Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Speaking Canadian

In my time here, I have not noticed a few differences in Canadian English versus that which I know of in the states. There are three that stand out that I can remember and they are listed below. There are other smaller differences such as using British terms as opposed to US used terms. By the way, I don't like to use the term American since technically it should refer to people or things from two continents, not just the US. Anyhow, here are the three terms that jump out to me. I think there are a couple others, but I can't remember them.

About : This is probably the signature word that screams Canadian. Here they pronounce it a-boot, whereas in the US it is a-bout.

Schedule : This word is pronounced like they do in the UK. Here it is pronounced shedule. Back in the US it is skedule.

Processed cheese : When I first heard this term, I thought everyone was just being honest and calling it what it is. But recently I realized that it may also be that they don't want to (or have no reason) to call it American cheese. Also they pronounce it differently. Here it is pro-sessed cheese while in the US it is prahsessed.

Lastly, it is funny the avenues that take you to certain reaches of the web. I was looking at my sitemeter summary and saw that someone from England found my site after doing a search for "the percentage of people speaking in Montreal" on Google. I clicked on the third result and got sent to an interesting article on North American linguistics and English in Montreal. It has parallels to my recent post on demographics. It's an interesting article about the research of a professor from McGill.


AJ said...

Hey Frank! It was great to meet you at the last YULBlog.

English in Canada depends on where you grew up. There is definitely a difference between Montreal and Ontario English - and definitely between those and Maritime / Newfoundland English. There is an accent called "High Canadian" which is basically US Newscaster - the late Peter Jennings of course was Canadian and PBS' Robert MacNeil, formerly of the MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour, has it too - English spoken with a touch of Scots-Irish lilt.

To American ears it might sound like "aboot" but to us, it's really more that we actually pronounce the U as opposed to the more nasal "abowt" or even "abaht" if you're in Boston ;)

Schedule - depends on where you grew up, I guess. I say "skedule" and view people who say "shedule" as being hopelessly Anglocentric. Likewise the people that say "pro-" instead of "prah-" on certain words. To me, it's "prahcess" and "prahject," not PROcess and PROject. In fact, it gets my back up when I hear that! I don't think even British people pronounce it that way; it seems to be a random thing here - like mispronunciations among people who learn words from books, not by hearing them.

Anonymous said...

Nooo! Not the all-time most annoying misconception about Canadians, again. I'm so tired of Americans saying that Canadians say "aboot". They don't! *Scottish* people say "aboot". No Canadian I know (who isn't Scottish) says "aboot". We say "about" (ah-b-out) it rhymes with "stout" and "clout". Gad dammit!

AJ said...

I second Rachel's note on "aboot". A boot is something you wear when you go about shoveling the driveway in winter.

other notes: Canadians speak generally with a more clipped delivery, a greater variety of distinct vowel sounds and sharper consonants, although in some areas with greater proximity to the US, like Southern Ontario, this is eroding, part of something linguists call the "vowel shift" due to southern migration to Northern states.

British Columbians have a typically West Coast inflection, often with rising tone towards the end? of the sentence? so that it sounds? like a question?

Canadians still generally (and correctly) pronounce "the" two distinct ways, thee and tha, depending on if the word following it begins with a vowel sound or not- similar to how in French, the word "le" or "la" becomes "l-apostrophe" before words with a vowel; it blends more easily and you don't have to stop between words. Consider the difference between "Thee other day, I went to tha grocery store," vs. "Tha other day, tha man told tha officer what happened." This is also slowly eroding due to US influence.

Unknown said...

Looks like I may have been grasping for straws on this one. Each of my examples I had heard sparingly and I was jumping to the conclusion that they were originnally inherently Canadian and that outside influences had weakened them. My recollection of Strange Brew from twenty years ago may have had an influence. So far my real life experience of anglophone Canada has not been very profound, mainly because most of my time here has been spent with the francophones.

Rachel, I'm surprisinged that I had not made the Scottish connection to aboot like I had the Irish/British connection to shedule. One word that your blog reminded me of today is that a good portion of the population here says arse instead of ass.

AJ, It was good to meet you too. It's interesting to see stuff you write, like the generational comments and the IKEA/Walmart article. I'm just wondering how you got to have knowledge of all this stuff. The Chicagoist blog also had an article about how Chicagoans speak differently than the rest of the country. Subtle, but different.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes "arse" is sublime. It's very common in the Maritimes here where almost everyone says 'arse' if not truly then facetiously just to get into the Maritime spirit of things. When people from Cape Breton NS say "nurse" it usually rhymes with "arse" so -"I wanna be a nurse" comes out as -"I wanna be an arse". Hilarity ensues. :D

Sadia said...

One cannot pigeonhole Canadian speech idioms - there are as many variations to the pronounciations and vernacular as there are regions.

Even within Montreal there are variances... I can spot a native West-Islander or Verduner within the first few phrases! :)

Unknown said...

Sadia, Thank you for your comments. Since this post and the comments, I have realized that I was overstating things. They were things I noticed, but I did not realize that they applied to specific parts of the population as opposed to the overall whole. Like suggesting everyone from the US has a southern accent. I hope over the years to become more attuned to the differences (in both languages).