Truisms? Not! – Canadian stereotypes

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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Read the script (glossary at the end)

Truisms? Not!

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.

It is often said that clichés become clichés because they are true. Or that they are repeated so frequently that they become true. My name is Lawrence, but my friends call me Larry, and today’s podcast is Truisms? Not! It explores some of those clichés about Canadians: how many are truisms and how many are just plain silly-isms?

  1. First of all, we are known for being nice, and polite. 
    • True! And thank you for asking!
  1. We are funny.
    • True! But that’s a big generalisation. Most people have a good sense of humour, but it’s only the exceptionally talented comedians from Canada who have achieved international fame. Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, Eugene Levy, Wayne & Shuster, Seth Rogen… We don’t have time to name them all, but if you google “Canadian Comedians”, you will recognize most of them.
  1. We say “eh” after every sentence.
    • Not true! It’s used after every other sentence. Still not true! It is not a space filler like ‘um’ or ‘like’. The authentic “eh?” is used to turn a sentence into a question, to gain agreement. It replaces “Isn’t it?” or “Is it?”. Like that successful commercial for Red Rose tea: two British ladies sipping tea, one says “Only in Canada, eh? Pity!”

People who overuse “eh” are trying too hard to sound Canadian. Or they’re making fun of us. It happens.

  1. We live in igloos and show shoe our way to work.
    • No! Except in the very far north – and Alaska, which is part of the US – where you may spot a few. In the rest of Canada, the only igloos you will see are those made during ice-sculpting competitions. True – many winter carnivals host competitions where talented artists use chainsaws and chisels to transform blocks of ice into intricate, amazing sculptures. Like Le carnaval de Québec. Google it.
  1. We all wear plaid shirts and ‘Canadian tuxedos’ and sit around all day on our parents’ chesterfields drinking beer.
    • False! False! and True: Canadians, in general, wear plaid shirts as much as anyone. We wear blue jeans and denim jackets as much as anyone. But yes, we call the living room sofa a chesterfield.
  1. We love our Tim Hortons. 
    • True! The Canadian “Timmies” is as beloved as the US’s “Dunkin’s”. Every morning, the drive-thru queue winds around the block with people looking for their double-double fix (that’s 2 creams, 2 sugars) and maybe a box of Timbits doughnut holes to share with the office. Remember? We’re nice people.
  1. We walk around with pockets full of big metal coins.
    • Alas, that’s true. Our purses, wallets, and pockets are heavy with loonies and toonies. In 1987 the $1 bill was replaced by a large gold-coloured coin with a loon etched on one side. Hence the loonie. When the Canadian Mint stopped printing the $2 bill in 1996, the twonie was born, but through usage, it is now spelled toonie.
  1. Canadian beer is higher in alcohol than US beer.
    • Yes!
  1. We buy that beer in 2/4s at the Beer Store and our hard alcohol in mickeys and twenty-sixers at the Liquor Store.
    • Guilty as charged. A two-four is a case of 24 bottles of beer. Not to be confused with a two-fer, which is a 2-for-the-price-of-one special. A mickey is 375 ml of spirits (around 13 ounces), a twenty-sixer is 750 ml of spirits (around 26 ounces) a 40-pounder is 1.15 litres of spirits.

Alcohol is sold in provincial government-sanctioned retail outlets and taxed to the hilt. In British Columbia, off-sale retail has been legal for many years. And Quebec is well-known for its sublime convenience of selling beer and wine in corner stores – the depanneur.

I’d like to point out that many of the terms and expressions and stereotypes that the world associates with Canada have been exaggerated into existence by the likes of those characters in point #2. Between Second City TV and Saturday Night Live – produced by Lorne Michaels, another Canadian – the world met Bob and Doug McKenzie in the Great White North skits. They brought the terms “hoser”, “good day, eh” and “take off, eh?” mainstream. And “Wayne’s World” took it all one step further. Such is the power of TV!

Don’t forget to tune in to our next episode; we’ll keep talking about things that make Canada special and, yes, just a bit quirky!

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

Canadian tuxedo: Colloquial term for wearing a jean shirt or denim jacket with jeans. Despite its name, the “Canadian tuxedo” is not a specifically Canadian style, being also closely correlated with images in American pop culture. In 2016 Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau wore a “Canadian tuxedo” to a concert by The Tragically Hip. Lady Gaga has also worn a Canadian tuxedo in public. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_jacket#Canadian_tuxedo)

Chisel: A tool with a long metal blade that has a sharp edge for cutting wood, stone, etc. (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/chisel?q=chisels)

Cliché: A saying or remark that is very often made and is therefore not original and not interesting. (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/cliche)

Doughnut: A doughnut or donut is a type of leavened fried dough. It is popular in many countries and is prepared in various forms as a sweet snack that can be homemade or purchased in bakeries, supermarkets, food stalls, and franchised specialty vendors. ‘Doughnut’ is the traditional spelling, whilst ‘donut’ is the simplified version. Both terms are often used. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doughnut)

Intricate: Having a lot of small parts that are arranged in a complicated or delicate way. (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/intricate)

Stereotype: A set idea that people have about what someone or something is like, especially an idea that is wrong. (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/stereotype?q=Stereotypes)

Truism: A statement that is so obviously true that it is almost not worth saying. (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/truism?q=Truisms)

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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