News about the Strathy Language Unit and Canadian English studies
[Please note that this page is an archive of blog posts from 2020. Some of the links to articles are no longer active.]
The Great Canadian Baking Show and the 'Icing/Frosting' Question
Date: December 21, 2020 | Category: Guest Column
Author: Jet McCullough
Looking further into The Great Canadian Baking Show’s use of baking terminology, we can see more examples of the mixture of British and North American vocabulary that characterizes Canadian English. We shall consider usage of the terms “icing” and “frosting.” Both the Canadian Oxford Dictionary (COD) and the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) mark “frosting” as a North American term, so we might expect Canadian English speakers to be familiar with it:
N Amer. icing for a cake etc. (COD)
… = ICING n. 1a. Now chiefly North American. (OED)
Linguist Charles Boberg writes, however, that Canadian English is more in line with British English on this choice of terms, favouring "'icing rather than frosting for the top layer of a cake” (“Canadian English,” The Canadian Encyclopedia). This preference is confirmed by the definition of “icing” in the COD bearing no regional marking, which implies that in Canadian English it carries no inflection of region, and is thus a default term, so to speak. We might expect, then, for usage in The Great Canadian Baking Show to tend toward “icing”, but perhaps include “frosting” as well. Is this tendency apparent in the series? “Icing” is easy enough to find on the show, as in the “marshmallow icing” seen on a s’mores-themed birthday cake in season 2, episode 1 (S2:E1), or the question “do you love icing?” posed to a contestant who “went a little heavy” with the cake’s coating (S3:E1). “Frosting” is not absent from the show, however, with “raspberry cordial frosting” being featured on an Anne of Green Gables-themed cake (S2:E1).
Date: December 18, 2020 | Category: In the Media
The American Dialect Society (ADS) has voted and the results are in, 'Covid' is the 2020 word of the year. From Ben Zimmer, Chair of the Words Committee, in the ADS press release:
“A year ago, the word Covid didn’t even exist, and now it has come to define our lives in 2020. The selection recognizes how ubiquitous the term has become, from the time that the name for the disease caused by novel coronavirus was dubbed Covid-19 by the World Health Organization back in February. That was quickly clipped to Covid, which then appeared in phrases like Covid crisis, Covid relief, and Covid vaccine – and even Covid baking, Covid hair, and covidiot. It has become a stand-in for the entire pandemic and the societal impacts that we’ll be experiencing for years to come.”
Shawn Mendez Explains "Timmies"
Date: December 16, 2020 | Category: In the Media
Test your knowledge of Canadian English slang with the Pickering pop star...
The Great Canadian Baking Show and the 'Biscuit/Cookie' Question
Date: December 9, 2020 | Category: Guest Column
Author: Jet McCullough
The unique character of Canadian English vocabulary is apparent in The Great Canadian Baking Show. This reality show baking competition has a choice to make regarding baking terms: whether to use British terms, as does the original series upon which the Canadian show is based, North American terms (those common to the US and Canada), or Canadianisms, terms specific to Canada. As the show reveals, a fascinating aspect of Canadian English is that it blends the three.
One instance of this vocabulary mixture will jump out to any Canadian viewer: the use of “biscuit” in the “Biscuits and Bars” week of baking challenges. The term is straightforward enough, being transplanted directly from “Biscuit Week” in The Great British Bake Off, and is used in both series as in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED)’s second definition of the word: “A small baked unleavened cake, typically crisp, crumbly, flat, and sweet, and usually made from a mixture of flour, sugar, butter, and flavourings.”
Date: November 30, 2020 | Category: In the Media
We have another 2020 Word of Year, and it is a double winner. "Pandemic" was chosen by both Merriam-Webster "based upon a statistical analysis of words that are looked up in extremely high numbers in our online dictionary while also showing a significant year-over-year increase in traffic" and by Dictionary.com because "... of all these many queries, search volume for 'pandemic' sustained the highest levels on site over the course of 2020, averaging a 1000% increase, month over month, relative to previous years". Sadly, we are not surprised.
- Pandemic is, unsurprisingly, the Word of the Year for Merriam-Webster and Dictionay.com (CNN, Nov. 30, 2020)
- Merriam-Webster, Dictionary.com proclaim 'pandemic' 2020's Word of the Year (Rolling Stone, Nov. 30, 2020)
Date: November 23, 2020 | Category: In the Media
It's that time of the year for words of the year! After such an unusual few months, Oxford Languages could not settle on just one word, so they have instead complied a list. "Given the phenomenal breadth of language change and development in 2020, Oxford Languages concluded that this is a year which cannot be neatly accommodated in one single word." From 'superspreader' to 'zoombombing', "what was genuinely unprecedented this year was the hyper-speed at which the English-speaking world amassed a new collective vocabulary relating to the coronavirus, and how quickly it became, in many instances, a core part of the language".
- Oxford's 2020 Word of the Year? It's too hard to isolate (New York Times, Nov. 22, 2020)
- Oxford English Dictionary couldn't pick just one 'word of the year' for 2020 (CNN, Nov. 23, 2020)
Date: November 17, 2020 | Category: News
Enjoy this gucci new video from Wes and Nilu Talk Slang!
Date: October 28, 2020 | Category: In the Media
A new ProbIt survey finds that 'zed', rather than 'zee', remains the pronunciation used by an overwhelming majority of Canadians across regional and demographic groups. When it comes to spelling, however, there is some interesting variation. Check out the survey here. (The language questions follow the questions about COIVD-19.)
So Long, Asbestos
Date: October 21, 2020 | Category: In the Media
The residents of Asbestos, Quebec have voted to change the name of their town to Val-des-Sources, to shed the negative association with the poisonous mineral after which the town was originally named.
- Town of Asbestos chooses new name: Val-des-Sources (Montreal Gazette, Oct. 20, 2020)
- Set to be renamed, Asbestos, Que., grapples with history, identity (CBC, Oct. 18)
Date: October 20, 2020 | Category: In the Media
The coronavirus is changing our lives and our language...
- How COVID-19 is changing the English language (The Conversation, Sept. 25, 2020)
Date: September 21, 2020 | Category: News
Wes and Nilu are back with a new episode of Wes and Nilu Talk Slang! Yeet!
Evolution of the Period
Date: September 7, 2020 | Category: In the Media
"I actually really don't like getting text messages that end in periods because it always feels so harsh and passive-agressive." This piece from NPR explores the meaning of periods in text messages (and includes commentary by former Strathy Unit researcher Gretchen McCullough!).
- Are your texts passive-agressive? The answer may lie in your punctuation (NPR, Sept. 5, 2020)
We Are All Sailors
Date: September 1, 2020 | Category: In the Media
The Royal Canadian Navy is going gender-neutral, replacing the term 'seaman' with 'sailor'.
- Royal Canadian Navy drops 'seaman' title for gender-neutral term 'sailor' (Global News, Aug. 27, 2020)
Date: August 28, 2020 | Category: News
Episode 4 of Wes and Nilu Talk Slang is out!
Date: August 25, 2020 | Category: In the Media
Learn a new Canadianism each week as linguist Stefan Dollinger shares words from the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles on Twitter:
- Follow Oak Bay prof for all-dressed, gong show list of Canadianisms Vancouver Island Free Daily (Aug. 22, 2020)
Date: July 26, 2020 | Category: News
Your hosts Wes and Nilu are back with a new episode of Wes and Nilu Talk Slang!
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...
- 'Iso', 'boomer remover', 'quarantini': How coronavirus is changing our language (The Conversation, May 11, 2020)
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!
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:
- 'Cot' versus 'caught' tells us how Texas language is changing (Texas Standard, May 11, 2020)
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.
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'.
- Why activists say the Oxford Dictionary of English results for 'woman' are sexist (CBC Radio, March 5, 2020)
- Fresh call for Oxford Dictionaries to change 'sexist' definitions (The Guardian, March 3, 2020)
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...
- The Canadian politics - and history - of 'he,' 'she' and 'they' (The Globe and Mail, February 21, 2020)
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.
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.
- As a newcomer to Canada, should I try to lose my accent? (CBC, Feb. 10, 2020)
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-tit, Jane Shore, four 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*t; Jane 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.
Canadian, British or Both?
Date: January 27, 2020 | Category: In the Media
There's more speculation about royal baby Archie's future accent...
- Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's move to Canada could influence Archie's accent (The Insider, January 22, 2020)
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.
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?
- Will royal baby Archie grow up with a Canadian accent? And other questions about Harry and Meghan's big move (The Star, Jan. 14, 2019)
- Baby Archie may sound more like Joe Canada than Prince Charles if Royal Family moves (CBC, Jan. 15, 2019)
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...
- Linguistics student pinpoints differences in Western Canadian dialects (Phys.org, Jan.16, 2019)
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."