by Emily Coppella
January 12, 2022
This is the first instalment in our series: Canadian English in Canadian Television.
Perhaps the most infamous fictional Canadians on television are brothers, Bob and Doug McKenzie, who hosted the “Great White North” segment on SCTV. These toque and plaid-wearing pals have been making Canadians laugh for years due to their poor lack of judgment and goofy commentary on Canadian culture. Did you know the skit was originally created to mock CBC Television for the Canadian content they required at the time?
Scattered throughout their skits is the term, “hoser,” which is framed as a lighthearted insult. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, it’s a “slang word for a Canadian of limited intelligence and little education. Almost always a white man, a hoser is, to some extent, the Canadian equivalent of American terms like ‘hillbilly’ and ‘redneck’ – though without the overtly racist connotations of the latter word”. The Collins Dictionary defines the Canadian meaning of “hoser” as “an unsophisticated, especially rural, person.”
Although it is believed to have existed before the 1980s, it wasn’t really until Bob and Doug appeared on small screens across Canada that the term really took off (pun intended – another Canadian saying they often use is “take off!”). Rick Moranis (Bob) and Dave Thomas (Doug) are considered hosers, not only because they call each other so, but because the majority of their comedy is centred around their inability to understand anything beyond their small world.
Some believe “hoser” grew out of the insult “loser" or is due to the verb “hose,” and its meaning to deceive or swindle. Despite the elusive origin of the word, we can thank Bob and Doug for creating what SCTV called the “social phenomenon” of “Hosermania”. “Hoser” is one of the most iconic terms found in Canadian English and we have Canadian media to thank.