Strathy Language Unit

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


That's Bait
Date: July 26, 2020 |  Category: News

Your hosts Wes and Nilu are back with a new episode of Wes and Nilu Talk Slang!


Space Speech
Date: July 22, 2020 |  Category: In the Media

“Right after I landed, I could feel the weight of my lips and tongue and had to change how I was talking. I didn't realize I had learned to talk with a weightless tongue." - Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield

New research at the University of British Columbia explores the affects of lower gravity on speech.


Canadian Language Museum
Date: July 20, 2020 |  Category: News

You may not be able to visit many physical museums this summer, but you can still learn about Canada's languages by accessing the resources and exhibits of the Canadian Language Museum online!


Are You Lit?
Date: July 8, 2020 |  Category: News

Watch the second episode of Wes and Nilu Talk Slang!


Date: June 5, 2020 |  Category: In the Media

In a time of crisis, slang may not only be amusing us, but soothing us...


Wes and Nilu Talk Slang!
Date: June 1, 2020 |  Category: News

We have a new video series: Wes and Nilu Talk Slang! During their internship at the Unit, Wes Paubst and Nilu Hosseinkashi interviewed students on campus about slang words, and our fantastic film student David Vassos has since been editing a selection of the words. Episode 1: Chirping is up on our YouTube channel. More to follow!



Harold Paddock
Date: May 27, 2020 |  Category: In the Media

We were very sorry to hear of the passing of Harold Paddock, a great scholar of Newfoundland and Labrador dialects. Among his many accomplishments are his contributions to The Dialect Atlas of Newfoundland and Labrador. Here are links to his obituary and a tribute from a former student.

Rest in peace, Professor Paddock.


Canadian English in Texas?
Date: May 14, 2020 |  Category: In the Media

The 'cot'-'caught' merger, widespread in Canada, is making its way to Texas. Listen to the Director of the Texas English Linguistics Lab hypothesis about causes of the change:


Working at your Isodesk?
Date: April 24, 2020 |  Category: In the Media

COVID-19 is affecting all aspects of our lives, including our language. Read about the dozens of new pandemic-related words that have entered English in the last few weeks.


English Language Day 
Date: April 23, 2020 |  Category: In the Media

Today the United Nations recognizes English Language Day


Office Update 
Date: March 20, 2020 |  Category: News

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, our office hours have been greatly reduced. We continue to work remotely, however, so please feel free to get in touch with questions and comments. You can access Queen's information on the coronavirus here.


Date: March 5, 2020 |  Category: In the Media

An online campaign is calling on Oxford Dictionaries to change its sexist definitions of 'woman'.


Pronouns and Politics 
Date: March 2, 2020 |  Category: In the Media

A look at the past and present of pronouns in Canadian law and politics...


Language of Loss: Canadian English Epitaphs in the First World War 
Date: February 18, 2020 |  Category: Guest Column
Author: Louisa Simmons

[Editor's note: This piece is the third instalment in our new series Words of War: Canadian English in the First World War.]

Words fail our loss to tell.
Driver Reginald Frank Davey, Canadian Field Artillery, 5th September 1918 – age 25

These are the words inscribed on 25-year-old Reginald Frank Davey’s headstone nestled in the front left-hand corner of the H.A.C. Ecoust-St. Mein First World War cemetery in France. A driver with the Canadian Field Artillery, Davey voluntarily enlisted in Kingston, Ontario on November 20th, 1915. Over the next three years of war, Davey would survive a fractured tibia and fibula, a diagnosis of shell shock (contemporarily known as post-traumatic stress syndrome), and endless nights in cold, damp trenches. It was in one of these trenches when, at about 9:30 a.m. on September 5, 1918, a German shell dropped down from the bright sky above, killing Davey and six other soldiers. 


One of Reginald Davey’s enlistment documents. Photo: Library and Archives Canada

Davey’s headstone is one of hundreds of thousands inscribed with a message from loved ones. When a soldier or nurse’s body was officially interred by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) in the early 1920’s, families were given the option to add a personal epitaph to the headstone. By exploring the different ways that Canadian English was used in these epitaphs to express immense personal loss, it is possible to gain insight into the sentiments and values of the broader society.

Click here to read the full article.


Embracing an Accent 
Date: February 11, 2020 |  Category: In the Media

A journalist reflects on the pride and peril of speaking Canadian English with a foreign accent.


Hidden Profanity: Language and Identity in the First World War 
Date: February 3, 2020 |  Category: Guest Column
Author: Toni Pascale

[Editor's note: This piece is the second instalment in our new series Words of War: Canadian English in the First World War.]

The significance of profanity in the First World War relates to the role it played in forming soldiers' identities. Historian Tim Cook writes, “Swearing and slang reveal new ways to better understand the social and cultural history of civilian soldiers, how they made sense of the war, how they distinguished themselves from civilians, and how they unified aspects of their identity.”


Canadian Soldiers in an unknown location posing for a photo. Photo: Kitchener Public Library.

There were two types of profanity that emerged at this time: euphemisms and explicit profanity. Examples of euphemisms include Tom-titJane Shorefour letter man, and NBG. To civilians, these terms did not have any meaning, but in the trenches, these words were widely used and known by all. Tom-tit was another word for sh*tJane Shore was used to describe a promiscuous woman; four letter man was a man who was of bad character; and NBG meant no bloody good. These terms emerged as a way for soldiers to describe how they were feeling without having to be as graphic or vulgar in their speech. This was also a way for them to disguise what they were saying from other troops outside the Canadian forces. 

Click here to read the full article.


Canadian, British or Both?
Date: January 27, 2020 |  Category: In the Media

There's more speculation about royal baby Archie's future accent...


Potato Diggers and Mouth Organs: Canadian English Weaponry Slang in the First World War 
Date: January 21, 2020 |  Category: Guest Column
Author: Louisa Simmons

[Editor's note: This piece is the first instalment in our new series Words of War: Canadian English in the First World War.]

If you were to stand in one of the many winding trenches occupied by the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War, not only would you be ankle-deep in mud and shell casings, but you would likely hear soldiers speaking in a string of words that made no sense to you. That’s because the Canadian soldiers who fought overseas from 1914-1918 developed a kind of code for communicating made up of unique slang terms and expletives that described trench life, weaponry, and the general conditions of war.


Canadian soldiers looking at a sign for an upcoming performance of an entertainment troupe
named "Whizz Bangs" after the common slang word for a flying shell.
Photo: Canadian War Museum

One of the most plentiful categories of slang terms to become part of Canadian English during this time is in relation to weaponry. Canadian military historian Tim Cook argues that “in a response to the industrialized nature of death, soldiers reacted to the impersonal killing devices of shells and bullets by drawing them back to the knowable and understandable. The rocketing shells overhead were likened to trains running or trucks driving out of control.” It makes sense then, that soldiers who were constantly threatened by weapons firing around them would create humorous nicknames as a way to cope with the danger they experienced.

Click here to read the full article.


Royal Accent
Date: January 16, 2020 |  Category: In the Media

Amidst the speculation about the Royal Family's move to Canada... Whose English will baby Archie speak?


Canadian Prairie Dialects
Date: January 16, 2020 |  Category: In the Media

Don't all Western Canadians sounds the same? Not so, according to new research at the University of Alberta...


'My' Pronouns
Date: January 6, 2020 |  Category: In the Media

The American Dialect Society has chosen 'my' pronouns as Word of the Year, and singular 'they' as Word of the Decade. As Society President Ben Zimmer explains, "When a basic part of speech like the pronoun becomes a vital indicator of social trends, linguists pay attention." 


'They' Win/s
Date: December 10, 2019 |  Category: In the Media

Merriam-Webster has released its words of the year, and nonbinary 'they' tops the list. 


The Barbarians Have Won
Date: December 3, 2019 |  Category: In the Media

After years of advocating for grammatical standards, the founder of the Apostrophe Protection Society is calling it quits, concluding that people no longer seem interested in proper usage.


Because Gretchen!
Date: December 2, 2019 |  Category: In the Media

Strathy Unit alum Gretchen McCulloch's new book Because Internet has been a great success! An article about Gretchen and her research is the feature story of the new edition of Queen's Alumni Review.


Interview with Strathy Director
Date: December 2, 2019 |  Category: In the Media

"Language" is the topic of the new edition of Queen's Alumni Review. It includes an interview with Strathy Director Anastasia Riehl about English corpora and the unit's project on Wolfe Island.


Hockey Name Changes
Date: November 19, 2019 |  Category: In the Media

Hockey Canada is finally changing the names ascribed to the minor league age divisions to avoid derogatory terms.


Date: November 11, 2019 |  Category: In the Media

"We’re living in the ampersandthropocene now."


Future English
Date: November 10, 2019 |  Category: In the Media

Strathy Alum Gretchen McCulloch reflects on the English of today by imagining the English of tomorrow:


Languages Undergraduate Conference
Date: November 5, 2019 |  Category: News

Happening today!

Click image to open pdf


We're Moving!
Date: October 17, 2019 |  Category: News

After more than ten years in Mackintosh-Corry Hall, the Strathy Language Unit is saying farewell and moving into new space in Kingston Hall. Come visit us in rooms 306 and 310!

Goodbye Mac-Corry!

Toronto Slang
Date: October 16, 2019  |  Category: In the Media

Toronto slang - what it is, where it comes from, who gets to talk about it - has been a big topic of discussion on social media these past few days. Following an article about linguistics research on slang in the University of Toronto magazine, CBC and other outlets picked up the story. (It even made its way into discussions around the upcoming election.) This prompted conversation and criticism that went beyond slang to issues of the appropriation of Black culture, language and power, and linguistic discrimination. Interesting and important discussions!


Nonbinary 'They' in Dictionary
Date: September 18, 2019 (updated Sept. 19) |  Category: In the Media

The use of 'they' as a nonbinary pronoun is now recognized by Merriam-Webster. 


Ontario Slang in the OED
Date: September 4, 2019 |  Category: In the Media

Ontario slang may finally get its rightful place in the dictionary. Linguist Sali Tagliamonte at the University of Toronto is working with editors of the Oxford English Dictionary to include 'May run' and 'Miner's mouth' and other Ontario terms. For more about the words and these efforts see:


"Not a Legally Induced Comma"
Date: September 3, 2019 |  Category: In the Media

The Oxford comma was at the centre of another legal case this summer, this time involving the calculation of pension rates for Bell Canada. Remember when the comma was on trial last year regarding overtime pay in the dairy industry?


Because Internet!
Date: September 1, 2019 |  Category: News

We are very happy to congratulate former Strathy Unit research assistant Gretchen McCulloch on the success of her first book, Because Internet!

Here's some information about the book on Gretchen's website. And here is an excellent review (one of many!) in The New York Times.


Happy Summer!
Date: July 1, 2019 |  Category: News

The blog is taking its annual July-August hiatus. The Unit remains open, however, so please continue to be in touch with your comments and questions! 


THEY 2019
Date: June 11, 2019 |  Category: News

THEY, HIRSELF, EM and YOU: Nonbinary Pronouns in Theory and Practice is happening now at Queen's! Click here for the program and information on streaming the presentations for those who are off campus. 


Folklore and Dialect in Newfoundland
Date: May 27, 2019 |  Category: In the Media

Did you know that many of the words in the beloved Dictionary of Newfoundland English come from the Folklore and Language Archive at Memorial University? Learn more about this unique folklore program:


Creating Canadian English
Date: May 26, 2019 |  Category: In the Media

A new book on the history of Canadian English scholarship, by UBC's Stefan Dollinger, will be out next month. Meanwhile, here's a nice overview of the project:


Sexy Canadians, Eh?
Date: May 7, 2019 |  Category: In the Media

A silly poll on sexy accents leads to serious reflection on the complexity of a "Canadian" accent.


Strathy Projects
Date: April 23, 2019 |  Category: News

Wade Guyitt of Editors Kingston (and formerly of the Strathy Unit!) did a great write-up of the Unit's projects for the Editors Kingston blog.


Talking Canadian English with Canadian Editors
Date: April 10, 2019 |  Category: News

Strathy Unit Director Anastasia Riehl will speak at Editors Kingston tonight about Canadian English corpus research and the Unit's ongoing projects. Get the details here!


'Get' Passives
Date: March 27, 2019 |  Category: News

The results from our latest "bulletin board" survey are in! How do your judgements compare to those of our participants?

Click image to open pdf.


They, Hirself, Em and You
Date: March 18, 2019 |  Category: News

A conference on non-binary pronouns − They, Hirself, Em and You: Nonbinary pronouns in research and practice − will be held at Queen's University June 11-13. Click here for more information and a call for papers.


Regional Accents on CBC
Date: March 18, 2019 |  Category: In the Media

CBC's Fresh Air featured an interview about Canadian accents with Michael Iannozzi, a graduate student at Western University. You can find the interview in part 2 of the show, around the 26-minute mark. Enjoy!


Research Presentations
Date: March 9, 2019 |  Category: News

Strathy Unit research assistant Olena Pankiw presented an overview of her Canadian English survey project at the Scarborough Undergraduate Linguistics Conference and Inquiry at Queen's. Nice work Olena!



How to Train Your Canadian Dragon
Date: March 6, 2019 |  Category: In the Media

Canadian actor Jay Baruchel of How to Train Your Dragon reflects on his "secret mission" to insert Canadianims into his character's dialogue.


This Survey is on Fleek!
Date: February 11, 2019 |  Category: News

How does your knowledge of a few recent slang terms compare to that of our survey participants?

Click image to open pdf.


Bibliography Update
Date: February 10, 2019 |  Category: News

We have updated our online bibliography - now at almost 4000 sources! Search for journal articles, books and other resources on Canadian English, and let us know if you have any additions.


In Need of a Name
Date: January 23, 2019 |  Category: In the Media

You may be a proud Manitoban, Newfoundlander or Nova Scotian, but what are you if you proudly hail from the Northwest Territories?


Spelling Survey
Date: January 22, 2019 |  Category: News

The results of our latest "bulletin board" survey are in! Click the image to see how your preferences compare to those of our participants.

Click image to open pdf.


'Tender-Age Shelter'
Date: January 7, 2019 |  Category: News

Members of the American Dialect Society voted on their word of the year, and the winner is "tender-age shelter". Ben Zimmer, chair of the New Words Committee explains, “The use of highly euphemistic language to paper over the human effects of family separation was an indication of how words in 2018 could be weaponized for political necessity. But the bureaucratic phrasing ended up backfiring, as reports of the term served to galvanize opposition to the administration’s border policy.”

See the committee's report for the runners up as well as slang of the year, hashtag of the year, and more!


Canadian English Talks at ADS
Date: January 3, 2019 |  Category: News

Canadian English research is off to a great start in 2019! The annual meeting of the American Dialect Society is underway in New York City, January 3-6. The opening session featured these four great talks on Canadian English:

Check out the program for more Canadian English content in the coming days!


Click here to read 2018 posts