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The Strathy Blog    
News about the Strathy Language Unit and Canadian English studies          

Learned or learnt?
Date: October 29, 2018 |  Category: News

Thanks to our "bulletin board" researcher Olena for another interesting survey! What do you say?

Click image to open pdf.


'Lit' is out, 'yeet' is in
Date: October 28, 2018 |  Category: In the Media

How's your millennial slang?


The Language of Cannabis
Date: October 16, 2018 |  Category: In the Media

Marijuana becomes legal tomorrow throughout Canada. Do you need to brush up on your pot lingo?


Don Your Runners!
Date: October 15, 2018 |  Category: News

The results of our latest bulletin board survey are in! What do you wear? 

Click image to open pdf.


TRY-plex or TRIP-lex?
Date: October 12, 2018 |  Category: In the Media

It can be refreshing when municipal disagreements morph into discussions about language, as they did last week in Ottawa. Issues around the building regulations for triplexes turned into a debate over the pronunciation of the word.


Date: October 1, 2018 |  Category: In the Media

You may have been inspired to cover your face with your hand in exasperation during past games of Scrabble, but only now can you spell out your feelings...


​Chicken Talk
Date: September 24, 2018 |  Category: In the Media

A summer with backyard chickens has inspired one writer to reflect on how chickens have contributed to the English language...


Summer Media Stories
Date: September 10, 2018 |  Category: In the Media

It was a light summer as far as Canadian English media stories were concerned, but here are a couple you may have missed. 


The Blog is Back!
Date: September 4, 2018 |  Category: In the Media

While we were away, Canadian actor Will Arnett taught the world some Canadian English slang:

More summer media stories soon to follow!


Happy Summer!
Date: July 1, 2018 |  Category: News

The blog is taking its annual July-August hiatus. Meanwhile, the unit is open! Please get in touch with any questions, comments or suggestions.

Strathy office


​Quebec English
Date: June 29, 2018 |  Category: In the Media

If you use the guichet at the dep, you are a proud speaker of Quebec's unique English.


​Regional Dialects Remain Strong
Date: June 27, 2018 |  Category: In the Media

"While previous generations of Canadians often made efforts to downplay their regional dialects, younger cohorts are embracing them" ...


Do You Play "Soccer-Baseball"?
Date: June 26, 2018 |  Category: In the Media

Where do your "Canadianisms" fall on the map?


Date: June 11, 2018 |  Category: In the Media

Steel tariffs are not the only issue in dispute in the trade war between Canada and the U.S. Is it "aluminum" or "aluminium"?


Date: May 15, 2018 |  Category: In the Media

​The use of the term "Newfie" in association with the travel food program Parts Unknown is generating controversy and prompting interesting discussions around language and identity:


This Survey is So Gucci
Date: May 8, 2018 |  Category: News

​Our last bulletin board survey of the term asked participants about their use and knowledge of three slang words. Where do you fall in each pie chart? 

Click on the image to open a pdf.


Um, Why Do We Hesitate? 
Date: May 2, 2018 |  Category: In the Media

A columnist for the Montreal Gazette ponders the research on how and when we "um", "uh" and "er"...


New Exhibits at the Canadian Language Museum 
Date: April 30, 2018 |  Category: News

The Canadian Language Museum will launch two new exhibits on May 1st! Messages from the Mosaic includes the premier of Two Row Wampum, a short documentary about maintaining Indigenous languages in Toronto. Legacies: Our Heritage Through Our Grandmother's Eyes is a photo exhibit featuring the stories of immigrant woman. Visit the museum website for more information.


Cross-Communication: Canadian Writers Reflect on Language and Culture
An Interview with Rawi Hage
Authors: Zara Diab and Shannon Steele 
Date: April 10, 2018 

In this series for the Strathy Blog, we explore the theme of “language” in Canadian literature — in particular the implications of a space containing multiple languages and the movement from one language and culture to another — through a series of interviews with Canadian writers. We reached out to a variety of multilingual voices from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds who engage with language in their work. Our interest lies in how language forms and informs their texts. This week we feature the final interview in our series, a conversation with author Rawi Hage. Our previous interviews were with Ayelet TsabariMary di Michele and Doretta Lau.

Rawi Hage is a Lebanese-Canadian writer based in Montreal. His award-winning novels include De Niro’s GameCockroach and Carnival. As an immigrant to Canada for whom English is a third language, Hage has an interesting perspective on our topic of language and culture, which he explores in his work and shares in our interview. 

Can you tell us a bit about your language background? Do you use certain languages for certain contexts?

I grew up speaking Arabic, in particular a Lebanese dialect that was specific to a particular neighbourhood in Beirut. This is, of course, before the standardization of the various regional dialects by the mega burst of TV channels. At the time Lebanon’s multiple regional dialects were more apparent and accentuated. In her early years after her arrival to Beirut, my mother spoke a northern accent that was heavily influenced by the previously spoken Syriac language in the region (a dialect that has its roots in Aramaic). With time Arabic became the dominant spoken language of the region. My father was a first generation Beiruti and spoke with the current Beirut accent.

I studied in a Lebanese school. Arabic was taught as a language (i.e. grammar, reading, writing) as well as Arabic literature and Arab history but most of the other materials such as science, geography and French literature were taught to us in French. Our French textbooks were imported from France.

Click here to read the full interview.


Change and Variation in Canada 10 
Date: April 9, 2018 |  Category: News

The tenth annual Change and Variation in Canada (CVC) workshop will be held at the University of Manitoba on May 4-5. The program promises some great Canadian English talks and a special session on Canadian vowels.

From the conference website:

    The Tenth Annual Change and Variation in Canada (CVC 10) Workshop will take place May 4-5, 2018 at the Université de Saint-Boniface campus in Winnipeg, organized by the University of Manitoba. This (French-English) bilingual workshop brings together researchers in a variationist framework working on Canadian language varieties and/or at Canadian institutions.

    Plenary speaker: Dr. Jennifer Nycz, Georgetown University

    This year there will be a special session on Canadian vowels. Submissions are welcome for this session, and there will be four invited talks specifically on this topic:

    Invited special session speakers:

    Dr. Rebecca Roeder, University of North Carolina, Charlotte

    Dr. Julia Swan, San Jose State University

    Dr. Vincent Arnaud, Université du Québec à Chicoutimi

    There will be two free methodological workshops for CVC participants. The first workshop will be on using R in data analysis, tailored to participants’ needs, and facilitated by Dr. Kevin Russell (University of Manitoba). The second will be on incorporating gesture and video in variationist research, facilitated by Dr. Terry Janzen and Dr. Erin Wilkinson (University of Manitoba).


    Cross-Communication: Canadian Writers Reflect on Language and Culture
    An Interview with Doretta Lau
    Authors: Zara Diab and Shannon Steele 
    Date: April 3, 2018 

    In this series for the Strathy Blog, we explore the theme of “language” in Canadian literature — in particular the implications of a space containing multiple languages and the movement from one language and culture to another — through a series of interviews with Canadian writers. We reached out to a variety of multilingual voices from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds who engage with language in their work. Our interest lies in how language forms and informs their texts. Each week for four weeks, we will post a new author interview. This week we feature Doretta Lau. Our previous interviews were with Ayelet Tsabari and Mary di Michele.

    photo of Doretta Lau by Ming Kai Leung​Doretta Lau is a second-generation Chinese-Canadian author, notable for her poetry and fiction, including the 2014 short story collection How Does a Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun?. She was born in Vancouver to immigrant parents and now spends her time between Canada and Hong Kong. In the titular short story of her collection, Lau portrays Chinese-Canadian teens playing with slang and concepts of hybridity.

    Can you tell us a bit about your language background? Do you use certain languages for certain contexts?

    My native language is English, but the first language I learned at home was Cantonese. I started learning how to read and write in English when I was three. I cannot write or read Chinese beyond a few simple words, even though I took classes for ten years. (I can read important things like menus.) While growing up I learned a bit of Mandarin, and took French in school until grade twelve. For work, I use English, and I speak Cantonese to my parents as well as when I am in Hong Kong.

    Click here to read the full interview.


    Canadian English: 2001 and Beyond 
    Date: April 2, 2018 |  Category: In the Media

    You likely recognize the voice of HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey, but do you recognize it as Canadian? In this piece about HAL's voice in The New York Times, linguist Jack Chambers reflects on why a Canadian English voice may be the perfect choice for AI.


    Cross-Communication: Canadian Writers Reflect on Language and Culture
    An Interview with Mary di Michele
    Authors: Zara Diab and Shannon Steele 
    Date: March 27, 2018 

    In this series for the Strathy Blog, we explore the theme of “language” in Canadian literature — in particular the implications of a space containing multiple languages and the movement from one language and culture to another — through a series of interviews with Canadian writers. We reached out to a variety of multilingual voices from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds who engage with language in their work. Our interest lies in how language forms and informs their texts. Each week for four weeks, we will post a new author interview. Our first interview was with Ayelet Tsabari. This week we feature Mary di Michele.

    Mary di Michele is an Italian-Canadian author and poet living in Montreal. She is known for writing autobiographical pieces which deal with her upbringing in Italy and her move to Canada as a child. Her most recent collection, Bicycle Thieves, contemplates her Italian and Canadian identities: a work of translation and self. You can read her poem "The Bicycle Thief" here.

    Can you tell us a bit about your language background? Do you use certain languages for certain contexts?

    My first language was Italian; I was born in Italy, and lived in Europe until I was nearly six years old. I say Europe because during that time I spent a couple of years in Belgium where my brother was born. I lived in a Flemish-speaking city there and my mother tells me I spoke Flemish but I have no memory of this. I learned to speak English in Canada; we immigrated here in the mid-fifties of the last century. My mother never quite learned to speak English so Italian, more precisely, the Abruzzese dialect, was the language I spoke at home with her. But my father, who took night classes to learn and improve his English, spoke English with us. He said we had moved to this country (to Toronto) and should learn to speak the language well. In this he was very unlike the fathers of my Italian friends and relatives who insisted on speaking Italian in the home.

    I work in an English language and literature department; I rarely speak Italian since my mother died. I keep my connection to Italian through my reading and translating of Italian poetry. I have been living in Quebec where French is the primary language since the fall of 1990. I had studied French literature in university and my reading skills are good. I understand the standard French of Radio Canada, but have trouble with street French, and I am not a fluent speaker. My level of French is about the same as Italian; I can read much better than I can speak the language.

    Click here to read the full interview.


    New Survey Results 
    Date: March 26, 2018 |  Category: News

    How do you pronounce progress and docile? See how your vowels compare to those of the participants in our latest bulletin board survey!

    Click on the image to open a pdf.


    Cross-Communication: Canadian Writers Reflect on Language and Culture
    An Interview with Ayelet Tsabari
    Authors: Zara Diab and Shannon Steele 
    Date: March 20, 2018 

    In this new series for the Strathy Blog, we explore the theme of “language” in Canadian literature — in particular the implications of a space containing multiple languages and the movement from one language and culture to another — through a series of interviews with Canadian writers. We reached out to a variety of multilingual voices from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds who engage with language in their work. Our interest lies in how language forms and informs their texts. Each week for the next four weeks, we will post a new author interview. We begin with Ayelet Tsabari. 

    ​Ayelet Tsabari is an Israeli-Canadian author of essays, short stories and poetry, including the acclaimed 2015 short story collection The Best Place on Earth. Her position on multilingualism is unique because she was an author in Israel, working in Hebrew, before shifting to write in English after her move to Canada. Her aforementioned collection is set in both Israel and Canada and discusses many different themes, such as immigration and finding one’s home.

    Can you tell us a bit about your language background? Do you use certain languages for certain contexts?

    Hebrew is my mother tongue. My grandparents’ mother tongue was Arabic, more specifically Judeo-Arabic in a Yemeni dialect, of which I only know a few dozen words that had snuck into our daily family life. I also learned Arabic (the Palestinian dialect) in school in Israel but unfortunately, I haven’t retained too much of it and possess very basic conversational skills. Still, Arabic has a special place in my heart. It’s the language of my ancestors, of our songs and poetry, and the language of the region in which I grew up. I really regret not putting more effort into learning it in school. I worked at a Lebanese restaurant in Vancouver for a few years, where I had the chance to use my poor Arabic occasionally, and during that time I took some Arabic lessons to refresh the language. I’ve been meaning to get back to it for years. I hope I will soon.

    Click here to read the full interview.

    I Love KD! 
    Date: March 6, 2018 |  Category: In the Media

    Do you use brand names to refer to generic items? See what our survey participants said...

    Click image to open pdf.


    Women Only 
    Date: March 6, 2018 |  Category: In the Media

    There are plenty of women in competitive sports, but no more room for ladies...


    Problem Punctuation 
    Date: March 5, 2018 |  Category: In the Media

    This time last year, the trouble was the lack of a comma, and now the presence of an apostrophe is making news...


    Lost in Translation? 
    Date: March 5, 2018 |  Category: In the Media

    The appropriateness of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's use of the French term 'nono', as well as the word's translation into English, have sparked debate...


    Enduring Love for the Canadian Oxford 
    Date: February 20, 2018 |  Category: In the Media

    The Canadian Oxford Dictionary turns twenty this year. For one journalist, an appreciation for the dictionary and editor Katherine Barber have grown stronger over time...


    Canadian English Vowel Study 
    Date: February 16, 2018 |  Category: In the Media

    If you are a monolingual English speaker living in or east of Manitoba, a research team at the University of Alberta needs your help! If you're not, you will still enjoy reading about their ongoing research on vowel quality...


    ​Strathy Occasional Papers Now Online! 
    Date: February 13, 2018 |  Category: News

    We recently digitized several volumes of the series Strathy Occasional Papers on Canadian English and made them available online. You can access all of the volumes on our QSpace site.

    The newly digitized volumes include:

    We still have hard copies of these issues available as well. If you would like one, please contact us.


    Would You Like A Soda? 
    Date: February 6, 2018 |  Category: News

    ... Or would you prefer a pop or a soft drink? Here's what participants in our latest bulletin board survey said.

    Click image to open pdf.


    In All of Us Command 
    Date: February 5, 2018 (Updated February 8, 2018) |  Category: In the Media

    After years of discussion, and not without controversy, the Senate voted to change the lyrics of the national anthem from "in all thy sons command" to "in all of us command". Read more...

    Update: The change became official February 7, 2018...


    A Newfoundland Treasury 
    Date: February 1, 2018 |  Category: News

    A Newfoundland Treasury of Terms for Ice and Snow - the latest exhibit of the Canadian Language Museum - opens tonight in Toronto! See the poster for details. If you can't make the opening, the exhibit will be on display at the Glendon Gallery through March. 


    Newfoundland Accent  
    Date: January 30, 2018 |  Category: In the Media

    As part of their series The Accent Effect, CBC explores the shifting stereotypes around the Newfoundland English accent.


    Dove or Dived? Dreamt or Dreamed?  
    Date: January 29, 2018 |  Category: News

    Our latest informal bulletin board survey reveals that participants "dove" and "dreamt". What about you? Click to enlarge the image.


    Canadian Accents  
    Date: January 23, 2018 |  Category: In the Media

    Toronto is often celebrated as a "city of languages", but accent discrimination persists. "The Accent Effect", a new CBC series, tackles this issue in the first episode.


    Date: January 22, 2018 |  Category: In the Media

    Not familiar with the Newfoundland and Labrador Word of the Year? Check out this article for merb'ys' meaning and origins, along with some other interesting Word of the Year contenders!

    Don't Go Changin'  
    Date: January 16, 2018 |  Category: In the Media

    The media's favorite topic when it comes to language – change – is especially evident around the turn of the year. Here are a few recent articles on new words, new meanings and even new punctuation usage.

    Language and Nostalgia in Newfoundland  
    Date: January 15, 2018 |  Category: In the Media

    "Those were simpler times, but the language was not. It was laced with humour and salt; the lilt of poetry; rooted in land and sea." Enjoy this reflection on the Newfoundland English of a writer's childhood...

    Ontario Dialects  
    Date: January 11, 2018 |  Category: In the Media

    What does "windrow" mean, and who says it? Learn about this and many other interesting words and phrases by visiting Dialects of Ontario. The site highlights ongoing sociolinguistics research in the province by University of Toronto linguist and Canadian English scholar Sali Tagliamonte.


    Word cloud of terms collected thus far:

    ​Canadian English Bibliography  
    Date: December 6, 2017 |  Category: News

    We continue to add resources to the online Strathy Bibliography of Canadian English. Our recent update brings us to 3053 items! Use the bibliography to find journal articles, books and pieces from the popular press on all aspects of Canadian English. Feel free to send us your feedback and alert us to missing resources!


    ​Canadianisms on The Current 
    Date: December 5, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    On today's episode of CBC's The Current, linguist Paul De Decker of Memorial University explains the Canadian Vowel Shift. Also on this episode are discussions of lost English words and grammar in the age of social media. (The Canadian Vowel Shift discussion begins around 16:40.)


    ​How We Talk About Aging
    Date: November 28, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    Is it time to change the conversation around getting older?


    ​Edmonton Elks? 
    Date: November 28, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    We do not yet know what new name the Edmonton Eskimos might adopt, but as this op-ed assures us, the change will come...


    ​The Benefits of Swearing 
    Date: November 28, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    Don't feel guilty the next time you let a "bad" word slip. It's good for you!


    Date: November 27, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    What do you call a word that when written backwards spells a different word, like stop/pots or stressed/desserts? When six-year-old Levi Budd in Victoria, B.C. realized that there is no term for this phenomenon, he proposed "levidrome", and the Oxford Dictionary is listening. 


    ​How "Sorry" are You? 
    Date: November 21, 2017 |  Category: News

    Our latest informal "bulletin board" survey asked respondents to reflect on their pronunciations of the words "pasta" and "sorry". Canadians typically use a different vowel in the first syllable of each of these words than do Americans. Learn more and see the results by clicking on the image!


    ​"Hoodie" or "Sweater?" 
    Date: November 13, 2017 |  Category: News

    The results from our second bulletin board survey reveal that Ontarians are torn between hoodies and sweaters! Check out the poster for more...

    Hoodie results


    What Do You Say? 
    Date: October 31, 2017 |  Category: News

    The results from our first bulletin board survey are in! Strathy research assistant Olena Pankiw designed survey posters for the bulletin boards outside the Strathy offices in Mackintosh-Corry and the third floor of Kingston Hall, asking passerby to indicate their preferred term for a cottage/cabin/camp/chalet/etc. Click on the image below to view the results, and check back in two weeks for results from her latest survey!

    cottage survey results


    ​TDSB Drops Title of "Chief" 
    Date: October 15, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    The Toronto District School Board is discontinuing its use of "Chief" in administrative job titles, out of respect for Indigineous communities. The decision has been criticised by those who believe the gesture is unecessary and even harmful to achieving the goals of Truth and Reconciliation. 


    Congratulations Margery Fee! 
    Date: October 2, 2017 |  Category: News

    Former Strathy Language Unit Director Margery Fee, currently a Professor of English at the University of British Columbia, was recently named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Dr. Fee is recognized for her work in Indigenous literatures and English lexicography. You can read about her early days at the unit and her work on the Guide to Canadian English Usage in this blog post she authored several years ago


    Which Canadian English do you Speak? 
    Date: September 18, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    Canadian English comes in many varities, depending upon your age, gender, ethnicity and myriad other factors. The website The 10 and 3 recently did a lexical survey based on one important factor -  region - and this article touches on some highlights:


    Stick to Your Knitting 
    Date: September 13, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    Toronto Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong's comment that former chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat should "stick to the knitting" rather than express her opinions on city matters, raised the ire of many who felt the phrase was sexist. Reporter Edward Keenan explores the origins and associations of the phrase in this recent article:


    The Language of Love 
    Date: September 12, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    Every generation creates its own terms to discuss dating. Not surprisingly, much of the current terminology relates to online dating. Read up on the latest phrases, along with some insight from linguist Sali Tagliamonte, in this recent article:


    Farewell Watchwords 
    Date: September 11, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    Watchwords, the Montreal Gazette column written by Mark Abley, has sadly come to an end. Mark tackled many language issues in his column over the years, a number of which focused on aspects of Canadian English. We will miss his insights! You can read his final piece here.

    Recent Media Stories 
    Date: September 4, 2017 (updated September 12)  |  Category: In the Media

    The blog is back! Here are some of the summer media stories about Canadian English...

    Summer Hiatus
    Date: June 21, 2017 |  Category: News

    The blog is taking its annual summer hiatus! We will return in September with an overview of the Unit's summer activities and Canadian English media stories. Meanwhile, work at the Unit continues, so feel free to get in touch with your comments, questions and ideas!

    Summertime view out the Strathy Unit windows


    Canadian Shift
    Date: June 20, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    This article offers an overview of ongoing vowel shifts in Canadian English, featuring new research by University of Victoria linguist Derek Denis.

    Research tracks shifts in Canadian's distinctive accent (Inside Science, June 15)


    Gendered Language
    Date: June 20, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    In his Watchwords column, Mark Abley explores the shift to general neutral terms in Canadian English.

    As English becomes more gender neutral, 'bachlorette' endures (Montreal Gazette, June 16)


    We're Canadian, Eh?
    Date: June 15, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    "Eh" is clearly a marker of Canadian identity, but how much do Canadians actually use it? This article draws on research by Derek Denis at the University of Victoria. (See also the related links in our "Here to Stay, Eh?" post from May 23 below.)

    Researcher says Canadians don't really say eh that often, eh? (Times Colonist, June 15)


    The Grammar Battles
    Date: June 14, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    Do you fight on the side of the prescriptivists, passionate about usage standards, or the descriptivists, accepting of ongoing changes to our language? Or perhaps, like The Walrus' copy-editor, Sarah Sweet, your allegiances are shifting over time?

    Barbarians at the gates of grammar (The Walrus, June 7)


    Date: June 8, 2017 |  Category: News

    Do you know what a "droke" is? If not, you should visit the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles. The second edition, which just came out this spring, is filled with fascinating Canadian words and their histories!


    Here to Stay, Eh?
    Date: May 23, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    In a CBC radio interview and article, linguists Derek Denis of the University of Victoria and Martina Wiltschko of UBC share their insights on the history and usage patterns of everyone's favourite Canadian word.

    Is Your Doggo a Fan of the Habs?  
    Date: May 19, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    In his latest Watchwords columns, Mark Abley contemplates our creativity with language by exploring abbreviations and internet speech.


    Are you a "Newfie"?  
    Date: May 17, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    Is "Newfie" a slur or does it connote local pride and belonging? Or both? A McMaster sociologist explores the origins and associations of this controversial term.

    'Newfie': Offensive or endearing? (CBC News, May 15)

    Fishers or Fishermen?  
    Date: May 15, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    In her latest Word Nerd column, The Walrus copyeditor Sarah Sweet tackles sexist language and the uniquely slippery debate around "fishermen".

    Why women who fish are still fishermen (The Walrus, April 27)

    Why the Maple Leafs?  
    Date: April 25, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    ... And not the Maple Leaves? Canadian English scholar Jack Chambers shares the grammatical rule for proper noun plurals - and reassures us that the Leafs are all right.

    The less-than-thrilling reason the Toronto Maple Leafs are not the Maple Leaves (Washington Post, April 19)

    'Neverendums' on the Rise  
    Date: April 24, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    When this term was coined in Quebec decades ago, no one could foresee its need in an increasingly fragile Europe.

    Coining 'neverendum' has conquered the globe (Montreal Gazette, April 22)

    Date: April 17, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    Would they be less annoying if we called them 'puddle holes' or 'chuckholes'?

    The strange history of 'pothole' (Montreal Gazette, April 8)


    Harmless Drudges 
    Date: April 12, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    Merriam-Webster editor Kory Stamper shares both the technical and the emotional challenges of making decisions about language for the masses.


    A dictionary editor's concession: Language is 'really squishy' (Macleans, March 14, 2017)




    Manitoba English 
    Date: April 4, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    This article on English in Manitoba includes a nice journey through some of Manitoba's linguistic history and features research by University of Manitoba linguist Nicole Rosen on varieties of English spoken by Indigenous and and immigrant communities.


    The Manitoba sound (Winnipeg Free Press, March 25) 


    Rampant Verbification 
    Date: April 3, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    Are you more future-ready for the coming verbs than Montreal Gazette writer Mark Abley?


    Not quite future-ready for adjectives to become verbs (Montreal Gazette, March 24)


    Welcome Sali Tagliamonte
    Date: March 31, 2017 |  Category: News

    We were thrilled to welcome University of Toronto sociolinguist Sali Tagliamonte to the Strathy Unit earlier this week. She shared her insights on corpus research and gave two guest lectures. Thanks to Professor Tagliamonte for a productive and fun visit!





    Celebrating Canadian Words
    Date: March 30, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    Here are​ two nice articles introducing the new Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles...




    Of Truckers, Cheese, and the Oxford Comma
    Date: March 29, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    The Oxford comma was already a polarizing punctuation mark, and then along came a controversy over truck drivers and overtime pay...




    Canadian English Guest Talks
    Date: March 28, 2017 |  Category: News

    Students in the Canadian English course at Queen's were treated to guest talks by graduate students from the University of Toronto. Thank you to speakers Emily Blamire, Lex Konnelly, and Katharina Pabst and to instructor Joanna Chociej!






    More Praise for the DCHP
    Date: March 24, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    The new edition of Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles is getting some well-deserved attention beyond Canada...

    A delightful dictionary for Canadian English (The New Yorker, March 23)


    Indigenous Englishes
    Date: March 19, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    Varieties of Indigenous English, also referred to as Aboriginal English or First Nations English, are used in communities throughout North America. This new article offers some background as well as discussion of a new study on prosody. 

    How "Rez Accents" Strengthen Identity (Yes! Magazine, March 9)

    For more on the topic, you can also read this piece written for the Strathy Blog by Sharla Peltier.


    Dictionary of Canadianisms
    Date: March 15, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    The upcoming second edition of the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles is getting some nice coverage in the press. Here is associate editor Margery Fee (and former Strathy Unit Director!) sharing her insights on the research process in an interview with CTV News.


    The New DCHP is (Almost) Here!
    Date: March 13, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    The long-awaited second edition of the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles will be released online this month. We'll post more information about this soon. Meanwhile, get a preview of the content in this article from the Globe.

    Dictionary of Canadianisms is 'tabled' and 'all-dressed' (The Globe and Mail, March 10)


    Taming Your Inner Grammar Troll
    Date: March 12, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    When should you let an error drive you mad, and when should you let it go? One writer struggles to find a balance.

    Grammar Nazis: We have bigger problems than the Oxford comma (Calgary Herald, Feb. 17)


    ​Adventures in Canadianisms: Tuque
    Date: February 27, 2017 |  Category: Guest Column
    Author: Noor-E Ferdous 

    [Editor's note: Adventures in Canadianisms is a series by Strathy Literary Intern Noor-E Ferdous, a master's student in the Department of English at Queen's University. Noor is writing a series of posts on her experiences discovering Canadian English. Click here to read her previous posts.]

    Hello dear readers! I’m back with the last word – my final ‘word of the week’, that is. Now, this word is perhaps one of the most commonly used Canadianisms and, interestingly enough, as someone who has travelled quite a bit throughout the English-speaking world, this is the first time that I have stumbled upon it (which just goes to show how distinctly Canadian it is!).

    Word of the Week: Tuque (also “Toque”)

    What does it mean?
    A tuque is a woolen, knit cap worn by Canadians during winter – your standard issue winter hat. Even though this sort of hat is donned by people all over the world, what is so uniquely Canadian about it is the name, since this type of hat only seems to be called a “tuque” here in Canada. 

    Me (about to leave the house): What’s the weather going to be like today?
    Canadian roomie: Cold! Don’t forget your tuque!
    Me: Huh? What’s a tuque?
    Canadian roomie: A hat, of course!
    Me: Oh! Thank you!

    Where did it come from?
    Toque is French, spelled "toque" in France but "tuque" in French-speaking Canada. In Canadian English either spelling is acceptable. (Canadian English speakers seem a bit flexible on the whole spelling issue in general – i.e. favour/favor, analyze/analyse – confusing for a newcomer, I might add!). Various sources place tuque’s origins in Arabic, making its way to French via Spanish toca, and the Canadian Collins English Dictionary suggests that toca probably comes from the Basque tauka. The French and Métis fur traders may have been the ones to popularize the term in Canada. Bottom line – clearly we humans have been wearing hats for a long time, pretty much everywhere.

    It seems that the type of hat referred to as tuque, however, has varied somewhat over time and place. A quick glance at Wikipedia reveals different types of toques for chefs, judges, professors and athletes, a silky embroidered style donned by 12th century women (fancy, eh?) and even a series of tuques worn in the Napoleonic era to signify military rank. The Guide to Canadian English Usage states that the Canadian English meaning was originally a long knit winter hat, but today the meaning has expanded to refer to any knit winter hat.

    Who uses it?
    Literally everyone and by everyone, I mean EVERYONE. Unlike the other words that I have worked on for this project, everyone I asked clearly knew what a “tuque” was, and they all claimed to use the word – and to prefer it over alternatives such as “hat”.

    Did you know? (Because I certainly didn’t!)
    Throughout history, the tuque has been a symbol of freedom. In ancient Rome it represented emancipation from slavery. The tuque later became a symbol of revolutionary France, particularly those red in color, leading to the term bonnet rouge, or red bonnet. They served as symbols of freedom during the American revolution as well, where they were referred to as liberty hats, and during the Quebec Patriotes Rebellion. Today the tuque is used as a symbol of freedom throughout Latin America and the Caribbean as well. Pretty cool, right? So, the next time you wear your tuque, wear it with pride and don’t be ashamed of the pom pom hanging off the back!

    This brings me to the end of my official journey in Canadianisms for the Strathy Blog, but I know that my learning has only just begun. Thank you, readers, for riding along with me, and thank you, Canada, for all of your interesting and colourful (or is that colorful) words! 


    ​Like is, Like, Nothing New
    Date: February 26, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    You may hate "like" but you can't blame the younger generations. Sociolinguist Alex D'Arcy at the University of Victoria traces our "like" usage back 800 years and finds that while patterns have changed somewhat over time, this controversial little word has been with us from the beginning.

    Like, don't blame 'like' on kids these days, says sociolinguist (CBC, Feb. 22)


    ​Adventures in Canadianisms: Hangashore
    Date: February 20, 2017 |  Category: Guest Column
    Author: Noor-E Ferdous 

    [Editor's note: Adventures in Canadianisms is a series by Strathy Literary Intern Noor-E Ferdous, a master's student in the Department of English at Queen's University. Noor is writing a series of posts on her experiences discovering Canadian English. Click here to read her previous posts.]

    Greetings readers! I’m back again with another word of the week—perhaps the strangest one that I have encountered on this journey. Not only does it sound strange (at least to me—I can barely pronounce it), it has quite an interesting history too!

    Word of the Week: Hangashore

    What does it mean?
    This is a term used to refer to someone who is really lazy, especially someone who is too lazy to go fishing (*awkwardly raising hand*). It can also be used to refer to a weak, sickly person worthy of pity.

    Nathan: Morning James! Where’s your brother? Won’t he join us on today’s fishing trip?
    James: I’m afraid not; he doesn’t like doing much on Sundays!
    Nathan (shaking his head): John’s such a hangashore!

    Where did it come from?
    According to the Dictionary of Newfoundland English, “hangashore” originated from the Irish Gaelic word “angishore”, meaning a “poverty-stricken creature” or an “unfortunate person or thing”. In Irish, when a word begins with a vowel, an “h” can optionally be added to the beginning, which is how the pronunciation “hangashore” arose. There are many words of Irish origin in Newfoundland, given that a large portion of the island’s settlers were from Ireland, in particular those from the Waterford area arriving in the 1800s. The other large group of settlers were English, mostly from the Southwest of England. It was likely the English settlers who adopted and spread the “hangashore” pronunciation. These two large groups of British and Irish settlers had a profound affect on the way English is spoken in Newfoundland, which explains why it is different from the English in the rest of Canada.

    Who uses it?
    This word is associated with Newfoundland as well as the other eastern islands of Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island. I am not sure how common the word is in those areas today, but it does seem to be part of folk culture, given its use in names and titles, for example the Hangashore Folk Festival, the Hangashore Bed and Breakfast or the book The Hangashore Newfoundland Dog. Although I have only been in Canada for a few months, it appears that “hangashore” is not too popular here in Kingston. All the people I’ve asked about the word (even the random strangers waiting at the Downtown Bus Transfer Point) either responded with a really confused look and a disgruntled “No?” or asked me to explain it to them after a moment of thinking. They all looked surprised to learn its actual meaning and judging by this, it appears that “hangashore” is a part of a regional dialect rather than a word that is used all over Canada.

    Did you know? (Because I certainly didn’t!)
    “Hangashore” is only one of many interesting and unique words in Newfoundland. In fact, there is a whole dictionary full! (This is how I learned, for example, that a synonym for one definition of “hangashore” is “sleeveen”. Isn't that amazing?) You can explore words in the online version of the dictionary here. You can learn more about Newfoundland dialects here and even listen to sound samples. Maybe my next series should be Adventures in Newfoundlandisms!

    Well, that’s all for this week folks, tune in next Monday for my final word! 


    ​Me and You are Annoyed
    Date: February 15, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    ... Annoyed by changes in the use of pronouns! Mark Abley explores this common reader complaint in his latest column.

    Mixing up me, myself and I (Montreal Gazette, Feb. 10)


    ​Newfoundland Word Challenge: Teeveen
    Date: February 14, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    Don't throw it out; just put a teeveen on it!


    ​Adventures in Canadianisms: Hoser
    Date: February 13, 2017 |  Category: Guest Column
    Author: Noor-E Ferdous 

    [Editor's note: Adventures in Canadianisms is a series by Strathy Literary Intern Noor-E Ferdous, a master's student in the Department of English at Queen's University. Noor is writing a series of posts on her experiences discovering Canadian English. Click here to read her previous posts.]

    Yet another week calls for yet another interesting Canadianism. I like how Canadians have some of their own descriptive words for people. The first week, I wrote about “keener” (click here to refresh your memory.) This week, I look at “hoser.”

    Word of the Week: Hoser

    What does it mean?
    This is a derogatory term used to refer to someone who is uncivilized, or in simple terms, it is the Canadian version of “idiot.”

    Sally: Did you see the new guy in school today? Geez, he’s such a hoser!
    Catherine: I thought he was pretty cool.
    Sally: Ugh, honestly Cathy, you have no taste!
    Catherine: (*rolls her eyes*)

    Where did it come from?
    As with the other Canadianisms I have examined so far, the origin of “hoser” is a bit unclear. The word is widely associated with the 1980s Canadian comedy show, The Great White North, in which the fictional brothers Bob and Doug Mackenzie parodied various Canadian English expressions (such as ending each sentence with an “eh”). It was their catchphrase “Take off, hoser!” that really popularized “hoser” and secured its place in the Canadian vernacular. But where did it originate? Some online theories attribute the word to ice hockey – a reference to the losing team hosing down the ice after a game; others claim the word refers to the hosing, or siphoning, of gas during the Great Depression. Interestingly, however, I did not find any occurrence of the word with either of these definitions in the few corpora I checked, and I didn’t find any occurrence of the word at all before 1981 – a reference in the Globe and Mail which, incidentally, refers to the Mackenzie Brothers. This leads me to suspect that the comedy show didn’t just popularize the word, it originated it! (If you think I’m wrong, send me your evidence to the contrary!)

    Who uses it?
    This is where things get interesting. Although every member of my informal subject pool (an admittedly not terribly diverse range of students and professors on the Queen’s campus) claimed to be highly familiar with the word, all said they do not use it. This does not mean that no one uses it, of course, but perhaps that the use is fairly restricted to certain contexts or groups of people. Everyone did, however, make reference to the Mackenzie Brothers, lending additional support to the idea that the word originated with the comedy sketch.

    Did you know? (Because I certainly didn’t!)
    “Hoser” is apparently used outside of Canada to refer to (um, make fun of) Canadians. (Perhaps this is thanks to the popularity of Strange Brew – the Mackenzie Brothers movie –in the United States?) This is in contrast to a word like “keener”, which Canadians know and use but seems to be rather unheard of elsewhere in the English-speaking world. This makes “hoser” more than just a Canadianism – it makes it another great Canadian export!

    Thanks for reading, and see you back here next Monday!


    ​Bituminous Sands
    Date: February 7, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    ... Or is it oilsands or tar sands? Stephen Hume explores the difficult decisions newspapers must make about word choice.

    Words count no matter what spin you're in (Vancouver Sun, Feb. 5)


    ​Adventures in Canadianisms: Had the Biscuit
    Date: February 6, 2017 |  Category: Guest Column
    Author: Noor-E Ferdous 

    [Editor's note: Adventures in Canadianisms is a series by Strathy Literary Intern Noor-E Ferdous, a master's student in the Department of English at Queen's University. Noor is writing a series of posts on her experiences discovering Canadian English. Click here to read her previous posts.]

    Hello readers! It’s Noor again with another word of the week. Actually, this week I bring you a phrase. As someone who loves playing with different words and phrases, my interest was piqued when I came across uniquely Canadian idioms.

    Word (or rather, idiom) of the week: Had the biscuit

    What does it mean?
    In case you’re wondering, no, it has nothing to do with eating biscuits. It actually refers to an object that is no longer of any use or cannot function anymore. It can also mean being worn out or on the verge of death.

    Stephen: Hey Jim, why do you look so down?
    Jim: My truck has had the biscuit, man, I don’t know how I’ll go without it.
    Stephen: The one that belonged to your old man, you mean?
    Jim: (sighs) Uh huh.
    Stephen: What can you do, things grow old too (pats Jim on the shoulder).

    Where did it come from?
    Using the rigorous methodology of the online search, I came across a few theories for the origin of the phrase. Although the details vary, all were in agreement that “had the biscuit” comes from the Catholic practice of last rites where someone who is facing death is given final sacraments, which includes receiving the communion wafer. Some suggest that the reference to the wafer as a “biscuit” was a derogatory term coined by Protestants. Others suggest that the wafers were referred to as “biscuits” by soldiers during the First World War, who were all too familiar with last rites. In either case, the reference to the death of a person has extended to the “death” of objects that are old and worn out or broken. I have yet to find any theories, however, on how and why this phrase came to be uniquely Canadian!

    Who uses it?
    Unlike the word “keener”, which I discussed in my previous post, “had the biscuit” does not appear to be too popular these days. Most (okay, nearly all) of the friends I threw this phrase at responded with “Huh?”, which just goes to show how familiar they are with it. However, while having one of those deep talks at 3:00 in the morning with my housemate Catherine, I randomly blurted out the phrase “had the biscuit” to refer to our apartment heater (which had just decided to stop working) and surprisingly she replied with “Hey! My grandma uses that to talk about our old couch and literally, EVERYTHING else!” From what I gathered from our discussion that night (which, if you must know, lasted till 8:00 in the morning), this phrase is more popular amongst the older generations than the younger ones. The current lack of popularity of this idiom amongst adolescents and twenty-somethings could mean that the usage of this phrase is declining.

    Did you know? (Because I certainly didn’t!)
    Even though “had the biscuit” has nothing to do with actual biscuits, I became curious about the origin and meaning of “biscuit”. In much of the English-speaking world, including my home country of Bangladesh, a biscuit is what North Americans call a cookie. A biscuit in Canada, I’ve discovered, refers to a type of soft, unsweetened roll rather than something crispy and sweet. The word itself, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, derives from the Latin “biscotum” which literally means baked twice. It’s unclear, however, how the two different definitions arose.

    Well, that’s all for today. I’ll see you back here next Monday for another Canadianism!


    ​Powder your Pipsi?
    Date: February 5, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    Are your Newfoundland word skills improving? Find out with the latest challenge.


    ​Adventures in Canadianisms: Keener
    Date: January 30, 2017 |  Category: Guest Column
    Author: Noor-E Ferdous 

    [Editor's note: Adventures in Canadianisms is a series by Strathy Literary Intern Noor-E Ferdous, a master's student in the Department of English at Queen's University. Noor is writing a series of posts on her experiences discovering Canadian English. Click here to read her introductory post.]

    Word of the Week: Keener

    What does it mean?
    This popular term refers to someone who is extremely eager to please or to do well, often a student who is very enthusiastic to succeed or to impress a teacher. It has the negative connotation of a student who sucks up to teachers.

    Sam: Hey! How was your history class today?
    Anne: It went all right… until Jeremy started talking (rolling her eyes).
    Sam (laughing): He’s such a keener, eh?

    Remember that Friends episode where Phoebe takes Monica to an English class and Monica keeps asking the teacher questions (and answering them too)? Yeah, in case you’re still wondering, Monica is a keener!

    Where did it come from?
    “Keener” is based on the word “keen”, an ancient word dating back to Old English meaning smart or clever. But the origins of “keener” are much newer and more mysterious. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “keener” was used in the United States in the 1800s to mean someone who “drives a hard bargain” or is “in some way superior”, but this meaning of the word seems to have fallen out of use.

    The first citations of “keener” in Canadian English appear in the 1970s. I found many examples in Canadian newspapers beginning around that time and continuing to today, but nothing earlier. How did “keener” enter Canadian English, and how did it come to be associated with being nerdy and overenthusiastic in class? These questions remain a mystery to me, but if you know anything more, let me know!

    Who uses it?
    Judging by all the people I have conversed with—starting from my friends at the department to my professors and housemates, “keener” is quite a popular word here in Canada. Unlike some classic Canadianisms that are falling out of use (“chesterfield”, anyone?), it seems to be used by almost everyone. It is not only popular, but its use is growing, according to a 2009 study on lexical variation in Toronto.

    Did you know? (Because I certainly didn’t!)
    Although “keener” in Canada means a zealous student, it does not have the same meaning in the rest of the world. Elsewhere, especially England and Ireland, “keener” is used to refer to someone who wails or sings for a dead person as a form of grieving. Hmm…Probably best to be careful while using this term outside of Canada.

    That’s all for this week, folks! Tune in next Monday for another word of the week!


    ​Watch your Pro-noun-ciation
    Date: January 29, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    Have your "chickens" become "chekans"? In his latest Watchwords column, Mark Abley tackles readers' complaints about spoken language. 

    Pet peeves about how English is spoken (Montreal Gazette, Jan. 27)

    ​Adventures in Canadianisms
    Date: January 25, 2017 |  Category: Guest Column
    Author: Noor-E Ferdous

    [Editor's note: Adventures in Canadianisms is a series by Strathy Literary Intern Noor-E Ferdous, a master's student in the Department of English at Queen's University. This is the first in a series of posts by Noor on her experiences discovering Canadian English.]

    Canada—the land of blistering cold winds and snow, of poutine and a Tim Hortons around every corner, with friendly people and their “thank you”s and “have a nice day”s. You’d think that these are things that would attract the childlike attention of a person who had travelled all the way from the warm and humid Bangladesh to Kingston (I mean okay, the weather was a bit of a shock for me, especially since the winters we have in Bangladesh would be considered fall weather here in Canada), but do you know what really stood out to me? The language!

    The first time I came across a word that sounded strange to my ears was “loonie”, while grocery shopping at the Metro. After checking out a bag of Lays ketchup chips (God bless Canada for this amazing snack!) and paying in cash, the cashier handed me the receipt and a one dollar coin, “Here’s a loonie as your change! Have a nice day!” For a second, I thought she called me “loony” (and I could totally understand why she’d call me crazy—if she had actually known me, that is) but before I could even respond with an “Excuse me?”, I was pushed forward by the customer behind me. When my roomies later told me that “loonie” is used to refer to a dollar, I became curious about what other words are used by Canadians and how they came to be a part of Canadian English in particular rather than the global English vernacular.

    While keeping an ear open in pretty much all situations and hearing snippets of words I’m assuming to be Canadian, I came to realize that my idea of Canadian English is not only quite limited, but also highly misconstrued. So, being the curious and slightly adventurous person that I am, I decided to embark on this quest to look for Canadianisms, their meanings and their origins. 

    Starting on Monday, I will bring you a new word each week for the next five weeks. I hope that you will join me on this adventure and have as much fun reading the entries as I do writing them! Stay tuned for our first word - "keener"!


    Date: January 24, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    This Newfoundland word challenge has participants truly stumped...


    ​Evolving English
    Date: January 23, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    Bad grammar or new grammar? Canadian English scholars weigh in on how language standards change.

    Like correcting people? Then take up Latin. Why grammar Nazis aren't just annoying - they're often wrong (Jan. 14, National Post)


    ​Canadian Dialects
    Date: January 17, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    What does your pronunciation of "milk" or "Saturday" say about your origins? Even your pronunciation of "pronounciation"?! Western University linguistics student Michael Iannozzi gives the CTV News morning hosts a lesson in Canadian dialects.


    Date: January 17, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    Can you pass the Newfoundland Word Challenge this week?



    ​Fascinating, Eh?
    Date: January 17, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    There are many interesting characteristics of Canadian English, but none seems to fascinate us, or English speakers elsewhere, more than "eh". Here's a nice new overview of the tag which draws on research by Jack Chambers and Elaine Gold.

    Why do Canadians say "eh"? (Atlas Obscura, Jan. 10)


    ​How to Love Your Dictionary
    Date: January 11, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    The dictionary may be your friend, but as with any good relationship, you have to put in some effort to make it work.

    Can you trust your dictionary? (The Walrus, Jan. 6)


    ​Linguistic Identities
    Date: January 6, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    Being a speaker of Canadian English often means grappling with multiple linguistic identities. In this piece from Victoria College's publication The Strand, Kathleen Chen reflects on her identity through the lenses of English, French and Mandarin. 

    (Un)learning the (un)spoken rules of language: Speaking my identity (The Strand, Jan. 4)


    Date: January 4, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    Don't be an oonshik when it comes to Newfoundland English vocabulary!



    ​Words of 2016
    Date: January 2, 2017 |  Category: In the Media

    What are your words of 2016? Columnist Tristin Hopper shares his own candidates... old words that took on new lives in 2016, and which we may be happy to retire in 2017.

    What's the matter snowflake? Are you too lit to adult?: The words that 2016 wrecked forever (National Post, Dec. 30)

    Click here to read 2016 posts.