From Trudeaumania to fuddle duddle: Canadian English additions to Oxford Dictionaries

Oxford Blog     

Mar : 06 : 2018



With it sitting under the North American umbrella and sharing many words with American English, you might think Canadian English not so different from its southerly neighbour – not so! Canadian English has its own unique vocabulary used only in the Great White North, and our most recent new words update saw a host of these distinctly Canadian words and phrases added to Oxford Dictionaries.

Whether you’re a Calgarian, a Winnipegger, or from somewhere in between, we think that’s worth celebrating! Take a trip through the vast and varying landscape of our new Canadian English additions:

If you’re in Newfoundland or the Maritime Provinces, you might celebrate with a 
kitchen party – that is ‘an informal social gathering with music and dancing, typically held at a person’s home’. Certainly it seems wiser to host your own event rather than take a trip to the booze can (‘a bar… that operates without an official permit’), even if you think you could pick up a bargoon there – a humorous pronunciation of bargain, first seen in the 1960s.

Whatever your excuse to party – your best friend’s 
stagette (a hen or bachelorette party), making the most of May Long, or your ice hockey team’s victory as a result of a spectacular spin-o-rama  – let’s hope you get good weather. No one wants a humidex that’s too high or for a storm to topple the hydro lineswhen you’ve got big plans.

If it does get a bit chilly, you’d be better off snuggling into your 
bunny hug – known by the rest of the world as ‘a hooded sweatshirt’ or hoody – and maybe putting on a pair of mittens, which you never lose thanks to your idiot string. Precisely how a hoody came to be called a bunny hug is not clear; the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles notes that the term is used almost exclusively in Saskatchewan and speculates that the name arose from metaphorical associations with the softness of the garment or the shape of the hood.

If you get lucky with the weather, perhaps you can settle back in your 
Muskoka chair, ‘an armchair for outdoor use’, named after the district in Ontario and more commonly known as an Adirondack chair in the US. But if the power is down, you can at least gather round for a game of crokinole, a game played largely in Canada in which players take turns flicking small discs across a circular playing surface with the aim of displacing opponents’ pieces and landing in the higher-scoring central sections. The board game’s name originated in the late 19th century, coming from the French croquignole, meaning ‘flip’ or ‘flick’.

While you’re playing, why not rustle up something to eat? You might fancy a 
cottage roll (‘pickled, boneless ham prepared from pork shoulder’) or perhaps something lighter like a Montreal bagel. If you’re not up to cooking, you could order a donair, which consists of a pitta filled with tomatoes, onions, sweet sauce, and the star ingredient: slices of spiced meat, usually beef, cooked on a spit. Donair is an alteration of doner in doner kebab and dates back at least as far as the 1970s.

Of course, it’s not all fun and games: we’ve also added new words relating to Canada’s political sphere. The country is divided into provinces, and each province might be referred to as a 
have province or a have-not province, depending on whether its per capita tax revenue falls below the national average. The have-not provinces, where the tax revenue is lower, receive equalization payments from the federal government – also known as Parliament Hill, referencing the hill and surrounding area in Ottawa where the Canadian parliament and many other government offices are situated.

On 
Parliament Hill, decisions are made that can affect 
EdmontoniansGaspesiansHaligoniansRupertitesTorontonians, and more Canadians besides – with these demonyms used both as a noun in reference to the inhabitants of the city or province, and as an adjective to describe something ‘relating to or characteristic of’ the place in question.

One famous 
Ottawan street is Sussex Drive: the Governor General lives there at number 1, and the Prime Minister lives at number 24. This means that twice, over the years, number 24 has been subject of Trudeaumania: between 1968 and 1979 when Pierre Trudeau lived there, and now since 2015, when his son Justin Trudeau was elected and moved in. It’s been fascinating to see this word revived and repurposed so that it can describe ‘extreme enthusiasm’ for either father or son.

The Trudeaus have world recognition, but do you know who 
Sally Ann is? We’re cheating a bit here, because Sally Ann is not a person at all, but an alteration of Salvation Army used in Canada to refer to the charity itself or the shops they run. Meanwhile an organization or service that is funded, operated, or owned in part by the Canadian government is described as parapublic, a word originally formed in French on the pattern of words like paramilitary, and adopted into English in the 1970s.

Whether you’re working in the private sector or the public sector, you want to avoid turning things into a 
gong show – ‘a situation or event marked by chaos and incompetence’. Gong show was the name of a US television programme broadcast in the late 1970s that featured ‘talent competitions with comically unskilled amateur contestants’, something North Americans south of the Canadian border might recognize as an example of an amateur hour, a term that saw a similar extension into figurative use. By the 1980s, gong show started to be used in a broader context to refer to any chaotic situation, the sort that might leave you wanting something a little stronger than fuddle duddle to say!

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