2005-05-31

How to tell a Canadian

Spot the Hidden Canadian is a fun game: they think they can pass for Unitedstatesians, but there are Signs. (It's said that Peter Jennings's TelePrompTer has the word "lieutenant" written as "lootenant", in order to remind him not to say "leftenant" and destroy, quelle horreur!, the illusion that he's One Of Us.)

If someone writes "tire center", they're probably American; if they write "tyre centre", they might be British. But if they write "tire centre", that marks the Canadian. (When a Brit read an earlier version of this post, he enquired whether a "tire centre" was a place where people go in order to become less energetic and more sleepy.)

When speaking, there are three things to look for: the "eh?", Canadian Raising ("writer" and "rider" sound different; "spider" and "inside her" don't quite rhyme, and so much for Miss Muffet), and the rounded British/Bostonian pronunciation of short "o" as in "hot" and "pot". None alone is infallible: all three together? Canadian.

We do but jest, poison in jest, no offense i'th' world.

5 comments:

M. T. MacPhee said...

Actually, Canadians rhyme "spider" and "inside her". However, similarly to "writer" and "rider", "lout" and "loud" use different diphthongs. The key is the following consonant. If it is "voiced (b, d, g, z, etc.)" the pronunciation is General American. If it is "unvoiced (p, t, k, s, etc." it becomes Canadian.

We also say "tap" where Yanks (a general term covering all citizens of the USA, not just North Easterners) would say "faucet".

If unsure, have your suspect read the following sentence: "I took the Datsun out of the garage to get some pasta before the drama." The more they pronounce the capitalized "A"s like the first "a" in "Canada", the more sure you can be that you are dealing with a Canuck: "I took the DAtsun out of the garAge to get some pAsta before the drAma."

If still in doubt, see if they laugh at these two Canadian jokes:

What is the difference between a Datsun and a DAtsun? A block heater.

Warning: the world will end today at 9:00 o'clock. 9:30 in Newfoundland.

If you don't get them, you are no hoser.

Lets see. PER mit is *always* a noun. Per MIT is *always* a verb.

Gotta go, eh?

Mike

John Cowan said...

Actually, Canadians rhyme "spider" and "inside her".

I was exaggerating for effect. Pennsylvanians, though, who also have Canadian Raising, don't rhyme these two. (The Fuluffyan's Lament: I went to Baltimore, I went in a restaurant and ordered a steak, and they served me a porterhouse!)

Yanks (a general term covering all citizens of the USA, not just North Easterners)

Yankee, n. In the rest of the world, an American; in the South, a Northerner; in the North, a New Englander; in New England, a Vermonter; in Vermont, a Vermonter who eats pie for breakfast.

What is the difference between a Datsun and a DAtsun? A block heater.

I live in a small island off the coast of North America, where most of us don't own (or even drive) cars. But I get the point.

Warning: the world will end today at 9:00 o'clock. 9:30 in Newfoundland.

This may seem quaint to you, but the whole of India and the middle of Australia (shades of Yellow-Dog Dingo!) are also on the half hour.

Two Newfie fishermen (I heard this from a Newf, really) are out catching fish when the Canadian Coast Guard pulls up beside them. "Hey, you can't catch those fish, those are Canadian fish not Newfie ones."

"How can you tell?"

"They're swimming towards Canada. You can only catch fish swimming toward Newfoundland."

"No problem. Whenever we catch a fish, we check its mouth. If it's open, we know it's a Canadian fish and we throw him back."

If you don't get them, you are no hoser.

"There are two kinds of Yanks, those who don't know anything about Canada, and those who also don't care." --me, at a Robert McNeil lecture.

M. T. MacPhee said...

Interesting about Pennsylvanians. I know this is impossible to do, but how do they say spider/inside her? Maybe you could record an MP3 file?

I have only heard two non-Canadians who can do a credible job of pronouncing ride/write and loud/lout the Canadian way. Interestingly, both were comedians, one Yank and one Aussie.

On the other hand, many Yanks insist that we say "oot and aboot", not "out and about". We do use a dipthong, honest!

" "There are two kinds of Yanks, those who don't know anything about Canada, and those who also don't care." --me, at a Robert McNeil lecture."

Not true. Every time you get some bad weather, I know exactly who you blame. Mind you, the truth is, all that bad weather comes from Alaska. :)

RCH said...

The "oot and aboot" is a carry-over from Scottish pronunciation, isn't it? I only say that because I know a Scottish joke:

A Scot came to Canada to visit his cousin, and the two of them went hunting. Suddenly, they came upon a large animal the likes of which the Scot had never seen.

"What's that?" he gasped.

"Oh, that! That's just a moose," replied the Canadian cousin.

The Scot, eyes still wide, shook his head in disbelief at the scale of things on this side of the pond. "If that's a moose," he said, "I dunna wanna see a rat!"


RCH, a Yank who actually does say tap! ;-)

John Cowan said...

Yes, it is. In Scots the Great Vowel Shift didn't run to completion, and written "ou", which used to sound like "oo" does today, persists unchanged Scots: hoo for how, moos for mouse, and so on.