The Strathy Blog

News about the Strathy Language Unit and Canadian English studies

Words of Summer

Date: June 23, 2022 | Category: News

We have been enjoying sharing words from our Wolfe Island English corpus (see a previous post about 'bees'). Now that summer is officially here, we thought it was time for some seasonably appropriate terms.

summer kitchen, an extra kitchen separate from the house, used for cooking in hot weather
“There was a big summer kitchen outside that they used in the summertime.”

summer people, people who reside on Wolfe Island only during the summer
"We had some pretty big crowds. Some of the summer people too that came."

summer picnic, a picnic and social event organized by the church
"They used to have the big picnics here at the church, have a big summer picnic. And the women would be cooking for a week before, and there was no fridges, there was no nothing. And pies, cakes, chickens, salads and all.”

Slang with Finn and Mackenzie

Date: May 5, 2022 | Category: In the Media

Actors Finn Wolfhard and Mackenzie Davis explain "hang a Larry" and other particularly Canadian slang terms.


Sound Symbolism in Advertising

Date: April 26, 2022 | Category: In the Media

"IKEA. Lululemon. Koodo. None of these names mean anything — but a lot of thought and planning went into them. Danielle Nerman explains why the sound of a company name is sometimes more important than what it means."

CBC's program "Cost of Living" explores the linguistics behind successful brand names.

Trailer Park Boys and Rural East Coast Accents

Date: April 4, 2022 | Category: Guest Column
Author: Emily Coppella

[Editor's note: This is the final instalment in our series Canadian English in Canadian Television.]

While there is a ton of variation in Atlantic Canadian accents – including the distinctive Newfoundland accent – Trailer Park Boys depicts an exaggerated general East Coast accent for comedic purposes. The show is set in the fictional Sunnyvale Trailer Park in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. It’s a beloved Canadian mockumentary television series that follows Ricky, Julian and Bubbles as they attempt to make money through petty crimes in Nova Scotia.

The show plays up the rural East Coast accent. For example, “car” sounds more like “currh” and "bar" as “burrh”. An “s” is often added to the end of words like “anywhere-s” and “somewhere-s”. Terms unique to Atlantic Canada include “gutfounded” (hungry) and “greasy” which refers to someone who’s sketchy or suspect. Not only does the term, “greasy”, appear multiple times in the Trailer Park Boys script, it’s even part of the title of the spinoff gaming app, “Trailer Park Boys: Greasy Money.” Another common term, “fussy,” often used in a sentence like, “I’m not fussy” means you don’t particularly like something.

A popular phrase in Atlantic Canada that pops up on the show is “that’s the way she goes.” It’s usually used to claim an accident or catastrophe is uncontrollable. You can see the show make fun of the saying in a clip from Season 5, Episode 3 “The Fuckin’ Way She Goes” (Disclaimer: There is language in the video that some may find offensive.)

The show also inspired a new term in the Canadian lexicon: rickyism. This is a term Canadian viewers invented to describe Ricky’s habit of making linguistic slips. Whether he’s mispronouncing words or using strange wordplay, his use of malapropisms – the mistaken use of a word in place of a similar-sounding one, often with unintentionally amusing effect – is a comedic strategy Canadians love to laugh at. Some of the finest rickyisms include saying “frustated” instead of “frustrated” or “what comes around is all around” rather than “what goes around, comes around.” The above clip has a hilarious compilation of rickyisms. 

Trailer Park Boys has left a stamp on Canadian culture, in part due to the way it uses Canadian English to get us all laughing.

Feeling 'Verklempt' Over These New Additions

Date: March 30, 2022 | Category: In the Media

Words inspired by the pandemic, like 'vax' and 'anti-masker' are not the only new additions to Have you been 'forest bathing' or doing 'chair yoga' lately?


Starring Canadian English 

Date: March 29, 2022 | Category: In the Media

The new animated movie, Turning Red, is being celebrated for its Canadianness - from the Canadian creator and cast to the iconic Toronto landmarks and local references. It also introduces some classic Canadian terms to the world. Be on the lookout for 'hosers', 'toques' and more!

Kim's Convenience and Linguistic Diversity

Date: March 4, 2022 | Category: Guest Column
Author: Emily Coppella

[Editor's note: This is the fourth instalment in our series Canadian English in Canadian Television.]

It’s no secret that language is diverse in Canada. In Toronto – where the television series Kim’s Convenience is set –only 56% of people have English as their mother tongue, and that number is expected to decline. The remaining 44% have French, an Indigenous language or one of hundreds of immigrant languages as their mother tongue. This means that Canadian English, especially in cities, is spoken with a variety of accents and often incorporates phrases and words from these other languages.

Although Canadian media has been slow to portray this linguistic complexity, Kim’s Convenience is one example of a more realistic depiction of how Canadian English is diverse and continually changing. The Canadian television sitcom depicts a Korean-Canadian family operating a convenience store in the Moss Park area of Toronto. Canadian English is spoken by the characters, but the parents have a Korean accent and occasionally shift into the Korean language.

A clip from Season 3, Episode 8, entitled “English is such a hard language!”, shows Mrs. Kim struggling with English spelling on her convenience store signage. Mr. and Mrs. Kim are also shown switching between English and Korean, revealing the realities of a bilingual family. The couple attends the Toronto Korean East-West Presbyterian Church in the Leslieville neighbourhood, where Korean is often spoken and sung. At home, the family cooks traditional Korean foods like 'gimbap' and 'galbi jjim', using Korean words to describe cooking techniques. The Kim children, meanwhile, are native Canadian English speakers without Korean accents, illustrating a common scenario whereby Canadian youth speak differently than their immigrant parents.

In the clip above, you can watch Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, who plays Mr. Kim, discuss how accents and stereotypes portrayed on television have harmed Asians and other minority groups (Disclaimer: Language that may be offensive). He also explores how the humour derived from miscommunication on the show (as a result of English being Mr. and Mrs. Kim’s second language) is a trope used in comedies even with characters who speak English very well.

From 2011 to 2016, there was an 11% growth in the population who reported speaking Korean in Canada. This award-winning show has not only helped represent Korean culture in Canada, but the linguistic diversity of our country as well.

All About Bees

Date: March 3, 2022 | Category: News

As we continue to work with our corpus of English from Wolfe Island, Ontario, we encounter many interesting terms from our interviews. You may be familiar with the concept of a "bee" - where a community gathers to complete a project and then socialize. But did you know that there are terms for specific types of bees? Here are a few we've encountered:

corn-shucking bee
"We never grew that much corn, but there used to be corn-shucking bees."

hay bee
"They'd have hay bees, and they'd take it over to the depot, when the big train would take it."

thrashing bee
"You probably remember thrashing bees, eh, and the big dinners that they used to have for those."

wood bee
"Yeah, the wood bees. People'd get together to cut wood."

Republic of Doyle and Newfoundland English

Date: Feb. 16, 2022 | Category: Guest Column
Author: Emily Coppella

[Editor's note: This is the third instalment in our new series: Canadian English in Canadian Television.]

The uniquely Maritime mix of Scottish, Irish, English and French influences has created several interesting dialects in eastern Canada. Newfoundland and Labrador, though, is seen in the Canadian cultural imagination as being linguistically distinct. In addition to the different accents, Newfoundlanders use various words that people from outside “the Rock” have probably never heard of. There’s even a Dialect Atlas of Newfoundland and Labrador.

A Canadian-made television show that serves as a great example of the uniqueness of this East Coast community is the comedy-drama television series, Republic of Doyle, set in St. John’s, Newfoundland itself. In the show, a father-son duo team up as private investigators with several other characters, and they get into numerous complicated (and sometimes illegal) situations.

Viewers have probably noticed while watching the show that there’s an almost Irish edge to the cast’s accents. Did you know there’s actually a strong connection between Ireland and Newfoundland in particular? Between 30,000 and 35,000 Irish immigrants settled in Newfoundland and Labrador in the early 1800s. In less than 50 years, the Irish population in St. John’s increased 600%. In fact, most of these people were specifically from southeast Ireland, making their accents even more distinct.

The actor who plays Malachy Doyle, Sean McGinley, is Irish himself. In an interview in the clip below, one of the show’s writers says that the typically difficult to master Newfoundland accent was easier for McGinley to achieve because he could simply “flatten” his own accent a bit. Other examples of the Irish accent influencing Newfoundland speech can be seen in the show’s script. For example, “nothing” is written as “nudding.” Sometimes called th-stopping, this phenomenon refers to the “th” sound being replaced by “d”, and it’s a common phonological feature of Newfoundland English – and one that has its roots in Irish English.

Continue reading the article here


Date: Feb. 11, 2022 | Category: In the Media

Wordle fans outside of the United States did not see the "humour" in Wednesday's puzzle. The American spelling of the word, with only five letters, confused and irritated players who follow British English spelling standards. We didn't hear many complaints in Canada - another sign of Canadians' flexibility when it comes to spelling?


Bomb Cyclone

Date: Jan. 30, 2022 | Category: In the Media

"With this pandemic, we are already dealing with way too much emotional precipitation. It is time for scary weather words to vanish from the lexicon."

Mohawk Girls and Indigenous Languages

Date: Jan. 28, 2022 | Category: Guest Column
Author: Emily Coppella

[Editor's note: This is the second instalment in our new series: Canadian English in Canadian Television.]

While Canadians are often identified in popular culture through stereotypical language identifiers, such as our pronunciation of “sorry” or use of “eh”, Mohawk Girls demonstrates that the media's portrayal of Canadian English is starting to shift, better reflecting the diverse realities of language on Turtle Island. Mohawk Girls is a comedy-drama television series created by Tracey Deer. The show follows the complicated lives of three best friends and a recent newcomer to their small community on the Mohawk reserve of Kahnawà:ke, by the St. Lawrence River.

Mohawk (Kanien'kéha) is one of approximately 70 Indigenous languages in Canada and is spoken by around 2,350 people, mostly in Quebec and Ontario. The Mohawk language is a member of the Iroquoian language family, with distinct eastern and western dialects as well as variation within these groups and across different communities.

Despite being set on a Mohawk reserve, the language used in Mohawk Girls is primarily English, not Mohawk. Nevertheless, Mohawk plays a vital role in the show’s community. While the characters typically speak English, they also incorporate Mohawk words and phrases into their conversations. The show’s on-set Mohawk consultant, Wentahawi Elijah, helped develop a realistic script based on the linguistic realities of many Indigenous communities. Even if not fluent in Mohawk, many people blend Mohawk into their English, as well as study the language and work towards reviving it. In the above video, the show’s creator talks about the importance of having Elijah on set to train the cast and advise the crew on the Mohawk language.

Throughout the show, greetings and farewells are often done in Mohawk, as are other common phrases; for example, “thank you so much” is instead “niawen’kó:wa.” Sometimes characters express their love for one another with the Mohawk phrase “konnorónhkwa,” which is often translated to “I love you” in English, but is closer to meaning “I show you I care.”

To learn more about the revitalization of Mohawk, check out the Mohawk Language Custodian Association.

Dogs that Dig Holes

Date: Jan. 13, 2022 | Category: In the Media

It's not every day that your city gets called out by Merriam-Webster, but Toronto had that distinction today, albeit a dubious one, for its wording on a sign for dog owners.

Great White North and Hosermania

Date: Jan. 12, 2022 | Category: Guest Column
Author: Emily Coppella

[Editor's note: This is the first instalment in our new 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.


Date: Jan. 10, 2022 | Category: In the Media

Members of The American Dialect Society have chosen "insurrection" as their 2021 Word of the Year. "Boosted" won Pandemic-Related Word of the Year while "supply chain" topped the list for Financial Word of the Year. Check out the other categories in their press release.

A New Dictionary?

Date: Jan. 4, 2022 | Category: In the Media

The Oxford Canadian Dictionary is long overdue for an update. This has researchers wondering how to revive the project or perhaps start from scratch with a new dictionary for Canadian English.

Including Canada

Date: Jan. 3, 2022 | Category: In the Media

Linguist Sali Tagliamonte is fighting for the inclusion of more Canadian English words in the Oxford Dictionary - and she's getting results. 


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