The Strathy Blog - 2021


[Please note that this page is an archive of blog posts from 2021. Some of the links to articles are no longer active.]


Date: Dec. 14, 2021 | Category: In the Media

And the Merriam-Webster Word of the Year is.... vaccine!

"Interest in the definition of this word was intense in the past year: lookups for vaccine increased 601% year-over-year from 2020. But interest in the word has been high since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic...The prominence of the word vaccine in our lives in this era becomes even more starkly clear when we compare 2021 to 2019, a period in which lookups for the word increased 1048%."


Date: Dec. 13, 2021 | Category: In the Media

Did you struggle with any of the year's most mispronounced words?

Canadian English befuddles Brit

Date: Dec. 6, 2021 | Category: In the Media

"When I moved from the U.K. to Canada back in 2019, I wasn’t too worried about potential language barriers on my new adventure... Within days, I was wishing for a pocket dictionary on Canadian slang and regularly searching words I had never heard before."

You say 'AH-muh-kraan', I say 'OH-muh-kraan'

Date: Dec. 3, 2021 | Category: In the Media

"Among the many unknowns surrounding the new coronavirus variant called Omicron, named after the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet, one has stood out to many English speakers: How is it pronounced?"

Words Matter

Date: Dec. 2, 2021 | Category: In the Media

CBC's list of words and phrases to avoid given their offensive historical or cultural context has sparked a debate. How has your experience informed this issue?


Date: November 24, 2021 | Category: In the Media

And the Collins Dictionary Word of the Year 2021 is.... NFT! Learn more about this choice and check out the runners-up.

The K-Wave

Date: November 11, 2021 | Category: In the Media

As Korean pop culture gains appeal around the world, so does the Korean language, and it's having an impact on Canadian English.


Date: November 1, 2021 | Category: In the Media

The year is starting to wind down (so soon?) which means it's word-of-the-year season! First up is Oxford's choice - "vax".

Slang with Lilly Singh

Date: October 21, 2021 | Category: In the Media

Brush up on your Toronto slang with Lilly Singh.


International Pronouns Day

Date: October 20, 2021 | Category: In the Media

Learn more about personal pronouns and why they matter.


Date: September 17, 2021 | Category: In the Media

The way you pronounce "Toronto" reveals something about who you are and where you are from - but what exactly? Carleton University student Caitlin Bergin is determined to find out. Read about her Toronto pronunciation study here and take her survey here.

Living with Ice

Date: August 31, 2021 | Category: News

Here are some additional terms from the online lexicon we are developing of words and quotations from Wolfe Island. (See "Stooking Grain" below!). It's been hot enough this summer to have many longing for winter, so here are some refreshingly chilly terms related to ice - specifically the ice that forms in the waters surrounding Wolfe Island during the wintertime. 

ice boatnoun, a light boat mounted on runners and equipped with sails

"The ice boat went through about halfway across and never got back out. Yeah, so he may have saved our life, eh, by giving us his ice boat."

ice carnoun, an old car used on Wolfe Island for driving the ice

"Back then everybody had an old Model A kicking around or a Chev, and they weren't very heavy. They made good ice cars."

ice housenoun, a building for storing ice

"We never cut any of that ice. Later years they used to just cut it in the harbour here. We'd just put a slide right up into the ice house."

ice stormnoun, a specific storm that occurred in January, 1998 in Eastern Ontario

"That was the biggest catastrophe that ever happened that I can recall on Wolfe Island, the ice storm."

The Peppa Effect

Date: July 21, 2021 | Category: In the Media

Is your Canadian toddler picking up "rubbish" or putting on her "swimming costume"? If so, it could be the Peppa Effect. 

Auto Pact

Date: July 20, 2021 | Category: In the Media

The word of the week is 'auto pact'! Learn more - and get your weekly dose of Canadianisms - at #CdnWrdoWk.

Stooking Grain

Date: July 13, 2021 | Category: News

An ongoing project at the unit has been the creation of a corpus of oral stories from Wolfe Island, Ontario. We are now putting together an online lexicon to showcase some of the words and quotations. Here are a few samples related to farming.

mow, noun, the area for hay storage in a barn

"Come haying time, and the fresh hay in the mow, the chickens would like to burrow into the mow, lay their eggs."

stook, verb, to arrange bales of hay for drying

"I did everything in the fields. The only thing I never did was stook grain."

farm kid, noun, a child living on a farm

"Well a lot of them were farm kids, and they were taken out of school when the crops were going in or harvest time, so they missed a lot of school."

Sneak Peak: ANTHEM

Date: June 13, 2021 | Category: In the Media

Get a sneak peak at the Canadian Language Museum's upcoming exhibition, ANTHEM: Expressions of Canadian Identityon their website.

From the exhibition team:

ANTHEM: Expressions of Canadian Identity invites artists with roots in Canada to interrogate the meaning of the anthem’s lyrics and their relation to national and individual identity, as well as reflect on the lands upon which they personally live, work, and learn. Through this exhibition, we welcome audiences to reflect upon the often dissonant nature of Canadian identity as both a product of colonialism and a sense of belonging for many. We hope that the artworks spur discussion about how you have come to be on this land, the importance of language, and what being “Canadian” means to each of us.

Cayleigh Eccles, Jessica Lanziner, Megan Sue-Chue-Lam

Are you 'cheugy'?

Date: May 10, 2021 [Updated May 4, 2021] | Category: In the Media

Do you call Toronto's Rogers Centre the Skydome? If so, you just might be "cheugy". This TikTok-coined word has taken the internet by storm, and now a journalist at The Star has some ideas about who is "cheugy" in Toronto.

Remembering Canada's Word Lady

Date: April 28, 2021 [Updated May 4, 2021] | Category: In the Media

We are very sad to learn of the passing of Canadian English expert and advocate Katherine Barber, founding editor of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary and Canada's beloved "Word Lady". You can enjoy some of Katherine's thoughtful and funny reflections on Canadian English on her blog, and read these obituaries from the National Post and Globe and Mail.

Slang with the Levys

Date: March 25, 2021 | Category: In the Media

Test your slang with favourite Canadians Dan and Eugene Levy.


Canadianisms in The Great Canadian Baking Show

Date: February 9, 2021 | Category: Guest Column
Author: Jet McCullough

[Editor's note: This is the final piece in our series: Canadian English in The Great Canadian Baking Show]

In the previous three pieces of our series, we explored the use of British vs. North American baking terminology in The Great Canadian Baking Show, as compared to The Great British Bake Off. Another way that the Canadian show distinguishes itself linguistically from its European antecedent is in the presence of Canadianisms, words that are, if not strictly Canadian, at least “distinctively” so (“Canadianism,” Oxford English Dictionary (OED)).

One such term is “poutine,” referring to the dish of French fries, gravy and cheese curds, a term which appears in season one, episode 4 (S1:E4), in contestant Sabrina’s “s’mores and poutine doughnuts.” The dish originated in Quebec, and the term as used here derives from Canadian French (“poutine,” Canadian Oxford Dictionary (COD)). According to A Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles (DCHP-2), it originally would have “referred to any kind of pudding-like dish.” There appears to be some disagreement about whether the word “poutine” derives from the French “pouding” (pudding) or the English “pudding” (“poutine,” OED), the latter origin being favoured by linguist Charles Boberg (“poutine,” DCHP-2). In any case, the term is distinctively Canadian, and when used in Canadian English, it refers strictly to this dish of Québécois origin (DCHP-2).

Click here to read the full piece


Date: February 2, 2021 | Category: News

Wes and Nilu are back with another episode of Wes and Nilu Talk Slang!


Rural Ontario Dialects on Screen: An Interview with the Creator of Letterkenny

Date: February 1, 2021 | Category: Guest Column
Author: Molly Stewart

The Canadian sitcom Letterkenny follows four friends in a fictional Ontario community, humorously exploiting the characteristics and stereotypes of rural life. I had an opportunity to interview the show's creator, Jared Kesso, about one of these characteristics - language.

Since Letterkenny started out as a web series about experiences relatable to residents of small, rural Canadian towns, to what degree do you focus on the accent/dialect of the Letterkenny residents to emphasize this aspect of the show's identity?

Not much regarding the accent. You'll notice Wayne is the only character on the show who speaks with that specific accent. This is true to form in Listowel [the town upon which the show is loosely based]. Some people speak with that accent and some don't. It's usually people who live in the country that do. Regarding the language, I've absolutely helped myself to every small town Ontario expression I've ever found charming/witty. Why wouldn't I?

What models, if any, did you use for the rural Ontario dialect? Did you use models based on your own community?

Yes, I used models based on my own community and other small towns I lived in or went to school in or played hockey in (Strathroy, Arva and Kincardine to name a few).

For those characters who are not residents of Letterkenny, such as the Quebecois "hiques," did you use any models when writing their dialogue?

I co-wrote Les Hiques with Jonathan Torrens. There wasn't a great focus on a Quebecois specific dialect. We were just trying to hit every Quebecois cliché possible for the sake of humour (I doubt the Quebecois found it funny). That episode was written for an English audience. If I was writing to please a Quebecois audience, I would certainly put more focus on quirky language specific to them. I know there is a tremendous amount of it.

Is Wayne's accent and way of speaking something that comes naturally to you, or is his dialect part of the character you play?

Wayne's accent comes naturally to me. I had a lot of practice with it while making fun of my hick friends growing up. My pals from Listowel and I all catch ourselves slipping back into it when we drink.


'Chocolate Bars' and 'Coffee Cakes' in The Great Canadian Baking Show

Date: January 15, 2021 | Category: Guest Column
Author: Jet McCullough

[Editor's note: This is the third piece in our series: Canadian English in The Great Canadian Baking Show]

Watching The Great Canadian Baking Show through the lens of Canadian English demands inquiry into Canadian usage regarding baking terms, and the names of relevant foods, sweets, and bakes. In the previous two articles we explored the blend of Canadian, American, and British terms used in show, an exploration we will continue here with two new terms: "chocolate bar" and "coffee cake."

Consider this factoid from the opening of episode six, season two: “In 1947, hundreds of Canadian children went on strike because the price of a chocolate bar went from five cents to eight cents.” The term used here, “chocolate bar,” seems a common lexical marker of Canadian English. A Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles notes that the term “is often contrasted with ‘candy bar’, the more popular variant in the US” (“chocolate bar,” DCHP-2). The Canadian Oxford Dictionary (COD) also notes the American (US) nature of “candy bar” and implies “chocolate bar” to be a Canadian default in its definition of “candy bar”: “noun esp. US = chocolate bar.” The Oxford English Dictionary (OED), contrasting slightly with these sources, marks “candy bar” as a North American term, though not strictly a US one (“candy, n.2.”), while “chocolate bar” carries no region marker in either the OED or the COD.

Click here to read the full piece


Newfoundland Dialects on Stage: An Interview with the Creators of Come From Away

Date: January 13, 2021 | Category: Guest Column
Author: Molly Stewart

The hit musical Come From Away tells the story of Gander, Newfoundland on September 11, 2001, when dozens of international flights were diverted to the Gander airstrip and the local community warmly embraced the stranded passengers. The show is also a celebration of the unique culture and language of Newfoundland. In this interview with show creators Irene Sankof and David Hein, I asked about the role of Newfound dialects in the show.

How did you find writing Newfoundland characters? How did you go about making their dialogue feel as authentic as possible? What models, if any, did you use to write them?

We didn’t set out to write “Newfoundland” characters so much as to just evoke the people and place that had been so kind and welcoming to us. When we arrived in Newfoundland for the ten year anniversary to do our research for the show, we didn’t have a preconceived notion of what “story” we were looking for - we just knew we wanted to hear everything. We talked to everyone we could - and everyone had a million stories and each one was better than the last. At some point we stopped interviewing and just started hanging out, becoming friends - and trying to capture each person’s unique phrases and rhythms of speech - whether they came from Newfoundland or from Away.

We also had some freedom to combine interviews, since every character on stage is an amalgamation of people we met - because there were 7,000 people on the planes and almost 9,000 people in the town. We had to combine some of the things together, but they are all based on real people who we interviewed.

In terms of models that we knew of already out there, there was The Laramie Project - we sometimes called our show “Laramie - The Musical” . We thought we’d make something like The Laramie Project meets a Newfoundland kitchen party - we were definitely not at all thinking about Broadway! But we did look at the music in the musical Once and the storytelling in Peter and the Starcatcher - both of which informed Come From Away.

A few of the songs in Come from Away - particularly "Welcome to the Rock," "In the Bar/Heave Away," and "Screech In" - emphasize the Newfie accent/dialect. Do you have any comments on how these songs came together?

Continue reading the interview

Click here to read 2020 posts