Talk about the weather! A conversation ice-breaker

How to get familiar with the language that Canadians really use day-to-day? In this series "Canadian English: Quirky, eh?", we take listeners on a romp across Canada making small talk, recognizing signature foods, and navigating head-scratching grammar rules and colloquial expressions. We’ll have you sounding like a Canadian in no time!

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Talk about the weather!

Hello! Bonjour! Oi! Welcome, and thanks for tuning in to a new episode of our series Canadian English: Quirky, eh?   Let´s poke some fun – and hopefully a lit bit of learning along the way – about some of the quirkier aspects of the English language. In particular, Canadian English.

So where to begin? My name is Larry, and I suggest we start where most conversations begin: the weather. Canadians love to talk about the weather. 

Now this topic may not be unique to Canadians; in fact, it may be one of the most common ice-breakers around. But what makes the subject a bit quirky here is the sheer variety of weather patterns and words we use to describe them.

From the Chinooks that bring warm winds in the middle of winter to the Rocky Mountains of western Canada to the Nor’easters that bring serious, hurricane-like storms to the Maritimes. From the poudrerie or blowing powder snow in Quebec to the slush of downtown Toronto. From bone-chilling winters to the sweat-drenching humidity of summer… there is no shortage of extreme conditions to discuss.

A frequent question you will come across as a conversation ice-breaker that may have you scratching your head is this one:

“Cold enuf fer ya?”

First of all, it may be tricky to understand because the question has no verb and the speaker has usually used a slangy twang. But even if they were to use the complete sentence: “Is it cold enough for you?”, it could still confuse you. “Is what cold enough?”

There are many variations on this question: “Hot enuf fer ya?” “Wet enuf fer ya?” “Windy enuf fer ya?” and so on.

The best way to answer this non-question is simply by adding another comment about the weather:

When it’s cold:Yeah, it’s freezing! I’ve never experienced such cold weather.” Or

I’ll say! My fingers are numb.”

When it’s hot:No kidding, this humidity is unbearable.” Or

“I wouldn’t refuse a nice cold beer right about now!”

When it’s wet: “I’m drenched to the bone!” Or

Crazy wet – I’m going down to my basement to start building an ark!”

When it’s windy:Unbelievable! My umbrella just blew inside out.” Or

Yes, I think I saw Dorothy and her dog Toto fly by!”

You get the idea. Whether it’s a co-worker or a total stranger, when you’re in person, banter like this can lead to further conversation. The inability to respond will stop you before you even get started.

Another popular starter question is the simple:

How’s the weather where you are?”

This one is quite common these days when so many conversations are virtual. On Zoom or Instagram or Snapchat, people can be in different parts of the country or in completely different hemispheres. Many global business conference calls start out with talk of the weather, so it’s a good idea to be prepared to describe your weather.

“It’s sunny and pleasant here – a perfect Ottawa day.”

“It’s raining cats and dogs here in Vancouver.” (and that’s a lot of rain!) For the advanced speaker looking for a chuckle, add on “I think I just stepped on a poodle.”

“Let’s just say that the Mont Tremblant ski resort is doing a brisk business.”

“It’s a bone-chilling 40 below with the wind chill here in Regina. A typical winter day.”

“It took me 20 minutes to scrape the ice and snow off my windshield this morning. You gotta love the London lake-effect snow squalls.”

As you can see, there is a ton of vocabulary to learn to talk about Canadian weather, even casually. Just for fun, put me on pause while you write down the names of the four seasons and as many weather words you can think of to describe each one.

We can’t possibly cover it all on one podcast, so how about we focus on winter. Did you think there was just one word to describe “snow” in Canada? Think again, and again. Here are some examples:

Types of snow: Flakes, pellets, powder snow, packing snow, lake-effect snow, crystalline snow, kernel snow, drifting or blowing snow, crunchy snow, corn snow 

Variations on winter weather: freezing rain, sleet, hail, slush

Ways to describe snow events: storms, blizzards, flurries, squalls, whiteouts, avalanches, ice storms

Effects of snow: Getting snowed in, snow days!!!, cabin fever, car accidents, 40-car pile-ups

The number and variety of terms one will use to describe snow will vary depending on how much you interact with it. A skier, for example, has a huge vocabulary of different terms to analyze snow. They love freshly fallen snow, but hate chunder! And the Inuit language has more than 50 words to describe the snow that is a fundamental part of their life.

So depending on where you live in Canada, you may want to get to know some of these terms and use them to help you begin conversations. If you cannot recognize and easily respond to ice breakers and instead just offer a sheepish smile, you’ll be missing out on new friendships, new job opportunities, new learning, and even new romance.

Of course, you’ll require a lot more tips to get your conversations moving beyond the weather. So don’t forget to tune in to our next episode. 

We hope you enjoyed  today´s  episode. Please take a moment to give us your feedback and like us with the big fans up. Fill free to play it again and share it with friends and family. 

You have been listening to Canadian English, Quirky, eh? The podcast series produced by Brazilian Wave Canada. This project was made possible through the generous support of the Canadian Periodical Fund. If you want to subscribe to the series and have access to the exclusive episodes, please sign in at waveplus.ca.

Until then, 

Catch you later!

Adieu!

Tchau!

Stay healthy!

Glossary

Avalanche: A large amount of ice, snow, and rock falling quickly down the side of a mountain. (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/avalanche?q=avalanches)

Blizzard: A severe snowstorm with strong winds. (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/blizzard?q=blizzards)

Cabin fever: The feeling of being angry and bored because you have been inside for too long. (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/cabin-fever)

Chinook: A warm, dry wind that blows from the mountains over the flatter land to the east in western North America. (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/chinook)

Corn snow: Granular snow formed by alternate thawing and freezing. (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/corn%20snow)

Flurry: A sudden light fall of snow, blown in different directions by the wind. (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/flurry)

Hail: Small, hard balls of ice that fall from the sky like rain. (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/hail?q=Hail)

Ice storm: A storm in which frozen rain falls and covers everything with ice. (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/ice-storm)

Inuit: A member of a group of people who live in the cold northern areas of North America, Russia, and Greenland. (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/eskimo?q=inuits)

Numb: If a part of your body is numb, you are unable to feel it, usually for a short time. (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/numb)

Packing snow: Snow that is at or near the melting point and in which the crystals are sufficiently intact, so that it can easily be packed, e.g. in order to make snowballs or snow structures. (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/packing_snow)

Poudrerie: French word meaning blizzard, a severe snowstorm with strong winds. (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/blizzard)

Powder snow: Freshly fallen, uncompacted snow, especially in the context of Alpine skiing. (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/powder_snow)

Sheepish: Embarrassed because you know that you have done something wrong or silly.(https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/sheepish)

Sleet: Wet, partly melted falling snow. (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/sleet).

Slush: Snow that is lying on the ground and has started to melt. (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/slush?q=Slush)

Squall: A sudden strong wind or short storm. (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/squall?q=squalls)

Whiteout: A weather condition in which snow and clouds change the way light is reflected so that only very dark objects can be seen. (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/whiteout?q=Whiteouts)

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Podcast – Canadian English: Quirky, eh?

Produced by BRZ Group Inc., Canada, 2021

  • Director: Christian Pedersen
  • Production Coordinator: Ana Carolina Botelho
  • Scriptwriter: Lauri Richardson
  • Voices: Eric Major and Lauri Richardson
  • Vignettes: Robson DJ Estudio 
  • Website Production & Marketing: Creative Team
  • Project Management: Teresa Botelho