kitchen drawers. Canadian Tire, by the way, is busier on a Saturday than most stores are now during the Christmas season. Suprisingly though, it is impossible to find a sales associate.

And speaking of the season, how fitting that Canadian English month should be December, the festive season! Driving down a Canadian street, you can see Christmas lights hung on about two-thirds of the homes, mostly sparkling off the glitter of the snow. We love Christmas! And as the debate is raised every year on whether or not we should use the salutation Merry Christmas, we calmly sip on our rum and eggnog, take a spin on our ski-doo with the toboggan attached to the back, and snuggle up in our flannel pj’s to await Santa’s arrival to claim his cookies and homo milk.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyeux Noel, or Season’s Greetings – we are all one tapestry of celebration, woven with hope and empathy, enshrouded with a red maple leaf that will never lose its identity as a country. We could never be prouder!

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Shauna Rae


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