Strathy Language Unit

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The Strathy Blog-2016    
News about the Strathy Language Unit and Canadian English studies          

[Please note that this page is an archive of blog posts from 2016. Some of the links to articles are no longer active.]

Date: December 15, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

It's time for another quiz from the Dictionary of Newfoundland English. Can you define "lickery"?


​Words Matter
Date: December 7, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

The U.S. election has given us much to talk about, including how to talk about what we talk about. One term in particular, 'alt-right', a euphemism for white supremacy, has sparked a great deal of discussion.


​New Expressions
Date: December 6, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

From "Flushgate" to "quality escape", Mark Abley reviews some new words for new times...

From airplane mode to temblors, we're using new terms (Montreal Gazette, Nov. 18)


​Accent Acquisition
Date: November 30, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

Can you acquire the distinctive accent of a new place? Can you avoid acquiring it? New research by sociolinguist Jennifre Nycz explores these questions with a study of Canadian English speakers who move to New York City.

Are 'semester abroad' accents real or fake? (Atlas Obscura, Nov. 30)


​Vocal Attractiveness
Date: November 29, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

How attractive are your consonants? A new study by Emily Blamire at the University of Toronto explores this topic and finds it's all in the "s"...

S for sexy: Men are more attractive when they do not linger on the letter S (Express, Nov. 29)


​Grey/Gray Jay
Date: November 23, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

Image from

The grey jay (or is it gray jay, or Grey/Gray Jay?) has caused its fair share of controversy since being nominated Canada's national bird. We can't agree on whether or not this should in fact be the national bird, and we can't agree on how to spell it! (Using the alternative name wisky jack - or is it wiskey jack - doesn't help matters.)

CBC's spelling of grey jay causes some readers to squawk (, Nov. 23, 2016)


​High Flyer
Date: November 8, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

Test your knowledge of Newfoundland English with this latest Word of the Week...


Date: November 2, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

"Friendly emails are a sign of progress, not weakness, in our working lives." Exclamation marks are often associated with "female" qualities like compassion and sensitivity. According to Angela Chapin writing for the Ottawa Citizen, this is precisely why their use should be encouraged, rather than discouraged, in professional contexts.


​NWAV 45
Date: November 1, 2016 |  Category: News

New Ways of Analyzing Variation (NWAV) - the annual sociolinguistics conference exploring language variation and change - starts tomorrow at the University of Victoria. The program promises a number of interesting talks on Canadian English! 


​Pulmonic Ingressive
Date: October 19, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

You may not know the technical term, but if you are from Atlantic Canada, you know the sound and likely make it yourself. Learn more about this agreement marker - produced by inhaling - in this recent CBC article


Date: October 18, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

Do you know this Newfoundland term? Watch students at Memorial University contemplate "sprawfoot" for this week's NL Word Challenge.



Origins and Evolution
Date: October 12, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

Today's McGill Tribune has a brief overview of the history and development of Canadian English.


​Mansplaining the Election
Date: October 11, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

The U.S. election season has given us much to ponder as well as new (or revitalized) vocabulary to ponder it with. In his latest Montreal Gazette column, Mark Abley breaks down "emailghazi", "FLOTUS" and other terms of these political times.


Bibliography Updates
Date: October 11, 2016 |  Category: News

We have just updated the Strathy Bibliography of Canadian English - now with almost 3000 resources! The bibliography includes references to books and journal articles about Canadian English, newspaper articles highlighting Canadian English topics and journal articles about language research that involves Canadian English subjects. If you notice anything missing, please contact us!


To Proudly Split Your Infinitives
Date: October 4, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

Split infinitives may have a long, rich history in the English language, but that doesn't stop people from regarding them as annoying and ungrammatical. What is the thoughtful, modern writer do to? The Walrus' Word Nerd ponders this dilemma. 


​Scrumdiddlyumptious Additions to the OED
Date: September 28, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

The Oxford English Dictionary has released its latest batch of new words and senses. Read about the new Dahlesque entries here and Mark Abley's reflections on the new technology words in his Montreal Gazette column. 


Canadian English on the Road
Date: September 27, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

Canadian English linguist Sali Tagliamonte and her research team from University of Toronto set out to record Canadians along Highway 11 heading north from Toronto. Read a bit about their research trip and some unexpected challenges in this article in The Ottawa Citizen.


Canadian English Accent
Date: September 21, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

The Canadian English accent, "utterly unique and the product of singular forces" is the topic of this new article from BBC Culture.


Date: September 21, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

Has technology changed your use of the exclamation mark? (Or is it a point?)

Why do we use exclamation marks when a single comma will do just fine? (National Post, September 19)


Date: September 20, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

The Canadian government has announced it will abandon the usage of "Islamic State" in favour of "Daesh", an Arabic acronym used in much of the world, reflecting that the group is neither a state nor Islamic. Does this reflect or inspire a change in our perceptions? 

Ending anti-Muslim racism requires more than changing the language (Toronto Star, September 8)


Pre-nasal /æ/ in British Columbia English
Date: September 13, 2016 |  Category: News

We have an excellent new addition to our series Strathy Student Working Papers on Canadian English:

Discerning the sub-phonemic identity of pre-nasal /æ/ in British Columbia English
Gloria Mellesmoen

There are two features of /æ/ in British Columbia (BC) English that are widely attested in the literature: it is undergoing retraction and lowering and it is sensitive to the influence of certain following consonants. The present study aims to utilize both features to evaluate the phonological status of /æ/ before nasal consonants in BC English by examining the progression of sound change and the phonemic organization of /æ/ in different environments. Specifically, production and perception results are taken together to evaluate the phonetic position of pre-nasal /æ/ relative to other environments. These results are interpreted within a modular feedforward architecture of phonology to establish the phonological (allophonic) and phonetic (shallowphonic) rules that govern the internal relationships between the subphonemic elements of /æ/ in BC English. Further, the findings of this study provide evidence for the allophone being the target of sound change, rather than the phoneme.


Annoyed by Acronyms?
Date: August 31, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

Do you ever feel like you are drowning in a sea of obscure acronyms? Mark Abley, writing for the Montreal Gazette, can sympathize.


Southwestern Ontario Accent
Date: August 25, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

Michael Iannozzi, a graduate student in linguistics at Western University, talked with the CBC about his research on the English of Southwestern Ontario. Listen/read here to learn more about this interesting study!


William Kirwin, 1925-2016
Date: August 14, 2016 |  Category: News

William Kirwin, co-editor of The Dictionary of Newfoundland English, has passed away. Dr. Kirwin made significant contributions to the study of English in Newfoundland and Labrador. You can read about his life and work in this obituary from Memorial University.


Are You a Grammar Troll?
Date: August 8, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

... If so, the Walrus'  Word Nerd has some advice for you.


Quebec English
Date: July 21, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

In his latest column for the Montreal Gazette, Mark Abley reflects on the influence of French on Quebec English.


Canadians Positively Love Emjois
Date: July 20, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

If positive emojis are used by positive people, then Canadians are a happy lot, according to Twitter Canada...

Twitter reveals Canada's favourite emojis in honour of World Emoji Day (Toronto Star, July 17)


Endangered Punctuation
Date: July 18, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

Will texting kill the period? Sara Sweet explores the latest punctuation paranoia in her Word Nerd series for The Walrus.


​Decolonizing the Map 
Date: July 14, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

Dene communities in the Northwest Territories are working to restore indigenous place names throughout the region. Read about their efforts and the origins of particular place names in this piece from CBC North.


Bachelors Button
Date: July 13, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

Comedian Paul Wolford continues his Newfoundland English lessons for CBC. What's a 'bachelors button'? Are you prone to 'gawmage'?


Spot the Canuck 
Date: July 5, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

How do you pronounce 'drama'? Here are eleven linguistic and cultural differences said to distinguish Canadians from Americans. Do you agree?


New Video on Origins of Canadian English 
Date: July 4, 2016 |  Category: News

Origins of the Canadian English Accent, part 2 of Jim DeLuca's video on Canadian English, is now available on YouTube. This portion focuses on the development of English in Canada, featuring an interview with McGill linguist Charles Boberg.


June News Stories 
Date: July 1, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

June was a busy month for Canadian English in the media. Here are some highlights...

Canadian English features
Prairie Accent
Newfoundland English
The Oxford comma
The quest for a gender-neutral anthem
Exploration of lexical issues


June Hiatus 
Date: May 30, 2016 |  Category: News

The blog will take its summer hiatus in June this year. Meanwhile, the office remains open, so please get in touch!


Because Annoyed 
Date: May 27, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

In the latest media pieces, Mark Abley ponders the new function of "because" while Russell Smith is negatively "impacted" by nouns becoming verbs:


Gaelic Words in Canadian English 
Date: May 26, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

In honour of Gaelic Appreciation Month, CBC Nova Scotia features a conversation with historian Jim St. Clair who shares Gaelic words and place names common in Canadian English.


New Video about Canadian English 
Date: May 18, 2016 |  Category: News

A new video by Jim DeLuca about regional variation in Canadian English is now available on YouTube. It includes an interview with McGill linguist Charles Boberg alongside clips of Canadian English speakers from different regions exhibiting variations in pronunciation.


Date: May 18, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

Here's an interesting article from a few months back that missed our attention. It is about the ingressive particle "yes" (produced as an inhale at the end of an utterance) found primarily in Atlantic Canada. (We have also noticed this in our collection of recordings from Wolfe Island, Ontario!)


In "all of us" command?
Date: May 17, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

The Canadian national anthem is in the news again, after a bill proposing a change to gender-neutral lyrics has stalled in Parliament. Read an overview of the issue and competing opinions about the proposal in these articles:


Date: May 10, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

Walrus writer and copy-editor Sarah Sweet explores Edmonton's battle over the apostrophe—and argues for the preservation of this befuddling but important piece of punctuation.


Canadian English talks at CLA
Date: May 3, 2016 |  Category: News

The Canadian Linguistic Association (CLA) will hold its annual meeting May 28-30 as part of the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Calgary. Click here for a link to the program on their website. Those interested in Canadian English will want to note the following talks:


DiPVaC 2016
Date: May 1, 2016 |  Category: News

Discourse-Pragmatic Change and Variation (DiPVac) 3 will take place in Ottawa May 4-6 and will feature a number of talks on Canadian English. See the website and programme for details.


CVC 9 Programme
Date: April 26, 2016 |  Category: News

The programme for Change and Variation in Canada 9, to be held in Ottawa May 7-8, is now available, and it looks like the audience is in store for a number of interesting talks on Canadian English topics! Check out the website or download the programme.


Singular 'they'
Date: April 19, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

Singular 'they' (If someone sees something, they should call us) is no longer a change-in-progress but rather a feature of Canadian English (and many other varieties). The Walrus joins other publications in officially accepting the form.


Date: April 13, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

In his latest Watchwords piece, Montreal Gazette columnist Mark Abley explores the meanings and origins of this British term as it makes its way into Canadian English.


More on Emojis
Date: April 10, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

The media cannot seem to get enough of this topic! Here's the latest: 

Annoyed by Overcorrection
Date: April 1, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

Are your efforts to adhere to proper grammatical rules leading to mistakes?  Don't talk classical music with The Globe's Russell Smith. 


Translating Emojis
Date: March 16, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

Emojis have received a great deal of attention in the media ever since "face crying tears of joy" was named Oxford Dictionaries' 2015 Word of the Year. The discussion has expanded beyond whether or not emojis should be considered language to more complex questions about meaning and usage. These articles highlight a few recent issues:


Change and Variation in Canada 9
Date: March 15, 2016 |  Category: News

The 9th meeting of Change and Variation in Canada will be held in Ottawa this year, May 7-8. You still have time to submit an abstract!


Date: March 15, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

Last week, Britain's Department of Education issued new guidelines for students aimed at limiting use of the exclamation mark, leading to passionate discussions of punctuation in Britain and beyond. For some reflection within the Canadian English context, see this article in the National Post and listen to this panel discussion on CBC's The Current.

Canadian English in the Canadian Encyclopedia
Date: March 2, 2016 |  Category: News

The online Canadian Encyclopedia contains a nice new overview of Canadian English written by Charles Boberg. Check it out here!


Writing English in Montreal (part 4)
Date: March 1, 2016 |  Category: News
Author: Rachel Montour

Editors Note: This is the final part of a four-part series exploring the work of multilingual authors in Montreal who choose to write in English. Why do these individuals choose English, and how have their own linguistic backgrounds and the bilingual context of Montreal shaped this choice and their work? Strathy literary intern and English graduate student Rachel Montour, herself a bilingual Montrealer, interviewed four young writers on this topic. The focus of her forth piece is Vincent Orellana-Pepin. (Click here to read the previous profiles of Patra Dounoukos ReiserJohn Henry Rumsby and Phillipe Shane To.)

She had never seen anything other than Granaghan Beg and most of her time was spent in or around their little house at the northernmost edge of Ballycar Lough, about a hundred and fifty yards from where two unnamed roads converged, a stone's throw away from the water and a life away from anything else. She laughed loudly as she always did when he kissed her brow and he lovingly placed her head on the worn out pillow whilst wishing her the sweetest dreams. He walked down the cracked and creaking stairs and out the front door, locking the deadbolt and the chunky master lock behind him. (Work in progress, Untitled)

Vincent Orellana-Pepin describes his prose as clean and honest. “If a sentence needs to be short then it will be short, but if it needs to be long then it will run half a page. I very much dislike comas and all kinds of punctuation. I do not believe that words should be interrupted by it”, he explains. Vincent reiterates the importance of honesty in his works when he further explains his narrative choices: “I try to keep my prose realistic and never dwell in science fiction or fantasy. I very much appreciate the omniscient narrator because I believe that it births the most honest prose”. Through his fiction, Vincent aims not to write about “great heroes like Tolkien did”, but to make his mundane characters his readers’ heroes. This modernist focus on realistic portrayal of the everyday life serves an avowed fascination for the human condition and reasoning. “I am not interested in crimes and mysteries, […] I am more interested in what makes you [unique]”, he states.

Click here to continue reading.


Island Speak
Date: February 24, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

Want to talk like a Islander? Prompted by Ottawa Senators coach David Cameron's comment that he texts "P.E.I.-isms", the CBC has put together a collection of P.E.I. expressions along with translations for mainlanders. Check out the video here.


Celebrating our 'Glow'
Date: February 17, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

Why do we love to "glow"? This article in the Toronto Star explores our affection for the word and concept, through conversations with linguists, sociologists and marketers. 


​LOOL, eh?
Date: February 16, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

This article in the Huffington Post looks at internet slang around the world, including forms particular to Canada.


Writing English in Montreal (part 3)
Date: February 9, 2016 |  Category: News
Author: Rachel Montour

Editors Note: This is part three of a four-part series exploring the work of multilingual authors in Montreal who choose to write in English. Why do these individuals choose English, and how have their own linguistic backgrounds and the bilingual context of Montreal shaped this choice and their work? Strathy literary intern and English graduate student Rachel Montour, herself a bilingual Montrealer, interviewed four young writers on this topic. The focus of her third piece is Philippe Shane To. (Click here for Part 1: Patra Dounoukor Reiser and Part 2: John Henry Rumsby.)

Philippe Shane To writes experimental short stories, but is currently working on a “series of novels that balance elements of the supernatural and the family saga”. He has a particular fondness for “speculative criticism and its effects on our understanding of the world”. Speculative criticism “build[s] fiction or theoretical texts off of extrapolations from observations on a certain topic, as opposed to hard grounded facts”. He notes Margaret Atwood and Arthur C. Clarke’s “futuristic universes” as effective examples. Philippe’s works include Meta elements and incorporate theoretical reflections, in an attempt to question the “limits of genre”, thus seeking to explore “the effects of suspension of disbelief”. His aesthetic and narrative choices are primarily influenced by “feminist theory (past and present), ideas of hysteria, gender bending, as well as techniques aimed at dismantling patriarchal and Eurocentric structures”. “My stories tend to introduce female protagonists questioning their place in the world”, he observes.

Philippe’s decision to write in English is more a matter of circumstance than identification. He writes:

I have always had more of a penchant for English novels. Though I am bilingual, reading and writing in English has always come more naturally to me. I find that my vocabulary in English tends to flow with greater ease and feels more personal than it does when I attempt to write in French.

Click here to continue reading.

Accent Shaming
Date: February 2, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

In the latest episode of CBC's The Next Chapter, host Shelagh Rogers and author Mary Dalton discuss the pressures they felt to lose their distinctive regional accents - Ottawa Valley and Newfoundland, respectively. Listen to the interview here.


Are you Guilty of Totesing?
Date: February 1, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

The practice of millennials shortening their words may be a cause of annoyance or of celebration, depending upon who you ask. Read Mark Abley's thoughts on the topic in his latest Watchwords column and the Washington Post article that sparked the recent discussion.


Newfoundland... Understand?
Date: January 28, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

Actor Mindy Kaling has educated the Twitterverse on the correct pronunciation of "Newfoundland", to the praise of Newfoundlanders tried of hearing their final syllable reduced.


'Rabid Feminist'
Date: January 27, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

A PhD student at Memorial University in Newfoundland is calling out Oxford Dictionaries for sexist examples in a number of entries. Read about the controversy in this article in the Toronto Star and the article in Medium that sparked the debate.


Writing English in Montreal (part 2)
Date: January 20, 2016 |  Category: News
Author: Rachel Montour

Editors Note: This is part two of a four-part series exploring the work of multilingual authors in Montreal who choose to write in English. Why do these individuals choose English, and how have their own linguistic backgrounds and the bilingual context of Montreal shaped this choice and their work? Strathy literary intern and English graduate student Rachel Montour, herself a bilingual Montrealer, interviewed four young writers on this topic. The focus of her second piece is John Henry Rumsby. (Click here for part 1.)

Half-empty bottles of Greybull Creek Triple-Cross Bourbon were scattered across the table, uncorked. The stench tasted thick in the humid air, and left Billy wobbly of mind and body. Pa had been drinking. Probably hadn’t stopped since yesterday, by the looks of him. Long hair clung to his reddened face, his eyes were bloodshot, and the stench of bad booze on his breath almost overpowered the charred-black smell of breakfast. Syrupy sweat and indifference oozed from his brow as he shrugged Billy a half-hearted “mornin’ boy” across the room, tossing a frying pan into the sink with a wet, greasy clang. (Midsummer in Wyoming)

John Henry Rumsby predominantly writes Fantasy short stories that recurrently explore themes of “identity, violence and discrimination”. In terms of characterization, John likes to create personae that use accents, jargons or that fail to communicate efficiently. Describing this preference for communication complexities further, John states that he incorporates “a lot of occasionally clumsy run-on sentences with bizarre rhythms”, which he attributes both to proficient reading of Fantasy and Sci-fi works and to a French stylistic background. In fact, he selected the excerpt quoted above in order to exemplify this rhythm and these influences. 

Click here to continue reading.


Date: January 19, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

How do you say "Newfoundland"? See this article in the National Post for a discussion of variation in pronunciation and an extreme tale of disagreement on the topic.


Pet Peeves
Date: January 16, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

Mark Abley collected up readers' language pet peeves for his last two Montreal Gazette columns. Are yours included?


Date: January 14, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

A call for a "kudatah" against the NDP government in Alberta has indeed mobilized citizens... but against bad grammar rather than government:


Language and Policy
Date: January 13, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

A few recent issues in the media touch upon Canadian English and its regulation.


Goodbye 'whom', Hello 'netizen'
Date: January 6, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

In his latest Watchwords column, Marc Abley shares readers' observation about words coming and going from English.


'Word' of the Year
Date: January 6, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

Oxford Dictionaries' chose an emoji as word of the year, and now Merriam-Wester has chosen... the suffix: -ism. Read about the -isms that inspired this decision here.


Origins of 'deke'
Date: January 2, 2016 |  Category: In the Media

The term 'deke', meaning to fake out an opponent, has been attributed to hockey great Richard Moore. However, many Globe and Mail readers argue that it has been around much longer, as seen in these letters to the editor. (Relevant letters are the last or second-to-last on each page.)


Click here to read 2015 posts.